I Thought My Kids Would Be Less Messy As They Got Older — I Was Wrong

When my kids were small I remember I used to think (about 100 times a day), how glorious it would be when they could actually wash their hands and faces well and stop smearing their food all over the furniture. I’m here to tell you they are now teenagers and the smearing of food still happens. I just sat down to work and noticed there was yogurt on the arm on my chair.

I hated folding all the laundry and putting it away, so as soon as I thought they were capable, I passed off that chore to them. Now there are falling towers of unfolded laundry falling in my kids’ rooms because they’ve decided life is just easier if you wash and dry your clothes, then ball them up in a pile and set said piles in various places. The chair, the bed, the windowsill, on top of the dresser, right in front of the door so you can’t open it. It really doesn’t matter where it lands, as long as it doesn’t involve folding and putting it away, they are good.

I just wiped a booger off the bathroom wall and it was huge. Then, I threw away a glass that was growing a greenish substance in the bottom. After that, I Googled “How to get rust stains out of the tub.”

I have kids who are old enough to work, drive, and pay taxes.

Yes, they are old enough to clean up after themselves and they do — they put their laundry in the laundry basket and know how to wipe down the countertops after they make a sandwich — but they don’t do it well, and those messes have tripled in size.

Not only that, but the messes are different now that they are older. Like the tuna fish that my son can never seem to rinse out of the damn bowl. He has some every night as a snack and that shit dries into fish-scented cement.

Their aim isn’t any better than it was when they were potty training, and now their pee is super-sized.

There aren’t dirty handprints on anything, but my daughter, who loves charcoal masks and purple shampoo, will leave a trail of black and purple all over the house. I’m still not sure how some got on the fridge handle, but nothing surprises me anymore.

Oh, and those rust rings in the shower are from cans of shaving cream, and no — they don’t come off. You’d think they would after the hours my son’s spent in the shower (ahem) but something tells me they aren’t in there scrubbing those walls, if you know what I mean. I have the high water bill to prove it.

Instead of their rooms smelling like baby powder and fresh air, they all have a distinct stench I can’t place. (I don’t want to, either.) All I know is I ask them to keep their doors closed to contain the smell so I can forget about what might be growing — and, from the smell of things, rotting — under their beds.

And if you didn’t hear this PSA here’s another annoying teen-ism: They don’t really like sheets or made beds. No, they’d rather be free and sleep on a bare mattress and roll around in loose bedding.

They are also masters at cutting their own hair — on their head and other regions — so you should invest in a vacuum designed to pick up all the pet hair, even if you don’t have a pet. Instead of picking up toys from the bathroom floor, I vacuum up hair from various places of their body. And sometimes that trimming takes place in the living room when I’m not home. I’ve seen the evidence, but I refuse to ask.

The other day, I sliced my toe because I stepped on a pile of my son’s toenails that were in a neat pile on the rug. I probably needed stitches.

My house is peppered with nail polish and wax in places that leave me puzzled. Like the trim work in the living room and behind the sofa.

The recyclables are always overflowing because they live for their Vitamin Water and energy drinks.

And just because they know how to use a toilet brush to do away with their skid marks doesn’t mean they will do it. Like, ever.

So, I just wanted to let you know something: If you are looking forward to the time when your child can clean up after themselves and do things like pick up their toys and put their dishes in the dishwasher (they will do that if you make it a rule), they won’t be neater. They will leave messes in their wake that you only have nightmares about.

They can fuck up the inside of a fridge faster than three toddlers and don’t even get me started on the amount of dirt they track in with their big feet, even if they remove their shoes at the door. I literally don’t know how it happens, but I’ve been living in a sandbox since they all hit puberty.

The messes don’t get better — they get worse. I keep telling myself to just go with it because they essentially do what I ask them to do, they just kind of suck at it.

I’ve come to realize teenagers don’t see a lot of things their parents do (like the slip-n-slide my son left on the floor after “cleaning up” a spill) and I just wanted to mentally prepare you if you were hoping things would get neater around your house when your kids got older.

They won’t, they’ll get worse. You’ll have just as many breakdowns over it (or more) and you’ll think about lighting the house on fire a few times each month.

Just remember, one of these days it will be their own houses they have to keep clean. And seeing housekeeping karma in action will be pretty damn satisfying.

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To My Other Kids Not On The Autism Spectrum

I know that is how you must often feel, like my “other kids.” The older three siblings of “the one with autism.” You have never said it. But sometimes in the middle of the night, I lie awake blanketed in guilt.

When we spoke on the phone earlier in the day, I told you how excited I was that your little brother had his first non-meltdown haircut. But I forgot to ask you how your day was. I forgot to tell you how proud I am of you. I forgot to tell you I love you. Your younger sibling’s needs are so big that sometimes I forget to fill your smallest ones.

On most days, it takes more of what I am even capable of to parent your younger sibling. The day-to-day mundane tasks I never even stopped to consider when you were growing up, are all enormous challenges for your little brother. We work hard to help him overcome things that, for you, came easy. He needs more of me than you did, and because of that, now you get less.

Courtesy of Amy Nielsen

I remember when each of you was born. It always surprised me how much of my day it took to take care of a newborn that slept most of the time! In the first few weeks, days would go by before I realized I had not showered. But I loved every minute of those early weeks when I could bundle you each up like a baby burrito and snuggle you until my heart’s content.

Then came the wiggly toddler phase. Whew! The days got long and messy. You strew building blocks, baby dolls, and crushed Cheerios from one end of the house to the other. You had bruised knees from those first wobbly steps, and I scrambled to keep up with jotting down in your baby books the words you began to learn rapidly.

Once you hit school-age, life shifted again. You kept me even busier. Three kids needed help with homework, three kids needed to get to soccer practice and dance lessons, three kids needed dinner, three kids each wanted three friends over. Our home was alive! I never realized how much I would miss those days—the joy of leftover pizza in the fridge and piles of sneakers at the front door.

Your little brother was born when most of you were nearly grown—an unexpected blessing. As a baby, my experience with him was familiar, but when he became a toddler, I knew things were much different. He struggled to communicate, which caused him and me so much frustration.

Courtesy of Amy Nielsen

He struggled if his routine was disrupted. Everyday tasks such as mealtimes and diaper changes were giant hurdles. Our family was overwhelmed. After his autism diagnosis at age three, his life and mine would become consumed with therapy and doctor’s appointments.

His progress over the years has been remarkable, and he is now quite the animated and funny little guy. But he still has progress to be made, and it will still require a part of me that you must give up.

As unfair as that is, I believe the trade-off is the amazing people you have become as siblings of a child with autism. When he sees you, his face lights up as if real-life superheroes just walked in the room. I am sure you can tell by how he squeezes your necks as if he will never let go.

He expects nothing from you, but when you show up with the smallest of trinkets, it is as if you have given him the world. His innocence and vulnerability are reminders that we all have a role in sacrificing for those that need more.

To my older three children, remember you are not “my other children,” you are all my children. I may not have equal time for you, but I love you all equally.

Love, Mom

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I Can’t Shake The Fear Of Something Awful Happening To My Kids

When I brought my first child home from the hospital, I either held him all day or he slept right next to me. Those first nine months, his crib touched my side of the bed. When he was four days old, a friend of mine wanted to hold him. I was sitting about a yard away from him, but it was too much for me to bear.

I had to reach over and get him back. 

He napped on my lap, or in his baby carrier which I had on me at all times. 

He wasn’t left with a sitter until he was almost one, and that day I had to cut my date with my husband short because I couldn’t enjoy myself.

I was so overcome with fear something would happen to him, it was all I could think about.

I realized my anxiety wasn’t healthy for either of us but tried to keep my mouth shut about it.

Every time I discussed it with another mom, they didn’t do the things I did or worry the way I’d worry. 

It made me feel ashamed and dumb, and it reinforced what I already knew: I needed to try and break away just a little bit and stop thinking the worst.

The thing was, I was so afraid if I relaxed a bit about it, something horrible would happen to him.

He was one when I moved him into his own room.

That first day, when he fell asleep, I went in about ten times to make sure the window was closed and locked. I kept having visions of someone sneaking in his room and doing horrible things to him — things I don’t even want to say because I don’t know how those thoughts crept into my mind.

That was over 17 years ago. I now have three teenagers and I’ve worked through some of this, but man, that fear has never gone away.

My oldest drives now and I can’t relax until he’s texted me telling me he’s gotten to his destination safely.

If they wake up at night to go to the bathroom or get a drink, I still shoot up in my bed and get up to ask them if they are all right.

There have been days when dropping them off for school has been overwhelming and I wait outside the school, or will do a drive by if I’m out running errands to make sure everything looks normal.

When they were in elementary school, there were days I’d call the main office, claiming I had the wrong number, just to make sure the secretary sounded happy like she always did when I picked the kiddos up. That meant there wasn’t anything bad happening like my mind was telling me there was.

I’ve been called irrational. I’ve been told to “cut the cord.” I lost sleep and was asked why I always think of the worst possible scenario. 

Because of this, I usually keep my fears about something happening to my kids to myself.

Before giving birth, I never worried about bad things happening. In fact, I was always pretty calm, happy and never thought about any of the things that creep into my head now.

This behavior drives my kids bonkers. They say I’m too overprotective and I’ve kept them in a bubble. They didn’t go to preschool, take the bus to school, or ever go to a friend’s house without me until they were teenagers. Even then, I needed to speak with a parent and would count down the minutes until I could come get them.

What if the parents are mean to them?

What if they fall and get hurt because no one is paying attention?

What if they feel uncomfortable and miss me?

What if they are in a horrible situation and no one is there to help them?

None of these things have ever happened in the past seventeen years and yet…

Yet I still go to the bad place so easily and make sure my phone is two inches in front of my face when they are with their dad at night or sleeping at a friend’s house.

I try every single day to try and strike a balance so they aren’t too sheltered and I’m not getting splinters in my feet from pacing the floor because I’m physically sick with worry.

And every day it’s hard. 

I don’t do well with the unknown, and I can’t imagine life without my children in it. They are my world and I feel connected to them in ways I’ve never been connected to anyone.

I know there is an element of selfishness in this. I say really mean things to myself about it and don’t love this part of me.

I want my kids to have a great life. But my desire to keep them safe can make me feel out of control and can rule my days and my mind.

I have to constantly remind myself (in between deep breaths) that I only have control over so much, I can not keep them in my four walls for their entire life, and my parents weren’t like this and I turned out just fine.

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How To Use Books To Help Kids Navigate Death And Loss

Explaining death to a child can be incredibly difficult. While it’s a fact of life, it can often be tough for children to digest. Plus, there are always a ton of follow-up questions. “Will you die?” and “Will I die?” are to be expected.

It’s important to be honest with your kid, but it’s also good to avoid traumatizing them over the topic. Long story short, death is scary. This July, my father passed away. Being out of state, my 3-year-old daughter didn’t see him on a weekly basis, but did get to spend some quality time with him. She’s still trying to figure out what death means. While she knows we’ll go to “Poppy’s House” and not see Poppy, it’s also hard to explain to her that we won’t see Poppy ever again. But he’ll always be in our hearts and live through the stories we tell.

That’s where books come in. Authors have done a fantastic job talking about death on a scale that’s easier for children to understand. It’ll still be difficult (especially if you’re also stricken by grief), but it’ll make the conversation just slightly easier to have. If you’re looking for a few good books that discuss death in a family-friendly way, here are some titles to add to your home library.

"The Invisible String"

The Invisible String by Patrice Karst is one of the most popular titles on the subject of loss and grief. But, it’s not just about death. The themes in the book are also fantastic if you’re going through a divorce or another big change. “I purchased this to help my grandbabies (who live with me) deal with the loss of their daddy (my son). It is now one of their favorite books and we read it every single night,” writes Amazon Reviewer Karen Ludwig. “It does not only deal with the death of a loved one but being separated from those we love.”


"Where Are You? A Child's Book About Loss"

Even the cover of this book may bring a tear to your eye. The gorgeous illustrations are actually a big part as to why this book is so special. Amazon Reviewer Christopher found that this book resonated well with his two-year-old. “My daughter is two and was having difficulty understanding her father’s death. This book helped immensely — she wanted to read it over and over. She now tells me ‘daddy’s here’ and places both hands on her chest,” they wrote.

$13.94 AT AMAZON

"The Memory Box: A Book About Grief"

Author Joanna Rowland wrote about experiencing grief from the perspective of a child, so it’s a story your children may be able to relate to. This book is wonderful for helping manage grief of all types. It may also inspire your children to create their own Memory Box in honor of their deceased loved one.

$13.19 AT AMAZON

"Something Very Sad Happened: A Toddler’s Guide to Understanding Death"

This book is perfect for toddlers. It’s written in a language that a 2 or 3-year-old will be able to digest, and explains that although they’re gone, the love you have for someone will never disappear. Written by Bonnie Zucker, reviewers like the fact that it isn’t openly religious in explaining the process of death and grief. Amazon user funfunfun even mentioned that this book helped their child cope with the loss of a neighborhood pet. “My son was able to write her a card and give her the best explanation when he saw her. She was blown away, and even mentioned wishing she had been taught what he knew at his age, as her coping skills were never fine tuned,” they wrote.

$12.89 AT AMAZON

"Caterpillars Can't Talk: A Children's Story About Love, Loss and Transformation"

Caterpillars Can’t Talk is a fairly new title written by Kris Fenton Siwek — but in a few months, it’s already racked up a five star rating by those who read it. The book focuses on a young boy named Andy who is trying to process the loss of his father. When Andy meets a very intriguing caterpillar in the woods, he’s able to learn new ways to cope with his loss. While the book itself is new, the story was initially written in 1982.

$21.50 AT AMAZON

"The Invisible Leash: A Story Celebrating Love After the Loss of a Pet (The Invisible String)"

Sometimes, the earliest loss a child witnesses is the loss of a beloved pet. Whether it’s a dog who’s been there throughout their entire life, or even a goldfish who brightened their day, it’s a good time to talk about grief and coping. The Invisible Leash focuses on a boy named Zack who just lost his dog. As his friend states, “When our pets aren’t with us anymore, an Invisible Leash connects our hearts to each other. Forever.” (Uh, is someone cutting onions around here?) In case the title sounds familiar, yes — it’s by the same author who penned The Invisible String.

$14.39 AT AMAZON

"The Day My Dad Turned Invisible"

The Day My Dad Turned Invisible is also a new title with incredible reviews. Written by Sean R. Simmons, the book was released this July. The story is based on the author’s real life story. In it, a 7-year-old named Sean learns that his father passed, and figures out what that means for his future. As Amazon Reviewer Hulania Farmer wrote, “This book was well written and relatable.”

$24.50 AT AMAZON

"I Miss You: A First Look at Death"

This book by Pat Thomas is geared towards children from preschool to grade school. In it, it talks about how death is a sad part of life, and how to cope with your feelings after a loss in the family. The book offers a reassuring view to kids that as long as someone is in your heart, they’re never fully gone.


"Why Do I Feel So Sad?: A Grief Book for Children"

One of the best parts about Why Do I Feel So Sad?: A Grief Book for Children is that it’s broad enough to cover all types of loss. That means it can be read multiple times as needed throughout a child’s life. Amazon Reviewer Melissa, who’s also a teacher, had nothing but praise for this book. “I have been an elementary school teacher for over 15 years and have come across very few books of this caliber relating to feelings (and I have over 1,000 books in my class library). Grief can be a tough emotion for children to process as many children don’t know how to identify what they are feeling or why they may be acting out or shutting down,” she wrote. ” In a child friendly way, this book explains what grief is, why people may feel sad, how people process grief, and ways that could help people feel better.”

$10.99 AT AMAZON


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Nothing Prepared Me For My Teen’s Drug Addiction

*trigger warning: suicidal ideation

On the top shelf of my walk-in closet sits a shoebox wrapped in striped, metallic wrapping paper. What’s inside are pieces of notebook paper written to my son when he was going through a difficult time. These notes not only have words of encouragement on them, but were also an exercise in letting go and having faith.

According to the American Addiction Centers website, 19.7 million American adults (aged 12 and older) battled a substance use disorder in 2017. It also states that teenagers and people with mental health disorders are more at risk for drug use and addiction than other populations.

I grew up in the ’80s. There were D.A.R.E programs in our schools and “Just say no to drugs” campaigns. We even had after school specials and Saved by the Bell episodes that touched on addiction. I also grew up with a father who battled alcoholism. I knew all about what that looked like. But none of this would prepare me for my son’s addiction.

In 2014, when Michael was beginning his sophomore year of high school, our world crumbled. It began unraveling when he was in middle school. He was struggling in school, had uncontrollable anger and wasn’t making the best choices, nor was he hanging out with a stellar group of kids. When he was in eighth grade, he came to me and said he thought he had ADD. My response? “Work harder.” My thoughts up until this point were that ADD was overdiagnosed and a crutch for parents who were too preoccupied to discipline their children.

It was during this time that I found pot in my son’s room. I was shocked. Sure, I smoked pot as a teenager, but my son? No way! I’ll never forget that fall day. I confronted him after he got out of the shower about the resin all over his desk. “What’s this?” I asked, pointing to the dried leaves.

“It’s marijuana,” he responded frankly.

I couldn’t believe he was telling the truth. He was 14 years old and wasn’t scared of anything. That day I made a bargain with Michael: “If you promise you won’t do it again, I won’t tell your dad.” To which he responded, “I won’t do it anymore.”

I was 35 years old, a single mom, and didn’t know what I was doing. In hindsight, I should have called his dad right away. I knew it was wrong, but I kept telling myself Michael was just experimenting and it was normal teenage behavior.

The next few years are a bit of a blur to me. There was lying, cheating, stealing, cutting and drug use. I’ll never forget the day Michael told me he didn’t want to live anymore. He was 15 years old. We were sitting on my bed and tears streamed down my face. I told him we would get him help, and I didn’t know what it was like living in his body.

That evening, I called his dad and told him I was afraid Michael was going to do something to hurt himself. A week later, following a confrontation with Michael at his dad’s house, we were driving home and again he told me he wanted to kill himself because he knew he let his father and me down.

I immediately pulled the car over and saw the pain in my son’s eyes. We sat in the parking lot of a local pizza place and he cried and I promised him everything would be okay. I have found in my years as a mother that blind faith is better than no faith. I didn’t know for sure everything was going to be okay, and I was scared as hell, but I leaned in and I said it anyway. I clung to those words for the next two years.

A week later, we admitted Michael to an inpatient facility. He was there for a week, and we visited every other day. He was completely withdrawn. However, I truly believe that move saved his life. I learned something about our healthcare system during this time: We do not have the appropriate resources needed to help teens fight drug addiction and depression. Most of the doctors wanted to prescribe medication to fight his depression that was caused by addiction, which itself was caused by self-medicating for ADD and depression initially. It’s a vicious cycle.

We were lucky enough to find two psychologists who were dedicated to treating our son and officially diagnose him with ADD. They were instrumental in helping us realize Michael needed a combination of medication and talk therapy to work through the problems he was facing.

Following his hospitalization, in the spring of his sophomore year, Michael went to live with his father and attend a new school. That was the hardest, yet best decision of my life. That kid was my world, but I knew I could no longer provide for him the way his father could. I felt like a failure, but I also knew he needed to be with his dad.

It was during this time that I started the shoebox. It contained encouraging notes in it dedicated to Michael. His sister and I would write, “We love you and miss you. You are strong. You got this.” It was therapeutic for us, too, as we were grieving not having him around.

Flash forward to 2020. My son is the most level-headed young man you’ll ever meet. Sure, he still has his battles and is far from perfect, just like anyone. But he is strong and he is a fighter. He’s 22 years old now, and living with his girlfriend.

We don’t talk a lot about those high school years anymore; these days, we’re focused on the future. Every time I run across that shoebox, I read the notes to remind myself life isn’t meant to be easy. Sometimes when you’re going through a difficult time, it’s hard to think about the future. But if you ask for help and stay the course, there is hope. My son is a shining example of that.

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I’m Tired AF, And No Longer Care If That Makes Me Look Like A B*tch

I have a case of the grogs every morning because I need some sort of sleep aid to get the amount of sleep I need. If I don’t take anything, and I am able to fall asleep, I wake up around 2am and the mind starts churning, begging me to stay up and have a stress party.

So, it’s either sleep or feel heavy and slightly hungover each morning until the grogginess wears off.

Going anywhere these days feels like the ultimate chore at times, but I need to get out of the damn house. When we do venture out and go grab takeout or something I have to remember to grab masks for everyone and check the level of hand sanitizer in my purse first. Another chore that has been handed over to the moms across the land.


The daily grind hits me hard every day, and every time I’m trying to work and one of my kids asks me an innocent question, I feel like it hits my nerves in a way that’s too extra for what’s going on.

In my mind I’m thinking, Please don’t. Please don’t give me another thing I have to think about or add to my to-do list. Just wait until my mind is free and clear.

But, mother to mother, we all know there is no time when our mind is free and clear.

When I’m standing in line at the grocery store or rushing into Target to get a new vacuum cleaner because my old one is broken and I really can’t wait for someone to come fix it, I’m thinking about the next thing. And the next. 

I’m in a rush to check it off my list and tend to all the other things I need to do.

Some might call it bitch mode, but I call it survival mode. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m not afraid to say “no” to anyone and I have no problem not responding to a text until I can get to it.

If don’t want to smile at you or I don’t see you wave it me it’s not because I’ve got a case of the cunts, it’s because I’m thinking about my son’s algebra homework and the fact he’s stuck and I can’t help him, but I also need to get dog food because we are out, and don’t we all have dentist appointments next week?

I’m not ignoring your call, I just can’t get it to right now because all I want to do is lie in the fetal position and take a load off but that day will never come, so something has to go.

It seems as though women are put into categories: “nice” when they are doing what everyone else wants, or “bitchy” when they are doing what they need to do, whether it means speaking up for themselves or choosing a different option than what someone else suggests. 

We are also hard-wired to make our kids’ days better — give everything we’ve got to our relationships and our careers. Then, we need to make sure everything is in working order in our homes. The daily tasks don’t get up and walk away.

If there is ever a sliver of time left, the moms of the world think, What am I missing? What did I forget? Why do I feel so uneasy right now? There must be something.

We are running on fumes. We have to keep the wheels turning because if we don’t, then who the hell will?

It’s on us: the thinking, the planning, the doing, the delegating, the noticing.

After I became a mother, my best friend (who didn’t have kids at the time) said to me, “I don’t know, Katie. Lately when I see you, you just seem different. Like really stressed out or something.”

Now she has kids of her own and I think she’s beaten herself up about saying that to me for the both of us. 

I wasn’t being a bitch, but then again, so what if I was? I was, and have been ever since, just trying to keep it all together. Trying to keep it all straight. I’ve been wondering when this tattered, weighted blanket that feels like it’s covering my whole body is going to lift.

But I know now, seventeen years into being a parent, that blanket isn’t going anywhere.

I’m exhausted. 

So, yeah, the load I carry makes me forget to do things like smile to everyone that walks by.

It’s forced me to stop saying yes and acting like things don’t inconvenience me in the least.

I no longer feel like I have to be fake and cheery, because let’s face it, that display would take a special kind of acting, and I’m in no shape to put on a performance.

I simply cannot keep up with it all, and there are times when I’m going to look like a bitch because I’m literally running into the ground and there isn’t a soul around trying to lighten my load.

If that makes me look like a grouch, so be it — because “don’t be a bitch” isn’t going to be added to my never-ending to-do list any time soon.

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My Teens Are ‘Bored’ While I Work My A** Off, And I’m Over It

I realize my teens’ lives have been stripped down to hanging out with their mother and having Zoom calls with their friends. 

I also know being a teenager can be somewhat boring, and there are days you have to dig deep to amuse yourself — because I lived it. My mother used to laugh when we said we were bored and gave us more chores; I do the same. But my mother also worked outside of the home and wasn’t parenting through a global pandemic where everyone was up each other’s asses, so there’s a difference.

And no, I wasn’t a budding young adult during the time of a global pandemic so I don’t know their truth, but there is something on my chest I need to scream off: If my three teenagers say they are bored one more time while I run around like a rabid hyena because there’s so much shit to do I can’t see straight, I’m gonna lose it.

When the middle of March came and everything was put to a halt, I was fine with all the lounging and laziness. It was chilly outside. I was happy my kids were safe and we didn’t know anyone who was sick. I was fine with letting things go — the dishes, the laundry, my kids not changing their clothes– because all I could do was mentally get through the day. Everything else seemed so minimal to me.

But hello, people living in this house — that was six months ago, and never wearing shoes, and lying horizontal on the sofa, and telling me you are bored isn’t a way of life.

I had sympathy for them early on. I did. But they’ve had plenty of time to reflect and make some changes. They know by now that when I’m busting out the vacuum and yelling about the empty glasses hanging in every corner, there’s shit to do and they can do it. 

My children are young, but they aren’t so young they are at a loss for how to handle these times. At this point they know if they tell me they are bored, they look bored, or they smell like any type of boredom, I’m going to hand them something to do. Like wash a dish or scrub a toilet.

As the mother in this house, I feel like I am losing my ever loving mind. 

I feel like no matter what I do I simply can’t catch up, and every morning I’m propelled out of bed by my to-do list.

I’m not asking my kids to be an full-on adults or take on my responsibilities, but I am frustrated with the three teen-brains walking around this place thinking there’s not much to do when all I see are a million things that could occupy their time — and save me some sanity in the process. Win-win, right?

My patience has worn out. I no longer have suggestions for them.

If they say there is nothing to do, instead of getting angry (okay, I still get angry but I deal with it better now), I go down the list of the things they could be doing. Like cleaning their bathroom and emptying the dishwasher that’s full of the dishes they didn’t rinse off even though I’ve told them one-thousand times, or to at least grab a fucking book.

I have good kids; I do. But they are still kids, and like most, their go-to if they’re feeling like they need a project isn’t to clean up after their asses or anyone else’s. Most teens don’t swing that way.

And as a parent who is trying to balance it all, like so many of you are, I’m straight out of willpower. When my kids are lounging in their hoodies acting like the world will keep spinning just because mom will keep that wheel in motion, I’m not sure what I clench harder: my jaw or my ass cheeks. 

I know I’m not alone here. I know the folks who are working from home have already done away with regular body-odor checks and monitoring their kids’ screen time because dammit it all to hell, some things have to give.

I’m losing steam, though. One second I’m so glad my kiddos are home safe and sound with me, and then the next second I blow a gasket because someone left tuna fish on the counter, and for fuck’s sake am I the only one who knows where the sponge is?

To the parents who are have been fizzling fast trying to keep things normal and fun and oh-so-peppy throughout this new normal, I feel you. I know you are not okay, because I am not okay either.

I guess the only thing we can do is conquer one day at a time and keep giving these teens something to make TikTok videos about. Because if they don’t want to do that, I’ve got a toilet they can scrub.

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Social Media Makes Me Jealous 

I have a really good friend who has started her own business, and these past few months it’s exploded. Every time I see one of her posts to promote herself go viral (which almost all of them have lately) I get this twinge that starts in my chest and bleeds into my entire upper body.

When I see her in person, we have a great connection, and she’s not forgetting who she is with her newfound success. Our friendship is based on shared experiences like divorce, children, and the fact we have both been in the dating game with kids.

I love her dearly and am genuinely happy for her. But when I scroll through my feed and see her seemingly perfect life — her new business, her insanely fit body and perfect white teeth, her happy marriage that is far from perfect because she tells me so, I feel guilty.

If it weren’t for social media, I probably wouldn’t feel this way. But when I see a highlight reel of her life against my life, I can’t help comparing the two, even though I know it’s going to take me down each and every time.

Since my divorce, I not only compare myself to influencers I see on my Instagram feed — modeling perfectly matched outfits and handbags I could never afford, with oversized mirrors and plush rugs in the background — I compare my single mother status to their happy families.

I realize I am in my mid-forties and have had kids, but that doesn’t stop me from looking at myself differently after I see fitness models in their 20s share their fitness routines, or post a side-by-side picture of them sticking out their non-existent gut to show people what “real life” looks like, as if it’s supposed to make us feel better.

Before COVID-19, family vacations were always a trigger for me too. I’d see turquoise waters or city lights with hashtags like #familyvacation and I’d think, Will I ever be able to do this for my family now that I am divorced?

Then I’d feel inadequate and tell myself I needed to work harder, try harder.

When I first started dabbling in the social media game years ago, it was because I felt like it was fun, everyone was doing it, and I was inspired by mothers who had large families and dressed their kids in coordinating outfits.

I didn’t start out having feelings of inadequacy until I started scrolling more and seeing what was out there.

The inspiration turned to coveting and feeling like I was either missing out, or missing something, because how did these women do it all?

How could they afford this modern house, have three beautiful children, and curate such beautiful, flawless posts with a full mane of hair and a manicure?

Even though I know most people only post the good stuff (hello, I’m the expert at this), it never fails: when I see something like a husband and wife kissing on date night, or a mom posing in her car with her handbag and salon pedicure looking fresh as a daisy, I don’t feel motivated any longer.

I feel like I don’t, and will never be able to, measure up.

This isn’t a proud moment for me. Admitting this goes against everything I’ve been taught, and everything I am trying to teach my kids, who are obsessed with all the apps. 

I’d like to think I was above all this nonsense and I should know by now to stop comparing myself to others because it only damages me, but I am a living, feeling person. 

And I guess there is still a part of me who thinks, If only

If only I had a firmer butt and better hair…

If only I still had a marriage that didn’t end years ago and we could take vacations together…

If only I could afford a kitchen renovation like that…

If only I had the energy to get off my ass and do more with my life like everyone else is, maybe then…

Maybe then I’d be happy and I wouldn’t feel like I was lacking on certain days when I can’t seem to pull myself out of the internet rabbit hole.

There’s always going to be someone who is more successful, has more degrees, makes more money, is more fit, or more attractive than you. 

I’m not alone in these feelings, I know that. I’m not the first woman to compare herself to the zillions of things to covet on the internet. 

The best way I’ve learned how to deal with it is to stay the fuck off when I’m not my best self, which is most of the time.

Seeing younger girls dance on TikTok and scrolling through my Facebook page never makes me snap out of a slump and it has the power to make a perfectly good day turn sour, even if it’s only for a bit. And I know this — so when I can’t handle it, I stay away.

This morning I met with my friend. You know, the one I’m jealous of.

And you know what she said to me after I admitted to her I felt envious of her new success and I was sorry about it?

She told me she’d stalked me on social media when we first met and decided I’d be one of her closest friends because she loved my energy and I motivated her to go and do things she’d always wanted to do, but felt like she didn’t quite have the right. 

It didn’t cure my social media jealousy by any means, but it certainly was the perspective I needed. 

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My Kids Are Being Impulsive And Defiant AF Right Now

The other day, as gray clouds loomed on the horizon and my children ran feral, I decided I would squeeze in mowing the lawn before the rain started. Before firing up the mower, I asked my kids if they needed anything. Nope. No! We’re G.O.O.D. Go mow that lawn!

Fast forward 10 minutes, and I was mowing the lawn in a downpour (of course) when my nine-year-old started shouting at me from the porch. I couldn’t hear a thing over the mower, so I ignored her. She kept yelling. I yelled that I couldn’t hear her. She yelled again, clearly straining to scream as loudly as possible, this time stomping her feet for added emphasis. Realizing she wasn’t going to stop, and also foolishly thinking perhaps she had something important to tell me, I finally shut off the mower, mopped the rain from my brow, and asked her to say it again. She was clearly exasperated at the inconvenience of having to repeat herself. “Can my stuffies have a spa day?”

A spa day. For her fucking Beanie Boos. Sure, kid, but add a treatment for me too, would you? One that removes the smell of wet grass from my skin and the overwhelming urge to lose my ever-loving shit. I just stood there for a few beats and watched her skip back into the house. How was it that I was the idiot for not understanding what had just happened? Was I not soaked? Not in the middle of something? Did they not say they were G to the double-O-D good?

I don’t have the capacity for more chaos right now; the window of time to do or see anything extra these days is not wide open. I have to squeeze in errands, chores, and exercise between work and juggling kids, all while balancing the limitations of a pandemic. Yet my kids always find a way to ruin my plans in the weirdest, most mind-boggling ways.

I am continuously baffled by their bold, impulsive, and out-of-touch words and actions that show little regard for the people around them. People with kids know that the only way to explain the “why” that we mutter 15-95 times a day is because kids aren’t just developing human beings; they are hell spawn.

This is different from them being assholes. For those of you getting ready to send me links to articles that prove I am the asshole for saying such horrible things about innocent babes, stop right there. I know they are still developing social-emotional intelligence and the cognitive functions and this adds to their messy and tantrumy selves. Meltdowns over the need to wear shoes, or cereal bowl flipping when I didn’t pour in enough milk when they were toddlers, were expected. Even being screamed at when one of my kids can’t find something, then being expected to conjure said thing out of thin air, makes some sense. I am their safe place for anger, fear, and frustration. I know this.

But during all of this age-appropriate growth and discovery, they can be horrible, and if I’m the asshole for calling a spade a spade, so be it. Of course, I know they’re just kids, and of course I love them through it all. Responsibility and growth are hard, and every age comes with new challenges. But it’s the lack of a specific filter or inner guide in my children that makes all of this even harder.

Why does it make sense to my seven-year-old daughter to walk by one of those tall plastic cigarette trash cans/ashtrays outside of buildings, and—after being told to not touch it—drop-kick it and then make murals out of the nicotine ashes? Why? What possesses them to see an incline between staircases and decide that is a great place to try “surfing” after chucking their shoes first to be sure they could in fact slide down? I wish my curiosity were that strong on some days. I wish I had the confidence to defy authority, knowing the consequences would be worth every second of getting to do exactly what I wanted. Kids are impressive in their crazy-making rationale.

They impulsively stand on chairs in the middle of a meal, hopping up like a ninja under attack. They walk through the house and drop something, as if their hands have suddenly lost the ability to grasp objects — and then leave it and later wonder why they can’t find it. Or better yet, they dump a whole box of toys to find the one thing they wanted, and then walk away as if they didn’t just dump a box of toys in the middle of a shared space. And when I have the audacity to ask them to clean up, they lose their minds and claim they “have to do everything around here!” Sometimes, for a hot second, I am almost I convinced I am the one who made the mess. And before I can shake the idea that I am being gaslit, another child walks by and punches me on the ass or spits on the mirror or squirts all the ketchup out of bottle for fun or licks day-old jelly off the counter after ripping cushions off of the couch and unfolding all of the throw blankets.

Why? What the fuck possesses them to do this shit? Please let this be a phase. The chaos they create as they scat, hum, or screech like monkeys—because the sound of their own voices seems to inform their decision-making—can’t be explained in parenting articles about irrational behavior and impulse control. Or maybe I just can’t accept this mysterious problem as developmentally appropriate.

Their actions are sometimes selfish and callous, and every lesson on manners, empathy, or right and wrong is met with, “Meh. I want to do the opposite, so I will, and I don’t care who is impacted.” Come hell or high water—specifically rain water—my kids can’t seem to stop themselves from living their best, most demonic lives right now.

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This Is Why Socializing Is Exhausting — Even For Extroverts

Lately, I’ve been into the whole extrovert/introvert dynamic. I’m in love with a very extroverted extrovert and sometimes I don’t think I’m going to make it through this relationship despite being madly in love with him.

That’s a joke, of course; we’ve learned to slide into a happy medium, but there are times when I definitely need to lock myself in a room to recharge, and he has been offended more than once.

He always has the radio blaring. He has a huge circle of friends he’s always asking to join us. We can’t go anywhere without him knowing at least five people. His friends call him “the mayor” because he has some connection with everyone, and he could literally be “on” every second of every day if he had to. 

I’ve always been an ambivert — someone who goes between feeling extroverted and introverted — although I didn’t know it was a thing until I was older and saw the term on the internet. I immediately thought, Oh, there’s an actual name for my personality type! I now know that it’s more than fine for me to tune out every once in a while.

I can walk into a party and feel like I’m all in. I can socialize, I’m fine with heading to the bar or buffet alone and getting what I want. I have no problem making small talk with strangers.

But then…

Something happens to me that has always made me wonder if I’m really just a bitch. I do this thing where I shut down. I get tired. My mouth goes into a straight line and I have trouble focusing and staying in the conversation. I need to be alone to recharge. Many times when I’ve been out for the day or evening, I literally feel it for a few days afterward. 

When I say feel it, I mean I feel like I’ve met my socialization quota for a while. It’s as if I have a switch that shuts off and alters my mood, just enough so it’s obvious to others. 

There have been times it makes me feel embarrassed and insecure just for being, well, myself.

A friend of mine who is very extroverted, but married to an introvert, once told me she got her energy from other people. Her husband explained he felt like other people took his energy away. Oh boy, did I feel that. 

There is a reason people, extroverts and introverts alike, shut down after being around a crowd, going to a party, or even spending one-on-one time with people: It’s tiring. And many times, we probably aren’t aware that socializing is even what’s making us tired.

A study at the University of Helsinki found everyone gets a bit run down after being social around three hours after the festivities were over.

Of course, this depends on a few factors like how long they’ve been out and about and how big the crowd is, but the results are clear — whether you are introverted, extroverted, or somewhere in between, being a social butterfly does take the wind out of your sails. Being around people and chatting it up uses valuable energy, even if it’s more subtle than using physical energy by, say, going for a jog or moving furniture. In fact, the study suggests that it’s the frequency of social activities — not the amount of tiredness we get from socializing, which is just about the same in both groups — that distinguishes extroverted personalities from the introverts.

It means that no matter which label we wear, we need a break after hanging out, and that’s okay.

An article in I Heart Intelligence explains, “According to experts, introverts have a less active dopamine (a neurotransmitter that helps control the reward and pleasure centers of the brain) and reward system than extroverts. Having a stronger dopamine reward system means that extroverts get more excited and energized by the possibility of reward than their counterparts. Hence, extroverts are much keener to initiate a conversation with a stranger or be the last one at the bar.”

So, this is probably why some feel the “hangover” worse than others after being social (I say social media counts, too), and we need to recognize it and take care of ourselves before that feeling becomes even more overwhelming. 

Psychology Today reports, “according to Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, there is no such thing as a ‘pure’ introvert or extrovert. We all fall somewhere on a sliding scale.”

Regardless of how run down you feel after socializing, you aren’t alone. We all need a break at some point — even my very social boyfriend.

We need to stop apologizing for it, and more importantly, we need to stop calling people out and shaming them if they decline an invitation or would rather stay in and read.

Because the truth is, social burnout is real, and impacts us all — even extroverts — at varying degrees. If you need to read a book and pass on that Zoom call or birthday party, then you should. No questions asked.

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