I Have A Legit Food Addiction And It’s Miserable

We’ve ordered pizza, and I’m cleaning up after dinner. I’ve just opened the trash can to toss a crumpled paper towel when I spot it: one of my kids has peeled the cheese off their slice — the best damn part, in my opinion. There it lies, at the top of the garbage can.

To everybody else, it looks like what it is. Garbage.

But to me, it looks delicious.

Don’t do it, my mind immediately admonishes. For starters, it’s someone else’s discarded cheese. I’m not even sure why they didn’t eat it; it could’ve been sneezed on or dropped or dog-licked, for all I know. More importantly, it’s in the fucking trash. Somewhere in my brain, the logical part of me cringes.

But that’s immediately overridden by a compulsion I know all too well, and here come the rationalizations. Things like, “We paid good money for that, it shouldn’t go to waste,” and “It’s just touching napkins, it’s not really up against the nasty trash.” 

Before I know it, the cheese has found its way from the garbage into my mouth, and as I hastily chew, the guilt and bitter realization overpower all the flavor. I’m a 38-year-old woman, full from my own (fresh-from-the-pizza-box) dinner, who has just eaten something out of the trash. Not out of necessity or desperation, thank goodness, but because I literally cannot control my own impulses when it comes to food.

I’ll be the first to admit that scenarios like this are kinda funny, but it’s a symptom of a larger, uglier issue that I struggle with on a daily basis. Because I’m completely, hopelessly addicted to food.

Food addiction has been a long-debated topic. A 2013 study conducted by addiction expert Francesco Leri, Associate Professor of Neuroscience and Applied Cognitive Science at the University of Guelph indicated that high fructose corn syrup, which is found in many foods, can cause addiction-like behaviors. But some researchers argue that you can’t be addicted to food itself, that it’s an underlying condition — anxiety or depression or another mood disorder — and “food addiction” is simply a symptom of a larger problem.

But I know this much: whatever it is, whatever’s behind it, has me in a perpetual chokehold. And it’s miserable.

When my eyes open in the morning, my first thoughts are of food … namely, how much control is it going to have over me today? On a “good” day, when my self-discipline kicks in, I eat less. Not because I’m not tempted to eat — I still think about food every few minutes literally all day long — but because at that moment, for whatever reason, I have the ability to resist. Sometimes I don’t eat at all, to “make up for” the days when I’ve grossly overdone it.

I know that’s unhealthy, but I find that it’s easier to refrain altogether than to try to just eat a little bit. I know that once I put something in my mouth, it’s game over. Any self-control I’ve mastered that day will fly right out the window, and I’ll soon be digging elbow-deep into the fridge and berating myself for how weak my willpower is. I don’t purge; I’m not bulimic, though if I’m being honest, I’d have probably tried it if I didn’t have a deep-seated loathing for vomit. I just wallow in the guilt, my self-worth temporarily reduced to the number of calories I know I’ve just ingested.

It’s so easy for someone who doesn’t understand this food-obsessed life to “helpfully” suggest that I try cutting back on portion sizes. For me, cutting down on portion sizes is eating three servings instead of six. And on bad days, portion control isn’t even an option. The thought of limiting my serving size literally makes me feel panicky and deprived before I even get started eating, as though someone has told me that single portion is all I’ll get to eat for the rest of the week.

You wouldn’t look at me and guess I have such an issue. I’m not substantially overweight. I may hang onto an extra ten or twelve pounds, but I’ve also got four kids, so that isn’t abnormal. I teach group fitness classes. Anybody who knows me knows that I’m a big eater, and people regularly express surprise at how much I can put away in one sitting. But they don’t know the half of it.

I’ve tried everything to keep food from ruling my life. Every trick in the book. I’ve downed my weight in freaking ice water to “keep myself full” (HA HA HA). I’ve taken appetite suppressants, tantamount to legal speed, which suppress nothing but my ability to sit still without jittering. I’ve tried keeping only healthier foods on hand, but I’ll inhale an entire bag of turkey jerky or mini rice cakes as readily as I’ll inhale a bag of chips. I’ve tried eating slowly to give my brain time to register when I’ve had enough. I’ve tried eating mindfully, focusing intently on the taste and texture and aroma of my food. But instead of making me feel more satisfied, I’m not satisfied until I have more.

It’s an endless loop of disordered eating. And I’m stuck, despite my best efforts.

You can’t quit food, the way you can quit smoking cigarettes or drinking caffeine. So what am I supposed to do when the very thing keeping me oppressed is also the thing keeping me alive?

The post I Have A Legit Food Addiction And It’s Miserable appeared first on Scary Mommy.

‘Game Of Thrones’ Baby Names Are Blowing Up

If you aren’t caught up on the latest Games of Thrones tea … why are you even on the Internet right now?! It’s like a minefield of spoilers. And anyway, you should be watching what was, arguably, the most epic episode yet as we all hyperventilated (and pooped ourselves a little) during the Battle of Winterfell.

Without giving anything huge away, let’s just say that we can all agree on one thing: The ladies held it down. The valiant Ser Brienne! The brave Lyanna!

And … of course … Arya. Motherfucking. Stark.


We always knew she was a badass, but now that badassery has been elevated to legendary status. As in, the kind of legend people want to name their kids (and their … everything else) after.

Look no further than Twitter for proof:

Kinda funny how someone who famously said, “A girl has no name” has, in fact, become the name.

Though people are favoring GoT names more and more (Khaleesi is nearing the top 500, spending 2017 in position #630 according to Social Security data, which will update for 2018 in May), Arya has enjoyed the biggest surge in popularity. It wasn’t even in the top 1,000 until 2010, but by 2017, it was #135 on the list.

Obviously, thanks to her performance at the Battle of Winterfell, we can expect a fresh onslaught of Aryas.

(RELATED: See our lists of GoT-inspired baby girl and baby boy names!)

If you like the sound of the name but don’t want to jump on the GoT “we-stan-Arya-Stark” bandwagon, these alternative choices are as solid as Valyrian steel …


Not only is it the same letters in Arya, only scrambled, it’s also the name of another GoT treasure, Yara Greyjoy — and is currently much lesser-used, at #987 on the charts.


It means “lion of God,” and is basically Arya without the “ya.” This name is also popular enough, but still lesser-used, standing at #801 for girls.


Again, just a scrambling of the letters — and this one isn’t even in the top 1,000 in terms of popularity. It means “friend.”


This name means “vivacity,” which is fitting, because it totally merges the names of two GoT champions who are giving everyone life right now: Brienne and Arya. (You could spell it Brya, although it would probably be more apt to get mispronounced.)


Spelled this way, it’s the Russian form of Daria, meaning “kingly” … so, also appropriate for the Arya association. And it rhymes with Arya without being Arya.


This one may not stylistically resemble Arya quite as much as some of the others, but it means the exact same thing: noble. There’s also Ada, if you want the same meaning in a shorter package.

What if you’re expecting a boy, or just want to branch out from Arya, but are still into paying homage to your love of GoT through your kid’s name? Check out our picks for some of the most “wearable” names from the show (spoiler alert: Cersei isn’t one of them).


This was a name before the show made it famous; it’s actually a Hebrew name found in the Bible. With its fashionable J-beginning and the ending sound like the uber-popular Noah, we can see this one working really well in the real world.


It’s a pop culture invention, but that doesn’t make it any less of a cool name. And though the Gendry we “know” is male, it could actually work for a girl too.


Bran Stark may have peaced out (“I’m going to go now …”) during the heat of battle, but he’s still a good (raven’s) egg overall. And Brandon is definitely a wearable name, since it dates back to Old English and is currently #114 on the list.


Derived from a Greek word meaning “of the gods,” and given the popularity of the similarly-rooted Theo, adding an N onto the end doesn’t seem strange.


It’s unisex. It’s short and sweet. It’s the nickname of the first person to kill a White Walker, the first person to cure the deadly greyscale, the first person to clue Jon into the “big news,” and the person who everybody just wants to hug: Samwell Tarly. Sam, you’re the GoT MVP.


What better way to give a subtle nod to your GoT addiction than to name your kid after its actual tagline? WINTER IS COMING.


It’s an alternate form of Brianne, which is the feminine form of Brian, which means “strong” and “noble.” Which is exactly what Ser Brienne of Tarth embodies. And beauty, too … just ask Tormund Giantsbane.



Lady Lyanna Mormont. Pint-sized dynamo. Giant-slayer. Shutter-down of mansplainers. This name has no meaning to speak of, as its first appearance was in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (which, of course, inspired GoT), but we’d argue that Lady Lyanna’s character gives it meaning enough!


A name of Sanskrit origin that means “charm,” and the Lady of Winterfell, Sansa Stark, can certainly be charming. She’s also mastered the perfect icy demeanor like nobody’s business.



Honorable mention goes to Yara, which we’ve already discussed. And then of course there are the names of some of the actual actors, which are just as fabulous: Emilia! Maisie! Sophie! Kit! Alfie! Gemma!

Whether you’re naming your child, your favorite pen, your lawn mower, or your WiFi Arya, or just want a more subtle nod to the show that you live for every Sunday, you’ve got plenty of options.

What do we say to baby naming dilemmas? NOT TODAY.


Find inspirational lists and browse thousands of names in the Scary Mommy baby name database!

The post ‘Game Of Thrones’ Baby Names Are Blowing Up appeared first on Scary Mommy.

15 Girl Names Inspired By Badass Women In STEM

Unless you’ve been living in a black hole, you’re probably aware that the world has been recently abuzz over the first-ever photograph of one. A black hole, that is.

That’s absolutely amazing, but what makes it even better is that there’s a woman behind it: computer scientist, Dr. Katie Bouman. This is no small feat, especially in a male-dominated field, and we are soooo here for it.

So in the spirit of badass women in STEM, we’ve put together a list of baby girl names inspired by the women — past and present — who have pioneered research and made pivotal discoveries in the fields of science, tech, engineering, and math.

1. Caroline

Caroline Herschel was born in Hanover, Germany in 1750. Her mother wanted her to learn traditional domestic duties, but her father encouraged her to pursue education in math and other subjects virtually unheard of for women at the time.

Her brother William was an astronomer, and Caroline became interested too. Her significant contributions to astronomy included the discovery of several comets, and she became the first woman to earn a salary as a scientist.

2. Ada 

Ada Byron (whose first name was actually Augusta) was the child of poet Lord Byron — but her talents were in mathematics, not poetry. In the 1840s, she envisioned the potential of a “computing machine” that did more than just general calculation, and wrote what is considered to be the first computer program.

3. Jocelyn

Credited by the BBC with “one of the most significant scientific achievements of the 20th century,” Irish astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell co-discovered the first radio pulsars in 1967, which won the Nobel Prize in Physics. But unlike her male counterparts, and despite her contributions, Jocelyn wasn’t a recipient of the prize winnings.

However, after an illustrious career, she was awarded the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics in 2018 — and donated the entire £2.3 million prize to help women, minorities, and refugee students become physics researchers.

4. Elena

Born in 1646 in Venice, Italy, Elena Piscopia was a prodigy who mastered four languages and four different musical instruments, but also had an aptitude in philosophy, theology, and math.

In 1678, she became the first woman to earn a Ph.D. degree, and after that, became a noted mathematics lecturer at the University of Padua.

5. Hedy

Drop-dead gorgeous Hedy Lamarr (Hedy was actually short for Hedwig) was first known for her acting career — but it was her contributions to technology that left the most lasting legacy. During WWII, she patented a means of changing radio frequencies to keep enemies from decoding messages.

The principles of her work are used in Bluetooth technology today.

6. Jewel

With her team, Jewel Burks Solomon founded Partpic, a startup using groundbreaking technology to streamline the purchase of maintenance and repair parts.

She sold it to Amazon in 2016, and now is an advocate for representation and access in the technology industry, working in her spare time helping startups to get off the ground.

7. Lera

Cognitive scientist Lera Boroditsky is renowned for her research in how language influences our thoughts and actions; in fact, she’s one of the main contributors to the Theory of Linguistic Relativity.

Previously serving on the faculty at MIT and Stanford, she now serves as Associate Professor of Cognitive Science at UCSD, and has garnered a ton of recognition for her achievements: She’s a Searle Scholar, a McDonnell Scholar, recipient of a National Science Foundation Career award, and an American Psychological Association Distinguished Scientist.

8. Tilly

Beatrice “Tilly” Shilling was an aeronautical engineer who, during WWII, designed a critical component of airplane engines that helped protect them from failure during combat. She bristled at any suggestion that as a woman, she might be inferior to men in science and tech fields, and was described by a fellow scientist as “a flaming pathfinder of Women’s Lib.”

She was also an award-winning motorbike racer.

9. Annie

Raised by a single mother in Birmingham, Alabama, Annie Easley was a mathematician, computer scientist, and rocket scientist who worked at NASA — one of the first people of color, let alone female, to do so.

Despite racial discrimination (such as being cut out of published photos of her team, and being denied financial assistance for college courses that her colleagues received easily), she was instrumental in software development, and had a long, accomplished career.

10. Emmy

The daughter of a mathematician, Amalie Emmy Noether has been regarded as the most important woman in the history of mathematics. One of the leading mathematicians of her time (the early 20th century), she made significant contributions to math and physics.

“Noether’s theorem” explains the connection between symmetry and conservation laws, and is considered one of the fundamental principles of modern physics.

11. Mae

Being an engineer, physician, and a NASA astronaut? All in a lifetime of accomplishment for Mae Jemison (oh, and did we mention her stint in the Peace Corps aside from everything else?). She was the first black woman in space, and holds nine honorary doctorates.

After her retirement, she founded The Jemison Group, which researches, develops, and markets advanced technologies.

12. Margaret

Computer scientist, systems engineer, and business owner Margaret Hamilton is credited with coining the term “software engineering.” As the Director of the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, she helped create the flight software for the Apollo space program — and for this, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.

13. Tiera

The future of women in STEM, Tiera Guinn Fletcher is a rocket structural analysis engineer for Boeing and NASA — and she isn’t even 25 years old. She is helping to develop NASA’s Space Launch System, which will eventually be used to send people to Mars.

“Many still believe that the female mind is not capable of excelling in the sciences,” she said in a 2018 interview. “With that lingering doubt, some women fall ill to that belief and others simply are not presented with the opportunity.”

Along with her husband, fellow rocket scientist Myron Fletcher, she has plans for a nonprofit organization that will help children of all backgrounds have access to their dreams.

14. Ruth

The New York Times referred to Ruth Rogan Benerito as “the woman who made cotton behave.” When wrinkle-resistant nylon and polyester were invented in the first half of the 20th century, it was great news for women who didn’t like to iron — but bad news for the cotton industry.

Enter Ruth, who attached organic chemicals to cotton fibers, making it not only wrinkle-resistant, but flame and stain-resistant as well. She has been credited with saving the cotton industry.

She earned her Masters degree by taking night classes while working as a high school science and math teacher by day, eventually earning a Ph.D. in physical chemistry.

15. Mileva

Because of her considerable aptitude in math and physics, Mileva Marić was allowed to attend an all-boys school as a teenager in the early 1890s. She was subsequently accepted to the Zurich Polytechnic School’s physics-mathematics program with only four other students: one being her future husband, Albert Einstein.

Despite the fact that she earned better grades than he did, only Albert was given a degree. Letters and historical accounts have suggested that they both had equal roles in Einstein’s early groundbreaking discoveries, but sadly, he was the only one given professional credit; at the time, they thought a publication co-written by a woman would lessen its impact.


These women have blazed trails in predominantly male industries, facing discrimination and ridicule (just imagine how much mansplaining they’ve all endured!) so that their successors would have a clearer path.

People name their babies after celebrities and their kids, but if you ask us, there are no better, stronger, more inspiring namesakes than these.


If you need more baby name inspiration, check out Scary Mommy’s baby name database!

The post 15 Girl Names Inspired By Badass Women In STEM appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Gender-Neutral Baby Names You Can Choose Before The Big Reveal

Fair or not, people tend to make assumptions about someone’s gender based on name alone. But if your name is, say, Alex or Riley, it’s harder for people to assume.

And that, in a nutshell, is what’s so appealing about gender neutral baby names.

They’re all the rage these days, and for good reason. Unisex names don’t seem to carry the weight of the stereotypes associated with the ones that are clearly masculine or feminine. By calling your baby something that suits both, it feels like you’re freeing them of at least a few of the expectations that come with heavily-gendered names.

This gender neutral trend is helped along by celebrities who have chosen to make traditionally-masculine names feminine: like Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis’ daughter Wyatt, Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard’s daughter Lincoln, Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively’s daughter James (and actually, Blake herself if you wanna get technical), and Jerry O’Connell and Rebecca Romijn’s daughter Charlie.

This isn’t just a recent fad, though. Some of the names we think of now as strictly for girls were once predominantly used for boys; today’s parents probably can’t imagine naming a son Margaret, but in 1907 it was ranked #392 out of the top 1,000 most popular boys’ names.

Oddly enough, the trend doesn’t work both ways; the incidents of girl names becoming boy names are virtually zero. It says a lot about our society that the traits associated with feminine names are a huge no-no for boys, while the masculine traits associated with male names are seen as assets for girls. In fact, studies have found that boys with feminine names act out more often in school, and girls with gender neutral names are more likely to succeed in male-dominated fields, such as law.

So if you want to give your baby the advantage of androgyny — at least where his or her (or their!) name is concerned — here are 30 of our favorites right now (and you can check out the rest of the list here).

Lachlan. Originally a Scottish nickname for someone from Norway — or “Lochlann,” the Land of Lakes (so it can also be spelled Lochlan).

Jude. Of Hebrew origin and meaning “praise,” this name is neither Judah or Judy, but an un-gendered middle ground. And the Beatles association doesn’t hurt either. Hey, Jude!

Parker. An English occupational surname that means “keeper of the park,” this is an upscale-sounding name for boys as well as girls — just like actress Parker Posey.

Carbry. This name, of Irish origin and meaning “charioteer,” is one of those hidden gems that isn’t on most people’s radars yet. So not only is it fitting for either gender, it’s still unique and fresh-sounding.

Indy. Funny how one letter can change things. Cindy and Mindy? Girls’ names. But the more masculine associations with Indiana Jones and the Indy 500 race lend Indy a definite unisex feel.

Gio. Again, here’s the case of one letter making a huge difference; Gia would typically be a girls’ name, but the O could make it short for Giovanni or Giorgio, upping its unisex appeal. Adam Levine and Behati Prinsloo named their daughter Gio Grace in 2018 (and Gio’s big sister also has an awesome unisex baby name: Dusty).

Instagram Photo

River. Whether your little one is calm and steady or fast-moving and turbulent (or both at various times, because kids), this non-gendered name is a perfect choice. Singer Kelly Clarkson has a daughter named River, while ’80s girls had a crush on actor River Phoenix.

Merit. A virtuous name that literally means “the quality of being particularly good or worthy,” and we all want our kids — male or female — to live up to that meaning. “Duck Dynasty” star Jep Robertson has a daughter with a slightly different spelling: Merritt.

Lennon. From a Gaelic surname meaning “lover,” this makes most of us think of musician/songwriter John Lennon. But it’s great for either gender; actor Lance Gross named his son Lennon Lorin, while actress Tammin Sursok’s daughter was christened Lennon Bleu. Want a similar name that’s less Beatle-y? Try Lennox.

Instagram Photo

Remy. Whether it’s a nickname for Jeremy or Remington, or a standalone name, its strong R at the front and softer Y ending make this one a really balanced name for both boys and girls.

Rowan. Derived from the Gaelic name Ruadhán, which referred to a red-haired person — or a direct botanical reference to the rowan tree. It was originally used more for boys, but just as you don’t have to have red hair to be named Rowan, you don’t have to be a boy, either.

Valor. A word that means “great courage in the face of danger” — and since courage doesn’t have a gender, neither does this unique unisex name.

Banks. Actress Hilary Duff named her daughter Banks Violet Bair in 2018, and since this name has no distinctly feminine or masculine-sounding components, it would be equally awesome for a son.

Instagram Photo

Avery. A classic that’s still going strong today, this one time “boys’ name” began trending for girls in the ’90s and now is firmly rooted in the unisex camp. It has Germanic roots, and means “elf-ruler.”

Blue. Whether you spell it this way, or the French-ier version Bleu, it’s an on-trend color name. Maybe Beyonce and Jay-Z really skyrocketed its popularity when they named their daughter Blue Ivy, but iconic singer Cher named her son Elijah Blue all the way back in ’76.

Justice. Meaning “just, fair, and righteous,” which are great traits for anybody to have. Part superhero, part patriotic, all a strong choice for your little one.

Evren. A Turkish name said to mean “universe,” it’s a fresh alternative to names like Everett or Everleigh.

Greer. From the Scottish surname Gregor, meaning “watchful,” this is one that’s actually associated with more women than men, but there’s nothing distinctly feminine about it – it doesn’t share the same soft sounds as traditionally “girly” names — and it’s still rare enough to be a perfectly fitting boys’ name as well.

Oakley. From sunglasses to sharpshooters, this surname of English origin evokes images of several different types, and has a nice outdoorsy quality without feeling too rugged.

Will. Yes, it’s most typically seen as a diminutive of William — but it was also the nickname of female protagonist Willowdean Dickson in the Netflix hit Dumplin’, which makes it a viable nickname for female names like Willa or Willow, too.

True. Khloe Kardashian and Tristan Thompson brought this name to the forefront of pop culture’s collective consciousness when they gave it to their daughter in 2018. But its lack of distinctly masculine or feminine elements, and deep meaning as a word, make it applicable to either boys or girls.

Instagram Photo

Dylan. A Welsh name meaning “born from the ocean,” it was popularized as a boys’ name by bad boy Dylan Walsh from “90210” — but has steadily crept into regular usage for girls, too. Just ask designer Ralph Lauren’s daughter, entrepreneur Dylan Lauren, and the daughter of actors Sean Penn and Robin Wright, Dylan Frances Penn.

Desi. 1950s bandleader (and husband of Lucille Ball) Desi Arnaz made most people think of this as a male name, but it’s also a diminutive of female names like Desiree, so it possesses a non-gender-specific quality.

Keagan. This Irish name means “son of Egan” — but it doesn’t have to mean “son of” anything, thanks to the parents who have given this name to their daughters. Teagan is a unisex name, so why not Keagan, especially since K-names are so hot right now.

Ari. This name was once considered strictly male, a diminutive of the Hebrew name Ariel, meaning “lion of God.” But thanks to the fact that it’s a also great nickname for more feminine names like Ariana and Ariyah, it suits any gender.

Story. Everybody loves a good Story — just ask baseball player Derek Jeter and his wife Hannah, who welcomed Story Grey in January of this year, or actor Aaron Paul and his wife Lauren, who named their daughter Story Annabelle in 2018.

Instagram Photo

Ellison. Obviously, any name ending in “son” originated as a boys’ name. But for proof of why this doesn’t matter, look at the name Madison, which is now far more popular for girls. Meaning “kind,” Ellison is one of those names that works both ways — as does its diminutive, Ellis.

Navy. Color names are so on-trend, and many of them are unisex: Indigo, Gray, Sage. Navy is one of the newer color-inspired names out there, most recently in the spotlight thanks to country singer Jason Aldean and wife Brittany Kerr, who welcomed daughter Navy Rome in February 2019.

Instagram Photo

Ash. This can be seen as a diminutive of Ashley (which was, coincidentally, once considered a boys’ name) — or of Ashton, Asher, Ashanti, or any other name beginning with these three letters, which is why it’s equally suitable for either gender.

Kiernan. An Irish surname meaning “son of Tiernan,” though the “son of” part can be changed to “daughter of” — just ask actress Kiernan Shipka, whose middle name happens to be another unisex classic: Brennan.

With these gender neutral options, there’s no need to wait for that big gender reveal (or even have a gender reveal at all!) to choose your baby’s name. Boy or girl, it doesn’t matter: you’ll have the name covered before you even decide on what color to paint the nursery.

For more names and inspirational lists, check out Scary Mommy’s comprehensive baby name database!

The post Gender-Neutral Baby Names You Can Choose Before The Big Reveal appeared first on Scary Mommy.

How This Middle School Teacher Is Inspiring Random Acts Of Kindness

Teaching his 7th grade students to be compassionate to one another was already a priority in Justin Parmenter’s classroom – but when a high school freshman in his district shot and killed another student in the hallway over a personal conflict, it hit too close to home. He knew that he had to tackle the challenge with a new sense of urgency; the question was how to do it in a way that students would really respond to.

“Twenty plus years of experience teaching prescribed character education lessons have shown me that an adult simply talking about character or modelling positive behavior does not often lead to the changes we want to see in our children,” Parmenter wrote on his blog.

Citing evidence that compassion can be learned, he created an assignment called “Undercover Agents of Kindness” that would allow his students the opportunity to practice that critical skill.

He had them draw a classmate’s name from a bowl, then gave them a two-week time frame in which to perform a secret, random act of kindness with only two stipulations: it couldn’t cost any money, and had to be big enough for the recipient to notice. Afterward, they were to write a “mission report” about what they did and how it went.

Credit: Justin Parmenter

“Soon I began to see encouraging sticky notes on lockers in the hallway,” Parmenter details. “Batches of homemade cupcakes and bags of leftover Halloween candy made their way onto desks in my classroom, as did origami, inspirational quotes, and hand-drawn portraits.”

Credits: Justin Parmenter

In their completed mission reports, the kids detailed the heartwarming acts of kindness they chose and why (and how) they put them into action.

Credit: Justin Parmenter

Credits: Justin Parmenter

The students acknowledged that it felt a little awkward at first, he says, but they all agreed that the feeling of brightening someone’s day was pretty awesome.

Credits: Justin Parmenter

The overwhelming success of the project inspired Parmenter to make it a monthly thing. He asked for advice from his students on improvements, and they came through with suggestions — such as providing examples for anyone having a hard time thinking of an act of kindness.

He hopes to build and expand on the assignment as it becomes a regular part of his curriculum, and that other teachers in schools across the country will follow suit, sharing their kids’ unique ideas and providing even more inspiration.

The goal to make acts of kindness less of a novelty and more of a habit is a light we need in a world that sometimes seems anything but. Together with his students, says Parmenter, “We can find ways to break down barriers, build stronger communities, and normalize compassionate behavior.”

The post How This Middle School Teacher Is Inspiring Random Acts Of Kindness appeared first on Scary Mommy.

‘Tis The Season For The Hell That Is The ‘Man Cold’

The Man Cold is an affliction that strikes frequently this time of year. But its most unfortunate side effect doesn’t strike the afflicted themselves: it strikes the partners who have to deal with them. We’re plagued with extreme annoyance, increased agitation, and ocular muscle strain from all those hard eye rolls and sideways glares.

Because when we’re sick? We just get on with it.

Scary Mommy/Facebook


But when a dude is “suffering,” it looks kind of like this:

The fed-up, overburdened (yet still hilarious and witty) wives on Twitter have had plenty to say on the subject.

Because honestly, it’s such bullshit.

And when we shared these relatable tweets, the comment section lit up with readers’ own tales of Man Cold misery.


Scary Mommy/Facebook

While we keep on keepin’ on, despite whatever ails us, men are packing for their hospital stay.

Scary Mommy/Facebook

Which was confirmed by a legit professional.

Scary Mommy/Facebook

Because they always think they’ve come down with something super serious.

Scary Mommy/Facebook

And they never hesitate to (loudly) let us know exactly how dire their “condition” is.

Scary Mommy/Facebook

But all we can do is grit our teeth, because they actually have no idea.

Scary Mommy/Facebook

And for anyone who’s ever dealt with a household epidemic involving multiple Man Colds, well, we’re in awe of your patience with your “patients.”

Scary Mommy/Facebook

But for all the beleaguered wives in the Man Cold trenches, there are a few who never, ever have to worry about it.

Scary Mommy/Facebook

The post ‘Tis The Season For The Hell That Is The ‘Man Cold’ appeared first on Scary Mommy.

This Brilliant Idea Makes Kids Feel Loved When They Need It Most

It all started with an email from my 8th grader’s guidance counselor, asking parents if they would submit a handwritten note of encouragement for their kids. A note from a parent, she said, could make a huge difference in a child’s day when they’re struggling. The letters, sent in without our student’s knowledge, would serve as a surprise “pick-me-up,” randomly given to our kids at a time when their teacher thinks they need the encouragement.


I thought about my own 13-year-old, and how – even though sometimes it seems like 75% of my words fall on his deaf teenage ears – those words do matter to him. Profoundly. I saw it when he was little, and saved all my silly lunchbox notes. And I see it now that he’s older, in those fleeting moments when I can tell he still needs my reassurance. They’re fewer and further between, but they are definitely still there.

To the email, the guidance counselor had attached an article about Justin Parmenter, a 7th grade language arts teacher from Charlotte, North Carolina. He’d implemented the note idea into his own classroom, and it had caught the attention of several news outlets. I got in touch with him to learn more, because the idea intrigued me. This could be – and should be – a thing everywhere.

Parmenter was quick to point out that the idea didn’t originate with him; the inspiration, he said, had actually come from the opposite side of the country – from a teacher in San Diego named Alicia Johal. He had seen a tweet from her in his Twitter feed, talking about the notes, and that’s when he decided to try it out for himself.

The world our kids are growing up in is “infinitely more complicated” than it was when we were that age, Parmenter told Scary Mommy. “Even though my students are 12 or 13 years old, there are days when I get the sense that they could use a hug from their mom in the middle of the school day,” he said. “This note card idea seemed like a way to provide them with some emotional support only a family member who knows them really well can give.”

Johal, the brains behind the movement, said that the idea came to her after receiving notes of encouragement from her own parents. “I am not a child any more, but I will always be their child. It means something,” she said. “I was having a tough time and received two cards during the same week, one from my mom and one from my dad. Their handwritten notes of love and encouragement haven’t left my desk in 5 months, and I refer back to them when I need to.”

If she was so affected by these notes as an adult, she reasoned, it would also be meaningful (perhaps even more so) to the kids.

Credit: Justin Parmenter

The premise is simple: at an open house – or during parent-teacher conferences or any other time when parents may be at the school – the teacher provides them with a notecard and a request for a quick, handwritten note. The notes are then kept by the teacher, to be given to the student on a day when he or she seems to need some cheering up.

As you can imagine, the students’ responses, which sometimes include tears, confirm that everybody needs a pep talk from Mom and Dad now and then. Teachers and friends can give a pat on the back, but nobody’s reassurance holds as much weight as a parent’s.

Credit: Justin Parmenter

Both Parmenter and Johal said that the biggest obstacle was getting notes from parents who weren’t able to attend open house, but they’ve found other ways to help those parents participate, like sending home note cards with envelopes so they can write the note, seal it so its contents remain a surprise, and send it back. Johal set up a Google Voice phone number (she says it’s a great tool for teachers to use on their cell phones to call/text parents without sharing a personal number) so that parents can send their text or voice messages. And there’s always email; even in nontraditional classrooms like my son’s (he goes to school online), all I had to do was hand write a note, snap a photo of it, and then email it to his counselor. A regular email would do, too, of course … but a note written by hand is definitely more personal. But a note of any sort is better than none at all.

It took me five minutes or less to compose the note to my son, a small investment that will get a large return. Because I know that when he finally reads it, it will be when he needs to see it the most.

“Human beings of all ages need a reminder of how many people love and care about them,” Johal told Scary Mommy. “If every child walked into my classroom with their love-cup filled, I think schools would be dramatically different today.”

I agree, and that’s why I’d love to see this movement spread far and wide.

The post This Brilliant Idea Makes Kids Feel Loved When They Need It Most appeared first on Scary Mommy.

I’m A Mom Who Drinks, So You Can Stop Shaming Me For It

It’s a Friday evening, and the week has beaten me down. I could take a hot bath, or go for a walk with my kids, but none of that is what I want if I’m being honest. Nope, what I want is a drink, and I mean the kind you have to be 21 to buy.

I enjoy drinking, and let’s be honest: It’s not because of the taste. If that were the only factor, I’d stick to sweet tea. I like the way a cocktail or a glass of wine gives me that relaxed, buzzy feeling, and I can almost feel my tensions melting as my normally high-strung nature gives way to a more chill version of myself.

But. Notice I said it’s Friday evening, not every evening. It’s not even every week. I don’t need alcohol to function, or to parent, and it isn’t my go-to coping mechanism (that would actually be chocolate). Yet, thanks to the drinking habits of mothers being scrutinized under a glaring spotlight lately, it feels almost uncomfortable to indulge in a drink … and shameful to indulge in more than that.

I’m not saying the shift in focus isn’t a good thing, by and large. The “mommy wine culture,” as they’ve dubbed it, has normalized drinking to excess, for those inclined to do so. It’s a permissible addiction because it’s legal; it’s not like we’d ever see “Surviving Motherhood on Cocaine” emblazoned across the side of a tote bag, but replace that with “Wine” and it’s tote-ally okay. This widespread acceptance has made it easier for alcohol-dependent moms to deny that they actually have an issue – if everybody’s doing it, it must be okay, right?

Thanks to the outspoken criticism of this normalization by the moms it has affected the most, the ones who have worked to overcome (and bravely shared) their own addictions, the pendulum has begun to swing in the other direction. Which is great news for mothers in similar situations, but for those of us who don’t have a problem with overusing alcohol, the judgment sucks.

We can’t even raise a glass without raising an eyebrow, simply because “mom” is a facet of our identities. I cringe when somebody tags me in a social media post even remotely involving alcohol, because I know that it will be scrutinized, and fall under the sweeping generalization that all moms who drink, drink too much, or because they have no other way to cope.

But do dads fall under the same scrutiny? NOPE. I know that if my husband is tagged in the same type of photo, he’s seen as a guy having a beer with his buddies, end of story. Nobody’s wondering if it’s impacting his ability to be a successful parent. But moms … we’re a different story. We’re clearly not catering to our children’s every need if we’re out swilling cocktails. How dare we step away from our posts. It must be because we’re out of control.

If you’re a mother, you’re either a teetotaler or you’re flagged in people’s minds as a probable alcoholic. There is no in between.

Whether excessive drinking personally affects us or not, it’s merely a symptom of a larger problem that we all share: Momming is hard, and made even harder these days by our culture’s obsession with Instagram- and Pinterest-perfect parenting. Moms drink to alleviate the undue pressure put on us not only to keep our kids alive, but to excel at everything from lunch packing to life coaching. We’re expected to satisfy our partners, raise enviable offspring, age much more slowly than the natural rate, and make sure our toilets are sparkling. The drive for perfection is an engine within us accelerated by the fuel of societal pressure, and for some people, alcohol is the only thing that acts as a buffer. The only damn thing.

Let’s focus on the root cause, then. Maybe we can start by elevating the moms who dare to be real on social media, the ones who don’t post studio-lit photos of their angelic sleeping toddler in a pristine, all-white nursery.

Maybe we can be kinder to one another, so we no longer have to fear judgment for not having our shit together … and kinder to those who are struggling, with alcohol or otherwise, and are brave enough to let others witness that struggle.

Maybe we should be honest, and realize that even if one mom is excelling in a certain area, another part of her life is likely in chaos, because that’s how reality works.

And on a smaller scale, maybe we can lend support to the mom next door and the ones in preschool playgroup, helping out when and where we can – and getting the same in return. Because let’s face it, we all know that sometimes life is an overwhelming shitshow and we can use all the help we can get, even if it’s just a coffee date or an offer to take the kids for a half-hour breather.

Maybe, just maybe, if parenting didn’t come with quite so much pressure, we wouldn’t feel so desperate to ease it. And maybe if we didn’t feel so desperate, a glass of wine wouldn’t be just one more thing to feel guilty about – whether we can stop after just one or not.

The post I’m A Mom Who Drinks, So You Can Stop Shaming Me For It appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Why We Should Be Less Involved Parents

I hear my kids arguing heatedly upstairs. Maybe full-on fighting, who knows; there are a few thumps and thuds. I know this means one of two things: Either in the next few seconds, someone will hurtle down the stairs whining, “Mo-omm!” … or they’ll work it out on their own.

As it turns out, working it out is exactly what they do, and peace is restored as fast as it was disturbed. The most difficult part of this scenario is sitting back, choosing not to intervene, and trusting in their ability to fix the problem without me — but more often than not, being less involved is the best thing I can do.

I’m not gonna lie and say my kids never tattle on one another (because hello, kids), but more often they resolve their own conflicts – only because they know by now that I’m in no hurry to jump in and do it for them. They know that sometimes even if they do run to me for mediation, I just shrug my shoulders and say simply, “Figure it out.” They whine about it, of course, but do it anyway, because I’ve taken away their option of shifting that burden to someone else.

It’s my job as a parent to offer guidance. But “guidance” doesn’t mean doing things for them that they need to learn to do on their own. It means nudging them in the right direction when they need it, not picking them up and carrying them down the path I think they ought to be on.

I don’t decide what my children play or who they play it with, or what they draw, or what they wear, or what they want for lunch. Those are decisions that they’re well-equipped to make for themselves, so why shouldn’t they? Learning doesn’t happen through osmosis; it happens through trial and error, through success and failure, through experience. And if I don’t allow them that experience, if I always insist on injecting myself into the solution before they have a chance to attempt something on their own, then I’m crippling them – despite my best intentions to do the opposite. I won’t always be able to be there for them, and I’ve got to equip them to figure things out independently.

It’s like tying your kid’s shoes every day, even after he’s physically capable of doing it himself. He’s going to automatically expect you to tie them. He won’t know how to do it himself. And one day, playing on the playground, his shoe’s going to come untied and he will be embarrassed that he’s the only one of this friends that doesn’t know how to tie. Pointing! Laughing! Bullying! Therapy!

Okay, maybe I’m being a little dramatic. But the point is, when I loosen the reins, everybody wins: My kids develop a sense of autonomy and the self-confidence to know that they can handle things, and I don’t have to worry so much about them. I don’t have to waste valuable time dictating stuff they can (and should) take care of, and they don’t have me breathing down their necks. This doesn’t mean I check out completely and watch YouTube videos while they play with knives. It means I choose more carefully when it comes to my involvement.

Do I genuinely need to step in, for safety or otherwise, or is it just my compulsion to hover, my “mother knows best” attitude? If the answer is the latter, I stay out of it. Less involved equals more opportunity for my kids to grow.

It’s hard to step back and let them learn the lessons in their own sometimes difficult, messy way, especially if you’re the kind of person who likes to be in control (not that I’d know anything at all about being a control freak … ahem). It can be gut-wrenching, but my role as their mother is not to make my own life easier, or to put my comfort above theirs. I’m here to make sure my children are given the opportunity to experience life – even the rockiest moments – firsthand, because that’s the best way for them to discover how to navigate through.

And that’s a gift I can give them, even if it doesn’t always look like one from where I’m sitting. On the couch. Minding my own business while they learn to work things out.

The post Why We Should Be Less Involved Parents appeared first on Scary Mommy.

This Is What It’s Like When Your Son Turns 13

His voice hasn’t quite deepened yet, but I can hear it coming sometimes, like a train in the distance. It takes on a gravelly tone, especially when I wake him up and he says, “Morning, Mom.” He’s waking up more reluctantly these days, no longer bouncing out of bed at dawn unprompted.

This is 13.

I don’t feel old enough to have a teenage son – didn’t I just graduate high school myself a couple years ago? – yet here I am. And here he is, my brand-new teen, so like and so unlike the brand-new baby he was last time I blinked. We’re both treading into uncharted territory now, like yesterday when he was born, and it feels both foreign and familiar: the transition into a new role, and the uneasy knowledge that none of it comes with an instruction manual.

His door closes and locks behind him these days, the rest of us no longer welcome in his room without appointment. I struggle. Do I let it slide? Allow him to keep it closed, but not locked? He’s entitled to privacy, I know, but the question is how he uses it. I’m sure part of it is … self-discovery (ahem), but does he also close the door because he doesn’t want me to know he’s revealing personal details to older strangers on the Internet, or watching disgusting YouTube videos, or engaging in some other risky online behavior? I read the horror stories. We didn’t realize, say the helpless parents of suicidal teens and school shooters and trafficking victims. I’m overreacting, I hope, but I can’t help waffling back and forth between allowing him privacy and invading it.

This is 13. It’s hard to let go.

He’s grubby, and he doesn’t care. I constantly nag: When did you last wash your hair? When did you last brush your teeth? Go clip your toenails. When he was a baby, I’d press my nose against the top of his head and inhale his sweet scent as deeply as I could. Now I catch a whiff and recoil, but I can’t just pick him up and strong-arm him into the bath the way I used to. I offer up deodorant and a new brand of toothpaste like gifts, and he responds like any kid who gets deodorant or toothpaste as a gift.

His computer desk, and every other surface in his bedroom, are littered with stale chip crumbs and dirty dishes, his floor mounded with laundry he’s failed to transfer to the hamper. I cannot fathom how he tolerates the filth, but it’s time to give him more control of his own domain. I ask how long he’s been wearing that underwear. “Like four days?” he shrugs, and I can hear a hint of pride, like it’s some sort of accomplishment.

This is 13, and it smells like B.O.

He still watches cartoons, but they’re big-kid cartoons, nothing you can find on Nick Junior these days. He still plays video games, but they’re big-kid video games, his choice of playthings much pricier now. I can’t pick out his outfits any more, but his idea of “dressing up” is wearing a pair of non-holey pants with his poop emoji t-shirt. His shoes are almost as big as mine, and when he’s shirtless, I can see he’s beginning to bulk up, the spindly, gangly baby-colt limbs slowly being replaced by something more substantial.

His pants are suddenly too short even though I literally just bought them. He inhales food like he inhales air, in a constant, steady stream (“Mom, will you pick up some Lucky Charms and ramen noodles and chili lime Takis?”), and I have to swing by the grocery store, again, while I’m out buying new pants. Again.

This is 13. It’s freaking expensive.

Thirteen is trying to hold onto a fish underwater, knowing that you’re eventually going to have to let it slip from your grasp. It’s the weight of not knowing how much slack to put in the tether. It’s the pride when you look at the independent person he’s becoming, and the ache of realizing he’s becoming an independent person.

He’s still affectionate at this point, and I relish each hug and ever-decreasing snuggle with the painful awareness that they may not last much longer. I swear I can still feel him in my arms as an infant, sleeping on my chest, sitting in my lap, like a ghost of a little boy who once existed. I will tousle his hair and caress his cheek forever, no matter how grown he gets. I have to. I’m his mother, and through a mother’s eyes, manhood is just an illusion. He’ll always be my baby, even though he’s not.

“You’re the best mom,” he says when he isn’t telling me I’m the worst. His voice is a little lower than it was last week. It’s a train I can hear coming, but all I can do now is step back and let it roll through.

The post This Is What It’s Like When Your Son Turns 13 appeared first on Scary Mommy.