The Working Sanctimommy’s Guide to Career/Life Balance:

I can’t even count how many times I’ve been asked, “Sanctimommy, how is it that you balance a career and motherhood, all while maintaining a spotless home and a hopelessly happy marriage and rewarding social life and still make it all look so damn easy?”

I don’t make it “look” easy– it really just is easy.  For me.  I just don’t know why so many other moms complain about this stuff.  Managing a full time career and full time motherhood isn’t hard if you’re a self-actualized wonder woman like myself.  Look, I don’t usually like to share my tips for success, because frankly I like to maintain my position of superiority, but I guess throwing you all a bone from time to time won’t hurt.

So, without further ado… here are my foolproof tips for work/life balance:

1- Leave nothing to chance.

Motherhood is not to be entered into at random.  To ensure I was able to have it all, I had to carefully choose the timing of my pregnancy.  I couldn’t risk being too young or too old.  Too young, and I may not have been as financially stable as I am, reasonably finished with my educational pursuits and not have had enough time to carefully craft my marital union.  Too old, and I’d risk not being able to bounce back to my pre-pregnancy weight within a reasonable time (6 days postpartum).  That ideal age?  27.110573.  Not a day more or less.  Got that?  Take the age of 27.110573 and count backwards 43 weeks (because, remember, full term+ is the only way to go), and voila!  You have your ideal conception timeframe.  See how easy that is?

2- You should have planned the perfect career path back in 9th grade (but, you probably didn’t). 

Back when you met with your first guidance counselor in high school, you should have had the foresight to have chosen the perfect career that would simultaneously let you be a powerful jet setting career woman but would also allow you to work from home, but not so much at home that you never leave the house… a career that would give you no other choice but to “lean in”, but that would still allow you to always put your family first. Here are some helpful guidelines:working-mom

  • You have to be able to have mornings and evenings free to tend to your home and children.
  • You must also have your afternoons free so you can continue to take Bikram Yoga classes and have time to take your children to the local park so you can simultaneously give them 100% of your attention and still allow plenty of time to observe other people’s playground-related parental failures.
  • No part-time jobs.  No MLMs (unless you have a downline of at least 112 people), no jobs that require travel.  No sales, or marketing, or skilled trades.  No food service or factory work.  No teaching or nursing or retail.  No administrative or accounting work.

“But, Sanctimommy, that sounds impossible!  Careers like that just don’t exist!”  God, you have no imagination. I suggest you consider building your very own homemade Elderberry Syrup empire or find a way to make six figures as a Mommy Blogger.  It’s not that hard, ladies.

3- Understand that you can’t go it alone.

Balancing career and motherhood is nearly impossible if you don’t have a strong support network.  I don’t mean rewarding friendships, or a life partner/co-parent who is willing to shoulder half of the responsibility.  You can’t call yourself a success if you can’t claim to have done it all on your own.  So, make sure your husband or partner is there, ready to take on whatever responsibilities you are willing to dole out to them.  Allow their contributions to be small enough that no casual observer would give them any meaningful credit.  And never, I mean NEVER, allow them to make any actual independent decisions as they relate to the children.  You’re the star of this show, cupcake, don’t share that spotlight!

As for friendships, make sure to surround yourself with people who provide you validation at all times. You’ll want to carefully craft a circle of real life and internet friends who are just slightly beneath you— people who can bask in your superior judgment and choices… people who you know secretly envy you.  The satisfaction you’ll get from knowing others want to be just like you will fuel you on your down days.

4- Self Care is Key.

Here’s the thing.  There will be times when your (and I truly mean “your”, because this has never happened to me) house is slightly messy, you’ll forget all about that parent-teacher conference, or you’ll feel exhausted, overwhelmed and anxious.  You’ll snap at your kids, you’ll stick them in front of the tv so you can have a minute to yourself, you’ll crack open a box of Mac & Cheese for dinner because it’s 7:00pm and you’re so tired your hair hurts.  At work, you’ll make mistakes from time to time, you’ll find yourself in over your head on some days, or you’ll spend a day at your desk at work scrolling through Pinterest because fuck it, you’re the only one in the office that day and there are no immediate deadlines looming.  These things are inevitable.  So what  you do when you find yourself feeling like a failure? YOU DEFLECT.

Say you’ve just yelled at your child because you’re tired and crabby, and you’re feeling guilty.  Do you admit you’re only human? God no. You’ll have to simultaneously forgive yourself and also find a way to mercilessly critique others for engaging parenting behaviors you deem unforgivable.  It’s not hypocricy, it’s “self-care”.

First thing is first.  You’ll have to get into the right head space.

Find yourself a nice comfy chair.  Sit back and take a few cleansing breaths.  Close your eyes.  Now… visualize yourself frolicking on a sandy beach or running in a field of wildflowers.  Ok, now stop that.  Picture yourself walking through Target.  There you are… walking through the baby aisle.  You look hopelessly pulled together and chic, because well, of course you do.  You spot another mom.  She’s bleary eyed, has spit up on her shoulder, and her hair is a tangled mess.  She has a baby carrier, perched on top of the shopping cart.  What… what is that item she just pulled off the shelf….?  Is that… a can of formula?  Oh MY GOD, it’s Target brand formula.  She’s going to buy formula.  GENERIC FORMULA.  FOR HER BABY.  She doesn’t even look ashamed.  Picture yourself, giving her the most violent of side eyes.  Visualize yourself audibly gasping and tapping her on the shoulder and yelling right into her stupid face, “BREAST IS BEST.”  Now, see yourself… turning abruptly on your heel and walking away with your head held high, leaving her stunned and crying in the background.  Feel the superiority.  Feel the shaming.  BASK IN IT.

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Now, if you’re short on time and don’t have time for the visualization technique outlined above, you’ll have to take a faster, more direct approach.  Find your nearest online Mommy Group, and post away.  Here’s a sample format:

“I’m not trying to sound judgmental but, am I the only one who thinks you’re a (lazy parent, shitmom, failure at life) if you (put your kid in daycare, don’t even attempt to breastfeed, take your kid to McDonald’s, forward face before 4, etc.).  Not trying to start a debate, just looking for opinions.”

Granted, about half of the replies will disagree with you or take offense to your smug tone. Don’t let anyone try and change your mind—you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life, girl. Don’t try to understand alternative viewpoints.  When confronted with differing opinions, DOUBLE DOWN.  Call those people shitmoms and move on.  When it gets to be too heated, post a farewell speech to the group letting them know how you can’t believe how many terrible parents have snuck in right past the admins and that you can’t associate with the likes of them.   Depending on the size of the group, this entire exercise should take no more than 30 minutes.

Now, do you feel better about yourself?  Are you feeling empowered? Smug?  Self-righteous? Perfect.

5- Never miss an opportunity to assert your superiority at work. 

Here are some helpful examples:smug

  • Remind your child free coworkers how unfulfilled their lives are without motherhood (“Wow, so, no kids yet, Dan from Accounting? Don’t you find that sort of aimless existence to be kind of… lonely and depressing?”).
  • Always steer conversations right back to yourself and your children (“I’d love to join you all for Happy Hour, but little Teighlurr has ballet class tonight and here, let me show you the 39 pictures I took of her this morning!”)
  • Remind your fellow parent co-workers how much more put together and evolved you are than they are (“You look tired today, Karen from Purchasing. Isn’t your baby sleeping through the night yet? When my children were 4 weeks old they just naturally started sleeping through the night. But then again, I did breastfeed and co-sleep so…”).
  • Don’t forget to passive aggressively comment on other people’s lunch choices (“Ooh, another Lean Cuisine, Joyce from Customer Service? I’ll bet that is so much easier than the farro and quinoa bowls I made while meal prepping last week! It would be so much easier if I didn’t care about my wellness and longevity!”)

6- Social Media exists solely for your validation.

  • No one will ever get sick of pictures of your children. Post at least 10 well filtered pictures of your precious littles each day, with helpful hashtags that remind everyone how fulfilled you are, like #enjoyingeverymoment and #soblessed #mylifeisperfection.
  • On a similar note, no one will ever, ever tire of pictures of your food. That Instapot bone broth isn’t going to brag about itself, ya know.  Don’t forget, food pictures don’t count if they are not accompanied by 12-44 hashtags.  Here are some of my favorites: #farmbeforethepharmacy #whole30 #allnatural #organic4lyfe #mealprep #mykidlovesquinoa #vegan #vegankid #veganfamily #veganveganveganpaleoveganglutenfree #frankenfoodisforlosers #imaworkingmombutstillhavetimetobebetterthanyou
  • Vague but oddly specific observations are a helpful tool to make everyone on your friends list occasionally wonder if you’re indirectly judging them. “It’s so sad how some people don’t mind living in a pigsty.  Having kids is no excuse for being lazy. /Endrant”  You can bet your bottom dollar, anyone who’s posted an uncropped #nofilter picture of their kid in the living room recently is going to think you might be referring to them.
  • Change it up! Alternate between vaguebooking status updates and those ecard memes.  I mean, it’s not rude if it’s accompanied by an old timey cartoon!Image result for lazy mom meme

 

In conclusion, being a working mom isn’t that hard.  For me.  You’re probably royally fucking it all up though.

I hope this helped!

 

Fuck you.

Oh my God, I’ve just come into some MONEY!  So excited, I went to the bank to cash a check that was written for a substantial amount.  Man, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on that cash.  I had so many plans for it!  Usually, I keep myself on a tight budget, but this was a sudden windfall and I could not be more elated!  I made sure my check was signed, that I had two forms of ID and I waited patiently in line.  When I arrived at the window, I presented the check to the teller.  She smiled kindly and processed my transaction.  But, when it came time for her to hand me my money, she dropped the wad of cash into a box and held the box high over her head.  “Ma’am, if you want this money, you’ll have to fish it out of this box, but I have to warn you… the box is teeming with live spiders.  Don’t look so frightened… you want the money, don’t you?  What’s to be afraid of?  It’s JUST spiders!  Who’s afraid of a few little tarantulas? Oh, you’re terrified of spiders?  Shame.  No cash for you.”

Seems unreasonable, doesn’t it?  Well, something relatively similar happened to my daughter recently.

This past Monday was Halloween.  My daughter was so excited she could hardly contain herself.  She could put on a sparkly princess costume and there would be candy… LOTS of candy?  TONS AND TONS OF CANDY!?  And she could eat it, with reckless abandon?  BEST DAY EVER.  So, we dressed her up in her sparkly Cinderella dress, complete with glittery silver shoes and long satin gloves and set out to Trick-or-Treat in our neighborhood.  Now, let me say, Trick-or-Treating is a real event in our neighborhood.  Most houses have festive lights and very involved graveyard scenes or big blow-up pumpkins and witches and goblins on their front lawns.  There are adults, hanging out in their driveways with neighbors, fire pits ablaze excitedly awaiting the waves of trick or treaters, there is candy galore… there are even neighbors who bake Pinterest-worthy Halloween treats for the kids and the whole thing feels very… magical.

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House to house we went, my little Cinderella smiling brightly.  At most houses, she was one of many trick-or-treaters approaching at the same time.  The other kids would yell, “Trick or Treat!” and the adults would ooh and aah and distribute the candy.  My daughter blended into the crowd of tiny pirates and Elsas and Pikachus.  So, at most houses, no one noticed that all my daughter did was hold out her bucket without saying anything.

That’s until we hit the house on the corner.  The lights had just come on and my daughter excitedly said, “Mommy, look!  Let’s go dat house!”  When we approached, I smiled and said “trick or treat” for her.  The woman stopped, looked at me and back at my daughter and said, “what are the magic words, Cinderella?” and she held the bowl of candy up high out of my daughter’s reach.  I chimed in.  “Trick or Treat!”  She held the bowl higher.  “No magic words, no candy!”  My daughter stared at her, frozen. “Come on now, what are the magic words?  What are you– shy?  Say Trick or Treat!  Come on now!”

dtb5rudz_400x400I I I am sure she meant no harm, but I wanted to punch this lady square in the nose.  I also wanted to explain that my daughter, who is not yet 4 years old is a small child, not a trick pony.  I wanted to tell her that she is not shy.  In fact, she is quite outgoing and bubbly and that her big toothy smile and her laugh are so contagious, you just can’t help but be happy when you’re near her.  I also wanted to tell her that entire months passed where my daughter didn’t utter a word to her preschool teachers and that we celebrate like it’s New Years Eve when we find out she uttered a tiny “hello” to her teacher.  I wanted her to know that my little girl sometimes gets so anxious in new situations that she will curl up her fingers so her hands look like paws and bark little barks instead of talking, almost as if she wants to be anyone but herself at that moment.

I wanted to say, “Fuck you, it’s Halloween. She’s 3 years old. Hand out the candy and not the etiquette lessons, lady.”  But, I didn’t.  Another group of trick or treaters walked up and I took my daughter by the hand and we headed to the next house.  I suppose I could have relented and said, “oh yes, she’s shy!”, which I’m sure would have been an acceptable enough response for some candy.  But I decided that my child doesn’t need to hear me making uncomfortable excuses.  And I sure didn’t want her to think that her very real discomfort and anxiety constituted some sort of failure on her part.  There’s plenty of opportunity for us to address these issues… Halloween isn’t one of them.

I mostly forgot about it until I got home and scrolled through Facebook.  In our neighborhood Facebook group, someone commented about kids not saying “thank you” or “trick-or-treat”, or the horror… taking TWO pieces of candy.  On a local social group, someone commented that children just holding out their buckets for free candy is everything that’s wrong with the world today.  In a mom’s group, someone shared screenshots of her great-aunt complaining about how rude children are these days.  Who knows?  Maybe the lady on the corner turned around and told someone the tale of the rude little Cinderella who couldn’t even muster up a simple “trick-or-treat”.  All I know, is people were bitching about parents not teaching their kids manners, as if that’s the only plausible explanation.

Maybe that kid that didn’t say thank you isn’t a just rude little product of today’s “entitled” generation, what with their participation awards and safe spaces and triggers.  Maybe that child is on the spectrum, maybe that child struggles with selective mutism or hasn’t yet gotten a hang of the very rigid rules of Halloween candy acquisition.  Or maybe the kid, at that moment, simply forgot his or her manners.  You have no idea what the cause is, so how about just treating the child like any other human being and accepting that no one is 100% on point 100% of the time?

My daughter asked me as we walked away, “Why that lady not give me candy?”.  So, I tried to explain that some people simply NEED to hear, “Trick or Treat”.  “But… why mommy?”  “Well, sweetheart, I suppose it’s just how you have to ask for candy on Halloween.”  “Ok, mommy… but I shy.  I don’t like to talk.  Why I’m shy?”  Just then, my husband, who’d stopped to talk about the latest Seahawks game with another neighbor caught up with us and I was off the hook.

It felt, however, like the question was left, hanging in the air, unanswered.  And my heart broke a little.  You see, up until recently, she’s been our baby… we could easily shield her from things.  I could answer her questions with simple generalities.  But as time passes, and the amount of why’s and how-come’s increase, I’m going to have to start explaining how the world works.  I know that’s my job, but it doesn’t make it any easier for me to have to unveil the truth: the world isn’t always a wondrous place.  Sometimes, it downright sucks.  For her, the world thus far has been full of magic and new experiences, but the older she gets and the more routine her experiences become, she’s going to come to the realization that the magic and the wonder and the happy stuff is only a tiny part of the equation.  By the time you’re a full-fledged adult, you’ll be at times jaded and cynical, at times bored or dissatisfied or angry or sad.  Eventually, those moments that feel like magic become so fleeting, that when they happen, you try so very hard to commit them to memory and savor them.  For me, these days, all of those magical moments I experience, I experience vicariously through my daughter.  Seeing her eyes light up at a new sight or taste or sound reminds me that life is actually, at times, so profoundly beautiful.

And, while my husband and I think she is utterly perfect just the way she is, there will be other people—people who don’t accept her for who she is and want her to change.  We understand her anxieties.  We know her and know what’s beneath that “shyness”.   But, there are others who will judge her for it.  There will come a time where she’s no longer comfortable breaking into an impromptu a capella performance of “Let it Go” in the middle of Whole Foods just because she feels like it.  People will stare. There will come a time when she knows people will look at her funny if she decides she wants to wear a princess dress and sneakers to school.  There will come a day where lightening bugs and thunderstorms and running through a sprinkler and Christmas lights and a new stuffed doggy aren’t met with a big wide-eyed WOW, but a half hearted “whatever”. And, there will be a time when someone is mean to her or criticizes something about her that she can’t change, and I won’t be there for her to hide behind. All I want is to protect her.  I want to shield her from mean and insensitive people.  But, I can’t.  And that angers me.  When someone breaks her spirit, it’s like they’re breaking mine as well.

That moment on Halloween gave me a glimpse into the future when I won’t be able to kiss away the boo boos.

So… for all those times that you, World, make me have to face this inevitable reality sooner than I would like to: Fuck you.

Fuck you, insensitive jerks who expect so much more out of small people who are just learning to navigate the world than you would out of the average adult.  Fuck you, a-holes who make children struggling with x, y, or z feel “less than”. Fuck you, complete strangers who judge the quality of someone’s parenting based on one teeny tiny interaction with their child. Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.

Ok, so I know it’s utterly irrational for me to be mad about the inevitable.  But what can I say, sometimes a good ol’ FUCK YOU is cathartic.  I posed this question in our private group, and within minutes, we had a whole slew of eager Fuck Yous.

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So, go ahead… share your Fuck Yous with us…. it will make you feel a little better, I promise.

Life on Social Media: Edited for Content?

When I think back to the hallways of my childhood home, I remember the pictures my mom and dad had hung on the wall: a portrait of me, in second grade, posed in front of some sort of autumn farm scene… a family portrait that was taken at Sears where we are all smiling ear-to-ear… a picture of my dad with his arm around me standing in front of MGM Studios in Disney World when I was a teenager. Every picture was posed, every picture was staged, every picture looks happy.  Just a frozen happy moment in time.

I remember taking that class picture. I cried all morning because I hated my shirt. I remember being very fidgety waiting in line to sit down in front of that garish backdrop… just me… in a weird velour striped crewneck shirt, chillin’ in front of a picture perfect New England barn.  So weird, so artificial.  But the end result was a picture of a happy little girl with a crazy cowlick and a big toothless smile looking at the camera happily.  The picture in Disney? Yeah, my dad was yelling at me about two minutes before the picture was taken because I was 14 and hated the world (as all 14 year olds do), so I was rolling my eyes and sighing heavy sighs ruining the goddamned trip to the happiest goddamn place on earth. My mom had just gotten this really high-end 35mm camera and was itching to use it so I remember her saying something to the effect of, “GODDAMN IT, THE TWO OF YOU STOP IT. STAND THERE AND SMILE!” And my dad and I stopped what we were doing for just a moment to take the picture. About two seconds later he was back to threatening to get us on the next flight to CT and I was back to pouting.  I don’t really remember the events surrounding the family portraits at Sears, but I imagine at one point my dad probably said that my mom was taking too long to get ready and my mom probably told my dad that he was driving too fast and at some point, she probably told me to stand up straight because I was always slouching and my dad probably rubbed the back of his neck anxiously, the way he did when he was getting impatient because the photographer was taking too long.  But I don’t really remember those details because all I have left of the day is an image of me, in a stiff purple dress with that cowlick waving in the wind, sitting between my gorgeous twenty-something parents, smiling the biggest smiles.

But, that’s the way it was, back before we could snap 350 selfies a day on a mobile device. Taking photographs of events or people was a process.  Buy film, load the film into the camera, make sure lighting was right, point, click and then wait until you finished the entire roll of film to take it to the Fotomat to be developed. There were no do-overs. You took the picture and hoped for the best. I remember the excitement of taking a roll film to the photo developing booth and waiting for those pictures to be developed.  You chucked the blurry ones, framed the especially beautiful ones, and then put the rest into a photo album to be admired for generations to come.  Mom and Dad didn’t take 25 shots of you petting the dog or eating your spaghetti. No one wasted time taking duck-lipped selfies. Times have changed, though.  On any given lazy Saturday, I will take a hundred pictures of my daughter doing the most mundane things you can think of… helping my husband load the dishwasher, cuddling with the cat, laying on the couch.  My daughter is only 3 1/2 years old and I have already taken upwards of 15,000 pictures of her and have probably posted 4,000 of them to Facebook.  I don’t usually spend a ton of time considering what to upload to social media.  I think it’s cute, I share it.

Last weekend was Father’s Day and my husband and I decided that miniature golf might be a fun thing to do. I dressed my daughter in this really cute Hello Kitty outfit and made sure my phone was charged for what I thought would certainly be photo-op-palooza.  The minute we got there, she didn’t like the color of her putter.  She wanted to go right to the 5th hole because there was a waterfall there.  My husband hit the ball, she grabbed the ball and tossed it back to him.  We told her to be patient, she cried.  She wanted apple juice.  She wanted pizza.  She didn’t want apple juice or pizza.  It was a nightmare that we abruptly ended somewhere around the 8th hole and the 350th, “WILL YOU STOP IT ALREADY!?”  But somehow in the midst of the chaos, I snapped this picture of my husband showing her how to hit the ball:

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Later, I sort of mindlessly posted the picture to Facebook, no caption, no funny quip about what a disaster it was, and I started to feel like a total imposter.  I felt like I needed to go back and edit the picture with an explanation or some little self-deprecating qualifier that the whole outing was an ordeal.  I felt like a phony and that somewhere, someone on my friends list was thinking, “there she goes again, trying to make life look perfect.”  I’m not sure why it mattered to me what my old coworker from TGI Friday’s who I haven’t seen since I was 23 or my husband’s great aunt might think I might be trying to portray.

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So I got to thinking… why do we feel guilty about NOT letting people in on the good, the bad, the ugly of parenting?  Sometimes, I take a picture of my kid in the living room and strategically crop out the pile of toys in the corner.  Sometimes I add a black & white filter if my carpet looks dingy.  And, sometimes I post pictures of my kid covered in toilet paper or the massive mess she’s made of laundry I just folded or my dog covered in Mickey Mouse bandaids.  Just because I let the people on my friends list in on the good and the funny, doesn’t mean I always want to chronicle the dirty and the disgusting and the less than happy moments.  I doubt friends of my mom and dad ever came to our house and whispered to each other, “Look at those happy pictures.  What phonies, trying to portray themselves as the perfect family! tsk tsk.”  That’s all anyone put out for the world to see- edited, sanitized snapshots of a moment in time.

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So, why do we expect that sharing on social media is all or nothing?  I posed the question to one of my parenting groups, and it turns out we all edit on some level.

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And I was reminded that there’s no harm in posting that picture of my family without qualifying first.  It was a cute Kodak moment that I will look back on in 15 years and see it for what it was– a moment.  By then, maybe I’ll forget how much she whined or how we stormed out of there as quickly as we could, barely taking a moment to make sure we returned the golf balls and putters to the right place.  And, chances are, my daughter will look at it years from now and see it as this sweet picture of her and her dad on when she was a toddler.

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And, there’s nothing wrong with telling the whole story either… some of us like to share tales of potty accidents and doggy haircuts when you were in the bathroom and permanent marker scribbles on the new couch.  These moments are real, they are often funny and they offer a minor reminder– to others, and to our future selves– that parenting isn’t always neat and pretty.

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I think my friend Scott said it best:

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We share and we overshare.  We get pissed off at a co-worker and fire off a vague status update about “some” people being lazy.  We are sitting in the doctor’s office and post a 10 line complaint about how inconsiderate it is to have a 2:45 appointment and at 3:15 we are STILL waiting.  We make an arugula salad and take a picture of it, add a filter, crop out the pile of mail in the corner of the kitchen and slap it up on Instagram.  And the thing is… a lot of what we share is not for others.  Social media is just one big huge photo album/diary hybrid… an ongoing chronicle of our lives that we add to on an ongoing basis.  So, Girl Who I Went to Grad School With and Second Cousin Once Removed and Person Who I Friended like 8 Years Ago but Don’t Remember Where We Actually Met, if you’re side-eyeing because I’m only showing you the sanitized version of my life, too bad.  You won’t look back on these pictures and posts 6 years from now… but I will.  And I want to remember the good and the funny and occasionally the icky and the messy and the sad.  It’s my story to tell.

But I do have to fess up: sometimes, I look at what others post and I side-eye.  “I’ve been to their house… they totally cropped out that huge hole in the wall…” or “Look at that couple smiling in that picture at so-and-so’s wedding… I was there and I know they spent like 45 minutes outside arguing”, and “oooh, girl, how many filters are on that selfie?  Cause I know what you actually look like!”  And strangely enough, I find that those thoughts seem to creep in the most when I’m feeling frustrated or angry or dissatisfied at something in my own world… that’s when pictures of others’ kids in crisp and clean white dresses or frolicking on the beach annoy me.  It’s the times when I can’t relate and I wish someone was feeling as down in the dumps as I am at that moment.  Our telling of our reality is very personal… but it also connects us to others and makes us feel not so alone in our trials and tribulations and potty accidents and piles of toys in the corner and temper tantrums at the Mini Golf place.

So… how do you decide what you share on Facebook for all to see?  Do you purposely “edit”? And, do you look at other people’s posts and critique the “realness” of the story they’re telling?  Tell us in the comments below!

Not me.

This morning I woke up to the news that yet another tragic event occurred in the city of Orlando.  A small child, only two years old, was wading in less than 12″ of water near the Grand Floridian resort and was suddenly grabbed by an alligator and dragged into the water. His parents, who were right there with him, attempted to save him.  They were unsuccessful.  A search was underway and the chance of anything but a tragic outcome was bleak.

I don’t know if my feelings were extra raw because of all of the tragic tales we’ve been bombarded with over the last few days, but this story struck a chord deep in me.  I knew the chances that he would be found safe were almost nonexistent, but my God, for a few hours I held on to hope.  I prayed.  I wished.

I started combing through the comment sections of the different Facebook posts related to the story, I suppose looking for some answers, and found myself becoming enraged.  Really– enraged.  For every comment that expressed sorrow or empathy, there was another one calling the parents stupid, ignorant, careless, reckless and so on.  The suggestions that somehow these people brought this upon themselves or even deserved this on some level were plentiful. We recently saw another event where a four year old boy got away from his parents and climbed into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo.  For every sympathetic comment and hashtagged tale telling of the time #ivelostmykid, there were two more comments demanding the parents be brought up on criminal charges for negligence and that they be investigated by CPS.  Here are two sets of parents, both faced very suddenly with the mortality of their small child (albeit with vastly different outcomes) and all we can do is blame and criticize?

Is the problem that we have become so jaded, so quick to pass judgement that we automatically turn to cruel remarks and finger pointing when the unthinkable happens?  Are we so desensitized that we are no longer capable of expressing sympathy? We’ve lost our humanity, haven’t we?

I’m not sure.

What struck me today was the number of comments that were made by those who quite obviously hadn’t even read the very basic account of the event.  So many “Where were the parents?” and “Why was a 2 year old swimming alone?! Smh!” queries that could have been easily answered by clicking on the link they were actively commenting on.  I found myself shaking with anger and saying, “DID YOU EVEN READ THE ARTICLE, ASSHOLE?”

And, then I had a sort of epiphany.

We are so quick to heap judgement and victim blame because it is the only way to convince ourselves that somehow, some way if we do things the “right” way, we will avoid tragedy.  It’s mental self preservation at its finest, and the only way we can convince ourselves that xyz will never happen to us.  Because if we can not pinpoint a cause or identify a source of blame, then that just means that the universe is one cruel motherfucker and a terrifying twist of fate can find its way into any of our lives at any time… and that is downright horrifying.   If we are to make it through the day with our sanity intact, we somehow have to separate ourselves as the “us” (the good parents, the attentive and informed parents) from the “them” (the people that bring bad shit upon themselves).  We have to write off these tragedies as the result of parental failure because if we don’t that means we could very well be next.

Social media has allowed us to become hyperconnected.  Thanks to Facebook I can see what my cousin in CT, who I haven’t seen since I was 8, is eating for lunch… I can watch my nieces and nephews grow from a distance and celebrate their milestones and dance recitals and baseball games.  I can distract myself at work or in line at the DMV by reading Buzzfeed posts.  I can maintain my sanity by sharing tales of potty training or the last fight I had with my husband with my tightknit little mommy group.  I can laugh at viral cat videos or silly eCards.

But what Facebook giveth, Facebook also taketh away.  Thanks to the miracle of social media and the oversharing that occurs, I am all too aware what my friends’ and family’s political leanings are, and that alters my opinion of them at times. I read too much controversial bullshit and find myself angry.  A lot. I am privy to news stories of unthinkable disasters from small towns across the country that don’t make their way to the local news here.  I see the Gofundme pages for acquaintences’ children who are fighting cancer or for people who’ve lost their house in a fire.  I am completely steeped in reality: the good, the bad, the mundane, the tragic. So, sometimes a headline pops up and I judge the content of the story based on the clickbaitey headline because I. Cannot. Take. Any. More. Bad. News.  A child was ejected from a car?  (Probably bad chest clip placement.  Luckily I know my car sear safety!).  A baby is left in a hot car by a parent? (That would never happen to me!  I’m never THAT preoccupied!) A toddler eats a moldy applesauce pouch and this triggers a massive recall? (Lucky for me, I refuse to buy THAT brand as it is! Score one for me!)  So, I am–on occasion– one of those assholes that jumps to conclusions without the facts.  I scroll past and think “not me” and feel better for a brief moment.

But, I can never escape the feeling that maybe, somehow, some way…it’s only dumb luck that has allowed me to avoid tragedy… that maybe my superior choices and keen maternal instinct aren’t responsible for my child’s safety and well being, but that I have thus far been on the right side of parental luck.  And, that is equally humbling and frightening.

I’ve always thought that the root of sanctimommying is fear and uncertainty, and the mass reactions to events such as these seem to support that theory.  The vitriol and venomous criticism come from a place of fear.  The fact is… we aren’t angry with you.  We ARE afraid that we are, or will be, you.

I can’t imagine what those parents are going through right now.  My heart aches for them.  I hope they don’t ever read the comment section of any article related to their tragedy, because the Monday Morning Quarterbacking might be too much to bear.  But if they do, I hope they can see through what appears to be smug judgement and know that fear that we could be in their place is what guides the harsh criticism, and that their pain is all too palpable to all of us, even if we are afraid to acknowledge it.

 

 

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 find this genuinely funny.  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 as she drifts off into the most angelic sleep.

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 is 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 bask 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 and doesn’t need my snuggles anymore that I didn’t enjoy EVERY MOMENT, down to the tantrums and the whiny ultimatums?  The truth is, I have no idea.  But I do know that the sudden reminder to stop and enjoy every moment of motherhood fills me with guilt.  Why do I, as a mom, have to feel guilty about not finding every last interaction with my daughter to be full of magic and wonder?  If I suddenly landed my dream job and had a bad day at work, would anyone reprimand me for saying that I couldn’t wait for the weekend?  Probably not.  If I complained that I didn’t enjoy some mundane task at work, like filling out my expense report, would anyone suggest that I should stop and savor the moment because someday I’ll be retired and bored?  No.

I am acutely 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 burn that sensation to my memory forever?  Gah. God, I guess 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 late night frantic trip to the ER when she was 5 weeks old, 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 this sudden rush of nostalgia and even deeper pang of jealousy. We exchanged polite smiles and I told them their baby was beautiful.  But, 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 Bandaids 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.

 

 

 

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?

 

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.