If You Can’t Accept A Queer Child, Don’t Have Kids

There’s nothing quite like being a teenager with a big, scary secret. As a youth, I spent the vast majority of my high school years on a never-ending loop of pretending I was fine when I really wasn’t. There was some major wear-and-tear on my emotional and physical well being, but no one caught on to anything being seriously wrong because I was an expert at acting like my problems didn’t exist. 

But even experts break down under enough pressure. 

While my peers assumed I was just your average skinny girl with a penchant for high achievement, they had no idea that I was quietly battling an eating disorder, self-harm, an addiction to diet pills, and ongoing abuse at home. They also didn’t know that I was hiding an even bigger secret that felt much more painful to keep on lockdown than all of the rest. I’ve known that I am bisexual since middle school, and no one around me had a clue about it. 

For some reason, this single truth hurt more to push down than any others during my childhood. As a young person, I worked hard to control my behaviors, words, and even emotions as a way of avoiding violent outbursts from my mom at home or the loss of friends at school. I obsessively managed my appearance, constantly monitored my body size, punished myself when I incurred undeserved trauma, and did everything to seem as traditionally feminine as possible. But crushing on girls? That was out of my control. And it fucking terrified me.

It’s no surprise that I felt anxious and fearful as a queer youth. We live in a society that teaches our kids to avoid embracing authenticity, especially when it comes to their sexuality and identity. The heteronormative standards set in place send a dangerous message that existing outside of them makes a child unworthy and even somehow damaged, and this lie chips away at the mental health of our LGBTQ+ youth. Mine was certainly demolished for many years, and it’s taken a long time to experience true and lasting repair. 

It’s also not lost on me that my decision to finally come out was due to a bunch of privilege and support that many kids and adults live without. And no one has summed up this stark truth more powerfully than Matt Bernstein, otherwise known as mattxiv on Instagram

 

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This queer NYC-based makeup artist and photographer has created a game-changing platform filled with striking images and quotes that shed light on LGBTQ+ issues and struggles. The most memorable post for me was a photo last month that showcased a myriad of painted letters on the side of his face with words that read, “If you won’t accept a queer child, don’t have kids.” 

 

 

With that single statement, Bernstein managed to encapsulate the isolating experience of being a child exploring their sexuality in home environments that shame them for discovering that they live and love outside of hetero and cisgendered norms. No kid deserves to feel unsafe being themselves, and no parent should dictate the course of a child’s identity as it relates to their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. And yet, as Bernstein regularly communicates in his work, so many of our world’s queer youth struggle and suffer greatly for simply existing as they are. 

According to The Trevor Project, LGBTQ+ kids contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of hetero youth and are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide. For transgender adults, 40% have tried ending their life, and a whopping 92% of those are under the age of 25. These children and young people are struggling mentally primarily because they are living in atmospheres that not only don’t support them, but regularly remind them that their existence offends, upsets, and even hurts others. Instead of encountering encouragement, love, and acceptance during some of the most vulnerable moments in their young lives, our queer youth are being led to incorrectly believe that they’d be better off not taking up space in this world at all. 

 

 

“When you ask an LGBTQ+ person about their struggles with their identity, most will tell you not that they’ve always hated themselves, but that homophobic and transphobic pressure created by unsupportive environments, family, friends, and religious groups made loving and accepting themselves an impossible task,” Bernstein writes in a post on Instagram. “The issue is not who we are, but how we have been taught to feel about who we are.”

At nineteen years old, I became hopeful that coming out to my younger siblings would help me feel more comfortable with embracing my sexuality. During a trip back home from college, I revealed to them that I felt attracted to women in addition to men. They were understandably a bit taken aback but otherwise supportive, and if the day had ended with this interaction, I would have chalked it up to a queer-friendly win. But my mom heard us talking in the kitchen and stormed in to stop us in our tracks. According to her, affirming my bisexuality meant that I was a damaging, inappropriate influence on her younger children, and she made this abundantly clear as she ridiculed, yelled at, and threatened me. 

That same day, I moved out of my childhood home to go live with my father, a man from whom I had been emotionally disconnected for much of my childhood. It would take sixteen long years after that to finally muster up the courage to officially come out to the world as a bisexual woman. 

Now that I’m a mom to two kids under five and a stepmom to a teen, a lot has changed. I’ve put myself through years of therapy, am currently in the process of healing a recent complex PTSD diagnosis, and have created an environment of acceptance, unconditional love, and trust for my children. When it comes to their evolving identities, I’ve made a promise to them and to myself that I will keep for the rest of our lives together. I will never place unjust expectations on who my kids are or how they need to be. Being a parent does not give me any right to force a way of living onto my children. My job is to uplift them and allow them to discover who they were always meant to be.

The bottom line is, my children can love whoever they choose, express themselves in whatever ways feel good, and communicate their needs to me safely and openly. As I present them with a household that welcomes all sexualities and identities, I will also give them what I did not receive myself but so desperately needed as a child. I will be generous with my time, energy, and attention as they each grow into unique human beings in this world. And I will do all of this to honor teenage Lindsay, along with all of the LGBTQ+ youth who grow up in undue fear and shame. Because we all deserve to be here. 

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My Kids’ Social Lives Are Important, But So Is Mine — And It’s Suffering

My face lit up with excitement the morning I received a text from the father of my daughters’ friend Kylie. He reached out one morning, early, asking if the girls could FaceTime. I could almost feel the desperation in his text message. He and I exchanged the typical parental text: “What time works best?” “What did you decide to do about this school year — are you sending her to in-person class?” ”Maybe they should talk every day, they enjoyed it.” And with those brief texts, I realized that this conversation was the first I’d had with another adult, socially, other than my wife in two weeks.

I speak daily with my colleagues, of course, but not with my friends. When my daughters figured out how to use the filters on my iPhone while FaceTiming with Kylie before I even knew such filters existed, I knew I needed to get intentional about carving out a social time of my own (and perhaps even learn how to use the filters too).

At the start of the pandemic, I checked in with my friends daily, but as it has raged on, I’ve been less inclined to reach out. Maybe it’s because of exhaustion, or maybe because I am usually the one who reaches out to my friends, the one who checks in. “Just saying hi” or “Just wanted to make sure you’re okay,” began most of my text messages. And I am tired.

I value my friendships greatly, but to add another “thing” to my to-do list these days seems impossible. I need to pick and choose where I exert my energy because that well is dry. To add anything else to my overflowing plate, I need to take something else off. And with school starting in just a few days, I plan on doing some rearranging of my priorities. I won’t have a choice. When my kids giggled and discussed between them how funny their conversation with their friend was, a familiar “friend” of my own resurfaced — loneliness. My kids presently have a better social life than I do. And I plan on changing that.

Right now, all of my energy goes to making sure my kids can stay social, to remember their friends and to connect with them, to feel connected to other people outside of their family. This is equally important to me as my own social life — making sure my kids feel socially connected, too.

In Lydia Denworth’s essay in The Atlantic, “What Happens When Kids Don’t See Their Peers for Months,” she says, “Relationships with peers are how kids learn about cooperation, trust, and loyalty, as well as how to not just receive support from their parents, but also give it to others. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic and the measures that parents, schools, and governments have put in place to limit its spread, millions of children across the United States are missing out on friendship.”

I don’t want my kids to miss out on building friendships, so FaceTime and afternoon play sessions with kids on our block, for now, give them what they need — at least temporarily. And by default, I see my neighbors (the parents of the kids my kids are playing with) a lot more these days. And we are bonding, yes, but it’s different. They aren’t my chosen people and I am not theirs but we are making it work right now, for the sake of our kids.

What I need is different. I yearn for the physical connections, the welcome hugs, and the shoulder to shoulder experience of making dinner together with my best friend. I looked to Google for answers, of course, and searched phrases like “Why it’s important to stay social,” and “new ways to go about socializing during a pandemic” — with no luck or guidance as to how I could change my present social life or improve it in some way. I wanted to be near my friends, have a cocktail over dinner or brunch on a Saturday morning. I found advice geared towards aging adults (which I am, yes, but not yet considered geriatric) or about how to safely gather while staying six feet apart. Nothing practical. Maybe next time I’ll Google “virtual brunch date” and see what pops up.

I have not figured out how to be as intentional about supporting my own social life, which I need — and FaceTime, let’s be honest, isn’t going to cut it no matter how amazing the filters are. My giggles aren’t as cute as my five-year-old twin daughters. Psychology Today notes, “Human beings are social animals, and the tenor of someone’s social life is one of the most important influences on their mental and physical health.” So, moms, if you’ve figured out a way to socialize with your friends, in a way that works for you, that isn’t on FaceTime, please, drop me a line. I mean, we are all in this together, right?

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This School Year, My Kids’ Mental Health Is My #1 Concern

Right before the pandemic hit, my two kids were beginning their last quarters of second grade and seventh grade. We had just moved to a new town at the beginning of the school year, and I finally felt as though my kids were adjusting, making friends, and acclimating to their new schools.

One of the reasons we had moved to this town (it’s actually the one I grew up in), is that I wanted to offer my kids a more rigorous and challenging learning environment. Both of my kids are nerdy and brainy, and my middle school son had been bored and restless for years in math and science classes where he already knew the material and needed an extra challenge.

I was never one to emphasize grades or academic achievement, but I wanted my kids to be appropriately challenged and excited by learning. And it seemed to be working. My middle schooler was already talking about the cool classes and electives he had signed up for the following school year. Our town also has plenty of free enrichment activities for kids and teens, and both of my kids were starting to fill their schedule with cooking classes, video making classes, and play rehearsals.

Things seemed to be going great … and then the pandemic hit.

As was the case for almost everyone I know, distance learning was a complete and total dumpster fire for my children last spring. Both my husband and I were working full time from home while our two kids attempted to do “school.” For them, most of school was a series of assignments they were asked to complete with very little guidance. Their teachers weren’t Zooming much, and neither of my children felt comfortable with Zoom anyway. (I’m fully aware that teachers were doing their best given the abrupt change to online learning and I don’t blame them in the least!)

My normally-excelling kids were floundering. For the first time ever, my middle schooler was having trouble turning in his work. And my second grader … well, his situation was a five-alarm disaster. He basically spent all day on his iPad watching videos (hello? his parents needed to earn a living) and then when we finally had time to help him complete his assignments, he would literally scream and cry.

This is a child who is usually happy to do his work at school, does well, and is generally well behaved. He was crumbling. I remember him saying, “I just wish I could see my teacher’s face. That would motivate me to do my work.”

Clearly, the emotional connection to school was what he was craving, and that was making virtual school feel so impossible and depressing.

Basically, having everything you have known and loved about school being pulled right from under you is an intense and traumatizing experience. Not only that, but we live in the NYC metropolitan area, which was the epicenter of the pandemic this past spring. Sirens would go wailing past our house, all the time, as our kids were trying to complete their work. The stress, tension, and fear in the air were palpable, and I’m sure they picked up on that.

All of this meant that very little academic progress happened for my children last spring. I was fine with that, because I understood that when there is a freaking global health crisis, you can’t expect kids to do school in any sort of normal way. Academic progress can wait. Their mental health and wellbeing is what’s most important.

Imgorthand/Getty

However, it didn’t really feel like I could address my kids’ mental health until this summer. Soon after school ended and the stress of that was removed from my kids’ lives, we all began to breathe a little better. Yes, the world was still a dumpster fire, but at least we could get our bearings.

While this past summer hasn’t been the most fun or exciting summer ever – we are still taking COVID-19 safety seriously and not socializing with others or doing anything riskier than hanging out at empty parks – I have started to see the spark and light return to my children’s faces.

They are basically doing whatever the hell they want this summer. They are still spending way too much time on screens. But they are playing online video games with their friends, they are pulling out old toys to play with, they’ve made a few silly short films, and they are spending a lot of time joking around with each other, and with us.

After a spring of pure hell, my kids seem back to their normal-ish selves—and I want to do my damndest to hold onto that. Seeing how much happier they are now makes me realize just how hard and traumatizing it was for them this past spring.

Now, as the school year gears up again, I’m realizing that my top priority should be to keep their mental health in check. Sure, I want to make sure they don’t lose their academic progress. Sure, I want them to learn new things, if possible. I want them to feel as though they are accomplishing something and that they continue to be challenged.

But if none of those things happen, so be it. My top priority is that they are well and happy.

My kids will start the school year remotely. Thankfully, there will be a lot more live elements in place – and my kids have had ample time to get comfortable with Zoom over these past six months – so I am hopeful that school will generally be a more positive experience for them.

But if their days are riddled with tech issues (they will be!) or if they cry through assignments (equally likely!), I am going to do a better job helping them through their tough emotions. This year, we at least are prepared for what’s to come, and both my husband and I have rearranged our schedules so that we can be available more during their school days for academic support – but most importantly, emotional support.

This school year is going to be about checking in with our kids emotionally. It’s going to be about letting school work slide when overwhelm is too great. It’s going to be about checking in constantly with their teachers about their socio-emotional well being. It’s going to be about finding new ways to stay connected with friends and loved ones.

It’s going to be about learning how to persevere through hardships and build resilience. It’s going to be about being more mindful about our mental health, and asking for help when we need it.

And as for academic vigor? Meh. That can wait for another year. In all honesty, I don’t care if my kids learn a damn thing this school year. I will not allow my kids to suffer this year the way they did last spring. This year, my kids’ mental health is my priority, and I’m letting the rest of it go.

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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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Why Ages 2-7 Matter So Much For Brain Development

If your five-year-old is anything like mine, he or she has made you question something you thought you knew. For instance, whenever we go someplace, my kids ask me, “Are you going the right way?” They know I get lost often, and they think they’re going to tell me the way to go. They sometimes think they know everything — and while we know they absolutely do not, this age is actually the best time to teach them as much “everything” as we can. Because as the five-year-olds that they are, their brain development matters immensely right now.

There are critical periods in a child’s development which happen in spurts; during these periods, the connections between brain cells double, giving our children between the ages of 2-7 the ability to learn faster than any other period in life. Our kids’ brain development matters immensely both before and after that span, of course, but it’s especially important in those years between 2-7.

It’s during these critical years that we can help our kids develop a growth mindset: the belief that their abilities can improve over time and with effort, rather then the black-and-white belief that they’re either good at something or they’re not. This kind of mindset can help them for the rest of their lives. To help foster a growth mindset, we can praise the process instead of the result — telling them we appreciate the way they worked to solve the problem or learn the skill, whether the outcome was success or failure. We can let them know that failure isn’t anything to be ashamed of, but something we can learn from that can help us improve.

The social and emotional health of our children, especially during the age we’re living in, is also important. In addition to promoting a strong growth mindset, we must also introduce our kids to a wide range of possibilities no matter their gender or interests. Since kids’ brains are so malleable during these years, allowing them to “sample” all kinds of different experiences with music, art, math, sports, and language will lay a broad foundation that can be narrowed down in later years.

And while we’re all at home these days, it’s a great time to let them discover. My daughters, who just turned five years old, are chemists scooping cups upon cups of flour and mixing it with any liquid they can find while making a complete mess in my kitchen. By night, they are coloring and enjoying quiet time with their books. The pandemic has practically given them free rein of my kitchen and the ability to make a mess any time of day, which ultimately allows me to get shit done — and helps develops their brains, to boot!

Young girl looking in microscope
MoMo Productions/Getty

When my girls turned five, along with their gifts, they received a calendar of daily chores and a mason jar with their names on it. They also received a little bit of a lecture about the importance of chores and the importance of saving money. For each day they complete their chore, they receive a quarter to put into their save jars. This is also important for their brain development, as they are learning to be helpful to their family members and that everyone has a role to play in our home. When their chores are not finished, we talk about what happened and how their actions may have hurt our family in some way, like forgetting to give everyone a fork at dinner as they set the table. Ages 2-7 are a prime time to develop emotional intelligence, and chores (and talking about them) help them hone those important interpersonal skills like teamwork and empathy.

In her newsletter Confident Parents, Confident Kids, social and emotional learning expert Jennifer Miller shares plenty of tips and tools to strengthen our kids’ social and emotional health during this all-important stage of brain development. Whether it’s at the dinner table, or in the car driving to the grocery store, or in the grocery store itself, every bit of what we are teaching our kids gives them the opportunity to grow as little beings. 

Recently, my daughter asked me to sign her up for Chinese lessons so she can speak to her bestie in Mandarin. Who am I to hold this little girl back from learning Chinese? So, I’ll look for a Chinese tutor — but not because I want to dole out money to simply make my kid happy (though that’s definitely part of it). I want to foster her love for learning, her desire to want to speak with her friend in her native language. And I want to show my daughter that she can try anything (within reason) … right now, while her brain is the most receptive it will ever be.

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10 Ways To Stay Sane While Working From Home With Kids

When I started my journey of self-employment, it was with my kids. They were newborn and 16 months. It was in the midst of the economic crash of 2009, approximately one year after we purchased our first house, which conveniently was about three months before the bottom fell out.

My husband and I are not wealthy people. We were both raised by hard working, middle class parents and had jobs at the age of 14. Relaxing is not something that comes easy to either of us, and as parents, we just want our children to have comfort, security, and confidence.

So much of what we desire for our kids shows up in the decisions we make in our professional lives. My husband is from Ohio – he honestly is the epitome of Midwestern values. Get up early, work hard, don’t complain, and do your best every day.

I am a word nerd and have always been writing. One Saturday, when I was unknowingly pregnant with my daughter, in a move I still blame on an internal nesting instinct, I created a free Google site, positioning myself as a freelance business copywriter offering services that included resume writing and corporate communications.

Within a week, my first client had found me, hired me for a resume, and my business was born. Fast forward approximately two years and two kids later, and I made the bold decision to leave my full-time job (with just one month of savings and no real plan) to go into business for myself … full-time. I quickly realized I needed help, which started out as traveling to visit grandparents two days a week, then hiring a sitter. This morphed slowly into daycare and a different sitter, all requiring a degree of flexibility and adaptability that I was previously unaware I was capable of.

When I look back, I can’t even believe I had the courage to do it. What gene was I born with that made me think I could build and run a business with two tiny people crawling around?

In retrospect, I don’t recommend this fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants method to starting a business. I would highly suggest a more thought-out approach; however, I did make it work, and I believe I owe that success in large part to a set of loosely-tied-together principles that have become my non-negotiables.

What’s my secret to working at home with kids?

1. Accept failure.

You will absolutely not get the things done that you planned.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

2. Build an “Oh, Sh*t” block into your schedule.

It’s a great cushion for the things that will fall through the cracks.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

3. Get up and move.

A lot. Like at least once every hour, to ward off the anxiety that creeps in when you’re not getting all the things down.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

4. Exercise.

Daily if possible. This balancing act is hard. You need to combat stress, and exercise is the best thing I’ve found.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

5. Get dressed and put on makeup.

You just feel more effective when you look the part. My other secret? Shoes. I always put on shoes when I’m in my office. It’s a small psychological trick that works really well for me to reinforce work vs home.

6. Find your rhythm.

Learn when you are most productive, and block that time. Using a calendar app like Calendly with rules built in is a great way to manage that.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

7. Train your partner.

They will forget that while you “worked” all day, you were interrupted every 20 minutes. So the reason you work when they get home is because you can actually get stuff done.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

8. Be prepared to sacrifice.

Weekends, vacations, typical time off all goes out the window when you’re self-employed — but you don’t have to miss plays, concerts, school meetings, and all the other things.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

9. Find (and stick to) systems that work.

These are different for everyone. The hardest part is sticking to it, but routines will save you.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

10. Be disciplined.

I can’t tell you how hard it is some mornings to not just binge watch Netflix. But I don’t. Mostly.

Things have changed over the years, not least of all my kids. At this point, they are pretty self-sufficient and have a sitter who keeps them busy while I’m wrapping up my day. There are days when I wonder if I made the right decision. Then 2:52 rolls around. Every day, my son gets off the bus and silently crawls into my arms, tucking his head under my neck (being careful not to make too much noise because he knows Airpods in means I’m talking to a client) to give me a hug, and my “why” comes back into focus.

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Let’s Normalize Not Asking Couples When They’re Going To Have Kids

Did you read that title? No? Shame on you — you always read the title first, you rebel. Now go read it. If you did read it, gold star! Now go back and read it again. Reread it. And keep reading it until you no longer ask couples when they’re going to have a child or subsequent children.

I don’t know why people feel like it’s appropriate to ask a couple when they’re going to have a baby, whether it’s their first, second, or fifth. It is inappropriate AF to pry into a couples’ personal life like that. Do you realize what you’re really asking? “Are y’all just having sex for pleasure? Or are you having sex with a purpose?” Does that not make you as uncomfortable as it does me? I’m no prude, but y’all… come on.

And guess what? Not every couple wants children. And that’s fine. Not every couple can have children. And that’s not fine. And asking about it brings up unspoken pain you know nothing about. Pain that is then at the forefront for this couple, who are now trying to decide how to delicately respond to you while also keeping themselves from falling apart and breaking a little bit more. Shame on you.

Questions or statements like:

“Oh, he/she’s a year now, so when are you going to have another?”

“Well, you don’t want them to be too far apart in age, so you really need to start thinking about that.”

“Are you trying? Or are you just not being careful and if it happens, it happens?” (Which is an actual question I was asked after offering up literally zero information. It was just assumed that we were spraying and not praying after I decided not to answer the initial “are you trying” question.)

Why are people so comfortable making a couple’s sex life and family planning any of their business? Like they are owed your next move. They want to know when you’ve done the deed, and if it was spontaneous, or done with the knowledge that you were maybe ovulating.

Listen up, Karens of the world. What happens between my husband and me in our bedroom and our family planning is actually none of your business. If anyone feels they want to make it their business, then please be prepared for me to pry as personally into yours as you just did mine.

And you know what’s shocking? I have been pretty outspoken about my most recent miscarriage, thinking that as an added bonus from that, it might somehow protect me from people putting themselves in my bedroom with my husband and me.

But somehow, people pry. And continue to pry, despite knowing about the devastating loss I will have to come to terms with for the rest of my life. It was like as soon as my daughter Addison hit a year old, all of a sudden, it was a normal, and common, topic of conversation for just about everyone.

And it actually hurts. It hurts when people ask me, especially because they know what I have been through. I should be celebrating milestones with what would have been my second child. But I lost that child. Despite the pleas and prayers and tears willing that baby to hold on, I lost. And every time you ask me when I am going to have another, I am reminded of that. I am reminded of the pain, and the blood, and the loss I didn’t want.

So, before you think about asking a couple when they’re going to have children or try for another, please just don’t. You don’t know what happens behind closed doors, nor should you, unless that information is offered up to you. You don’t know if that couple has decided that children are not for them and being constantly asked about it is annoying and frustrating. You don’t know if that couple is secretly pregnant and waiting to tell everyone until they’re ready. You don’t know if that couple has suffered loss after loss and desperately wants to have children, but it hasn’t happened for them. You don’t know if by asking them that question, you just reminded them of one of the most painful experiences they have been through as a couple. You. Just. Don’t. Know. And guess what? It’s none of your ever-loving business.

For the love, guys, quit asking. Find something else to talk about. Find something else to connect over. Find anything else, and never ever utter those words to another couple again.

The post Let’s Normalize Not Asking Couples When They’re Going To Have Kids appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Modern ‘Productivity Culture’ Is Dictating How We Deal With The Pandemic

In my office, I am known as the task-manager, the one to check off the boxes, the one who gets things done. I enjoy the process of planning a project and seeing it through to the end. When the pandemic hit, that’s how I took on managing my household with post-its everywhere. On my fridge, next to this year’s class photos from our three kids’ schools, were grocery shopping lists for the week, a calendar of bills which needed paying for the month, a list of items we could and could not compost — a project I decided to incorporate into our newly-adopted green living lifestyle.

In traditional ambitious form, I also decided to keep our four-year-old twins in their full-year/full-day preschool program. I told myself it was to “prepare for kindergarten,” but now I know, I kept them in this program because I didn’t want them to not try to be the best preschool students they could be — even during a pandemic. I didn’t want them to fall into the slump of being at home for months on end, downing Trader Joe’s strawberry cereal bars and gallons of chocolate milk while watching another episode of Doc McStuffins or Vampirina. Even more, I did not want them to perceive me to be at their beck and call. I am the “get shit done” parent in our household and my kids, I hope, are learning to be productive little humans, a life lesson I am sure they will carry with them forever.

There are days I wonder if I am pushing them too hard. I wonder if my own ingrained (sometimes unrealistic) “you can do anything you set your mind to” approach is a bit much for them right now. Maybe it is even a bit much for me these days, too. I push them because I don’t want them to get lazy or have their minds to turn to mush before they enter the doors of their school (if they enter this September) for kindergarten. I make them go outside and play with their two little friends who live next door, or even push them outside if only to water the grass.

Modern ‘Productivity Culture’ Is Dictating How We Deal With The Pandemic
Darby S/Reshot

I have this desire to make everything for them into a life lesson: let’s create a chore chart (since we are home for the next few months); let’s create an allowance system (since we are home for the next few months); let’s have family dinners at the dinner table each night (since we are home for the next few months) — all of these things not only giving us more time together as a family but also teaching them something. For me, this is my modern-day productivity system — giving my kids (and myself) enough to keep us busy and our minds off the unknown of what our future holds within the clenches of COVID-19.

For me, it also comes down to creating more of the “knowns” in a time when so much is “unknown.” More or less, we know what a four-year-old will do with a quarter they are supposed to put into their piggy bank — maybe they will save it, or maybe they will lose it before it even makes it to their piggy bank. We more or less know the outcome of what happens when we let our kids watch television all day long — they become more irritable and perhaps couch potatoes as adults. Right now, I will take that risk; I need the television to get through my meetings each day. And, I must attend my meetings because I need my job to help support our family.

What I don’t know, and perhaps part of me is scared to find out: what happens if I don’t have them finish the commitment I signed them up for — their preschool program? Of course, it’s all being done remotely, and I am their stand-in teacher (save for the daily Zoom sessions set up by their three classroom teachers). I am their in-real-life, at-home teacher. Not only that, but I’m teaching them other life lessons that extend far beyond academics (like how to properly wipe their butts).

When all is said and done, on top of everything else, we are juggling the pseudo-camp schedule, the emotions associated with not going to school, the anxiety of needing to put on a mask every time they go out in public, and the uncertainty of the times. Our kids have enough on their plates. If we don’t find a summer camp to enroll them into, or a math tutor to educate them so they don’t fall behind, or they don’t get to finish an intended project — it is okay. They will not fall behind an entire year of school. They will not suffer and end up in psychotherapy their entire lives (though it’s okay if they do) just because we didn’t schedule them for every available summer activity we could. We are all in this together, they will not be left behind, and I have to remember that.

If I fail or they fail, does it matter? We are all living through a pandemic. All we can truly hope is to do our best, and hope that the pandemic does not get the best of us.

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Maskholes, Can You Lay Off The Kids, At Least?

I’m sure you saw the video of Costco Karen throwing a fit in the middle of the store because she was asked, yet refused, to put on her mask—the one that was already hanging off one of her ears—but if not, it’s hella embarrassing and her behavior is totally unnecessary. (Why is it always Costco, by the way? Those tired but steadfast employees deserve raises.)

From the “I feel threatened” guy to the granny having a toddler-sized tantrum at customer service, these grownups are proving that older does not mean more mature. And as if it’s not bad enough that people refuse to wear masks, they are also the assholes who berate the people who choose to wear them for the safety of others. It’s one thing if you want to be pissy at me, an adult, for wearing a mask. Call me a sheep, conspiracy theorist, or socialist all you want; I am totally okay being a socialist, FYI. But leave the kids out of it. No kid or teenager needs or deserves to be berated because you think masks are a violation of your freedom.

You may be wondering who would do that? Maskholes, that’s who — specifically, customers at Mootown Creamery in Berea, Ohio. In a Facebook post, Creamery owner, Andrea Brooks, responded to people who were upset that her teenage employees wear masks while working:  “I’ve been trying not to say anything, but it is getting out of control. STOP!!! Stop yelling at these young girls. Stop slamming doors. Stop swearing at them and making a scene. STOP!!! These girls are wearing masks for YOUR protection. They are required by the state to wear them, and they do so with a smile because they care about you and your safety.”

Too many adults are acting like spoiled children. The irony of an “elder” who probably demands respect but can’t give it to a young person who is being responsible isn’t funny here. How did society sink so low that an adult can feel justified screaming at another human trying to do their job, especially if they are a teenager? How have we fallen so far from grace and compassion that it’s easier to harass a child than to just shut the fuck up? I support yelling at kids to get them to stop doing something that is hurting another living being, but yelling at them because they are trying not to hurt you is bullshit. This shouldn’t be a thing.

Demonstrators hold a "Rolling Car Rally" in front of Democratic Governor Ned Lamont's residence while protesting the state's stay-at-home order to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on May 04, 2020 in Hartford, Connecticut
John Moore/Getty

I wish I could say the mask isn’t about you, but it is. For those of you who can’t see the importance of wearing a mask during the middle of a fucking pandemic caused by an airborne virus that causes respiratory infections that can kill you, then let’s reframe the situation. Someone wearing a mask out of choice or requirement because of their job or the building they choose to enter is doing it for you. These people include teenagers trying to earn some cash and kids who are trying to gain a bit of normalcy while venturing into public spaces after having school, sports, camps, playdates, and every other kid activity cancelled.

None of us love wearing masks. But we do it to protect people from the potential of carrying around a deadly virus that we may not know we have. The sneaky thing about COVID-19 is that symptoms may not show up for days after the virus is contracted or it’s possible to have COVID-19 and never be symptomatic. But if I take my mask-less face out into public and cough, sneeze, or talk my germs all over you and the shit you touch, there is a good chance I could kill you and I don’t want that on my conscience. Even kids understand this and are able to practice common courtesy. I’m not sorry this offends you.

Taking your anger out on someone to intimidate and bully them is gross and abusive. It’s also contradictory. You seem to get a chuckle when my son wears his Iron Man mask into the grocery store on a random Tuesday in May. But the second a mask is used for health reasons you get all ragey?

So maybe you don’t believe the scientific benefits of mask use or believe that the virus even exists. Think of a mask as part of someone’s uniform, fashion statement, or none of your fucking business. Would you like someone yelling at you for wearing a particular style of pants, color, or stick up your ass? No, you wouldn’t. Because when you left the house for the day, you felt good about your floral top and the piece of oak between your butt cheeks. You probably tsk, tsk at teens with too many piercings and “weird” haircuts. I would bet that you also clutch your pearls or wallet when a teen swears or wears a hoodie. The maskholes who refuse to wear a mask or only so do because they are forced to if they want to get groceries or ice cream, are generally the ones with lots of biases and ignorance weighing down their ability to be nice.

Right, back to being nice. If you see a kid wearing a mask in public what is it to you, and how is it different than a kid with blue hair? Maybe you shouted at the blue-haired kid too, but I suspect you didn’t. Maybe it’s the idea that blue hair doesn’t challenge your privilege and a mask does.

Look, I think you should wear a mask because we are in the middle of a pandemic. You think it’s your right not to. I wear my mask and so do my kids. There are zero reasons why you should be upset seeing others, particularly kids, doing this. We don’t care if we are wrong. We would rather wear a mask, even if it is uncomfortable, than risk the far outweighing consequences of not doing so.

Perhaps masks aren’t a great look, but harassing kids isn’t fashionable either. Knock it off.

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There Is Something Magical About The Mother-Daughter Bond

My daughter crawled in bed with me a few months ago. She was on the cusp of turning fifteen, and that day in the car we were listening to that new song called “Supah Lonely” by Benee. Maybe you’ve heard it with your own teenage daughter. Or maybe you have no idea what song it is. Regardless, it’s a woman talking about how lonely she is.

Without thinking too hard about it, I told my daughter the song reminded me of myself. I tried to laugh after I said it. I was trying to cover up the fact I was feeling sorry for myself. I knew I was letting my daughter in on a secret I’d been trying to hide from my kids — I’m lonely.

I’m lonely because they’ve grown older and they need me less. I’m lonely because I feel like our relationships have changed. And I’m lonely because they all went through puberty at once, leaving me with the sound of music behind their closed bedroom doors instead of being downstairs with me. 

As soon as I said it, I regretted it. While I want to be real with my kids and see that their mother is not made out of iron and has swinging emotions, I don’t want them to feel guilty about growing up and their independence.

But my daughter’s reply let me know she heard me, she saw me, and she cared.

“I didn’t know that, Mom. I didn’t know you were lonely,” she said. We drove then the rest of the way home in silence and I tried not to tear up thinking back to the days when I wasn’t this lonely. 

I realized being a mother to a daughter gifts you a bond unlike any other. We argue, we disagree, we don’t like each other at times. But we love one another so deeply we know there’s nothing that can break that love. If that’s not a bond, I don’t know what is. I mean, when you feel really safe with someone, isn’t that the time to really be yourself and know you will be fully accepted and loved unconditionally?

How many people can you say you have that bond with? 

According to a study published in Journal of Neuroscience, the bond between a mother and daughter is like no other since their brains are more closely matched in the empathy department. 

So when your daughter comes to you with a problem, situation, or is experiencing something good in her life, as her mother you are able to see yourself in that same situation and relate to her in a way no one else can.

I love my two sons just as much as I love my daughter. But when she comes to me with something that is bothering her, I see myself in her so much. And when the role is reversed, I can see my daughter is able to empathize with me deeply hence her coming in bed to get some snuggle time with me after my confession. 

Scary Mommy polled some of our readers to see if they agreed with the sentiment about mother-daughter bonds … and they did. 

One commenter admitted to crying for days when she found out she was having a girl. “I didn’t know what in the world I was going to do with a girl. I’m not girly and I just knew it would be a disaster. She’s almost 11, she’s my best friend. She’s so amazing! I can’t imagine my life without her. She’s so smart and wise beyond her years.”

Another mother said, “I was ecstatic when I found out I was having a girl. Her dad and I divorced when she was three. We have had an extremely close bond from day one. We definitely have a battle of wills at times because she is a very strong willed child but she is my greatest joy. My mom and I are super close and always have been and I pray that my daughter and I have the same bond throughout life.”

A mother of two boys and two girls said she was terrified when she found out she was having her first daughter, “I said ‘check again!’ I was terrified. I have two and two — wouldn’t change it for anything. Love my girls, they are my best friends. Strong, resilient, sporty and big hearts!”

One mother who has both sons and daughters explains it perfectly, saying, “It’s an indescribable bond. I’m incredibly close with my son. We share a lot of similarities, humor and just get each other. But with my 17-year-old daughter, it’s magnified. So many things she has accomplished or overcome are the same things that I dealt with at her age, but somehow amplified by all of today’s stressors.”

The bond some mothers have with us feels different than the bond we have with our sons. It doesn’t mean we love them more, or favor them over their brothers. But the study does prove there can be such a strong bond simply because we are sharing a lot of the same experiences and are connected in a different way to our daughters.

And even when we feel like we don’t know what we are going to do with them as they grow up, gain independence and sass, we know that bond won’t be broken.

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