DNF- A Love Story

Tap tap tap, is this thing still on?

I’m sitting in my living room, hacked into my neighbor’s wifi and using my TV as a computer monitor. All I can think is, “write something… just keep putting words on the page and don’t think about them.” So here we are; now you’re sitting in my living room too.

My daughter is furiously scribbling and erasing on the white board next to me and that seems like a fitting way to start: with haphazard bursts and then erasure. With surety and then censorship.

I want to tell you a love story, and it isn’t easy to figure out where it begins and where it ends because love, unlike math, is not linear. There should be an equation, right? Because that’s what makes it fair? But if motherhood has taught us nothing else, it’s that the chances we take are not linear and the answers we’re given don’t always add up. Sometimes you put everything you have into becoming a parent, and you add up all the right steps and inexplicably come out with zero. Sometimes you do everything wrong and hit enter and find yourself with exactly the right amount.

This is not your typical love story.

IMG_20180328_210641004It’s about a girl who was in love with herself; a girl who slept til noon and drank margaritas because they were a pretty color. This girl read poetry, real poetry by celebrated authors. and then she felt inspired, so she wrote some too. Her boobs were fabulous by the way, totally perky and skeeved out by the mere thought of revealing them in public for the mundanity of feeding an infant. This girl had interests and hobbies and she was fascinating to talk to, believe it or not.

And then she became a mom.

When faced with the task of describing herself on social media she was stymied. “Wife” she started with, and then “mother” and then… ? who was she without those things? It probably didn’t matter anymore, right?

20180423_065542Yesterday, I got my first DNF. For those of you who haven’t attained that particular failure, it stands for “Did Not Finish.” I attempted to run an ultramarathon, a 50K race, and had to drop out at just over 20 miles. Today, I’m nursing a stress fracture in my left tibia and a pretty nasty grudge. I knew at mile 7 I wasn’t going to finish the race. The terrain was so much more technical than I expected and to be honest I was also severely under-trained. At mile 14 I felt a very weird sort of rush of coldness in my left shin, almost like I’d gotten an injection of cold water in my bone, and although I marveled at the fact that it didn’t hurt, I had the sneaking suspicion that it would later. Badly. I pressed onward through another 800ft of vertical elevation and 6 miles before I realized that even if I finished the last two loops, my time would disqualify me. I briefly considered cutting the course before I realized that if i did, although i’d get to brag about being an ultramarathoner on social media, I knew I wouldn’t feel like one.20180423_072835

Those last six miles I did a lot of thinking. I thought about all the things I haven’t been able to finish because of motherhood. There is nothing I love more than my two kids. They are my magnum opus. My raison d’être.

But for women giving birth creates a life chasm; a before and after that is sometimes uncrossable.

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I will literally never wear these shoes again

Most women, if you ask them, will tell you about the thing they didn’t finish because they had a child. For some it’s the masters degree they were a few credits away from, for others it’s the olympic try-out they missed because of a toddler with a fever. Sometimes it’s nothing extraordinary: a blog you started, a room that is waiting to be painted, a pair of 5 inch stilettos that cost $1200 that you know you will never wear again.

 

I will never be the athlete I could be because although motherhood opens many emotional doors, it slams shut every single physical door in the entire goddamn Chrysler Building. I feel things I never imagined possible when I was in love with just myself, but I don’t own my body anymore. I will never sleep like the dead or run for hours through a trail with no cell service. That’s a fact.

Some love stories have happy endings, but most don’t. We don’t tend to tell those because we’re embarrassed or because we don’t know where to begin or because we’re strong women and we don’t make excuses.

So here is this strong woman’s list of excuses:

  1.  I ran a marathon in mid-march and tried to parlay it into training for an impromptu ultramarathon. In chicago. During an endless winter.
  2.  I’m a single mom and I work 7 (SEVEN!) days a week
  3.  In the last 30 days my children and I have been in the ER three times: for strep A, an allergic reaction to amoxicillin, and mono
  4.  I am really fucking tired

As a culture, we spend an obscene amount of time waxing philosophically about “the one that got away.” But where is the love for the wanton that got away? The women we were before? We have loose ends with her. We’re here in the middle of the night wondering what she’d be doing, what she might have accomplished. Forget about the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, can we talk for a minute about the fact that I haven’t written a blog post in a full calendar year? I’m the one that got away. I got away from myself.

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So here it is moms, our swan song. Our love story for the things that we will never finish. Sure, life is long and my children are very young, but running will physically never be as easy on my body as it is in my thirties. So I just have to make peace with this DNF and finish the things I can, the things I have time for, my second best choices.

 

20180423_070023There are always second acts in every romantic dramatization and so I will always hold out hope that one day I will have time, enough time, endless amounts of time and energy to pursue my passion. I see my son writing his very first story in the same zealous frantic way I wrote my first stories and I know that one day he’ll ask me for help and maybe we’ll work on something together. I see my daughter running block after block with me, refusing to sit in the stroller and insisting she’s a runner too. One day we’ll run a marathon together.

Perhaps that’s the second act; finding the people they’ll grow into and rediscovering the things I first loved alone but now can enjoy as a team. Becoming a guide instead of a trail-blazer, a hand instead of a leg-up, a person who also happens to be someone’s mom. This is what I comfort myself with when I’m grappling with the disappointing sting of things that can’t be finished right now. And although there is an inherent mourning to being a parent, it can be a sort of balm to see your talents reborn in a smaller version of yourself and hold out hope that the sacrifices you make will evolve into something beautiful.

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current badass, future marathoner

“The thing about stress fractures,” the doctor explained, “is that they don’t need a cast most of the time. It’s not like a broken bone we can set that will heal up clean. It’s a tiny fissure that just takes time. It’ll be tender, you just have to be easy on yourself and give it time.”

Maybe it isn’t a chasm. Maybe it’s just a stress fracture. Maybe, with time and tenderness, you won’t feel the space between it at all.

 

Daughters of mothers

My mom, at the ripe age of 60, is grappling with her relationship with her mother. She stumbled upon a support group for daughters of narcissistic mothers and had an epiphany: her mother, whom she dearly loved and respected, was a textbook narcissist.

This would be no easy revelation under the best of circumstances, but my grandma is 98 years old which complicates any promise of healing.

So she did what any reasonable daughter would do and ordered a self help book on amazon and called all of her siblings to discuss it. They were not as shocked. My grandma, for all her delightful endearing qualities, is not often described as “warm” or affectionate.

Motherhood. Ain’t it a bitch? When we’re not fucking up our own kids, we’re assessing the damage our mothers did to us. Ask any room full of women about their relationship with their mother and you might get some answers like this:

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Or even this:2017-02-16 19.25.17-2

 

Or maybe even something like this (eeek)2017-02-16 19.25.17-3

 

My crazy family has it’s share of dysfunction, but we’ve by no means cornered the market. So when my mom told me she discovered something about my grandma, I honestly was expecting to hear that one of my aunts or uncles was not a full blooded sibling. Instead, when she said her mother was a narcissist, I nodded, waiting to hear the other shoe drop. I’d known my grandmother must have been a difficult woman to call “mom” long before I had kids of my own. By the time I was 10 I was actively avoiding her at family functions so I wouldn’t have to hear about how fat I was and how awful my hair looked and how lazy I must be to live in such filth. Occasionally my mother would share things her mother said and did to her, and I would marvel at the thought that my empathetic and affectionate mother grew up with her.

And now, I’m parenting a daughter. Let me tell you guys, this shit is cray. Forget sexism, parenting my daughter is fraught with emotional landmines I never feared with my son. This past christmas I got her a dollhouse and had to listen to the mean mommy character yell at the children characters constantly. Even worse was when mommy character was crying because the children characters destroyed her new purse or something. It was enough to rattle even the most confident parent. Hearing things I’d said to her without thinking, and how her little brain processed my frustration was enlightening (to put it gently).

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I’m going tread lightly here, and suggest something. Here at Sanctimommy we pride ourselves on non-judgement and the idea that there’s no “right” way to be a parent, but the fact is, there is a such thing as a “bad” mom. Just because someone loves their children and just because their children grow into productive members of society, that’s not necessarily a motherhood gold star. Some of our mothers have made mistakes, they’ve failed us and they’ve failed as mothers. But just because you *have* a crappy mom doesn’t mean you’ll *be* a crappy mom.

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Sitting next to me in the drivers seat, my mother got choked up as she asked me if she was a good mom. I instantly flashed on all the things I promised to never do with my kids, then I looked over at her, the mom who picked me up because it was raining and I didn’t want to take the bus, the mom who was excited to spend the afternoon with my energetic kids so I could do a long run and spend some time by myself. Was she a bad mom? Seriously?

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I have 2 children that drive me into an anxious fervor almost daily. I cannot imagine what it must have been like for my mom, who had her first child at 20 and continued to have a baby every 2 years for the next 20 years. Holy shit.

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If I know any bad moms, they do a remarkable job of hiding it. I know moms who drink and swear, moms who make crass jokes, moms who’ve lost their shit and hidden in the bathroom crying and main lining caffeine and chocolate. Not only have I known those moms, I’ve been those moms. That is motherhood.  Forget the trope of perfection, acknowledged mistakes are what make us better parents. Crappy moms are the ones who think they’re doing it all right, who are too self absorbed to self analyze.

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Here’s what I want to hear from you guys, what did your mother get right? My grandma, for all her faults, taught my mother to be independent, to stand up for herself. Her benign neglect fostered the sort of innate introspection that most women go through years of therapy to achieve. My mother knew she wanted to have warm open relationships with her children because she never had that with her own parents.

So spin your damage for me, sanctifriends. Tell me about how the shitty emotional heirlooms you got from your own parents shaped you as a parent. Or, conversely, use the comment section to brag about how awesome your mom is. Or your kids’ mom. Or yourself.

Here’s a pic of all my favorite moms to get you started 🙂

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Counting

A laboring mother is frantically driven to the hospital by her husband. When they arrive, their doctor tells them about this wonderful new technology they have that allows the mother to transfer 50% of the pain of birthing their child to the child’s father! They agree, and as her labor progesses they’re amazed at how well her husband is handling it. They ask the doctor if he can bear more of the wife’s pain and the doctor tells her she can transfer 100%, the husband doesn’t even flinch and handles it like a champ. As they’re driving home a few days later he starts to gloat about how women always complain about how painful it is to have a child, and he barely felt it! They pull up in front of their house and find their mailman passed out on the porch clutching his belly.

A good friend of mine taught me that when you’re going to ask people for money, it’s best to open with a joke. It’s disarming. The sobering statistics about maternal mortality, not so much. When you give people bad news, it puts them on the defense, leaves them waiting for the other shoe to drop. They know you’re going to ask for help, but they don’t know how much help you’re going to need and they’re wary about committing to washing dishes when they just came over to hold the newborn.

I’ve been ruminating on this post for a long time. On this blog, and on my page,  I pride myself on being “real” about motherhood. I want us to have honest discussions and laugh about the absurdity of parenting. I walk a fine line most of the time between sharing too much, and sharing not enough. Keeping it real and alienating mothers who have a different experience than I do.

13119889_10101785179957071_5138253603229896465_oLast fall I started running. If you don’t know me, you probably won’t recognize the absurdity of that. I am not a sporty person, I’m not competitive, and by all accounts my life was complicated enough.

So why did I do it?

When my friends would ask, I’d do my best Forest Gump and say “I just felt like running” but the truth was, most days I didn’t feel like running.

As my daughter approached the 1 year mark, she was nursing less. I started feeling more and more like she was my last baby and was slammed with the staggering realization one night that I didn’t know what to do with my body. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d done something for my body for its own sake, I didn’t even feel like it was mine anymore. After 5 years of babymaking, I couldn’t even recognize it.

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When does this happen to women? It’s tempting to say that maternity does it, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it happens much sooner than that.

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I remember not being able to play sports in grade school because, already rocking a tall chubby body, I didn’t want the boys to think I wasn’t “feminine” enough.

I stopped picking clothes because I liked them and started sticking to neutrals and flattering silhouettes. I started being interested in things that girls should be interested in and experimenting with makeup and debating trends.

Is this when it happens? Puberty? A woman’s whole purpose for her body is it’s ability to attract a man, and then it switches to growing babies. But when is it ours?

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My daughter is nearly 2 now and starting to get into tutus. That’s great right? Adorable even. And clearly she loves them and it’s a natural choice for her, but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t some part of me that felt conflicted by it. My little girl with my same tall chubby genes can wear whatever she wants… but can’t that be something with less glitter?

When does it happen moms? When do we lose ownership of our bodies?

I started running because I knew my kids would nap for 2 hours, and for those two hours I could have total peace. Unlike being at home where I’d feel compelled to clean or fold laundry during nap time, I could find myself and do something for myself for a few hours. And the endorphins amazed me. I’d put in my headphones, start a brisk walk, and it was total freedom. The kids were well rested, I was well adusted. It was a transformative experience for me. 12792308_10101714576387191_559119929468943856_o

By spring I’d graduated from 5Ks to 10Ks, and in May I ran my first half marathon. I was quite simply addicted. I wanted to see what else my body could do, so I started playing softball too. When I noticed my biceps getting bigger from pushing nearly 100 pounds of double stroller, I started doing a little weight training.

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A few months ago I collaborated with a charity called Every Mother Counts. This is not just a charity, it’s a mission statement for me. It’s a group that honors women’s bodies so thoroughly,  they believe the best and safest way to support a women is to give them resources and get out of the way. They train local women in remote areas with simple midwifery skills, they donate medical supplies, they offer transportation to hospitals in the case of a complication. In short, they believe that women’s bodies belong to them.

I believe so strongly in their work, that I’ve spent weeks struggling with how I can write this post without sounding too shmoozy. You should want to help them, but you should also feel compelled to learn what they do and how far your dollar goes. 100% of your donation goes directly to the cause. This isn’t some pink ribbon thing where you’re paying a CEO a 6 figure salary, every dollar goes to mothers and midwives and support. No one on the board of directors uses donations to pay a salary or host charity balls. It’s all legit. And if you’re a bleeding heart liberal, or a more conservative voter, this is a very politically neutral charity. They don’t provide birth contrl, they don’t do abortions, they don’t dabble in political instability or religious missions. They take women in remote areas who might die from childbirth and they find ways to save their lives. That’s it. Sounds small, but isn’t it really miraculous?

We have this tenuous link to our bodies,  we want to belive they’re permanent, but our perception of ourselves is constantly changing based on what we’re able to do. Donating to this campaign is a small thing you can do to affirm the divinity of women’s bodies.

I asked my group, where we debate all issues of parenting, when they felt like they lost ownership of their bodies and they were able to talk it in this almost detached way that made me a little sad. It’s like, society expects us to not care what we can do after we have kids, and I creates this vicious cycle of alienation from ourselves.Screenshot_2016-08-22-08-08-27-3

 

 

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So, I opened this post with a joke about being able to transfer the pain of childbirth. And maybe you chuckled a little because you know it’s impossible and absurd. But I want to present you with a radical idea: What if we as collective can shoulder the identity of “womanhood”? What if we can define what our bodies can do and transfer the pain of what it can’t among ourselves? What if we could lift each other up and cheer each other on in a way we rarely see women do in the bloodsport of mothering?

You may not understand why I run or think it’s insane that I’d choose to run a marathon when my life is already pretty chaotic. But maybe you can put that aside and cheer for me, because the very real root of the matter is that I’ve been cheering for all of you for the last 3 years.

For 3 years I’ve been getting angry on your behalf and laughing at the haters with you. For 3 years and with 80,000 other women fighting the same battles we’ve lifted each other up and built a sort of community. I’ve made some lifelong friends on Sanctimommy,  and many of you have as well. Can we put a price on that? Let’s say $10. If you’ve ever felt supported or validated on my page, can you donate $10 to a mother in another country who doesn’t have support or validation and furthermore might actually die without it?

If you can’t, that’s fine. We’re all in a different place in our lives. But if you can, imagine the community we’re building, imagine the power of that $10 to lift other women up and tell them that you value the power of their bodies.

Every. Mother. Counts.

And this mother is counting on you. Please consider helping me.

https://www.crowdrise.com/every-mother-counts-2016-chicago-marathon/fundraiser/sanctimommy

 

 

 

Buffet Parenting

My friend Julie is one of those cool moms who just has her shit figured out. I’m sure her kids drive her just as crazy as mine do, but she is unflappable and seems to be content to just act as a battering ram against the chaos. That kind of go-with-the-flow mentality is crucial, not just for parenting,  but also for being a kick ass mom friend. Julie is someone who hears you’re on night one of letting your 10 month old cry it out, and instead of sending you a bunch of literature,  will talk you off the edge and send you a glass or two of wine. Snarky, but also empathetic, this mom of four boys knows things about parenting that all us newbies can only hope to understand.

This week, she taught all of us over in the Sanctimommy group a term that just knocked our socks right off.

It all started when our friend Susie came in to complain about how elitist and judgy some mom groups are on the internet.

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It can be hard to find support if you’re not a die hard proponent of one very specific and narrow parenting methodology. If you babywear, but don’t formula feed, it raises eyebrows. If you make your own laundry soap and cloth diaper, but vaccinate your kids on schedule, it arouses suspicion. There are rules to being a “crunchy” mama, but what happens when you’re too “silky” for the granola crowd, but too into natural remedies for all the Salk-ians?

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It’s a conundrum. Especially for those of us who don’t really care what other people do with their kids and just want some virtual asspats after a long day in the trenches.

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The cool thing about the sanctimommy group, is that we can have discussions that would implode most other parenting circles but keep it relatively clean. Maybe it’s because they know I’m screenshotting them for my blog so they have to be accountable for what they say? Or maybe it’s just because I have the best friends on the internet? Either way, we had a pretty great discussion about things we’ve compromised over the years and parenting philosophies we gave up and how we’ve grown, not just as gestators, but as women.

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It seems simple enough, but when Julie brought up the idea of treating parenting like a buffet line,  where you take what you like and leave what you don’t,  our minds were blown. Was it really that simple?

 

2016-06-04 16.08.00Can we make this a thing? In a limitless array of choices we have to make every day, can we lose the lofty ideology and just take what we need? It seems simple enough, but when we give up our labels, it almost seems like we lose our identity. If I’m not “Sam’s mommy, the AP normal-duration nurser” than who am I?

Myself. I get to be myself. And, BONUS! when I’m myself that means you get to be your self, and then we don’t have to bullshit each other about how rewarding motherhood is, we can just get together and cry because our 4 year olds won’t sleep through the night and our baby just got kicked out of daycare for biting. We don’t have to make all our decisions so cerebral, we can do what we need to to get through the day.

It seems extraordinarily simple, but could we pull it off? Could we stop looking for validation and instead offer solidarity? What would Julie do?

Tell me about your parenting style in the comments, in what way do you follow a specific philosophy and where do you deviate into doing what’s best for you?

 

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!

 

 

 

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!

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.