25 Alternative Facts of Parenthood

pinocchio1I’m no politician, but I know a fancy phrase for bullshit when I see one.  It doesn’t bode well when you’re the actual advisor to the President of the United States of America. But as a parent? Let’s just say there hasn’t been a better made-up word since “threenager.”

When you have kids, lying becomes second nature. No one is saying you’re proud of it, but it’s true. The older your kids get, the more quickly you can come up with the perfect line of bullshit to suit every situation. Few parents will make it through their kids’ childhood without crafting a few necessary “alternative facts” here and there. I like to think of it as a survival tactic. So to celebrate my new favorite expression, I thought I’d share some of my favorite alternative facts of parenthood.
“The elf is watching everything you do and Santa is leaving you nothing!”

“No I’m not on Facebook, I’m fact checking your homework assignment.”

“What’s wine? This is grape juice.”

“Daddy was just in the bed checking mommy’s legs for tick bites.”

“Caillou isn’t on today. Actually, they cancelled it. Forever. Ditto for Max and Ruby.”

“Only grownups are allowed in the restaurant on date night.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“If you call 911 when there is no emergency, the police will come and take you to jail.”

“I LOVED doing homework as a kid.”

“Wow! That is the prettiest stick figure I’ve ever seen!”

“It doesn’t matter if you win or lose — as long as you had fun!”

“Your face will freeze like that” (technically this is true because I’ll snap a pic and share it on Instagram, where it will remain frozen forever).

“Sure, I’d love for you to help me cook dinner.”

“No, I don’t mind waiting (an eternity) while you button your own coat.”

“My kid will NEVER get away with (insert literally any offense at all) when he/she is a teenager.”

“It gets easier after the terrible twos.”

(To your spouse after being home with the kids all day) “I’m just gonna take a fast shower, be out in a few minutes.”

“I’m ONLY going to Target for diapers.”

“My Costco bill will be under $300 today.”

“I don’t have a favorite kid.”

“You’re never watching YouTube again!”

“Sure, I want to see your Minecraft house.”

“I missed you guys so much while you were in school today!”

“Yes, you can cut your finger off with a butter knife.” (also technically true, right Uncle Mike?)

“You can only use your tablet for ONE hour today.”

What are some of your favorite alternative facts in parenting?

People Think I’m a Bitch

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They’re wrong. Well, for the most part. I’m actually a pretty nice person, once you get to know me. My problem is that I am separated from the outside world by a very thick cement wall of social anxiety, and it prevents me from functioning normally when interacting with people I don’t know very well.

Whereas most people can have a normal conversation with an acquaintance and then proceed to go about their day as planned, I will spend an additional half hour after our interaction has ended psychoanalyzing every word I said and wondering if I sounded as stupid aloud as I did in my own head. I’ll wonder if I spoke too loudly and called unwanted attention to myself; if others were gawking at the tiny rip in the sleeve of my jacket or the mud peeking out from the bottom of my shoes; if I was regarded as a shitty parent because my kids weren’t using their “inside voices” (while also publicly beating the crap out of each other).

In short, I will waste a lot of time psychotically obsessing over a whole world of shit that DOESN’T MATTER AT ALL. And it’s not even that I really care that much what other people think of me (hence this entire website devoted to my half-assed parenting and other personal problems). I just don’t enjoy the uncomfortable feeling of being scrutinized and consequently unaccepted. It kinda makes my stomach hurt.

So that’s why I tend to avoid 99% of unnecessary social interactions with people I don’t know.

Because I’m the idiot who is incapable of handling basic conversations with other adults without the help of alcohol or maybe narcotics. I’m the babbling moron who hasn’t mastered the art of small talk and probably never will. I’m the jerk who will pretend I don’t know you at all even though I have walked past you while picking my child up from school at least 100 times since he started elementary school three years ago. I’m the asshole who would rather stare at my foot, a tree, parked cars, my phone, anything in the vicinity without a pulse, just to avoid making eye contact with you, person who I kinda-sorta know but kinda-sorta don’t.

And speaking of picking my son up from school– there is no other activity within my daily life which I despise so vehemently.  Talk about social anxiety to the max. Everyone’s chatting, Lizzie lost another tooth, Joey got a soccer award, yada yada yada blah blah blah. I don’t totally mind discussing the difficulty of the recent second grade math test with these ladies, honestly, but I’m just not the type to walk right up to you and start the conversation. It feels weird. What if you don’t really want to talk to me? What if you just want to talk to this other girl who is suddenly approaching us and you don’t want the responsibility of introducing us? What if you don’t introduce us and I just stand there awkwardly while you start talking about someone I don’t even know, inching away ever-so-slowly, silently begging the powers-that-be to make my son’s class be dismissed first today. And then I will say another prayer that he doesn’t ask to stick around and play with his friends in the schoolyard for a little while, thus extending this unpleasant social situation by an extremely painful extra half hour.

This is where I could continue to list the myriad of stressful situations for a socially anxious parent like myself, running the gamut all the way from play dates to birthday parties. But I won’t. If your anxiety is anything like mine, you know how horrible they are. Let’s not even get into it.

If my behavior sounds silly to you, then you clearly aren’t plagued by social anxiety. You are the head of the PTA, the Class Mom, the good neighbor, a person with social circles galore. You and I will never be the same. Which is okay.

Just please understand that I’m not really that much of a bitch. If you approach me and mention that pain-in-the-ass math test, I’ll agree that it was difficult. I’ll talk about how much my son hates studying too, and commiserate with you over how many days are left until the summer vacation. I’ll be surprisingly friendly and kind, maybe even a little bit funny.

But just know that afterward, I will silently berate myself for every weird thing I’ll definitely think I might have said and then wonder if you think I’m the biggest idiot you have met in your life. And the next time we see each other, don’t expect more than a half smile or tiny wave as I rush wildly past you to go hide behind a tree.

I swear it isn’t you. It’s me.

The Thing About Preschool Parent Teacher Conferences

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Photo credit: Kevin Nealon. Yes, my child’s preschool teachers are famous comedians.

 

Preschool parent teacher conferences. Sigh. What’s the point? You don’t want to be there. Your kid’s teacher doesn’t want to be there. But through some glitch in the guilt-inducing dynamic of modern parenthood, here you both are.

If you’re on the first kid, you might not mind it so much. You may even be excited about the meeting, visions of your toddler’s Picasso-esque artwork and miniature Mozart music abilities dancing in your head. “She’s the sweetest, most intelligent, mature, loving, and generous  four-year old I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing” the teacher will gush. You’ll swoon with delight as the compliments continue until your head is so big it fills the entire classroom and you both float into outer space.

Uh, yeahhhh….good luck with all that. Here’s how it really goes down.

You plop down in a chair seemingly designed for members of the Lollipop Guild. Your child’s teacher sits directly across from you in a seat equally as ridiculous. You scan the room for signs of tornadoes and flying monkeys.

Off to gleaming start.

The teacher pulls out your child’s latest artwork, a moving depiction of the friendship between an 18-legged purple giraffe and her pet cloud. She tells you that the detail on the drawing is impressive and you bob your head in agreement, wondering wtf they spike the juice boxes with around here and how you can get your hands on one.

Next she hands you a page that appears to be your child’s attempt at writing her own name. The first letter is clear as day, and you temporarily swell with pride. Her fierce little “S” has more curves than Beyonce! And then you peer at the following 13 or so letters that may or may not be written entirely in Greek. Or Klingon. Who could tell? You warily glance up at the wall where little Liam scrawled his own name on a drawing like some preschool handwriting prodigy. Pshaw, whatever. Anyone could write a measly four little letters. Moving on.

The teacher explains that your child is doing well in most areas but needs improvement on holding pencils the right way. Apparently she uses the same technique for drafting her masterpieces as she does for stabbing her toaster waffles in the morning. Hopefully she enjoys writing as much as she enjoys drowning food in maple syrup.

Next the teacher asks if you have any questions and that’s when you really start to squirm. What do the other parents usually ask? How can she enhance her cognitive development? What activities will improve her gross motor skills? Are her social interactions on par with what is expected for her age group?

The thing is, all you really want to know is whether she wipes her boogers on the classroom furniture as frequently as she does at home. And where the hell does that little witch Jenna live? You’ve got a bone to pick with her about drawing on other kids’ Peppa Pig blankets.

So you reluctantly tell the teacher that, no, you have no questions. You then stare awkwardly at each other for a moment, not sure if the meeting is over or whether she’s waiting to divulge some hidden gem about your kid’s sick cymbal skills during music time or her unfailing ability to nap far longer than any of the other kids in the class. After a moment you concede that your child is just about as normal as any other four-year-old. You need to hightail it home to catch a new Grey’s Anatomy anyway.

Quietly praying that the shrunken chair doesn’t tag along for the ride when you finally yank your ass up out of it,  you thank the teacher politely and say goodbye. You then walk back to your car wondering if other parents feel as underwhelmed by these things as you do, or if you are really just an asshole.

An Open Letter to Netflix

netflixMy Dearest Netflix,

First I want to say thank you for seeing me through the many highly productive, wine-fueled television marathons I’ve come to cherish over the past few years. Thanks for catching me up on The Walking Dead when the rest of the world wouldn’t shut up about it. Thanks for introducing me to underappreciated gems like The United States of Tara and Raising Hope. Thanks for being my patch when I was weaning off The Office but couldn’t get Jim and Pam off the brain. Thanks for the parental control options that give me a reason to feel slightly less crappy about the kids binge-watching on their tablets while I get work done. Thanks for filling many a late-night hour with old rom-coms I’d almost forgotten and new ones I won’t publicly admit I’ve watched.

Basically, Netflix, you’re awesome.

You were awesome long before August 4, 2015. But a few days ago, when you announced that you’d be allowing your employees up to a year of unlimited maternity and paternity leave, you brought “awesome” to an unsurpassable level of fucking fantastic-ness.

A year of maternity and paternity leave. A year! Unheard of.

For me, this is a majorly sensitive subject. When I got pregnant with my son unexpectedly at the tender age of 25, just months after getting my first huge promotion, I promptly learned I was ineligible for paid maternity leave from the MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR CORPORATION where I worked simply because I hadn’t signed up for short-term disability (because a baby is totally a disability, right?). My story gets uglier, but I won’t get into it. Let’s just say I don’t work there anymore.

My story aside, I’m writing today to simply say a heartfelt thank you, Netflix. And I think I speak for moms and dads everywhere in my praise….

Thank you from the mom who is forced to leave her child in the care of another, merely weeks after giving birth, because she can’t afford not to work.

Thank you from the moms who can’t afford to go back to work at all because child care is so damn expensive.

Thank you from the exhausted parent who often stumbles blearily into work on two hours of sleep after being up all night with a crying infant.

Thank you from the parent who is tired of missing milestone after milestone.

Thank you from the parent who wears guilt everyday like a pair of tired mom jeans.

Thank you from the parent who spends too many extra hours just commuting to work, wasting away precious time that should be spent with family.

Thank you from the parents who have opposite schedules, causing stress on their marriage because they never see each other.

Thank you from the mom who contemplates quitting every morning as she leaves for work.

Thank you from the parent who fights the urge to wake her sleeping children when she comes home at night, just to spend some time together.

Thank you from the mom who wonders how the bills will get paid if she is fired for taking yet another day off to care for her child.

You see, Netflix, although you can’t employ every parent in the nation, we thank you for leading by example. We thank you for setting a precedent, one that should have been in place for decades. We thank you for doing the one thing that other countries around the world already see as a no-brainer.

We thank you for proving what most other companies don’t have the balls, the decency, and the common sense to admit: there is NOTHING more important than family.

Signed,
One Grateful Mama

Eight Truths About Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding. Is it really all it’s cracked up to be?

Doctors and parenting magazines alike will have you believe breastfeeding is a one way ticket to eternal health for your children. And maybe it is, I’m not a doctor. But like anything in parenting, it’s not exactly heaven on earth.

I breastfed my son for six weeks and my daughter for 13 months (exclusively), so I feel I have some input on the subject and I’d like to share my thoughts. I promise not to sound like some pro-breastfeeding advertisement, like so many articles I’ve read touting the whole “breast is best” thing. There are pros and there are cons, like everything in the world. Take it or leave it.

1. Yes, it does hurt at first. The Breastfeeding Police don’t want you to know that– they want you to think your kid isn’t latching on correctly or that you’re doing something else wrong to cause the pain. But that’s bullcrap. Your milk ducts get clogged and swollen, your boobs fill up with more milk than Sunnydale Farms, and your nipples get so chapped from the constant moisture that you could slather on 80 pounds of nipple cream and still it won’t help. What will help? A little time. You just have to wait that part out. Eventually you find your groove and it’s all gravy from there. Well at least until they start teething (yes, seriously).

2. It really does promote bonding. Like serious amounts of bonding. I guess they sort of look at you like you’re a giant walking ice cream sundae. They can’t get enough. My daughter, now three years old, still looks at me like I’m dessert. And she hasn’t nursed in two years. She is decidedly more attached to me than she is to my husband — like really, really, really attached to me — and it’s been that way since day one. I am no scientist, so I can’t say with certainty that it’s a direct result of the breastfeeding. But it sure as heck feels that way. Like in my heart and stuff.

3. Sometimes, you just can’t do it. And that’s totally okay. I breastfed my son for only six weeks, and I will tell you why. He was HUNGRY. So, so, so damn hungry. Your body is supposed to like miraculously make just as much milk as your baby needs. But my son wanted to eat every freaking half hour. It was insane how hungry he was. When I finally gave in and gave him a bottle, he gobbled it up like I’d been starving him for weeks. And maybe I had been. They say it’s “rare” that a woman is unable to provide enough milk for her child, but I think that’s phooey. Here’s why: stress causes a decline in your milk production. Stress! What new mom isn’t stressed out? So I say go with your gut. And don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it.

4. It’s okay to go public. I didn’t, and it’s a big regret. My daughter used to pull my nursing cover down when I was nursing her (yea, that’s another thing that happens when their motor skills kick in). At the time, the mere thought of anyone catching a glimpse of a little exposed nipple by accident was terrifying to me. I used to think moms who would breastfeed openly were totally nuts. But I was wrong. You know what’s nuts? Cowering in a dirty public bathroom stall to feed your hungry kid. Which is something I’ve done countless times, despite how gross it is. Now I think that’s nuts, and it’s no way to live. I’m not saying you should walk around the mall topless or anything, but feel free to do what’s comfortable and don’t worry what others might think. Just let them stare; it’ll probably be the highlight of their worthless day.

5. Sex? No thanks! I’m pretty sure this is a biological thing, but your sex drive is severely diminished when you’re nursing. Tell hubby to purchase some good hand lotion, because that’s all he’s getting for a while. If he complains, tell him to quit his bitching. When you stop nursing it comes back times a thousand. You’ll be on baby #2 before you know it.

6. You’re hungry. All. The. Time. It’s like your pregnancy never ended. Actually, it’s worse. Because when you were “eating for two” before, one of you weighed less than a cantaloupe. But the good news is that you’re somehow magically burning calories while you breastfeed, so you can skip the gym and have another burrito.

7. The breast pump is the creepiest-looking contraption ever invented. You’re literally being milked, Bessie. It looks weird, it feels weird, and it’s a tremendous pain in the ass. The only thing worse than all that pumping is the prospect of it going to waste. Whoever coined the phrase “stop crying over spilled milk” never spilled eight ounces of that freshly-pumped liquid gold. Hell hath no fury like a nursing mom whose milk has gone to waste. Dads, take note and be VERY CAREFUL when handling those precious bottles. Your life may be on the line.

8. The Breastfeeding Police won’t like this, but I’m telling it like it is: I see virtually no difference in the health of my exclusively breastfed child and my non-breastfed child. If anything, it kind of feels like the one who breastfed gets sick even more than the other one. It’s just an observation I’ve made, one that shouldn’t sway anyone’s decision to nurse in either direction. I just kind of hoped I’d find myself in that germy pediatrician’s office a lot less with the breastfed child, and it hasn’t worked out that way. Maybe my supposedly magical breast milk is just no match for those slimy monkey bars at the park or the snot-covered play doh at preschool.

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Peeing & Parenting

pottyThere are two types of things no one warns you about before you become a parent:

~ stuff that can’t be described because you need to just experience it for yourself
~ stuff that’s just too gross to discuss with others.

Today’s topic falls into the latter category. I’m talking about pee, and the long, complicated relationship parents inevitably develop with it over the course of raising their children.

Because…there’s just….so much of it.

I’m not sure if maybe it’s just my kids or what, but for me parenthood has basically turned into one long golden shower since literally the week my first child was born.

He peed in his own eye, in case you’re wondering. A steady stream of newborn urine from his tiny, newborn weenie directly into his tiny, newborn eye.

This post comes on the heels of a rather harrowing experience, in which I had to beg a Duane Reade employee to let my son (who was peepee dancing up and down the feminine hygiene aisle) to use their locked employee bathroom—only for him to end up making it all the way to the foot of the bowl before simply giving up. Right down the front of his light-colored jeans. Here’s how that went down:

Me: Just hold it in for one more second
Him: I can’t! I’m peeing already! Mommy! Pull down my pants, I can’t open my jeans!
Me: No! Don’t pee! Hold it a half second more! (fumbling with his fly zipper)
Him: But it’s too late, mommy!
Me: (Finally getting the pants down, which is when all hell broke loose) Aim at the toilet! THE TOILET!! YOU’RE PEEING ON ME! STOP PEEING AND AIM FOR THE DAMN BOWL! (To my daughter) STAND BACK, YOU’RE GONNA GET PEED ON!

By the time he was done, there was pee on all of the following:

~ the wall
~ the floor
~ the sink
~ his pants
~ my shirt
~ my pants
~ my daughter’s shoes
~ everywhere but inside the toilet bowl

Not a full hour prior to this incident, by the way, I was squatting on the bathroom floor of the pediatrician’s office, holding a urine sample cup under my three-year-old daughter’s hoo-ha, our eyes interlocked, as we both waited desperately for at least one or two drops to hit the bottom of the plastic cup. It never did.

And for the hat trick that day: fast forward several hours and she ends up peeing on me in her sleep while I was changing her overnight diaper. Not wanting to disturb her sleep, I changed her clothes, slid four towels under her and figured she would be fine for the remainder of the night. Woke up later to find her using the towels as blankets.

In the early years of raising children, it seems that every single outing involves a potty incident of some sort. Loaded diapers leaking onto clothes; frenzied trips to find public bathrooms; wet mattresses, car seats, play pens, couches, rugs, etc.; and, of course, the sheer torture associated with everything potty training: it’s all just a typical day in the life of pee-covered parents of young kids.

Fun fact: once, in the early stages of my daughter’s potty training, I found her on the floor of the bathroom after she had clearly missed making it to the bowl, and she was finger painting in her own urine.

Being a parent to one toddler and one longtime bed-wetter, I have washed countless urine-covered kids’ bedsheets by now.  I’ve witnessed the faces of all four Ninja Turtles covered in pee, I’ve seen a urine-soaked Mario and Luigi, a yellow-tinted Elsa, Anna, and Olaf, and, of course, all the weirdos in Gabba Land have swam in the piss of my children. If you have ever been to my house, there’s a pretty good chance you sat in a spot that’s been peed on at some point. Sorry.

Quite frankly, I’m at my wit’s end. I don’t think I can wash another set of sheets that will inevitably be soaked less than 48 hours later. There’s only so much of that disgusting smell one human being can take. Is this even really normal? Why wasn’t I warned about the pee? WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME ABOUT THE PEE????????

My son is almost seven and my daughter will be four at the end of this year; so I’m realllllllly hoping to finally see the end of the peepee era for my family soon. As always, I’ll be sure to let you know (in graphic detail) how that goes.

13 Rules for Not Telling Me How to Raise My Kids

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Seems like lately there are a lot of articles floating around the internet that are filled with “rules” for how we should or shouldn’t be raising our children —  a lot of insufferable people giving out unwanted advice to unwilling recipients. I don’t know about you, but I’m sick to death of being told what I need to do with my own kids from people who know nothing about my kids (and maybe about their own, either). So today I decided to switch it up and give those people a few rules of their own to follow, since Facebook has yet to activate the highly-desired “dislike” button for their undesirable posts.

1. Don’t worry about my child’s temperature. Isn’t he cold, you ask? Did he SAY that he was cold? Does he appear to be shivering? Blue lips? Early signs of hyperthermia? None of the above? Then I’m not worried and you shouldn’t be, either.

2. Don’t tell me how to discipline my child. Oh, you think threatening to whack your kid with the metal side of your belt is an adequate method of punishment? Your child’s future therapist will likely disagree, but that’s none of my business. Consequently, my fondness for the time-out method is none of yours. Let’s agree to disagree and move on.

3. Don’t you DARE utter the phrase “that would NEVER happen if it were my kid….” Because it’s NOT your kid. And that’s the bottom line.

4. Don’t play pediatrician. Believe it or not, my kids have one already. One with an actual medical degree. No, not a Google University degree like yours. A real one. That’s why his opinion will always matter more than yours.

5. Don’t tell me what to feed my kids. Nobody cares that you had to take out a second mortgage on your home to fund your child’s organic-only, soy-free, gluten-free, vegan-friendly, GMO-free, vomit-inducing diet. If you see my kid eating a bag of Doritos, mind your damn business.

6. Don’t tell me how much TV my kids should be watching. It’s not exactly breaking news that watching too much SpongeBob isn’t raising any IQ points. No need to state the obvious.

7. If you have no children of your own, then don’t. Just don’t. Seriously, don’t even open your fat mouth.

8. Don’t tell me what I should be offended by or tired of hearing from other people. So you have seven sons and get miffed every time someone has the gall to say “boys will be boys”? Well guess what? Boys WILL be boys. Insane, rough, energetic, loud, raucous little boys. Chances are people are just saying that to be polite, anyway. Because “your kids are a bunch of psychotic hooligans” doesn’t usually go over as well as intended.

9. Don’t judge my decision to work or to stay at home. People need about four incomes to afford child care and a home these days. Going to work isn’t an option for everyone. Staying home with the kids is not an option for everyone (it’s also not the paradise some imagine it to be, either). That’s why this is one of the most difficult decisions a woman (or man) will ever make. So tread VERY lightly if you want to share your opinion about it. Better yet, just keep that opinion to yourself.

10. Always. Think. Before. You. Speak. And when in doubt? Take some advice from my girl, Gwen Stefani. Don’t speak.

11. Don’t tell me how many gifts Santa should bring my kids, or how many dollars the Tooth Fairy should leave under their pillow, or how much candy should be in their buckets on Halloween. When it comes to children, I AM Santa. Not you. If I want to spoil them rotten or leave them nothing at all, that’s my decision and I will gladly deal with the repercussions without any input from you.

12. Keep your religious beliefs to yourself. Trust me, you’re not “saving” anyone. So save it.

13. Don’t expect me to abide by your narrow definition of politically correct. I shouldn’t be made to feel as though I’m perpetuating gender stereotypes every time I buy my daughter a Barbie doll, a pretend make-up kit, or a sparkly princess dress. If it’s going to put a smile on her beautiful little face, I’m going to buy it. While we’re on the subject, however, please note that if my son were to also ask for a princess dress, then I’d happily oblige. I love my children and want them to be happy, regardless of their favorite color or dress-up item. It isn’t about politics; it’s about the smiles on their faces.

Mom Guilt: The Working Parent Edition

work mom delilah

Want to hear something ironic? I work for a parenting magazine, and a huge part of my job is finding fun stuff for people to do with their kids and sharing the stuff I find with the community. But I spend so much time looking for fun stuff other people can do with their kids that it takes a load of time away from me doing fun stuff with MY own kids.

First, let me say this: I love my job. Let me repeat (and not just because my boss may or may not browse through my blogs from time to time), I LOVE my job. I can’t say I’ve ever had a job that I love, doing something that I truly enjoy, and feeling like I am making valuable contributions to society using the skills and creativity that I have always known I possessed. As much fun as it was slinging pastrami sandwiches at a kosher deli in Brooklyn for eight years, it wasn’t exactly my calling.

But this job? This is as close to “my calling” as I’ve ever been. Don’t get me wrong, it comes with quite a bit of stress and pressure, but what job doesn’t? At least, what CAREER doesn’t?

I did the Stay at Home Mom thing for a very long time, and it certainly had its ups and downs. Now that I’m working, I never realized just how much of myself I was available to give to my children when I was literally always available for them. We could pick up and go whenever we wanted. There were no schedules to coordinate, no deadlines looming, no emails to answer first. If we wanted to go to the park, we went. If we were low on groceries, to the supermarket we’d go. If they wanted to watch all three Toy Story Movies in a row, I knew we would just play together later. We were together all the time and they loved it.

And I…liked….it. Kind of. Well, as any Stay at Home Mom will tell you, being around your kids 24/7 can be draining. There are no breaks, no real help from anyone else. It’s on YOU to keep those kids happy around the clock. It’s tough stuff. So when the opportunity arose for me to take a job where I could keep a flexible schedule and often work from home, well, mentally and financially speaking, turning it down was never an option.

So while I’m very familiar with the Stay at Home Mom depression, I’m new to the whole Working Mom guilt. And, boy, is it something else entirely. When I tell people I can work from home, I think they envision this utopian ideal wherein I’m simultaneously baking cookies, overseeing fun craft projects, and emailing my boss all in perfect unison. How lucky I must be, to be able to accomplish so many tasks at once!

Well, in fact, I DO accomplish all of these things at once, but perfection it is NOT.

Allow me to set the scene for you.

It’s 3:30pm on any given weekday. My son is working on his math homework, that hellish Go Math common core homework book open in front of him. He’s crying a little because he doesn’t understand how to solve 15-7 by “making a ten” first. Quite frankly, neither do I, and I’m about to cry along with him. At the same moment, my three-year-old daughter is climbing on my back, shoving her Princess Sofia floor puzzle in my face and begging me to help her finish it. I glance over at the clock and see that if I don’t start dinner soon, I’ll have hunger meltdowns thrown into the mix. So I get up and head to the fridge to start cooking.

I wash and chop and slice and prep while my son reads his “book buddy” to me, hoping he’s actually reading what it says and not just making up random things to avoid using his brain. My daughter lingers dangerously over the cutting board, narrowly missing my razor-sharp knife with her tiny fingers as she tries to reorganize the veggies in a futile attempt to “help” me cook. I stop for a quick minute to check my work email, remembering something important I’d forgotten to do earlier. I see that I have 15 new emails and realize that the thing I forgot to do has spiraled into into an entirely new problem, and I absentmindedly spend another 20 “quick minutes” attempting to rectify it.

Suddenly I hear the sizzle of hot liquid hitting the stove and I realize my potatoes are boiling over, which is my reminder to check the oven and find that I’ve overcooked the crap out of the chicken. I look up and find Princess Sofia puzzle pieces and sliced vegetables strewn about the living room— my daughter’s passive aggressive way of displaying her resentment for my ignoring her. My son hands me his homework to check and I try to explain that “We bilted a snwmn” is spelled incorrectly, which immediately prompts a tantrum because, according to him, it IS spelled correctly and I’m the MEANEST MOM EVER and he just wants to go play video games but I WON’T LET HIM and his homework is DONE…..

And then my night-shift-working husband emerges from hibernation, bitching about us all making too much noise and waking him up, and wanting to know why the house smells like burnt chicken.

Fast forward a few hours; dinner is done, baths are done, husband’s off to work, kids are tucked in bed. And me? I’m on the couch, laptop open, typing away—finally able to get some work done.

The sad part is that I actually AM lucky to be able to do this with my family because I’m home from work in time to make dinner and oversee homework. Some working parents don’t get home until well after the kids are sleeping. And as insane as the afternoons with my family are, it’s a whole other type of insanity when you don’t even get to see your kids during the day at all.

The part I hate is when my daughter looks at me with her heart-meltingly innocent baby blue eyes and asks me “mommy can you play with me?” and I have to say no because I have work to do. Or when my son’s school sends home a note about yet ANOTHER school fair and I try to move heaven and earth to make it there, every single time, because I never want to let him down.  Or when I’m up very late, typing away into the wee hours of the night, and it causes me to wake up like Oscar the Grouch, ready to bite the head off of anyone who dares to ask me for plain Cheerios after I’ve already poured milk on an entire bowl of the honey-nut ones.

Sometimes I worry that my kids’ happiest childhood memories will be overshadowed by mental images of Mommy hiding behind a computer screen.

I love that I love my job. I don’t know how many people can say that and mean it, but I love having a job I enjoy, a job I’m proud to do. And financially speaking, I REALLY love that I can finally start putting some money away to someday, somehow, possibly, hopefully, maybe be able to afford my family’s first real home. Or our first trip to Disney. Or maybe even start up a college fund (well, after I’m done paying for my own college loans).

As stressed as I feel most of the time, I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. I’m sacrificing a lot, I know. But I do believe that in the end, it’s worth it.

I just wish it wouldn’t feel like my kids are the ones making the biggest sacrifice. Hopefully someday they’ll understand why.

The Ten Super Moms I’ll Never Be (No Matter How Hard I Try)

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I’m just jumping right in today, as the title basically speaks for itself. Here we go!

  1. Super Healthy Mom – Her kids don’t have a clue what the hell gluten is, but they are terrified of it. She thinks Ronald McDonald is the spawn of Satan, and she’d rather die than be seen holding a Happy Meal. While her grocery bill is quadruple the size of a standard grocery tab, the three-acre, fully organic garden growing in her backyard keeps her away from the wicked, non-locally grown produce items desecrating the aisles of the nearby supermarket. Oh, and GMO’s are sure to be the cause of earth’s apocalypse. She told me so.
  2. Super Workout Mom – We all remember this chick, right? That horrid “what’s your excuse” woman? Shhh, I know, I know. I want to punch her in the face too. Thankfully, not all the Super Workout Moms are as bitchy as she is, but they do all seem to share a knack for making the rest of us feel like giant walking blobs of shit. Somehow, her post-pregnancy body is even better than her pre-pregnancy one. But it makes sense, since she’s a busy one: she lifts 100-pound CrossFit weights with just one pinky finger all weekend long, and she’s training for a 26-mile marathon every other day of the week. She’s got at least twenty pairs of those Lululemon yoga pants, which is good because she doesn’t ever take a day off. I guess I wouldn’t either, if my kids could play handball off my abs.
  3. Super Career Mom – People often ask this mom “HOW do you do it all?” but no one really knows the answer (maybe not even Super Career Mom herself). Somehow she balances a great career with being a great mom. I haven’t much to say about Career Mom, because her mysterious ability to be both a boss at work (literally) and also be a boss at home is seemingly impossible and somewhat mind-boggling. Yet somehow she does it. And she’s got the financial ability to purchase a decent home in 21st century America to show for it. Kudos.
  4. Super Clean House Mom – You know how you turn into a psychotic house-scrubbing maniac every time company is coming over? Well Super Clean House Mom is like that all the time, even without the looming threat of some snarky relative pointing out that the blades on the ceiling fan need to be vacuumed or whatever. Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but this OCD mom’s BFF is probably her precious Swiffer Sweeper. Not a single speck of dirt occupies a surface in her home, and her family just seems to KNOW better than to leave their crap all over the place. I’d be impressed, if I weren’t so busy looking at my dusty fan blades.
  5. Super Well-Behaved Kids Mom – Is it positive reinforcement? Negative reinforcement? Is reinforcement even needed, or did she just win some kind of secret parenting lottery which granted her perfectly angelic children? Whatever it is, Super Well-Behaved Kids Mom is doing something right. Her kids clean their room, set the table, get good grades, say “please” and “thank you.” And they’ve NEVER sold one of their birthday gifts to a kindergarten classmate for five dollars (yes, my son did that). These kids are seriously flawless. Come to think of it, there’s actually a 50/50 chance that they’re aliens. If so, then they really need to head back to their home planet, because they’re making the rest of us look bad.
  6. Super PTA Mom – Super PTA Mom wants to change the world, one bake sale at a time. And thank goodness for that, because someone has to deal with all these pesky school politics and holiday fairs. Considering the fact that afternoon dismissal regularly conjures a social paralysis in me that I haven’t experienced since the first day of high school, it’s probably safe to say that not everyone is well-suited for such a job. Hats off to you, PTA Moms. Seriously.
  7. Super Fun Mom – If moms were government organizations, this chick would be the post office. Neither snow, nor hail, nor rain, nor sleet (or however the hell it goes) will keep this determined mama indoors with her kids. She’s at the park, the museum, the movies, the zoo, the amusement park, the NASA Space Station boarding a rocket ship for a family tour of the moon. She is, hands down, THE MOST FUN MOM EVER. The only video games her kids play are the ones where they all dance around the living room together, and I’m pretty sure she only owns a computer for the purpose of researching more fun shit to do. She kind of makes me hate fun.
  8. Super Friend Mom – This mom boasts a pretty impressive lineup of BFF’s, especially for someone at least a decade or two out of college. Her kids’ playdate schedule is booked solid thru next year, and she actually still talks to people ON THE PHONE. Like, just to say hi and stuff. Her stress levels are probably much lower than most because she does “girls night out” at least once a month (gasp!). She’s kind of like an adult reminder that the “popular girl” doesn’t always grow up to be a total loser after all (to the sad disappointment of wallflowers everywhere).
  9. Super Holiday Mom – She has the kids’ Halloween costumes purchased in August, Christmas shopping finished by September, and Easter baskets ready to go in February. She’s always at least one holiday ahead of everyone else. Her outdoor decorations seem to defy the laws of physics, with displays so dazzling they occasionally cause traffic accidents on her street. Her Elf on the Shelf has a more exciting life than most Hollywood celebrities, and every December you find yourself wondering if Super Holiday Mom’s husband is Santa Claus himself.
  10. Super Pregnant Mom – She’s nine months pregnant, wheeling a double stroller through the supermarket with one arm, and pushing a cart full of groceries with the other. To her, the giant round bump in her mid-section is nothing more than a mere mosquito bite. She accomplishes more in her third trimester of pregnancy than some people do in their entire life. It’s almost as though she doesn’t even realize there’s a person living inside her.
  11. Super Not Super At All Mom – I’m none of the above, as you might have guessed. I’ve certainly tried to be all of these moms at one time or another, but I’ve failed pretty epically every single time. It’s okay though. I’ll let you in on a little secret: Super Moms don’t really exist. A Super Mom is only “super” on the surface. Beneath the façade of awesomeness is a regular mom, like you and me, who is just as flawed as everyone else. It’s great to be inspired by her, but try not to be too envious. Super Jealous Mom is not a Super Mom at all. Now excuse me while I go attempt to practice what I preach.

Why Having “Only” One Kid Is Harder Than It Seems

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Recently a very sweet reader commented to me that she only has one kid, but can still really enjoy all the stuff I write about on my blog. ONLY one kid, she said.

My kids are about three years apart, so I had “only” one kid for a while myself, and let me tell you, having one kid is not necessarily easier than having two. It’s probably not even much easier than having a whole litter of ‘em, actually.

Now that I have two kids, a nice chunk of my day is admittedly spent prying my children off of one another, mediating arguments prompted by such pressing matters as whether it’s time to watch Princess Sofia or Scooby Doo and who gets to eat the last package of fruit snacks. But I have to say, in between those annoying moments of fighting, my home is constantly filled with the joyful sounds of children playing together. Frequent fits of giggles and shrieks of laughter, freckled by mischievous moments of quiet scheming, then followed by even more explosive laughter– these are the sweet, sweet sounds of siblings getting along. And to me, they’re some of the most beautiful sounds you will ever hear.

I think that if you could bottle the blissful sound of children’s laughter, it might just cure every illness under the sun.

Just to clarify, I’m not implying that having one child will leave you with a dull, laughter-less home. Not at all. Every kid is hilarious in his or her own little way. But we do tip the laughter scale around here a lot more than we used to before my daughter came along.

Particularly for a new parent, caring for “only” one child can be one of the loneliest feelings in the world.  In fact, I was extremely depressed for most of the three years I spent as a mother of one child. The door would close in the morning as my husband headed off to work, and the seemingly endless hours of loneliness would begin. I’d look down at my little guy, and he’d look up at me, his eyes as big as his expectations for the day, and I knew that keeping him content for those long hours was all on me.

It’s a pretty big job, and not an easy one.

Fact: there is really only so much coloring, finger-painting, and shape-sorting you can do before you start to lose your ever-loving mind.

Some moms like to fill their toddler’s schedules with exciting play dates and Gymboree classes. And that’s great. But what about parents who, like I was, are new to their neighborhood and don’t have a ton of mommy friends with whom to set up playdates? And the Gymboree classes? Um, have you seen the pricetag on these freaking classes? I can roll a big ball around and sing The Wheels on the Bus to my kid at home for free, thankyouverymuch.

Another problem I had when my son was an only child was the sharing thing. At home, all of his precious toys were his and his alone. Without the frequent wails of “but it’s MY turn!” from a jealous sibling, sharing was a foreign concept to my little guy. So you can imagine that play dates were a BLAST back then. I’ve always found it an awkward situation when your kid has engaged in a knock-down, drag-out, tug-of-war match with another kid over some shitty toy, and the parents need to step in and encourage the angry toddlers to “take turns” with said shitty toy. Either no one listens and the match rages on until the toy is removed and both children are sulking, or the other kid hands it over and your kid ends up looking like the jerk. Nope, my kid was never the one to hand it over. Not back then, anyway.

So moms of “only” one child, do yourselves a favor and give a little (or a LOT) of credit where it’s due. Raising kids is tricky business, no matter how many you have.  Every type of parenting comes with its own set of challenges- one kid, two kids, ten kids, twins, triplets, whatever.  The bottom line is that you are raising a living, breathing, human being who is depending on YOU to keep him or her thriving and well, 24/7. It’s a big damn responsibility. And I think that, even for those parents raising a whole boatload of kids, we’re all just figuring out this parenting thing as we go.

Although for the record, I do NOT want a whole boatload of kids.