The Stress is Real. Give Yourself Some Grace.

It could be worse.

Be grateful for what you have.

So many others are facing much more dire situations.

This is what I tell myself periodically throughout the day as I referee another squabble between the kids. Between me and the kids. Between me and the cats (okay, only the asshole cat who seems hellbent on destroying every last shred of my sanity).

But still. I find myself suddenly sighing big sighs with an all too familiar weight on my chest. My heart and mind race, leaving my heavy body tired. The lump that sits in my throat reminds me to stay silent, or else risk tipping my hand that I’m really not okay right now.

I’ve been here before. Twice.

Postpartum depression left me in a cloud for months after both of my kids were born, and the second time around it took an SSRI to help me find my feet again. It wasn’t fun, but I came through it, and now I’m finding myself wandering through familiar territory. Hello, depression. Couldn’t you at least have hung a banner?

But back to the stress part of this equation. Prior to the pandemic, it was hard to think of something more stressful that becoming a parent. Talk about life changing! You’re semi-literally ripped open and handed something that will rely on you to some degree, both physically and emotionally, for the rest of your life. Fully literally, nothing is ever the same. It’s stressful as hell, even if it’s also positive.

The pandemic is not positive, but it also brings with it an incredible amount of stress. Financial, social, emotional, physical – it’s hard to think of one part of our lives this pandemic doesn’t apply stress to. It’s the ultimate stress test.

And if you’re an empath like me, it’s a very confusing time because on top of feeling stressed, you also feel guilty for feeling what you’re feeling because so many others have it so much worse. So you feel more stressed.

I am thankful my kids are home and safe, yet they still annoy me beyond all reason at some point (or many points) throughout the day. And so I feel guilty.

I am thankful for my WFH job, yet it’s mentally exhausting trying to fit it into an outrageously chaotic schedule, so it slips through the cracks each day. And so I feel more guilty.

I am thankful for this time with my family where we get to do something we would otherwise never do (this is like, A LOT of time together), but I crave personal space, my friends, and time to myself. And so I feel extra guilty.

But emotionally I’ve been here.

Oddly enough, I find myself thankful for those agonizing postpartum months. What I’ve learned from that time is that stress and guilt are real feelings. Your mind may understand that what’s causing your stress is different from what’s causing someone else’s stress, but your body reacts the same. And once your body gets rolling, it takes more than a personal scolding to stop the cycle.

Today, instead of feeling upset with myself for failing to be grateful, patient, and unflappable, I will give myself grace. I’m hella flappable right now and that’s okay. I know things could be worse, but I also know that the stress I’m feeling and processing is real.

With time, my body will catch up with my mind, and until then, I’ll go easy on myself. The stress/guilt/stress cycle is only a phase. This too, shall pass.

 

 

 

 

 

#MeToo – We Don’t Owe You An Explanation

john lennon

We don’t owe you an explanation.

No woman who has experienced harassment, assault, acts of “sexual deviance” – whatever name you want to apply to being sexually used, abused, targeted, threatened, exploited, etc. – nobody owes anyone a single word of an explanation as to why we are upset.

And boy, are we upset.

AS IF surviving the original trauma wasn’t enough.

AS IF waking up the next day, and realizing EVERY SINGLE DAY of the remainder of your life would be different wasn’t enough.

AS IF sharing your story with someone else and finding they didn’t believe you wasn’t enough.

AS IF going through the legal system and having a jury take his word over yours wasn’t enough.

AS IF seeing your assailant continue on as if nothing ever happened wasn’t enough.

Now we need to explain to you why we are upset? Why this movement is hugely important to us? Why we want to burn it to the fucking ground so that every man rethinks how he views and treats women?

As if.

It’s not our job to walk you through our traumas, day by day, letting you into the hurt, terror, depression, frustration, and isolation we felt (or still feel).

You don’t get our trust just because your care.

Regardless of how supportive you think you are of #MeToo, of women, of mothers and daughters and sisters and neighbors, if your first reaction to finding out some other dirt bag has fallen ISN’T to first trust the woman, I have no time for you.

If your first reaction is to think, “Well that doesn’t seem that bad,” I have no time for you.

If your first reaction is to think, “She probably led him on,” I have no time for you.

If your first reaction is to think, “Men don’t know if they should kiss you or not, they can’t win!” I have no time for you.

If your first reaction is to think, “Everyone knew he was a dirt bag, she shouldn’t have been alone with him,” I have no time for you.

If your first reaction is to say literally anything other than “I believe you,” I have no time for you.

If you don’t understand #MeToo, before you ask questions, before you cast doubts, before make judgments, the very first thing you need to do is listen.

Listen to the stories of those who are willing to share. Try to fully immerse yourself in the situation. Think about what it would feel like, not just physically, but mentally. Think about how it would feel in a week. In a month. In a year.

Think about if you’d be afraid, or angry, or sad, or stressed. Think about how it would affect your relationships. Your job. Your economic wellbeing. Think about if you’d feel trapped, or confused about what to do. Think about how devastating it would feel to have other people tell you it wasn’t a big deal. To move on. To let go. To forgive.

#MeToo isn’t a warlock hunt. It’s not mass hysteria.

It’s the result of millennia of abuse women have taken and buried. It’s lifetimes of trauma shoved down so deep, nobody would guess it ever happened. It’s generations of families led to believe this kind of abuse is normal. Expected. Accepted.

#MeToo isn’t complicating grey areas; it’s highlighting the importance of consent. If she isn’t consenting, it’s a hard no.

So yeah, we don’t owe you an explanation. We don’t owe you anything. But if you want to know more, you do owe us your trust. Your kindness. Your desire to make this right.

This has been a long time coming, and we are far from a resolution.

A Patriotic-ish Person’s Guide to Celebrating America

At the risk of attracting a whole lot of hate, I’m going to put something out there: It feels wrong to be celebrating America right now.

I’ve never been someone who goes full-on Betsy Ross during the month of July, but usually the sight of red, white and blue on every corner doesn’t give me a wicked case of the stress shits.

But lately, oh boy. Thinking about celebrating America just feels wrong.

If the definition of patriotism is “having or expressing devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country,” under normal circumstances, I could get behind that. I’d express all kinds of devotion to a country that supported the people who lived there, regardless of their race, color, gender, creed, and economic class. I’d vigorously support somewhere that didn’t turn a blind eye to the environment, or to people who needed medical treatment, or refuge (to say the least).

But right now? I’ve got about as much desire to show devotion and support for the current administration (notice I didn’t say country) as I do toward taking a bath in a tub of maggots.

Now this is where it gets complicated, as even though the current administration is the face of our nation, it is NOT representative of our whole country.

I like to think of it as an ugly bruise on an apple, or an ill-fitting lid on a can of tuna. You wouldn’t throw away the whole apple, just because it has a bruised spot, or an entire can of tuna just because the lid pops. That ain’t right! (J/K, throw that can o’ danger out STAT #botulism #youmightdie).

Prior to Trumpy and his Band of Misfits, America accomplished some pretty rad things, and seemed to be on track for continuing its progression into awesomeness. Things like healthcare, and equality and the environment were looked at with the same importance as making rich people richer, or at least it seemed that way to my admittedly privileged, white, middle-class self. I mean, my birth control was free! Go America, right?!

And then Trump came and shat in the soup, and now I don’t want to celebrate, or even admit I am American, though my pale skin and inability to speak another language might give that away.

But here’s the thing; America is so much more than this bullshit administration.

And even more, Trump and his bullshit administration have given me something to celebrate about this country, and it’s pretty amazing.

America was founded by a bunch of people who were like “Dude, you’re cramping my style so I’m going to GTFO and do my own thing.” And those same kinds of people still live here. They start things like Alt National Parks, and Alt NASA. They march for women, and for equality, and for LGBTQ rights, and for science. They donate to foundations that help people who need it most. They pay for school lunches when the system is so broken, kids might not get to eat. They believe Black Lives Matter, and that we need to #SayHerName.

Yes, America is filled with badasses who love and care and work and fight tirelessly to ensure the American dream still exists for anyone interested in pursuing it. They just don’t happen to be at the head of the ship.

So yeah, the thought of celebrating America might feel weird, but only if you judge America by its cover. When the flags are flying, and the hotdogs are burning, I’m going to raise a cold one to the Americans who represent a country I’m proud to call home, because of them. Though if any of ‘em wake my sleeping baby, I’ll cut a bitch.

Yes, Your Kid Is a Jerk (But So Is Mine)

This might sound crazy, but save for a time or two, I don’t think I’ve been directly judged by another mom. Or at least not vocally.

I’m sure there have been plenty of times when someone saw me doing something and thought in their heads I was a lunatic, but I honestly can’t think of a time when a fellow parent has approached me in a public setting (not online, that’s a different story) singled me out, and said something that made me question if I was a good parent.

For the most part, fellow parents are actually really supportive. Even the ones who at first glance look like they would judge me and my dirty mom hair, if the ice is broken, we typically end up having a lot in common. I’m not saying judgmental parents aren’t out there, but for me, they aren’t the source of my parenting insecurities and mom guilt.

Nope. That’d be my kids.

For however willing kids are to offer up a slobbery kiss and sticky-handed hug, they are even more ready to inform me of their deep displeasure at whatever atrocity I’ve just committed (PANTS? Who even wears pants, mom, you loser!). And fellow parents, regardless of their look, are often more than willing to open up and agree: Kids can really be jerks.

As it turns out, kids are self-centered, demanding, impatient, unreasonable, and loud little shits. They are terrible listeners, and bold boundary testers. They have no filter and generally can’t read social cues. If an adult ever acted that way, they would be labeled as a world-class asshole, and avoided at all costs. But kids are usually just called cute.

Kids don’t appreciate how much work you put into making sure they are fed, clothed, safe, and happy. They don’t realize the cost providing these things comes at. They don’t care how tired you are, or lonely you feel. On a near-daily basis, they find ways to make you question if you’re doing this right, because surely if you were, they wouldn’t be acting this way. Right?!

Yes, they love you, but it’s a very one-sided love at this stage.

Rather than finding competition and judgement from other parents, more often than not I’ve found solidarity in knowing I’m not alone in my feelings. Everyone’s kid can be a little jerk. Everyone worries they are doing it wrong. Everyone loves their kid, but also wonders if somehow they will screw this up so badly, they will raise someone who doesn’t give a waive of thanks when they are merging into traffic.
(Okay, that might just be me.)

I know mom-shaming and mom-judging is real, but I think the real culprit behind mom guilt is often our own kids who, through the process of growing up and learning how not to be little jerk, treat us pretty terribly.

To be clear, I’m not blaming them, but rather thinking instead of taking out our frustration on fellow moms who are going through the same thing, maybe we can open up, admit our kids are sometimes unbearable jerks, and help support each other while we wait for them to be old enough to vocalize their sincere thanks. Which, if I’m being honest, might take 30 years.

So cheers, fellow parents. This is hard. Kids are jerks. That doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. It just means you’re paying attention.

IMG_9630

 

It’s Not About Cheetos

Can we talk about Cheetos?

Cheetos get kind of a bad wrap. Their electric orange color isn’t exactly natural, and the ingredient list reads more like a Chemistry 101 stock shelf inventory than something you’d willingly eat.

Because of this, some people don’t let their kids eat them, which I totally get. My kid didn’t have her first Cheeto until recently, but not necessarily because I was intentionally withholding them.

Well, sort of.

Recently I’ve noticed that in a quest to be a perfect parent (whatever that means) I find myself fighting with her about all kinds of little things. Wearing appropriate clothing, limiting screen time, wearing a coat when it’s cold, not climbing up the slide, not eating junk food like Cheetos… You know, all the little things you deal with when you have a three year-old who is going on seventeen, and wants to try things her way before ultimately settling on whatever you were recommending.

This conflict isn’t just reserved for three year-olds, but rather begins much younger with societal pressures to do the very best thing from minute one. Pressure to be the perfect vessel, who has a perfect delivery, who breastfeeds, and who successfully gets their perfect baby to sleep in their empty crib, allowing them to find time to exercise to get back to their pre-baby weight within 15 minutes of giving birth. Pressure to encourage tummy time, and independent sleep, and skin-to-skin, and exposure to 30,000 words a day, and a diverse palate of organic purees, and and and…

I spend so much of my day focusing on these little things that it’s easy to lose sight of the most important lesson of all: Kindness.

Above all else, raising kind children is the most important thing to me, as kindness is the glue that holds us all together. Kindness crosses cultures and genders and species, and gives us hope that all is not lost.

Being a perfect parent isn’t about withholding Cheetos. It’s not about successfully abiding by the AAPs screen time guidelines. It has nothing to do with how many tutus your kid wears to school that day, or if you co-sleep or sleep train. Breastfeeding or formula feeding or unmedicated births or every-drug-in-the-hospital births aren’t hallmarks of the perfect parent. None of this matters in the long run if your kid grows up to be an asshole.

Of course I’m oversimplifying this a bit, as we all are trying to make decisions that will benefit our kids in the long run. Like limiting their Cheeto consumption. But more than focusing on if the decision I’m making is best for my child based off some outside recommendation, I’m going to start focusing more on daily lessons of kindness, on celebrating kindness, and practicing kindness.

And sometimes that kindness comes in the form of a snack-sized bag of Cheetos.

IMG_7498

If You Aren’t Outraged…

Some people think political rants don’t belong on humor pages or mom blogs, but I disagree.

We are living in a time of unprecedented political upheaval, with new developments coming in by the day regarding our new commander in chief’s plans for destroying our country through fear-mongering and hatred.

Being a mother, I am horrified of what the world might look like for my children if this monster is left unchecked. Being a mother, I feel directly responsible for teaching my children that this kind of cruelty, bigotry, and intolerance won’t stand. 

So while I try to keep it light and funny over here, I also need to keep it real. I am furiously, feverishly, and forever opposed to the Trump regime. I will not keep silent, nor can I offer up distraction from the scary changes that are taking place daily in the White House.

My own dad long ago offered up the saying, “If you aren’t outraged, you aren’t paying attention,” and for me those words have never had more meaning.

If you aren’t outraged, kindly leave in peace. I’ve seen enough and heard enough from Trump’s supporters to know you can’t change stupid. But if you are outraged, and you are wondering how to parent in these times, know you aren’t alone.

We will keep up the funny, but we will also keep it real. And when our kids asked up what we did when a dictator tried to take over America, we will tell them we fought like hell to make it right.

On Less (and More)

 

To have, or not to have. That should have really been the question.

With the holiday season in full swing, and packages showing up at the door on a nearly daily basis, it seems the answer to that would be To Have.

But boy, does that not sit right.

Today, after finding myself staring longingly at a brand new giant shiny suburban who was pumping gas in front of my considerably smaller and less shiny car, I couldn’t help but notice the pang of desire coursing through my veins.

It was so big. And so shiny. “Think of all the things we could put in there!” my inner hoarder squealed, as my outer being took notice of the countless bar wrappers, receipts, sippy cups and assorted toys littering the floor of our perfectly functional, if not much smaller (and cheaper) mini-SUV.

Normally, this tendency to want the bigger, newer, faster thing doesn’t generally appeal to me, and I sincerely find myself being happy with what I already have. In fact, most of the time, rather than desiring to have more, I am scheming ways to have less. Less clothes! Less shoes! Less glassware (am I the only one who swears glasses multiply up there in those cabinets?)!

But if I’m being completely honest, I am really struggling maintaining this policy of less-is-more with the kids.

And not only because they are hoarders. (And hot damn, are they hoarders!)

Really the struggle is born from (admittedly perceived) necessity, and a desire to give them the very best. Not the very best, shiny, newest toy, but the very best chances to develop into the fullest, most well-rounded people they can be.

We have art supplies up the wazoo to help spark our kids’ inner artists. We have books coming out our ears to help develop good readers. We have blocks spilling out of baskets, and Magna-tiles scattered around the floor to encourage whatever part of your brain develops when you build shit, and then deliver a bitchin’ karate chop to knock it down. We have letters on the fridge, and number flash cards, and animal stickers and play-doh, and dolls and a kitchen set and musical instruments and and and…

Every single day I think “This is too much shit. Today I will get rid of half of this shit.” But then the other part of me thinks “This is a totally normal amount of shit. I will not touch this shit.”

And that part keeps winning, because sadly, I think that part is right.

I am certain there are ways to encourage your child to participate in an assortment of activities that would help booster all the different parts of their brains that are waiting to be tapped. You could take them to concerts and museums, and only get books from the library. You could let them use rocks and sticks to practice their building, and mud to do their painting. You could involve them in the kitchen instead of letting them play cook in their tiny kid-sized kitchen that has no less than 100 separate pieces of plastic and wooden food that end up spread all over your house (aaaaaaaaaaaah!).

All of that would work. But it would come at a cost, in every sense of the word.

As appealing as it seems at times, to live in a nearly empty house that isn’t ALWAYS littered with toys and books and broken crayons (by result of making a conscious decision to live this way), ultimately it isn’t for me.

And so I fill my house with books, and blocks, and paint, and dolls, all of which teach different lessons, and all of which are beloved.

Less certainly can be more, and some day we will pare down. But at this stage in the game, stressing less about having more (and being thankful this is even something that I think about) is what I’ll be focusing on this holiday season.

pop vac2

Except this toy. Less of this is definitely more.