Mother’s Day is rounding the bend and I find myself reflecting upon not only my job as a mother but how my own mom has influenced my parenting. For those of us with a pulse, we can all agree motherhood wasn’t exactly what we had expected. For me, my bundle of joy came with a generous side of anxiety and fear, which was nice. Then truly experiencing things like sleep deprivation and a shift in your relationship with your spouse, also throw a nice fireball into the mix. All of this new love and new fear is just the beginning.
I’m not sure if it’s because my mother had six children, but I never really felt this anxiety from her that myself and other moms talk about these days. I imagine having six kids is like herding cats. It was chaotic to say the least but even in the chaos, she did not flip her shit like I do with my one and only. How? Maybe with six kids you learn a new level of disassociation. I’m not sure. I can’t ask her because she’s dead. Continue reading
The funny thing about parenting (and running a funny parenting blog) is that you never really know what’s going to come next. You may think you have it under control, that you’re navigating the choppy waters successfully, avoiding all the circling sharks, but the next thing you know, bam! You cut your toe open on a jagged lego piece and the sharks move in the for the kill.
That’s a bit dramatic I’ll admit, but it’s exactly how I felt the day I found out my five-year-old son was a thief. Continue reading
Social Media can be a tricky thing. It can make you laugh, it can make you cry and it can make you viciously angry. Chatting with my women-folk about the ups and downs of social media, we all agreed that the worst feeling social media brewed inside of us was the feeling of being inferior. Life isn’t perfect but some have the gift of portraying it that way. I am not one of those people. Here’s some insight to how to look past the perfection and be ok with the messy.
HOW SOCIAL MEDIA PORTRAYS LIFE
You’ve all seen it. The picture of the incredibly decorated cakes, sitting atop a counter that has absolutely no clutter whatsoever. The counter itself looks like it costs more than my entire kitchen (and probably does). The children are donning the latest fashion trends from the boutique you’ve never even entered because you can’t afford it. Their hair is coiffed in a fashion that looks professional. Everyone looks happy and in love. Continue reading
My husband recently turned 37 and to celebrate I decided to take him to a restaurant in our neighborhood that serves a 96 ounce steak. We did not order this steak, but I just wanted you to know that there is a place on the health-crazed, kale-obsessed Westside of Los Angeles that will still serve meat in massive quantities, and for this I am thankful. I digress. The only problem with my plan was that none of our regular babysitters were available. In these instances we have one of two choices. Continue reading
It hit me the other week as I gleefully strolled into Target (alone). The dollar section was bursting with everything orange, black and purple. Halloween is looming just around the corner! We haven’t even finished the Halloween candy from last year and I am already facing one of the biggest judgmental holidays of the year. The main offenders are, of course, the two major events of the day. So grab a couple of “fun size” Snickers and let’s talk about them, shall we? Continue reading
Planning and plotting the education of one’s offspring in the city of Los Angeles feels like navigating a dark labyrinth, filled with venomous snakes, deep ditches and fire bombs being tossed at you from unknown locations so you never know where you are supposed to be looking as to not die a firey death. Reggio, Montessori, Waldorf, Public, Private, Charter, Experimental, Progressive, Immersion, Preparatory, Jewish, Catholic, Methodist, predominantly White, predominately Black, predominately Asian and super-diverse are just some of the things you have to educate yourself on in order to understand what is right for your child.
As I reflect back on what was the insanity and ridiculousness I lived while being educated by nuns, I always come back to the one monumental positive I took away from my all-girls school, the positive that has made my life what it is today. And that is, no one ever said I couldn’t do something because I was a GIRL. In fact, no one ever mentioned any sort of limitations because of one’s sex ever because it was a non-issue. We did everything boys did, we just did them without them. We went to school makeup-less, with wet hair, in unflattering uniforms, eating cookies and laughing about things we probably wouldn’t have spoken about while walking in between buildings if boys had been around.
Here are my Top Seven Reasons Why Single Sex Education Rules the School –
- You can eat whatever you want
You can order cheese fries topped with bacon and literally talk with your mouth open while eating them and yes, it’s still gross but no one really gives two fecks. You could get pizza, fries, a salad, a chicken sandwich, ice cream and soda for lunch and no one was like, “Eww, you’re a cow”. My friend’s daughter told me she had friends in school who would barely eat because they were embarrassed to do so in front of boys. WTF is that? That ain’t right.
- Getting ready for school meant maybe showering
Hours of hair and makeup? I think not! A top knot and some Zinc Pink and I was on my way baby! I did spend quite a bit of time searching for one, matching regulatory knee sock every.stinking.morning. Which brings me to my next point.
I know I grunted and groaned about this one because there was not much personal expression in green and blue plaid skirts and knee socks but seriously, no one was like, “Ugh, I wish my navy blue blazer was as nice as her navy blue blazer” because all of the navy blue blazers were equally ugly as shit. Also, no one got to dress slutty and isn’t that really what we all want for our girls? A place where you don’t feel like you have to dress in shorts shorter than your ass or don a tube top to go and learn Geometry? I know it’s all I can hope for.
You dated after school and on weekends. There was no boy distraction in class, no breakups in the cafeteria, no lusting after Jake Ryan in study hall. Study Hall was time for us to discuss what boys’ penises looked like and maybe sometimes, just sometimes, we might have studied, but never in the Library because that’s where we planned our keggers and talked about what penises looked like while some of us gasped in horror.
- Conversation was not censored
We would discuss why our nipples got hard when it was cold outside while we tossed tampons between each other while pondering if pubic hair got gray when you got older. Do you think girls talk about this stuff in front of boys when they are fifteen? They don’t because after school when the boys came around, we talked about music and where we were gonna score some beer for the weekend. It was liberating to be able to be yourself and to talk about things that were on your mind and to know that you would all laugh hysterically and you never had to put the filter on except when a teacher passed you by.
- Boys Schools
When you attend an all-girl school, you usually have an all-boy school close by. When one of you has a dance, it’s like an explosion of wonder. All of these coeds in one place! It’s magical and special and fun! They’d have their proms and we’d have our prom and they’d have their games and we’d have ours and everything was done in multiples which meant for a robust social life, not gonna lie.
7. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
When we’d see a man or a boy on campus in Grade School we used whisper under our breath “Sound the alarm!” and it would really make us giggle. They looked funny, awkward, almost like intruders when they came around. Later, in High School they were allowed to visit us in the parking lot and in the cafeteria after school, so it became a lot more natural but if one stepped on campus before 2:30pm all hell would break loose. We’d run to the window like there was a fireworks display or a three-headed unicorn.
We were one thing and they were another but we were not inferior to them in any way, shape or form and the most important thing our all-female staff did was never mention that we might come across that notion in the outside world. I went to college where I learned about girls’ insecurities regarding participating in class and eating in front of the opposite sex or not studying something because “Engineering is for Boys”. I always grabbed these conversation bulls by the horns and I debated and lectured these young ladies as if I were Gloria Steinem on a hot day because I was given that foundation of being a secure, strong woman who did not doubt herself because she had a vagina. Also, I was able to school everyone in my dorm suite regarding aging pubic hair. That, if for nothing, is a great reason to consider an all-girls school.
We all have a few tricks that we keep up our sleeves for when times get rough. I read about these all of the time and marvel at the success stories that these Moms are bragging about. Titles usually sound something like this “How to Get Your Child to Eat Beets with This Delicious Chocolate Smoothie” or “Never Lose a Toddler Sock Again with This Nifty Trick” or even “How Much to Medicate Your Kids for Peaceful Air Travel”.
I am here to share with you my own “Mom Tricks” that haven’t exactly gone viral. However, I am not a quitter. One success and several thousand subsequent fails does not have me throwing in the towel just yet. I aim to master at least one of the below before my child turns 10. I’ve got five years to figure this out, but I have a feeling that I need every minute I can get. Here are the stumpers.
We co-sleep and shit I am tired sometimes. We have a lot of peaceful nights, but we also have plenty of nights where I am clinging to the edge of the mattress for dear life while my child flops all over the bed, arms flapping into my face unexpectedly, kicking me in the back, breathing one millimeter from my face while coughing directly into my mouth. When the early bird wakes up at 6:30am and wants to immediately start a full-blown conversation about why bird poop is white, I revert back to my old stand-by Mom Trick, fake sleeping. I have only been successful at this once, but the one time she actually fell back to sleep with me was so effin’ glorious that the possibility of it happening again keeps hope alive. My determination to get a few more minutes of sleep keeps me from fully accepting this as a FAIL.
The Bunny Bell
My daughter had a crazy fear of the “bell button” in elevators. It all started with a kid at the mall who insisted on pressing it about 40 times while we were in the elevator and the mom did nothing to stop him. Can you say traumatic? Afterwards, each time we got into an elevator, she would worry that someone would press the button and the loud bell would start ringing. At our lowest point, she would outright refuse to ride the elevator with any kid who may have that squirrelly “bell button presser” look in his eye. In an attempt to make the bell button a bit friendlier, we decided to take a picture of it, name it and decorate it with something she thought was nice. This turned out to be a bunny and his name was Daniel. We spent hours talking about the bell button, fielding hundreds of questions as to why it is there, why that kid wanted to press it, why his mom didn’t stop him. Either way, Daniel the Bunny Bell did zip to help the fear of the bell button. We still have to have the occasional agreement with friends about who will press the buttons before getting in and if your kid starts getting that squirrelly look – we will take the stairs. Bunny Bell, FAIL.
This particular activity is the ability to scarf a mini powdered donut in the amount of time it takes your kid to wash their hands (in my case this is equivalent to turning the water on and then off again without ever getting hands wet and definitely never using soap). Being able to swallow the donut whole earns bonus points. The timing of the donut wolf is typically around dinnertime while I am cooking and am super hungry myself. It’s RARE that we have things like mini donuts in the house so finding the sad and lonely donut that needs to be put out of its pathetic misery is always a special moment. Popping it into my mouth unnoticed is tricky if my child is home and likely to round the kitchen corner the moment it hits my lips. Sending her to wash her hands before dinner is an easy way to occupy her, even if for five seconds. The part that trips me up each time is the powdered sugar. No matter how hard I try, eating that mini donut will result in my looking like Al Pacino in Scarface when my kid inevitably barrels into the kitchen to show me how well she scrubbed her hands. This immediately results in her asking about what I am eating and demanding to smell my breath. FAIL.
Unwrapping the Secret Snack
You know the snack that you keep in your purse for emergencies or the random piece of Halloween candy you find in there while wildly searching for your keys? Try unwrapping that snack around your kids. I swear, children under the age of 10 have supersonic hearing and are able to detect the sound of crunchy snack wrappers from miles away. As soon as your eyes make contact with that wrapper, it sends a signal to the kids, “Alert! Alert! Mom found something in her purse. Looks to be a snack of sorts, has a crunchy wrapper and high calorie content. Prepare to launch the question!” We all know what question that is, “What are you eating and can I have some?” There are several ways that I have attempted to open one of these wrappers without being noticed. The loud cough and frantic unwrap, the turn up the music louder in the car and unwrap, and finally the slow and steady wins the race unwrap technique. Results tend to err on the FAIL side, especially when it happens to be a really good snack that I don’t want to share.
Here is where all of you come into play; I am accepting advice on how to turn these epic fails into wins. In the meantime, I will be exhausted, taking the stairs while looking like I just left a cocaine party while being questioned on what snack is in my purse by a firing squad of one (four year old).
Let me just cut to the chase, prior to having my baby, the term “Mom Group” made me, well, cringe. I imagined the “stroller parking lot” at CPK teeming with crusty strollers filled with gummed up yogurt melts, crushed Goldfish, Cheerio smithereens and shellacked with a thick coat of apple juice. I envisioned a herd of moms trying to hold a conversation and eat a civilized lunch while their infants screamed and toddlers built forts under the table. I feared that along with my bundle of joy, my “parting gift” from the hospital would include a pair of black yoga pants, a spit-up stained tee shirt, an eighty ounce coffee mug and a year subscription to the “I Only Wear Slut Buns” club. Let me also say that I was foolishly under the impression that everything would be all rainbows and gumdrops after MY baby arrived. My plan would look something like Reese Witherspoon with her new baby; pulled together, glamorous, calm and collected. Little did I know the shit storm that was about to be unleashed into my world.
Flash forward to having an 8-week-old baby and after having yet another humiliating breakdown during my lactation consultant appointment, she kindly suggested (urged) that I join a Mom Group. I was so lonely and sad that I agreed to go, seeing that I wasn’t meeting anyone while holed up in my bathroom crying. So ladies, I bestow upon you this pearl of wisdom, unless you are a “sister wife” (minus the total creeper husband) and have your Mom Group living with you, you need to get your hustle on and find yourself a team of supporters. Here are the top five reasons why:
1 – Surprise! Your problems are not unique!
During the depths of our eight-week pediatrician-imposed lockdown, I was completely unaware that there were other new moms out there struggling with the same problems. My baby that won’t sleep anywhere other than the Ergo? Yeah, I had nothing on the mom who had to run the vacuum while bouncing on a yoga ball, humming and breastfeeding at the same time. Morale improved already! Strapping on the Ergo began to actually heal my back; it was like popping a few Doan’s and washing them down with a slug of Wild Turkey. And what I had coined “The Warthog Routine” (the snorting, grunting and frantic head thrashing when feeding) was happening right before my eyes to other babies. Previously, I was convinced it was an early indication of some terrible and rare condition. Not that this is a contest in one-upmanship, but talking with other moms who are in the trenches with you is such a relief. Just knowing that someone else was raising a baby warthog was enough support to keep me going until our next meeting.
2 – Bitches unite!
Perhaps you enjoy the alone time spent sobbing while folding onesies and listening to your baby howl but believe me, you need lady friends. Your baby may be the sweetest, cutest little peanut in the universe but after your partner goes back to work and you are flying solo – suddenly you are staring down the barrel of week six with 12-hour days ahead of you, and the one-sided conversation starts running bone dry. After being out of normal society for weeks, I was so desperate to talk and be around other people, I didn’t care if you had 10 heads, horns, and a tail. If you were at this Mom Group meeting you were fair game and I was going to be your friend, come hell or high water. When I walked into that room, I reeked of desperation. I needed friends who understood what I was going through. Being able to commiserate over your newly found night sweats and hideous mood swings is something only a new mom friend would understand. (Bonus: Your husband will thank you for this since he bears the brunt of both problems.)
3 – You need to get the hell out of the house.
Rejoining the free world seems like an insurmountable task during those first couple of months. Prior to my Mom Group, brushing my teeth required an hour of preplanning and scheduling. After joining the Mom Group, I would turn up the music extra loud to drown out the weird baby noises that gave me massive anxiety and gussy myself up; slap on some lip gloss, put my hair up, dredge up a cute outfit from the bottom of my closet, strap her into her car seat, then immediately take her out again to change her entire outfit due to an up the back blowout diaper and arrive with a few minutes to spare! No sweat (under-boob sweat doesn’t count). Waking up knowing that you have a plan for the day is a game changer, even if it is just going to Starbucks, everyone is just happy to get the f*ck out of the house.
4 – Your breast pump is not talking to you.
The same phenomenon as the hairdryer applies to the breast pump – turn it on and suddenly you think you have heard the doorbell or the baby crying – turn it off, go check, find nothing and repeat. I spent hours with that pump. HOURS. 3 out of 4 times I would have to turn it off because of phantom noises. Chalk it up to reasons 1, 2 and 3. Or perhaps I was so desperate for someone to talk to that maybe I did just hear the pump say, “Your hair looks great”. Thanks, Medela! Love you too, guuuurl!
5 – Your baby will be happier.
I know this sounds a little extreme but hear me out. After I joined the Mom Group and gained a shred of sanity back into my life, I could see in my baby’s eyes a new sense of calm, a new understanding if you will. Despite being my personal stage-five-clinger, she was happy to be surrounded by other 2 month olds who also hated the car with a burning passion and she thrived each time she spit-up someplace new. She needed all of the same things I needed, friends with something in common, new places to go and new people to see. And I swear, after I started slowing down a mile out from a red light so we never had to actually stop, when I looked in the rearview, she winked at me as if to say, “Yeah Mama, I got you”. We were a team.
The women in the photo below are my Mom Group. They are the ones who welcomed me with open arms when I arrived at my first Mom Group meeting. I would not be where I am today without what they gave to me – hope that things would get better, shoulders to cry on, ears that listened to the good, bad and ugly, they never judged or made me feel like I was doing it all wrong (even when it felt like everything I did was wrong). They had advice and suggestions when needed, kept me company and gave me laughs through the long nights of breastfeeding on our chat group. When everything else in my world was falling apart, they were there for me and THIS is why you need a Mom Group.
Exhausted, anxious and in a total tear-stained daze, I stood in line at the pharmacy thinking to myself, “Fuck, I knew I should have eaten my placenta.” Never in my life did I think this particular thought would be running through my mind but when one is in the midst of Postpartum Depression, one’s mind is full of surprises. I did consider going down the placenta smoothie path when I was pregnant with my second child but ultimately decided I just wasn’t the organ-eating type. However, in that moment while waiting for my Zoloft, I found yet another thing I thought I had messed up. The last few weeks had been chock-full of those.
Fast forward a couple months. I have learned a tremendous deal about the illness that was slowly suffocating me and I want to share some of those things with you. So Dearests, I present to you with love in my heart, sanity in my brain and wine in my glass, Five “Easy” Steps for Surviving Postpartum Depression.
Step 1 – Acknowledge that you’re too screwed up to see how screwed up you are.
Let me paint a picture of the true chemical cluster fuck that is Postpartum Depression. It’s like this, you know how you used to go out with your girlfriends on a Saturday night (I say “used to” because you’re a parent now, and the only thing you do on Saturday night is watch “48 Hours” while making a mental note to check on whether your spouse has recently taken out a new life insurance policy on you). Anyway, you used to get dressed up – dress, heels, hair and makeup – the whole nine. And, when you left the house you thought, “Hey, I look pretty good. I mean, not supermodel good but since I’m not a genetic mutant, this is as good as it’s going to get. Let’s do this!” Then, you would start drinking. And, all of a sudden…logic be damned, you’re Miranda freaking Kerr! A couple more drinks and now you are really feeling yourself. No one is hotter than you. You own this night. Hell, you own Miranda Kerr! Sound familiar?
The only problem with this scenario (other than your inevitable massive hangover) is that you actually look like a hot frigging mess. Your mascara is smeared, your hair looks like Nick Nolte’s mugshot and half your boob is hanging out (not the good boob either). Only you are way too drunk to realize it. The chemicals that have you feeling all hot to trot are actually blocking you from the reality of the situation – you are superbly fucked up.
Well, that’s what PPD is like as well. The hormones, stress, fatigue, physical changes, etc have you so supremely messed up that it’s impossible to even compute how messed up you really are. My solution for this is simple. Ask everyone who truly loves you whether or not they think you are out of your mind and when they say yes, please, believe them.
Step 2 – Ignore everything you see on Social Media.
Truthfully, I think this should be a general rule of thumb to live by (except when it comes to MommyDearest Inc. of course!), but this is particularly true when you suffer from PPD and here’s why – parents lie, big time. During the course of my suffering, I posted plenty of joyful pictures, like this one…
and this one….Aw, so sweet, right? And, while those pictures were truly a portion of life at the time, they weren’t the whole truth. The whole truth was not the kind of photo you post on Instagram. Nobody wants to see me curled up in the fetal position crying, (really hard to get a good selfie angle of that anyway). They want to see cute kids and smiling faces. I get it, I want that too. I just don’t want all of us Moms out there to feel like everyone else’s lives are picture perfect because that’s what we see everyday on social media, when really there isn’t a filter in the world that can clean up the craziness of what it’s sometimes like to bring a new baby into your family.
Step 3 – Make sure your kids know it’s their fault.
I’m only partially kidding here. I think our natural instinct as parents is to shield our kids from seeing us sad. Angry, sure, that’s unavoidable given their tendency to act like holy terrors but sad, not so much. Thus, I was spending an extraordinary amount of energy trying to act happy around my kids who were, I’m quite convinced, trying to slowly kill me. Then one day, I just couldn’t do it anymore. It’s not that I wanted to lose my shit on such an epic level, but just like my inexplicable affection for Christian Slater even after all these years, it was a force bigger than me. I simply could not stop crying, even in front of my four year old. At first, I agonized over this and the potential damage it could do to him but then a friend reminded me that sadness is a normal human emotion he needs to feel comfortable with – especially if I wanted to avoid raising an emotionally stunted man (just what the world needs more of, amiright?). So, I explained to him that I was feeling very sad and overwhelmed and that I needed a break. And you know what happened? This kid, the same one who often seemed to take pleasure in doing his best to drive me bat shit, actually started to take care of me. He rubbed my back, telling me everything was going to be okay. He brought me his favorite stuffed animals to snuggle with and he even wiped his own butt! No wait, he’s never done that last thing, I’m just wishful thinking on that one. Seriously though, it was like that page in I Love You Forever where the son holds his old-ass mom in the rocking chair and sings to her – except much less creepy (I hope). Regardless of the potential Oedipal ramifications, it really proved to me that I shouldn’t sugar coat the situation as much as I had been. And neither should you.
Step 4 – Let it all go to shit.
Eat chocolate. Drink wine. Stop working out. Let the dust bunnies pile up. Let the kids eat something from a box. Then let the dog eat the box. Then let your husband see that not only did your children eat processed macaroni and cheese for dinner but your dog is now pooping cardboard from having snatched the box while you were drinking wine in the bathroom. In other words, give up the act. You don’t have your shit together right now and that’s okay. You will rebound soon enough. In the meantime, cut yourself some slack and find solace in the comforts of being a total slacker. If it’s a good enough strategy for the Millennials, it’s good enough for you too.
Step 5 – Get help.
For me, this meant finally taking the advice of my Dr. (and fellow Dearests) and starting medication. I also sought the help of a Chiropractor, a Healer and a Psychiatrist (it takes a village). It’s not easy to admit that to you. But, it’s a hell of a lot easier than spending one more day looking in the mirror and not realizing I was the drunk girl at the club with my bad boob hanging out.