Enjoy every moment

Last week, I posted something on Facebook about how my 3-year-old hadn’t stopped talking all day.  I wasn’t complaining– well, not really.

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Many of my Facebook friends have children, some with children around my daughter’s age, so I guess I was just looking for a little solidarity.  It was one of those “I’m due for a status update” kinda posts that I didn’t give much thought to before posting.  The comments were mostly “ooh, girl, I feel ya” type commiserating where everyone traded war stories about their own overly chatty spawn.  And, then, there it was… a comment from a business colleague who has grown children, admonishing me and the other commenters that we should “really try to enjoy these moments, because there will come a time when they’re grown and won’t even answer your phone calls”.

*Groan*  There it is.  Someone who is years removed from the challenges of daily life with a 3 year old reminding me to ENJOY EVERY MOMENT.

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My daughter is the light of my life.  I adore her.  I’m intrigued by her.  She fills me with pride and wonder and joy and all those squishy, sparkly, wonderful feelings I never expected to feel.  But, sometimes, I gotta admit… I. Am. Not Enjoying. It.

Picture it:  It’s 7:00 p.m., I’ve just gotten home from a 10 hour day at work.  I’m still in my work clothes, I’ve had to pee since 4:00 p.m. and for no particular reason, I still haven’t managed to make it to the bathroom, and I’m just now starting dinner.  The dog is whining to go outside, even though I’ve already let him in and out 3 times since I walked in the door.  And it begins. “Mommy.  Mommy mommy mom mommmmaaaaa I need a Bandaid.  A Paw Patrol Bandadid.  I want an applesauce.  Mommy apple sauce.  Apple sauceeeeeeeeeeeeee.  Paw Patrol apple sauce Bandaid sauce.  Mommy look.  I have a boo boo (no she doesn’t)… Mommy my doggie, where’s pink doggie? I no want pagetti (spaghetti). Pagetti is yuck mommy.  I want a Pop-Tart.  Mommy Bandaid.  BAND AID.  MOMMY.  I wanna watch Paw Patrol McStuffins.  MOMMMMMMMMYYYYYYY”.  It’s not that I’m ignoring her.  I’m listening as intently as I can and trying to simultaneously boil the spaghetti, sautee the chicken and find the goddamn box of Bandaids my husband put in the wrong place the last time she needed a Bandaid (like, 8 minutes ago), and trying not to escape to the bathroom just for a moment of silence.

So, I’m supposed to stop, take a deep breath and revel in this moment?  Cause I can’t.  I’m not enjoying this moment… I’m enduring it.  I’m exhausted.  It doesn’t mean I’m not happy being a mom.  It just means that for this moment, I want to fast forward, just a tiny bit, maybe an hour or so… maybe to bath time? Bath time is fun.  We always fill the tub up all the way with plenty of bubbles… our 12 year old cat always comes in during bath time, and my daughter squeals with delight.  Seriously, every time, like it’s the first time ever. Our cat, Maynard (who she’s renamed Meathead) saunters over to the edge of the tub every night, and we place a big pile of bubbles on his head.  My daughter cracks up, Meathead looks proud, and I still genuinely laugh.  It’s predictable, it’s routine, but I enjoy it immensely.  And then, we get out of the tub and sometimes she throws an epic tantrum if I’ve dared to grab the wrong pair of Elsa pajamas, and I’m back to wanting to fast forward… just a few minutes, until we are snuggled in her bed and my husband sits on the floor and reads us one or two (or seven) books.

Parenting is just full of ups and downs and in-the-middles.  Many moments are simply wonderful.  Some are god awful.  Most, however, are just plain average.  And that’s perfectly ok.

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Life is a mixed bag.  Just because you’re a parent– or more specifically, a mom– doesn’t mean you are required to revel in the magic of every single nanosecond of every single day.

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Will I feel guilty some day in the future when she thinks I’m embarrassingly uncool that I didn’t enjoy EVERY MOMENT, down to the tantrums and the whiny ultimatums?  The truth is, I have no idea.

I am keenly aware that time is passing.  I can’t believe that I already have a preschooler.  It seems like 18 minutes ago that I was holding a tiny little baby.  Ah, she was such a sweet little baby.  It was so much easier then… I wish I could have held on to those moments a little longer.  I wish I could remember what her head smelled like. Why didn’t I stop and commit that exact scent to memory?  I wish I could remember what it felt like to hold her at 6 weeks, 6 months…  Why didn’t I stop and will my brain to commit that sensation to my memory forever?  Gah. God, it seems as thought I squandered those precious moments.

Except that I didn’t.

I did what I am doing now.  I enjoyed the bulk of it– the sweet little coos, the sight of that little infant falling asleep on my chest, the first tooth, the first time she laughed, the first time she said “Dada”, the amazingly sloppy messes she made whilst mastering putting mashed sweet potatoes in her mouth.  And, I’ve glossed over the rest– the colic, the 4 month sleep regression, the clogged ducts and the PPD, the almost painful exhaustion those first few weeks…. it all feels like such a distant memory.

Today, I had a meeting in a medical building.  I got into the elevator and there was a couple there, holding what looked to be a one to two week old baby.  He was so tiny, so content, asleep on his mom’s shoulder.  The mom had that look of sheer exhaustion and fatigue that is a requisite part of the new mom uniform.  I felt a pang of nostalgia and even deeper pang of jealousy. And part of me wanted to beg her to stop and enjoy these moments because it won’t be long before that little sweet angel is demanding Paw Patrol Bandaid Apple Sauces at the top of his lungs.  But I didn’t.  Why? Because no matter how much someone tells you that you’ll miss these days, you can’t appreciate it until you do.

When I encounter someone saying they’re having a miserable pregnancy or complaining about colic or reflux or sleeplessness, I remind myself that it’s part of the package deal to have these moments you don’t enjoy.  Just because I’m feeling nostalgic doesn’t make their struggle any less real.

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Someone once told me that the easiest phase of parenting is the one you’ve just come out of, and I can’t imagine anything truer.  Although we are in the thick of Threenagerdom right now, I am certain that there will come a time when we have a sassy five year old or a broody twelve year old on our hands and we’ll long for the days when potty training and tantrums over pajamas were the biggest of our concerns.  And some day, when my daughter is away at college, or moved to another city to start her life as an adult, I know I’ll yearn for these days.  But, until then, I have to remind myself that it’s okay to not enjoy every minute.

And, when an older, wiser person in my life admonishes me for squandering these cherished moments of tantrums and potty accidents and Band-Aids stuck to my carpeting, I have to remember to be a little more forgiving and realize that they were probably just like me at one point, wishing away the less enjoyable moments–even if they don’t remember it.

 

 

 

When did you feel like a “real” mom?

A few weeks ago we had a family emergency that required my husband to go away for an indeterminate amount of time. As much as I fuss over the way he does things and his tendency to be more “free range” with the kids, without him was a bit like tumbling backwards into a free fall.

I never realized how much I watched the clock all day for my 5pm reprieve. How helpful it was to have someone there who loved the kids as much as I do, so that even on the bad days we could commiserate about all the ways they ruined our life. It sounds awful, but I never realized how much he did and focused instead on the laundry he left on the floor next to the hamper and the half full cups I found all over our house.

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I’m going to say something that might shock you, but I’ve never really felt like a real mom before this experience. Despite two kids and bills and doctors and a full stay at home life, there was a part of me that was kind of faking it to make it. I did things that moms were supposed to do, and got through the days feeling like I was an imposter around all the other moms who carefully packed snacks and organized crafts. I was going through the motions of motherhood until my partner got home, then we’d put the kids to bed and I’d go back to being my old self.

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About 4 days after my husband left, somewhere around the time my son was totally melting down at a McDonald’s, I realized I was feeling like a real mom. There was no 5 pm shift change, there was no post bedtime return to the real me; this was the real me, this was my real life.

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There’s always that moment when your head is screaming “shut up! shut up! shut up!” and you have to draw on reserves you didn’t know you had in order to say “wait just one second, baby, mommy’s using the potty.” That’s real motherhood. The moment where you take the high road and acknowledge that you have to be better than you ever thought you could be.

I was surprised to learn that it wasn’t the perfect moms stuff like baking and band aids that would make me stop feeling like an imposter,  but the times I was so close to losing my shit and at my absolute limit. Like some kind of bizarro velveteen rabbit, I became real huddling in the bathroom with my kids, all 3 of us sobbing because we missed daddy and didn’t know what to do with the limitless expanse of time his absence left us with.

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Things have settled down somewhat in the last week. I gained a colossal amount of respect for women whose husbands are deployed, or travel for work, and I think single mothers are basically candidates for sainthood. We’re settling into a routine, getting to know a few new babysitters, experimenting with skype. But with every small inch forward, there’s a hurdle to clear, a part of myself I didn’t expect to see. Who is this new woman embracing motherhood, flaws and all, and not always anxious for the opportunity to return to her pre-kid self?

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I’m curious if this would have happened without this situation. Would I have eventually felt like a real mom if I hadn’t faced this emergency and been forced to sink or swim? Were there glimmers of this real mom in me all along and I just finally got the confidence in myself to embrace her? When did you start feeling like a real mom? The moment you held your newborn and knew you’d do anything for her? Or, like me, did it take a while to shake off the imposter veil and step into your new role? I can’t wait to hear all about it, let me know in the comments!

 

 

 

Size matters!

There is nothing that will draw more boundary-crushing commentary from friends, family, and even perfect strangers than the size of your family.  When my husband and I were first married (and by “first married”, I mean, like, at our reception), people started to ask… “When will you two have a baby?!”  We were able to dodge the uncomfortable questions for a bit.  “Well, I’d like to take the veil off first!” or “Oh, you know, we’re just getting used to married life!” or “We want to buy a house first!”.  Those answers seemed to appease people for about a year.  It was like we had satisfied some type of requirement on people‘s checklists by finally getting married after having lived together for three years, so we were allowed a brief reprieve from intense scrutiny.

Soon after we were married, my husband’s younger brother and his wife gave birth to their twins and the “You’re next!” comments began flooding in.  But then, the unthinkable happened—my husband’s youngest sister got pregnant, not once, not twice but three times before we did.  People’s gentle encouragement began to turn to panicky warnings.  “How old are you?  THIRTY SIX? TICK TOCK TICK TOCK! You’re not getting any younger!  YOU GUYS ARE PLANNING TO HAVE KIDS, AREN’T YOU?!  AREN’T YOU?!”  As intrusive as these comments seemed coming from family, friends and co-workers, they were downright inappropriate from perfect strangers.  I remember one day speaking to the cashier at the grocery store who was admiring my wedding ring.  She asked how long I’d been married, and when I told her it was two years, she asked how many children we had.  I told her none, and her smile faded, “well, what in the world are you waiting for, sweetie?”

What was I waiting for?  I didn’t know.  I knew I wanted children.  I knew my husband wanted children.  But I also knew the time wasn’t right.  We were dealing with a number of things in our life that made the possibility of children at that time seem like not such a great idea.  We were renting an apartment in a really sketchy neighborhood because it was affordable and close to both of our jobs (at which we were both tied down for 60-70 hours per week), I had a terminally ill father living 6 states away whose condition would turn on a dime, requiring me to hop in the car and drive 13 hours straight to be with him and my mom.  And, we were broke as a joke.  The time was just not right for us to have children, regardless of how much this was fucking up everyone else’s timelines.

So, time marched on.  After my father’s passing, my husband and I relocated down south, took on much less demanding jobs and found our first home.  And then, even though I’d reached the ripe old age of 37, the time seemed right.  And, it happened.  On our schedule.

So, that’s the happy ending, right?  “You guys popped out a kid, and no one ever bothered you with overly personal, intrusive questions ever again?”

Yeah, no.

My daughter was barely a week old before people started to ask when we planned on having #2.  And again, the same cycle ensued: for a bit, people were kind of accepting of our non-committal answers, and then came the urgent TICK TOCK comments and then when we finally, finally came out of the closet with “we’re done”, the reactions ranged from confusion to downright horror.  There’s something about the idea of WANTING an only child that confounds people.  After all, only children will be lonely, selfish, sad, maladjusted.  Only children will be saddled with the burden of your inevitable elder care.  And then when you croak, well, they will be ALL ALONE.  ALL ALONE.  ALLLLLLL ALONNNNEEEEEE.

“My own mother has said to me, ‘what is she going to do when you’re gone? It will be just her. That’s so sad.’
The reason that is so infuriating is because I had my daughter at 37, and we tried for a little bit to have a second but it hasn’t worked. Now that I’m 40, we have stopped trying. My mother knows this. And on top of it, I am an only child.”

“We are heartless assholes for only having one child and have no idea how we have fucked him up for the rest of his life by not selflessly giving him a sibling … And don’t we get that my sister can’t have children so the burden of grand children is in me and I’m being completely unreasonable…”

“One and done” isn’t an easy decision… at least it wasn’t for me.  I’d grown up as an only child and I didn’t love being an only child.  There were many times in my life that I’d pined for a brother or sister.  I was the only singleton among my classmates and cousins.  And of course, that led to plenty of teasing and assumptions about my character.  “Oh, she must get everything she wants.  She’s spoiled.  Selfish. Doesn’t share.  Thinks she’s the center of the universe.”  Truth be told, those comments hurt.  So, I was the only child who overcompensated for these assumptions by being too trusting, too generous, and too docile.  And as a result, I was often taken advantage of by others.  I’d vowed to myself from an early age that when I had children, I’d have at least two.  But, as it turns out, that just wasn’t in the cards for us.  My daughter is and will always be an only child, and I’m ok with that.  So, why isn’t everyone else?

Sometimes I think people who choose to have more than one have it so easy in the judgment department.  But, as I have come to find out, that’s not entirely true:

“The best reaction was from my own mom when I told her I was pregnant with the [fourth] baby…she said “are you fucking kidding me?” Thanks Mom.”

“Everyone has a god damn opinion on the size of my family. I have 4 kids, I myself have 6 siblings. 4 seems to be quite large these days. I get, ‘haven’t you figured it out by now?’ ‘Don’t ya think ya have enough?’ ‘Did you plan all of them?’ And equally as rude comments, my absolute favorite comments are the ones inquiring about the state of my vagina after birthing all these babies. I have a thick skin and a sense of humor so I usually have some witty, sarcastic comeback. Sometimes I get a little tired of answering the same ridiculous questions and it really isn’t anyone’s business. But for the record, yes we do know how it happens, 4 is more than enough, no they were not all planned but they were all wanted and loved and I do my kegels all day everyday so my vag is just fine.”

“Now that #4 is out of my body and running around I still get God Bless You a lot, I get lots of stares when I take them out by myself anywhere, and once I had someone loudly count them when they opened the door for me. Then roll their eyes.”

Ok, so we know four is generally considered to be “too many” and one is not enough, so then two or three should be perfectly acceptable, right?  Well, yes, but only if the gender distribution is acceptable.

“I have one boy and one girl. So I get the “perfect, you’re done!” comment. The thing is I would have really liked to have had a big family and the only reason we are done is financial. It makes me a little sad when people say that, honestly.”

“Now that we have children, people’s comments have been rather mild, usually along the lines of ‘Oh, a boy and a girl! That’s just right!’

“I didn’t find out the sex of my second child while I was pregnant because I didn’t want to listen to the comments. The day my oldest was born I was being told that I had to had to try again for a girl.”

So, there you have it.  As with all things parenting, you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.  I’ve fielded my share of awkward questions from people and I’ve actually created a mental arsenal of answers.  When a perfect stranger chatting me up in line at Gymboree asked me if I’m planning to have more, I said, “No,” and then I whispered… “fertility problems”.  She looked horrified that I would share something so intimate, which is so downright ironic I could choke.  When my mom brings it up I remind her that I’m an only child, and I turned out perfectly fine, other than a little pyromania.  And when a coworker mentioned how ALONE ALONE ALONE ALONE my daughter will be after my husband and I die, I told that I plan to live forever, thanks to my ItWorks! wraps… can I interest her in joining my team….?

“I like to respond with uncomfortable answers. Like when people ask me if I know how children are made, I say yes, and my husbands pull out game is weak as fuck. Or, you know there’s some stuff you just don’t come back from, you’ve had 4 babies that must be a mess. Well, I do my kegels regularly to keep my vagina tight and springy but now that you mention it, one of the labias does hang kinda funny, would you like to see?”

“On the rare occasion someone asks me if I’m going to have another, I just look at them disapprovingly and say, ‘Why would I have more kids when there are so many kids to adopt who need good homes?'”

We all have a mental image of the “right” family.  I mean, when I was a kid, daydreaming about the day I’d finally marry Joey McIntyre, I totally imagined having one boy, and then one girl, and a Golden Retriever named Sam who loved to play with our Tuxedo cat, Oliver.  Once in a while when I see a family that resembles that (minus the Joey McIntyre, of course), I do get a little pang of jealousy.  And I admit, every now and then, the thought of having X number of kids makes my ovaries cringe a bit. But I’ve learned that everyone has their own ideal and it’s just not my place to ask why it doesn’t resemble mine.

So, the next time you want to sigh when your sister-in-law sheepishly announces her fourth pregnancy, or you wonder why your neighbor isn’t “trying” for a boy when she already has two girls, or your coworker doesn’t seem in a major hurry to have any children despite the fact that she’s married, and a homeowner, and getting a little long in the tooth, remember… it’s none of your business and your casual critique might be super hurtful and intrusive.

Have you ever felt judged for your family size?  How do you respond to the critiques?

 

Group Warfare.

I’ve started and erased this post 4 times so far, and I have no more witty hooks to reel you in. I wanted to be funny, say something sarcastic with a virtual toss of my hair and intimate to you all that nothing bothers me and I laugh it all off because by this time I’ve seen it all.

And make no mistake about it, I’ve seen it all. I’ve been in hundreds of mom groups on the internet. When people find out I’m the sanctimommy they add me to everything. “Can you believe these weirdos?!” Raw foods, vegan cooking, doll making, dress sewing, stay at home mom crafts, babywearing, formula feeding, antivax, provax, natural cures, Ferber mamas, AP, silky… if there’s a group for it, I’ve been there. In fact, in one of my groups someone recently posted the question “how many groups are you in?” and then the additional challenge of screenshotting your groups list, and after the 5th or 6th screenshot it occurred to me that people might be weirded out that I’m in so many groups. So I never answered the question.

I remember the very first group I joined, it was a babycenter group called Actively Trying to Get Pregnant and so of course the very first thing I did was make a post describing my vague pms symptoms and asking them if it meant I was pregnant. They handed me my ass, and for good reason. It taught me to read the group info before posting in any group,  and hey, that’s valuable information I use again and again that might not have stuck with me if those bitches hadn’t been so ruthless.

Today I got banned from a group. I didn’t do anything wrong, I didn’t fight anyone or put anyone on blast on the Sanctimommy facebook page; I got banned because I wanted to stay friends with everyone and be in all the groups, which is the highest form of treason in the mommy world. The admins made a post demanding that everyone in all the spinoff groups leave them, and choose a side, or be banned. I wasn’t online and didn’t see the notice, so that was that, the choice was made for me.

I wanted to write a blog post about the formulaic downfall of mom groups, because they all seem to follow a similar trajectory. Quiet and easy at first, then more busy and chatty, then everyone gets comfortable and you do a gift exchange or raise money for a sick member, and then when everyone is nice and comfortable,  things start unraveling. People start speaking freely, because we all know each other and can be “real” without censoring ourselves. And then tiny little schisms start happening. No one calls each other out, but you can bet they’re PMing about that picture of your kid in his carseat. We’re all just speaking freely, but by doing so we’re also choosing sides. Something happens when we lose that initial politeness. We stop giving people the benefit of the doubt.

It never ends the way you think it will. There’s never a big huge issue or blowup that coalesces into a mess. Someone posts something innocuous like “I don’t like these before and after weight loss posts. We’re all moms and we should be positive about our bodies.” And that’s it. That’s the opinion that is so controversial it splits the group. People take sides, create spinoff groups, there are so many PMs flying around that people forget what they talked about before this issue. Lots of people in the group have no idea what’s going on because they’re only in there every few days and aren’t avid facebookers. Those people are shuffled around from group to new group like currency desperately trying to figure out what happened and where their friends went…

You know, I remember when I was a new mom, and my son would be up for hours in the night, and I’d nurse him in the crook of my left arm and talk to other moms on message boards on my phone in my right hand. I remember just marveling at the wonder of technology. What did moms do in the middle of the night before the internet? They must have been so lonely. But I was wrong,  the internet didn’t cure our loneliness.

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I asked my friends in the Sanctimommy group, where we work on blog posts and page posts together,  what was the worst thing someone has done to you in a mom group? The answers were horrifying. Forget name calling and bad gossip, people are routinely reported to Child Protection Services as revenge for some internet transgression. Memes are made and spread calling people fat and ugly and mocking their children. The desire is not to distance ones self from the people we don’t like, but to “punish” them. For what? Disagreeing with you on the internet?

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I always think that next time, I’m going to be immune to the mom group fallout, but you know what? It hurts every time. I think about my friend from 4 or 5 groups ago whose adopted childrens’ birth mother was trying to regain custody of them. What ended up happened with that? I have a friend from babycenter that I met in a loss group who made the decision after 3 miscarriages to not attempt pregnancy any longer. What did she do after our chat group fell apart? One of my friends from a group a few years ago sent me an enormous box of maternity clothes and a bag of red jolly ranchers for my morning sickness. Did she know I was grateful even after the group fell apart and we blocked each other? I ordered bonnets for my daughter from the etsy shop she recommended two years after we stopped speaking.

You can’t just cut people and never think of them again after years of talking almost daily. But you also can’t send them a baby gift when you find out they’re pregnant again months after you stop speaking, because they’ll probably mock it and even if they don’t,  it’s probably weird to still care after all the screenshots and blocking.

How do we raise money for someone’s sick dog’s surgery one day and then decided that because they’re pro-body positive posts and you’re anti-censorship that now you have to hate each other? Is it because it gives us something to do? Something to talk about? Because it makes us feel powerful when motherhood constantly renders us powerless?

After I got banned,  I got the full story. I asked in one of the spinoff groups “what happened?” and mentioned writing a blog post about it and I immediately had a dozen messages in my inbox. People I had never spoken to before wanted to share their passionate opinions about the split and make me see that they were right. I regretted asking almost instantly. What difference does it make? An admin in one group called CPS for a wellness check on a baby in the uncensored group, and there were lots of hurt feelings about lack of transparency and violations of privacy. Was the call justified? I don’t know. When I asked the admin what happened, she and a dozen of her friends cussed me out and questioned my “loyalty” to the group. “Grow the fuck up” “I wish I could be on the sidelines” “stop asking what happened” “are you fucking stupid? Sit down and shut up”

On the one hand they ask for sensitivity and understanding,  but on the other they refuse to share even the barest details. And that’s the part that alienates the most members. Because everyone wants to be one of the “cool” commenters and know the inside scoop. Information becomes currency and those who have it get a say in what happens next.

I have to say, when I started writing the sanctimommy page, I was worried people would make fun of my kids or steal my pictures,  but now, I find myself totally paranoid every time I post anything that someone is going to try and ruin my real life. In the past, people have talked in groups about contacting my employers and sending screenshots to my real life friends, it never even occurred to me that someone would waste the time of Child Protective Services because of an internet vendetta. So thanks for giving me that new worry.

Is this behavior baffling to anyone else? When I don’t like someone online, I stop speaking to them. Maybe I vent about the perceived wrong to my other friends. But never, have I ever, stolen someone’s pictures or made tribute art or threatened their kids. This new tendency to default into “real life” is frightening to me. Can we stop it now?

I don’t know how to end this one, because I usually try to close on a high note, a little humor, a little solidarity,  but I’m not feeling like I can find anything funny about mom groups anymore. I will say, that there are always caveats to the shitty virtual world. A big one is the admin team. If a group has a good sensible admin team steering the ship they can and do weather dozens of blowups without imploding. One of my favorite groups has seen more upsets than you can imagine, (scammers, deaths, births, lies, coup attempts) and always bounces back from them because the admins limit the drama and keep everyone moving forward. Another big indication that a group will be successful is that it’s local or many of the members have met in real life. We tend to be less likely to pick fights and more likely to give people the benefit of the doubt if there’s a possibility that we’ll run into them at the grocery store. There’s something about knowing someone in the flesh that gives you insight into their personality and that creates common ground, even when you disagree online.

One of my friends created a very small group of 20 or so moms that she met online and made every single one a group admin and limited the group size. Knock on wood, they’ve lasted a year.

12829175_518602410299_8151438037445951793_oIs the benefit of talking to other moms any time day or night worth the risk of feeling genuinely hurt if it all goes south? What ways do you protect yourself and your kids from people you feel close to, but don’t know, online? Do you feel as free and open talking to your in-person friends as you do when you talk to your virtual friends?

I don’t know any of the answers, but I do want to try something radical in the comments here. I want to open the door for forgiveness and absolution. I want to start a conversation about keeping our humanity first and foremost; we aren’t just names on a screen, we’re parents, we’re people. If you’ve ever wronged anyone else in a group, this is your opportunity to come clean. You can be as vague or as specific as you like. You can ask forgiveness or simply attempt to clear up the misinformation. This is your chance to be a real friend, a real group member, and clean up so you can move on. Good luck!11535843_10206890499525614_1922599062457826269_n

That time I tried to make a thing

I won’t craft, don’t ask me.

There are very few things I am so overwhelmingly bad at that I refuse to keep trying them in hopes I’ll get better. Cooking? 11 crockpot disasters this season and I’m still going to try that sweet and sour pork Ramen thing that everyone is sharing. Dancing? I have a move my best friend Arliss affectionately calls “that embarrassing pointy thing you do when you’ve been drinking.” And I’m still doing it unapologetically. I’ve failed massively at cloth diapering, painting my bedroom, making those mason jar salads… so maybe you can understand why I draw the line at crafts and won’t subject my children to my incompetence.1340082263434_8235640

Sometimes my husband will laugh and bring up some epic fail, like the time I tried to do those homemade salt dough ornaments and they burnt to a crisp in the oven and our cat ate all the leftover dough and almost died from a potassium overdose. I bristle a little at these memories,  because to me they aren’t funny. I can’t help but feel like in some way, my inability to pin weird handprint ladybug prints reflects on my capabilities as a mother.

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I’ve often felt like there’s some nesting gene called into question when you refuse to sit down and do some torturous activities that end in tears for all involved. I know I’m not the only control freak who can’t even play playdoh without insisting the colors be kept separate.

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I feel, not just awe, but genuine amazement when other moms tell me they love doing crafts with their kids. I always rationalize it by internally insisting that they must have gotten one of those quiet contemplative kids, while I got one of the normal smashy bashy ones.2016-03-14 20.42.12-12016-03-14 20.42.12-22016-03-14 20.38.51-1

I asked some moms in my facebook group about how often they do crafts with their kids and found a little bit of solidarity.

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I started thinking about how weird it was, how moms will fixate on the one aspect of parting they do poorly and use it to lash themselves with. “I taught my 3 year old to read, but gaaaah! We don’t know how to make thumb print bug paintings! Failure!”

This might be one of those situations where if we gave up control and just acknowledged that it doesn’t have to be perfect, we’d have less of this:

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And more of this:

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While I certainly won’t be searching pinterest for ideas any time soon, I can admire my kids’ teachers and my crafty friends a lot more. It takes a village, right? So I’ll teach your kids my pointy finger dance and you can teach mine how to make tissue paper butterflies. It all evens out in the end.

For no real reason, since I wasn’t able to work them in this blog really (and I have a glass of wine calling my name in the other room) here are some hilarious crafts people shared with me, that I couldn’t resist sharing with you. If nothing else, we can have close this one with a good laugh!

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Happy crafting!

Welcome to motherhood… here’s your postpartum depression.

Long before my husband and I even thought about having a baby, I had big plans for how motherhood would go for me. I just knew that the second my little precious bundle of perfection was conceived, life would be complete and all the pieces would fall into place. I would effortlessly sail through a yoga-filled healthy pregnancy, gaining no more than a respectable 15 lbs. (which would melt off almost instantly, of course). And once my sweet baby was born, I would just instantly–poof!– morph into the most perfect version of myself. Oh, I wouldn’t be one of those moms who walked around in the same yoga pants for four days straight, bleary eyed and wandering the aisles of Target with spit up in my hair. No, that was for other moms. I would make sure my hair was always washed and pulled back into a stylishly casual ponytail and I’d waltz around my spotless, all white kitchen (in my fantasies, I have an all white kitchen reminiscent of a Clorox commercial) whipping up Pinterest-worthy snacks and vibrant kale salads for the whole family. That was going to be MY motherhood journey. And, I really believed it, bless my heart.

I don’t want to give away any surprise endings here, but it didn’t exactly go that way. After a particularly rough pregnancy that included 3 hospitalizations for preterm labor, my beautiful daughter was born at 33 weeks. She was absolutely perfect and the minute I laid eyes on her, I was in love. Despite being so early, she had a relatively short stay in the NICU with zero complications and somewhere in the back of my head, I really believed my love and commitment somehow were responsible for her astonishing  outcome. She was a week old and I had already nailed this motherhood thing! The rest was going to be a breeze too!

Oh sure, the first few weeks, I experienced periodic bouts of the “baby blues”. I’d suddenly start weeping– I thought– because I was overwhelmed by my love for this perfect little person. But, that would pass, wouldn’t it? Surely these “baby blues” weren’t going to last for more than a few weeks? I’d go to her weekly checkups and fill out the questionnaire at the pediatrician’s office confidently. “Do you feel overwhelmed?” YEAH, OVERWHELMED BY JOY! “Do you feel worried or anxious for no good reason?” NO, I MEAN, I HAVE A GOOD REASON! I JUST MADE A PERSON! ”Do you think you may be depressed?” WHO ME? NOT A CHANCE! Where’s my gold star, Doc? Did I get an A?

You know what? I really wasn’t in denial… as someone who’d grappled with bouts of depression in my teens and 20’s, I wasn’t experiencing depression in the way I had in the past. I was managing the feedings and sleeplessness well enough. I felt connected to my daughter. I was, in fact, happy. But this overwhelming anxiety and fear were always bubbling under the surface. I’d lay my child down to sleep and suddenly I’d be gripped by panic and terrible scenarios would begin to play out in my head. “What if she stops breathing while I nap and I’m asleep and don’t know it? What if I walk downstairs to grab a snack while she’s in her bassinet, and I fall down the stairs and break my neck, and I can’t reach the phone and no one finds me for 12 hours? She’ll starve to death!” The storylines that played out in my imagination were gruesome and terrifying and always centered around the fear that something out of my control would lead to her harm. And this made me panic even more. So I started to think, “What if this isn’t baby blues or PPD? What if I lose my mind and have a psychotic episode, like Andrea Yates? What if I wake up 20 years from now in an institution and realize I’ve done something horrific and didn’t even realize it? What if I am losing my mind? IS THIS REAL LIFE?”

My support system was limited. I only had my mom and my husband to talk to really, and neither of them could comprehend what I was going through, possibly because I had no idea how to talk about it. My mom was still very much grieving the loss of my dad two years earlier… how could I burden her with this? So, I’d allude to feeling “not myself” and my mom would impart her mom-like wisdom and tell me to get some fresh air, go get my hair cut, and nap when the baby napped. My husband, who was adjusting to fatherhood while working 70 hours a week, would listen dutifully but still manage to get annoyed when he’d walk in the door and I’d hand him a colicky baby so I could go in the bathroom and cry.

One of the reasons many of us have a hard time talking about these overwhelming feelings is because we are often met with blank stares and unhelpful advice that ranges from trite to downright judgmental:

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Even when we’ve experienced trauma related to the birth of a child, we are still encouraged to suck it up:

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Like so many others, I decided the best thing to do was deny, deny, deny. Surely, this was like a cold that would eventually just run its course. “Mind over matter! You can do this!”, I told myself. I refused to think that I needed treatment or medication. I felt like admitting that I was suffering would be admitting that I had been defeated. Like many, I felt that allowing myself to focus on my own mental health was indulgent and selfish when I had this tiny little person who needed me. You’re a mom now, BE HAPPY, like ALL THE OTHER MOMS.

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I returned to work 5 weeks postpartum barely able to function. As luck would have it, I worked remotely most of the time and my bosses, who I’d never actually met face-to-face, had no clue how much of a struggle my job was for me. Somehow I managed to eke out a barely satisfactory performance. Others, however haven’t been as lucky.

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It wasn’t until my daughter was 7 months old that I sought help.  After a particularly terrifying and panic-filled evening, I called my husband at work and begged him to hurry home.  If nothing else, I needed validation.  I needed to know I was ok… I needed confirmation that I was there, safe at home and that I hadn’t completely lost my mind. What I really needed was a hug.

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I called my PCP the next morning and tearfully begged them to see me that same day.  The moment my doctor walked in the room, I started crying and I begged him to write me a script for Zoloft and that day, I started working my way out of that deep dark hole I’d dug myself into.

No one ever told me what PPD was really like. I mean, I knew other moms suffered from PPD, but I didn’t know what that actually meant.  If I’d ever known that intrusive thoughts were not uncommon, maybe I would have sought help sooner.  If women knew that feeling “disconnected” from their child was a telltale sign of PPD, and not proof of being a “bad mother”, many of us might feel more comfortable seeking support.  The fact is, we don’t know how to talk about it, so we don’t talk about it… and sometimes these problems persist for weeks, months… even years. Even if we do “get better”, or seek help in the form of therapy or medication, the shame and fear linger and many– myself included– fear having subsequent pregnancies.

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I wish I could end this post with a triumphant tale of redemption and victory over PPD.  I wish I could tell you that Zoloft was a magical cure for me.  It wasn’t.  It helped me cope.  It helped me function.  It helped me remain employed.  It somewhat quieted the rush of anxious thoughts that were constantly making my daily life unlivable. And, that was my journey.  Some women find success in meditation, or yoga.  Many find success with talk therapy (or, the cheaper version, joining online Mommy Groups where they can vent somewhat anonymously with other moms).  Some have found essential oils or dietary changes to be helpful.  We all do what we have to do to to keep one foot moving in front of the other.

If you’re struggling with postpartum depression/anxiety or intrusive thoughts, please don’t suffer silently.  You are not alone.  You are not weak. You might feel like nothing will ever be ok again, but I promise you… it will.  You may never master those pesky Pinterest crafts or get your kids to eat that kale salad you can’t seem to get quite right (bbbbut… the recipe said that KIDS LOVE IT!?) and the chances you’ll ever have that sparkling all white kitchen are pretty slim… but there will come a day that you will stop and take a look at yourself,– as is, with all your perfect imperfections–and realize you’re kinda already nailing this motherhood thing… four day old yoga pants notwithstanding.

Yes, all moms

I never really heard my mom talk about the experience of motherhood. Maybe she did and I never paid attention because I wasn’t a mother, but it always seemed like she just got stuff done without a lot of personal analyzing.

I do, however, have this distinct memory from my childhood: seeing my mom weighted down with what was probably her 7th or 8th pregnancy, in the middle of the summer. We’d just gotten back from the park and she opened the fridge and sighed this hot, tired, pregnant mom sigh, and sent my brother to the store for a gallon of ice cream for dinner because she didn’t feel like cooking. I think I forgot about this story until I became a mom myself.

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My 98 year old grandma.

My grandma once told me she used to sneak oranges and eat them in the pantry because they were so expensive and she used to crave them so much.

I’ve been thinking a lot about secrets. Some are scary, but some (probably most) are things that everyone does and no one talks about. Because we want to be seen as good moms, because we don’t want to own up to bad days.

There’s a distinct kind of bond that develops when you’re talking to another mom and she reveals some minor habit that you secretly do too.

I asked some moms on my page and group to share some of these universal mom secrets that everyone probably does, and no one really talks about.

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There was a resounding cacophony of “Omg! Me too!”

Some were hilarious

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And some were more poignant

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But the resounding theme was “yes, all moms have secrets” and “yes all moms have done stuff like this” we’re alike in our weird survival at any costs life in the trenches. We’re all just making it through the day.

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The awesome thing was, the more people shared the more acceptance there was. Even if it was something you’d never do, and hadn’t even thought of, no one got called to task or shamed or judged in any way. It was like the more doors we opened, the more breathing room we found in our commonalities.

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It occurred to me that there’s strength in numbers. If enough moms are willing to say, “yes, I’m just getting through this too” can you imagine the solidarity we’d find?

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Can we make this a thing? Can we open a dialog about mom secrets and hashtag them? Sure, that’s the easy part.

Can we keep from judging each other about those secrets? That’s a bit more complicated.

Working it

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my little nanny charge, carrying my son

With my first, I went back to work at 5 weeks postpartum. I was a nanny, and had worked for the same family for several years, so I got to bring my baby with me. Which was good, because everyone seemed to have opinions like, “you’re not going to leave your baby to take care of someone else’s babies, right?”

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Facebook introduction, the birth of a sanctimommy

Sept 2014

Glib underlings,

This weekend my 6th profile was shut down and I have been unable to participate in the private group or answer messages. For some of you, this will be great news, met with cheers, you’ve done it! You’ve taken down Sanctimommy! Way to go you badass! But for the more than 20,000 of you who enjoy cracking wise with me, and venting about our kids, this is frustrating. And disappointing. For those people I’d like to talk about how and why I created this page and what my goal here is.

Being a new mom is disorienting. No matter how you planned to parent or what your life was like pre-baby, everything will turn out differently than you imagined. My partner and I struggled with infertility for several years, we lost 3 pregnancies in that time and I became obsessed with the idea of myself as a mother. What would I be like? Well, for starters I wouldn’t be like those lazy moms with dirty kids and messy hair. Of course I’d have one of those orgasmic natural births, right? And breastfeed exclusively. Oh, and we’d have lots of time for crafts and cloth diapering. Maybe I’d start one of those work at home mom businesses and even sell cloth diapers! And wooden rattles!

I imagined I’d have one of those fierce hilarious mom posses you see in the movies. We’d drink decaf tea at the all-organic waldorf playroom and talk about our feelings. I’d feel comfortable calling these women in the middle of the night if the baby had a fever or a weird rash and we’d collectively decide which essential oils would be most effective. If one of us got sick we’d all bring them a meal. We’d take turns babysitting each other’s kids and of course all the kids would love us and never fuss when left in our care.

This was the motherhood I spent years building in my grief.

I was very hard on moms I saw struggling in grocery stores, at parks. I judged them and their formula bottles. I would do better.

When I had my first baby everything changed in an almost comically formulaic way. I know most of you will be familiar with this because it’s why you found my page, why you liked it. Your story is probably somewhat similar. Post dates, long exhausting induction that didn’t work, milk that didn’t come in for several days because you were so goddamn tired and stressed and shell-shocked. Forget that adorable little nursing nightie you packed, just buy the fucking Depends and give up a little more of your pride. In a few weeks when you have to talk to a lactation specialist about your bloody nipples the word “pride” won’t even register anymore. Baby’s not gaining weight and cries ALL.THE.TIME and you have to supplement with formula. You call friends you used to have and they’re completely bewildered about why you’re so panicky over this and can’t you hire a babysitter and come take a night out?

Forget the mom posse. You post in your breastfeeding group and get torn a new one about supplementing. You post about your kid’s reaction to the DTAP and get blamed for poisoning him. Why don’t you just let him cry it out? Why don’t you try this expensive homeopathic? Why don’t you put a little cereal in his bottle? Why are you destroying his virgin gut?! It feels like everyone knows how to do this but you. You are failing at the life you imagined for yourself.

Maybe you go back to work (and abandon your children?!) or maybe you settle into a routine and find a few friends (lazy stay at home moms like you). Maybe you start to feel like you can do this. Or maybe you struggle. When your doctor gently mentions postpartum depression you have finally hit the bottom. Where are the mom friends who can bring over dinner and talk you through this? They’re judging you for medicating yourself when there are so many omega 3s and essential oils that can help!

Every mom has a story like yours, no matter what they say. I feel so guilty for every mom I judged when she talked about cry-it-out or snapped at her toddler in Target. I had no idea who she was or what she’d gone through that day, that week. I don’t know her kid as well as she does. Her decisions are her own and weren’t reached lightly. I know that now.

In a lot of ways I started writing Sanctimommy as penance. I was lonely and I couldn’t figure out how to forgive myself for not being the mom I thought I would be, for not having the life I thought I would have. In the beginning a lot of the statuses hit close to home for me too, but it was like therapy mocking all the things I blamed myself for! It was liberating!

Eventually I found my mom friends, women who laughed with me as much as they cried with me. Who detested the judgement and the meanness just as much as I did. Some of us had homebirths and made placenta smoothies, some of us opted for a Csection, some of us breastfed and some didn’t, some vaxed and some didn’t. And for some reason we never even talked about these things. We complained about our partners and swapped crock pot recipes like normal people and not activists. I am not an activist.

I never wanted to be an internet “celebrity” or gain a following. I have no plans to “cash in” on this endeavor. I don’t care how you raise your kids. My goal, from the very beginning, was to joke with my friends and learn to not take ourselves so seriously. When you report me or talk about how I destroyed your private group you’re assuming that I have some substantial internet power that I just don’t have. There are 15,000 in the private group (which by the way, I have very little involvement in) and 20,000 on the page. I get hundreds of submissions, some provide context, some don’t, some are funny, some aren’t. How do we decide what to put on the main page? There’s no formula; if it makes us laugh, if it strikes a nerve, if it’s something we’ve been told by the sanctimommies in our own lives, we generally want to poke fun at it.

I don’t operate under an alternate profile because I’m afraid of being “outed” or ashamed of what we do here. I use an alt for two reasons: my real personal account has gotten a facebook time out and been in danger of deactivation because hundreds of moms report me for “bullying” when they didn’t understand the page, and because from the very beginning I have gotten real threats from people. I remember the first time someone threatened to find me and circumcise me, I remember the first time someone said they wanted to “light my face on fire and stab it out with a fork”.

And maybe they’re kidding! but… maybe they’re not.

If you spend any time chatting with me here or in the private group you find out pretty quickly who I am because I’m not very interested in hiding. It’s sort of an open secret. And in spite of claims that I’m “hiding” among my “crunchy” friends in real life, everyone who knows me personally knows I write this page. I talk about it all the time. Several of my car seat tech friends and doula friends and IBCLC friends even suggest status updates for the wall. After all, no matter what parenting methodology you follow, you’re going to be the subject of some mean spirited advice dashed with a bit of haunty judgement. That’s modern motherhood.

This is a long note, thank you for bearing with me. I’m happy to answer questions in the comments, but inflammatory and offensive commentary will simply be removed. I’ll be the villain you want to blame the mom wars on, sure, but I don’t have time to field your personal dramatics.

To the hundreds of you who have been with me, who’ve scrolled through in the middle of the night to laugh so you don’t cry: Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being my fierce hilarious mom posse. I don’t take your participation here for granted.