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I lost my shit this morning. There was yelling. There were tears. And then there was the guilt over losing my shit.
But you know what else happened? My kids actually finished their chores. They picked up their clothes. The cleaned the cups and bowls that were growing mold on their bedroom floor. They cleaned the bathroom and vacuumed the living room. In other words, they did what needed to be done in the first place.
These chores aren’t a surprise. My kids know what they need to do. It’s written down right in front of them and the chores don’t really change. So why does it take me turning into Medusa with eyes bugging out of my head and my voice hoarse from yelling for them to actually listen?
I’ve tried it all. We use an app for their chores so they have them written down. I give firm reminders. We take away their phones and dole out other consequences (granted my husband is much better at this than me). So why does it take me losing my shit for anything to get done?
By now the cycle is predictable: Ask kids to do something. Kids ignore you. Ask kids 15 more times. Kids still ignore you. Lose your shit. Kids finally listen. Feel terrible. Rinse and repeat.
I wish I could say it was just my kids, but the truth is, it’s not. I don’t even listen to myself. I know that I need to practice self-care. I should meditate and turn off the news and stop doomscrolling. And yet it took a full-blown emotional breakdown about a month ago for me to realize that I need to actually do these things instead of just reminding myself that I should do them. After spending an entire day sobbing (yes, an entire day), I finally listened to myself. I got myself back into therapy. I downloaded a meditation app. I limited my time on Facebook and news websites.
But it shouldn’t have taken a full emotional breakdown for me to listen to myself. Just like it shouldn’t take me going all Clark Griswold on Christmas Eve for my kids to pick up their clothes, finish their homework, and load the damn dishwasher.
I just shouldn’t. But it does. And I’m not really sure why.
I mean, I’m aware of the “love and logic” approach to all this. I’ve heard all the advice about the importance of consequences and boundaries. I know all of this. And yet somewhere between knowing it and doing it, everything breaks down.
How do we break out of this cycle?
I’d love to just say something once and have people listen. Then again, I apparently don’t even listen to myself. So…
Maybe it’s because we’re so tired of this hamster wheel of pandemic life with no end in sight. Add on the general exhaustion from saying the same damn things all the time. We’re tired of giving constant reminders to not act like slobs and to pick up their damn clothes, to put the toilet seat down, and to put your damn phone away.
I know that I sound like the wah-wa-wa-wa-wah teacher in all the Charlie Brown shows. Honestly, I’m even annoying myself. And I’m totally over it.
But if I don’t remind everyone of everything, will anything get done? Or will the dirty bowls start growing legs? Will the crusty toothpaste in the bathroom sink turn into concrete? And more importantly, if my kids don’t figure out how clean up after themselves now will they turn into sloppy, lazy adults?
It’s all so frustrating. I don’t want to nag. It feels absolutely terrible. And yet if I don’t lose my shit every now and then, things get sloppy. And I’ll be damned if my kids are gonna turn into privileged a-holes who don’t clean up after themselves. Not to mention that I’m sick of the crumbs and the dirty clothes and the crusty plates and missing spoons. (Seriously, where do all the spoons go?!)
I don’t have a solution. I suppose I could be better with the boundaries and consequences. But I am who I am. Boundaries and consequences are a challenge. Losing my shit now and then comes more naturally.
Maybe one day things will change. Maybe my kids will eventually figure out how to use that chores app we all downloaded. Maybe one day they’ll pick up their dirty socks without being asked, and they’ll turn in their homework on time without being reminded a million times. Maybe one day I’ll get better at doling out consequences and setting boundaries. Maybe.
In the meantime, I’ll be over here nagging and badgering and, yes, occasionally losing my shit. Which means I’ll also be over here forgiving myself – and my kids – for being imperfect works in progress.
The post Why Do I Have To Lose My Sh*t Before Anything Gets Done? appeared first on Scary Mommy.
I will be the first one to tell you that this pandemic freaking sucks, especially for our kids. I have an 8-year-old and a 13-year-old. My teen should be hanging out with his friends on weekends: wandering around town, shooting the bull, meeting up with his friends at the local movie theater. My 8-year-old should be having after school playdates, going to birthday parties on weekends, and begging me to let him attend his first sleepover.
Instead, both of my boys have not played in person with another kid since March. And I don’t expect that to change until the pandemic is under control.
My kids get along fairly well with each other—or as well as two energetic, opinionated brothers can be expected to get along—so that’s a blessing. They play video games together for hours on end. They have their inside jokes. And they fight like dogs at times. So they are not exactly starved for interaction.
But they are almost six years apart, and they absolutely need to interact with kids of their own age. It’s not normal for them to live this way. It hurts when I think about how much they are missing when it comes to their social lives.
Yes, they are coping as best they can. But that has limits.
My teen plays live video games for hours with his best friends, and he has made new friends by joining our local youth center, which is meeting online. He even performed in a virtual play over the summer, and will do so again this winter. I hear laughter from his room almost every night as he chats with his friends.
But it’s not how I pictured his budding teen years. I remember how starved I was at that age to be with my friends. Talking on the phone was one thing, but phone calls would lead to meet ups, and there was nothing as amazing as sleeping over at your best friend’s house, chatting all night, and then collapsing in a heap at 2am. Nothing as magical as walking home from the library with a bestie on a Friday night, twilight streaming through the trees as you chat about movies, music, how annoying your parents are, and the meaning of life.
This is not how I pictured my son’s budding teen years, and it pain my soul to imagine what he’s missing.
I’m even more concerned about my 8-year-old. “Virtual playdates” have not really worked out for him, though I have hope for the future. Interacting with other kids over video chat was something he was vehemently against at the start of the pandemic. He has warmed up to the idea, as he’s felt more comfortable in that mode. But it’s been hard to find other kids for him to Zoom with, and the few playdates he’s had don’t seem very satisfying for him.
I worry about how this pandemic is affecting his emotional development. I worry that he’s lonely. I hope against hope that he is finding enough connection in his interactions with his family, his online teacher, and his online school mates. I am seeing him connect with other kids in his online classes, and I’m hopeful that these interactions will lead to more virtual socializing that he feels good about.
But even with all these worries and fears, my kids will not be having playdates anytime soon. No way, no how.
Why am I being so strict, you may ask?
Well, first of all, the pandemic continues to rage completely out of control in this country. We have recently reached all time highs in terms of COVID cases in America. Our current president is doing absolutely nothing to tame it. And I believe it’s my public duty as a citizen right now to take no chances when it comes to potentially spreading this virus.
My family, and my children, have a moral responsibility to protect others right now. This trumps their need for social interaction. My kids can miss a season, or even a year of their social life, in order to protect the most vulnerable among us, and to do their part in slowing the spread of this deadly virus.
My children understand that, and I believe I am teaching them an important lesson in kindness and morality. They are learning that sometimes doing what’s right means sacrificing one’s own comfort. They are learning about resilience and adaptation as well, other important life lessons.
But besides everyone else, I am worried sick about my children or my family contracting this virus. Yes, children generally fare better than adults with COVID-19. Still, children have died, many of whom have underlying conditions. Both of my kids have asthma. My little one was rushed to the hospital with an asthma attack about a year ago. He might have died if he wasn’t treated in the emergency room during his attack.
I will not allow my children to get a novel respiratory infection right now, one that primarily targets the lungs. I just won’t take any chances here, no matter how small the probability is that COVID-19 would kill one of my children.
But death is not my only concern. Both children and adults can become COVID long haulers. Being a COVID long hauler doesn’t just mean feeling like crap for a few weeks. It means potential long-term lung and breathing issues. It means potential heart damage. It means being so fatigued that you can’t work, can’t take care of your kids, can’t easily walk across the room or up a flight of steps. It means being incapacitated for sometimes months on end.
Would I want that for either me, my husband, or my children? Absolutely not. As much as I believe my children need social interaction, and are starved for it, there is no way in hell I would potentially infect them with a deadly virus, just for a playdate or two.
When you compare the potential gain for a playdate vs. the potential damage this virus could cause for them or their neighbors, it’s a no-brainer.
Now, I’m not saying there isn’t potentially a safe (or safer) way to do a playdate. If there was a family I knew who was totally as careful with COVID as my family is, and who had kids that my kids wanted to play with, and who I trusted 1000%, I might consider bubbling up with that family and doing playdates. Alas, I don’t have that in my life.
I think that if two kids meet up outside, with masks, and with social distancing, a playdate could be safe. But how in hell do two kids do that and actually have a decent time? I have offered those sorts of playdates to my kids and they simply aren’t interested.
Not only that, but how do I know that the child who they interact with would comply? Kids of all ages aren’t exactly great with social distancing and mask wearing unless they are being supervised closely. So I’m going to have another kid meet up with my kid, and basically hover over them both the whole time? That’s not fun – that’s not what socializing means to my kids, and I get that.
So my kids will not be having playdates until the risk of COVID goes down significantly. Yes, that likely means a vaccine, or a reliable treatment so that deaths and long term damage are extremely rare.
We will wait for as long as it takes for that to happen, even if that means another season or two, or more. And we will be okay. Because as much as this totally sucks in every way for my children, and as much as I have seen them suffer, they are actually adapting to this life with more strength and resilience than I expected them to. They make me proud with how well they are doing despite it all.
And one day, before they know it, this whole nightmare will be over, and their social lives will return. I will be ordering pizzas for my older son and his friends as they sit at our dining room table making jokes that I don’t get, and droning on about video games that I don’t understand. My younger son will go visit his neighbor friend again on a Sunday afternoon, and come home with a warm plate of chocolate chip cookies that they baked together.
I am looking forward to those kinds of days, and I’m hoping that when my kids start playing with friends again, they will have a new appreciation for friendships, laughter, and the simple things of childhood. I know I will.
The post My Kids Won’t Be Having Playdates Until This Pandemic Is Over appeared first on Scary Mommy.
“I am nothing if not flexible,” I said once to a friend when our plans were spontaneously changed. We both laughed and laughed because, though I have a sense of humor about it, we both know I am not flexible. I am mature enough to make changes when necessary, but I am not a go-with-the-flow, roll-with-the-punches kind of person. I am more of a “sweat myself into an anxiety attack if I don’t exert some sort of control over a situation” kind of person.
I’d rather create a dam or wind tunnel to harness powers bigger than myself than be moved by forces I will never be able to predict or persuade. My personality in a pandemic reads like a Shakespeare play: so much tragic comedy. Thankfully I am self-aware and have enough social-emotional intelligence to know not to be a dick to others when things do spin away from expectations. So many elements of our lives are spinning right now, and being flexible doesn’t come naturally for me. I would be a big liar if I told you I was okay with bending when I want to stay rigid in my routines.
When I say I am self-aware, I mean that I know my response to change and my resistance to it is a mix of trauma response from childhood abuse and my obsessive-compulsive disorder diagnosis. My OCD does not manifest in germ-fearing; instead my brain plays a swell game called Imagine All The Scenarios, wherein I obsess about them and make plans to “solve” them. My plans have backup plans. As you can imagine, this is super fun during a pandemic where nothing is certain and everything is out of my control.
During normal times, routines, plans, and doing anything in predictable ways on a schedule I can control are vital tools in my toolbox. My to-do lists have to-do lists, people. And on hard OCD days when my anxiety and fear are overwhelming, I overcompensate by micromanaging people and situations while constantly checking the status of anything that has a status—the weather, Facebook, trending news, and now I have added COVID-19 related infections and deaths.
Of course I know that what doesn’t bend, breaks. I know all of the clichés and “shoulds” and blah, blah, blah. I also know I would probably be better off if I wasn’t so dependent on structure and predictability. But instead of fighting who I am, I recognize where I struggle and do my best to make accommodations when necessary. I’m allowed to be stuck in my ways, even if digging in is simply another example of my aversion to flexibility. And apparently the universe is allowed to throw a pandemic at me and all of the other people who cringe at the words, “Let’s mix things up!”
I am a creature of habit. I don’t like surprises. Last minute changes of plans make me anxious and angry—even if I ultimately agree with the change or end up happy with the alternate plan. This is because if I let go of what I thought was the truth about what was going to happen, then I lose control and risk being physically and emotionally hurt. Unpredictability and change are scary.
Since March, everything feels like it has been thrown into the air, including how we grocery shop, socialize, and send our kids to school. Everything is weird and we are living in the upside down. And our kids are living it too. When my kids asked me questions pre-COVID, I could either answer them confidently or tell them we could work together to figure out what they wanted to know. We could always find an answer.
But we can’t Google our way out of a pandemic, and Alexa is useless when it comes to knowing when we can travel to see family again, when we can stop wearing masks, and what will happen this winter to sports and school when it’s too cold to be outside. I tell them I don’t know and remind them it’s important to be flexible even though it’s hard to constantly be asked to pivot. I tell them these gems while knowing how hard and frustrating change can be, and while struggling to take my own advice.
This pandemic has harnessed all of my fears and waved them in front of my face while expecting me to accept promises and plans based on smoke, mirrors, and irrational people who think all of this is a hoax. I have had to scramble to find new ways not to break thanks to COVID-19. It hasn’t been pretty, but even in a world of uncertainty, I have managed to cultivate some certainty each day to help me manage my mental health. I know we are all out of fucking whack here, but I decided early on that I would throw everything I had into my mental health. I rely and thrive on routine. Even experts say that building routines are good for us.
So I made a plan to exercise each day, eat food that makes my body feel good, and go easy on myself when just functioning feels like too much work. I created routines for my kids too — set screen times, bed times, and meal times have allowed us to structure our days at home so that the pandemic is a backdrop, not the star of the show.
My Crossfit coach recently told me to loosen my grip on the barbell during a transition for a lift I was struggling with. I dropped the bar and laughed at the apt metaphor. “My grip is too tight, huh? Well, if that doesn’t sum it all up.” In Crossfit — and in life — my results are better with a looser grip, but it’s going to take a lot of repetitions to get comfortable with the adjustments.
The post The Pandemic Has Forced Me To Be Flexible When It Doesn’t Come Naturally appeared first on Scary Mommy.
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.
The post I Can’t Shake The Fear Of Something Awful Happening To My Kids appeared first on Scary Mommy.
Becoming an “old new mom” was never part of my plan, but here I am. And while I’m so grateful for my beautiful family, having a child later in life has definitely been a different experience. The path leading to my geriatric pregnancy looked much the same as it does for lots of women. Very career-driven, I spent the better part of my twenties and early thirties in college earning my doctorate and working (as my dad would say, “like a borrowed mule”), so my focus was simply elsewhere. It wasn’t until right around the time that I met my husband at age 34 that I first began to hear the faintest sound of my biological clock ticking.
Over time, as tends to happen, that ticking became louder. When my husband and I got married, I was blessed to become a stepmom to the sweetest boy ever born … but I couldn’t shake the strengthening desire to add to our family. And so, one fall afternoon in my 37th year of life, my husband and I decided that our DNA was worth combining and that we wanted a baby.
A few weeks later, I was staring at two little pink lines that would change my life (and brain) forever. I didn’t know it then, but I would be joining a growing sisterhood of women having babies at an “advanced maternal age”.
As excited as I was about becoming a mother, pregnancy and childbirth were definitely not kind to my aging body. Right before I went in for my scheduled C-section, I remember someone asking me if we would ever have another baby. Practically snorting at the absurdity of that question, I emphatically answered, “HELL NO! WHO ON EARTH WOULD DO THIS TWICE…ON PURPOSE???”
And then it happened.
I woke up in the recovery room and held that sweet little newborn baby in my arms and gazed upon his angelic face for the first time. He had his daddy’s eyes and his mama’s nose. I was captivated, overpowered by a wave of emotion that I still struggle to describe. I literally burst into tears because I couldn’t take how beautiful he was. Without a doubt, I was in love and my former self who didn’t “get” what this motherhood thing was all about was gone … forever.
Fast forward to the present. I am now 40 with a two-year-old, whom I love more and more with each passing day. Our son is a smart, funny, vivacious little firecracker who has been an absolute blessing to our family. Now that he is walking (running), talking (yelling), and potty trained (eh, mostly), our life has started to settle into a nice, comfortable rhythm … which, of course, means that all I can think about for the past eight months is having another baby.
Wait. WHAT?!? I mean, clearly this child has broken something in my brain, right? Seriously … have I lost my ever loving mind?!?
Like any logical person facing this conundrum, I’ve made a list of the pros and cons. The tally is solidly in favor of us being one and done … but all the logic in the world doesn’t stop the thoughts, the questions, and the longing. And, since so many more women are having kids later in life, it has become increasingly clear to me from conversations and online message boards that what I’m experiencing is a very common predicament … paralysis by analysis that places you squarely on the fence. Without a doubt, the emotionally taxing decision of whether to attempt conception amid diminishing opportunities is one that unites older moms because we likely feel some version of the same stress, uncertainty, and pressure.
So, if you’re an old mom on the fence trying to explain this to someone (or married to an old mom on the fence and trying to figure out what the hell is going on in her head), here are a few questions that are likely being considered … about 100 times per day.
Is it worth the risk?
The statistics for pregnancy after 40 are scary, and the risks to both mom and baby are very real. First and foremost, it’s harder to get and stay pregnant. And, if you’re lucky enough to conceive and carry to term, there are a host of other concerns. I could share some of the stress-inducing numbers, but if you’re on the fence with me, you’ve probably been secretly reading them on your phone anyway. And, as if that wasn’t enough, many of us are also having to weigh these risks in 2020. So in addition to just the normal, everyday uncertainties, we also have to consider a global pandemic that puts pregnant women at a higher risk (and older, high risk pregnant women presumably at an even higher risk than that).
Given the variables, it feels ludicrous to even think about having a baby right now. But then you read an article about a lady who had three healthy pregnancies after 40 … or you know a woman who knows a woman who became an old new mom during the pandemic with no problems whatsoever, and you think, see? A seemingly endless number of other women are out there dodging the complications every day … so why not me? And is there really anything worth having that doesn’t come with at least a certain amount of risk?
Am I just too old?
The pregnancy amnesia that comes with motherhood is a force to be reckoned with … it has to be, otherwise the world would be full of only children. But, even looking back through the strongest of rose-colored glasses, I still remember how hard it was growing a baby in this old body. What weighs on me heavily is that I’m 100% certain that pregnancy would be even worse now because I’m almost three years older … and chasing around a perpetually busy two-year-old.
Would I seriously be able to keep up with an energetic three-year-old while pregnant (especially if it’s even harder than the last one)? And forget about pregnancy, will I be able to put myself back together while keeping up with a newborn baby AND a toddler (who still doesn’t consistently sleep through the night)?
Regardless of how sad it makes me feel to admit it, I have to consider the simple fact that maybe I’m just too old to do it again. I mean, sure, lots of other moms do it. In fact, not only do I know a surprising number of women who have had multiple kids later in life, but when I think about them collectively, they all have one thing in common … they all seem much younger than they actually are. Maybe it’s because no one expects to see a member of AARP at back-to-school night … or maybe having kids later in life is actually some weird fountain of youth that keeps you younger out of necessity.
In my quest for statistics related to older mothers, I was surprised to find that the older the new mom, the more likely she is to survive to an unusually old age. In fact, there was one study that found that women who lived to at least age 100 were four times more likely to have had children while in their forties.
It really doesn’t matter how many studies I find, the future and how it will be impacted by my age still fill me with worry (even for our two-year-old). Will my body be able to keep up? Will my kid feel weird about having an old mom? Will I live long enough and be healthy enough to enjoy being a grandmother one day? Clearly there’s no way to answer these questions without a crystal ball, but the uncertainty is stressful.
Why does time seem to be going so FAST?
Seriously? When I was pregnant with my son, time moved so slowly that I was convinced that the secret to eternal life was to be pregnant. Those 10 months felt like 10 years. Since his birth, however, the clock feels like my sworn enemy. At the same time that I’m keenly aware of my fertility slipping away, so are the last moments of my son’s babyhood. It feels silly to be emotional about that because the point of having kids is to watch them grow up, but I can’t help but be overcome with sadness each time I’m forced to pack up clothes or toys he has outgrown.
As I agonize over this decision about whether or not to have another baby, I have also become acutely aware that each of my baby’s firsts is also quite possibly a last for me. There will be a last time I hold him in my arms to feed him, and a last time I rock him to sleep at night. (Even typing those words makes my eyes well up with tears.) Right now, every milestone feels like a bittersweet reminder of my aging ovaries and I find myself clinging to those baby moments in a desperate attempt to keep them from slipping away … and, despite my desperation to hold onto them, I can still feel them leaving my grasp.
At the same time, there is also this intense (albeit self-imposed) pressure to jump off the fence in an effort to beat the clock. If we decide to try for another baby, the longer I wait, the less likely it is to happen (especially since my husband and I decided years ago that measures involving medical intervention just wouldn’t be for us). My guess is that the decision that your family is complete might be a difficult one to make in any situation, but there’s a difference between making that decision on your own and having time make it for you. In a matter of months or, at best, a few short years, there will be no choice to make because these ovaries aren’t going to keep pumping out viable eggs forever, a fact about which I’m reminded at least daily.
Maybe it’s not just my fertility slipping away that I’m mourning. Maybe the impending loss of my fertility is also a reminder of my youth slipping away, as well … a reminder of my own mortality, and of how quickly our time on this Earth really is. Whatever it is, the clock seems to be ticking faster and faster … and the more I want it to slow down, the faster it goes.
Why didn’t I start earlier?
Sometimes my sadness at the possibility of having no choice but to be one-and-done turns into anger, even if for a moment. Why? Why didn’t I start earlier? In my attempt to have it all, did I put myself in this regretful position of having biology plan my family for me?
The truth is, I met my amazing husband later in life, and there’s nothing that could have changed that timeline. Having him as my husband makes me the luckiest woman on Earth, but there are still moments when I feel frustration that I’m in this position of having to weigh the risks and reward of motherhood under such a time crunch. Deep down, I know that if I was 10 years younger, this would be a non-issue.
Obviously there are never guarantees, but at least I’d have time to let our son get a year or two older before having to make this decision. It’s a hard feeling to be on the fence because you don’t want another child yet, but yet might be too late.
What if I regret this decision?
Regret is an unavoidable possibility when you make decisions … it’s just a part of life. But, we’re not talking about the same regret you might feel after having one too many slices of pizza or spending too much on a pair of shoes. No, the regret that might come as a result of this decision might be hard-hitting and could quite possibly last for the rest of my life. (I know that sounds overly dramatic, but these are the thoughts that go through my head!)
To make matters worse, there are several layers of possible regret to consider. What if I decide that I want a second baby and I’ve waited too long? What if we decide to go for it and there are serious complications and, God forbid, one or both of us doesn’t make it? On the flip side, if we decide our family is complete as is … will our two-year-old wish for a sibling to grow up with when he’s in elementary school and his older brother (my stepson) is an adult? Will I send him off to college and feel anguish at the fact that I didn’t have another child when I had the chance?
I know that the weight of caring for two little ones will probably have days where it feels like too much or places temporary stress on our otherwise happy little life, but I struggle to see how I could ever regret adding another little person to our family … but what if the statistics turn out to be true and this decision ends up causing all sorts of unnecessary heartache and stress instead?
Am I just being plain old selfish?
Is my biologically-driven desire to procreate completely ignoring the reality of the impact it will have on my husband, our boys, and the rest of our family? I mean, let’s face it, we’ve already shelved our early retirement plans because we will have a kid in high school. I know we can provide a good life for our sons, including fully-funded college accounts, and still remain financially comfortable. Having another mouth to feed, another college fund to build, and additional daycare expenses (among other things) clearly takes away from the people who are already in this family.
And let’s not forget that my deciding I want to go through another pregnancy and newborn phase would clearly put everyone else in this house in the predicament of having to go through it as well. What about our toddler, who is the textbook example of a mama’s boy … would another baby take away from him and somehow make me a lesser mother? Would either of our boys feel less important or less loved? And then there’s my own aging parents (who, incidentally, had me in their mid thirties) … as the likelihood that they will need additional support increases, can I balance that with also taking care of a house full of little ones?
Am I tempting fate?
To be honest, I lucked out with our son. I got pregnant right away. I had an uneventful (albeit uncomfortable) pregnancy. I had a planned C-section with a skilled doctor and our son’s birth went completely as planned. What if I’m not that lucky this time? What if it isn’t uncomplicated or things don’t go as planned? I won the kid lottery once … should I quit while I’m ahead?
Which should I listen to – my head or my heart?
Look, I’m a smart girl. I know the risks … and the work … and the devastation it will likely cause to my body. I know that we have finally settled into a routine and life is starting to feel a little bit easier. I know another baby means losing the guest room, possibly buying a larger car, and two daycare payments. I know it will mean months (or years) of interrupted sleep, and diapers, and spit up, and crying.
I know all of this. But that doesn’t stop my heart from aching for a sweet, newborn baby, from marveling at our adorable son and wondering what other awesome little person we could create. It doesn’t stop the twinge of jealousy I feel at pregnancy and birth announcements. It doesn’t stop me from picturing our lives 10 years down the road and seeing two kids at home (my stepson will be in college by then). All of the logic and sound judgment in the world can’t stop the wondering and yearning.
There are so many upsides to being an older mom, but this has definitely been one of the unanticipated challenges for me. Make no mistake about it – the seemingly constant internal monologue and almost-daily back-and-forth, being driven by a biological clock that seems to tick louder every day, can feel positively suffocating at times.
In those moments, I have to force myself to stop, breathe, and remember just how grateful I am to have the life I have right now. There’s a picture in our bedroom that says, “I remember the days I prayed for all that I have now” and it’s so true. I can’t let my fence-sitting make me lose sight of how fortunate I already am.
I honestly don’t know how this story ends or on which side of the fence I’ll land. Until then, I’ll keep cramming our closets full of baby clothes and toys until I can decide what to do with them.
No matter the outcome, given the growing sisterhood of old new moms out there who are struggling with this very same decision, I know I’ll be in good company on either side of the fence.
The post The Questions ‘Old’ Moms Ask Themselves When Considering A Late-In-Life Baby appeared first on Scary Mommy.
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.
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.
The post If You Can’t Accept A Queer Child, Don’t Have Kids appeared first on Scary Mommy.
I grew up in a big family. Four children, two parents, eight sets of aunts and uncles. I have four cousins on my mom’s side and even more on my dad’s.
My mom’s mom, our grandmother, was our matriarch and she earned it by being loud, welcoming, and wild. Her life motto was “Be a bother!” and she often joked that her first marriage was for procreation and her second marriage (which started well into her senior years), recreation. She was one of the first women in her community to go to college – at age 16. When her first husband passed away, she went to work as a secretary and then built herself a career in real estate so she could take care of her five children on her own; three of whom were still living at home.
Her only daughter, my mother, followed in her footsteps. For as long as I can remember, my mom was a managing partner in her own accounting firm. Both my parents worked, but it was clear that my mother brought home most of the family income in our house. My dad was the one whose career was a little more… “flexible.” His time was more geared towards field trips and dinner duty rather than long hours in the office for which my mom was known.
I was born in the 1980’s and this is how I formed my world view. Moms were kick ass. They got shit done. They worked hard.
Dads did, too, by the way. But, if there was volunteering to be done or dinner to be cooked. it was dad, not mom, who came to the rescue. Even so, with both parents working, summers were spent at babysitters’ houses or Girl Scout Camp until we were old enough to just look after each other at home. Parents were there for the big things, but it was rare to have a parent home all. Day. Long… on a random Tuesday, no less.
This all formed my attitude about what it meant to be a stay at home parent. I spent late summer nights as a pre-teen guffawing at the housewives I saw depicted on Nick at Nite reruns of the Dick Van Dyke Show.
“How could they!?” I’d wonder out loud. “That will never be me,” I vowed. I didn’t understand how someone could subject themselves to that fate.
Here’s the thing, though… I was wrong. So, so wrong.
In 2017, my mom sadly passed away. Our daughter was three at the time and my family had moved in with my mom six months earlier to help as her health quickly declined. My dad had passed away six years earlier. It all felt too much for me to bear.
My husband and I both took a year off from work following the death of my mom. We healed. We traveled. We connected for the first time in years – having normally been too busy taking care of our family, the everyday grind, or my mother to even think about ourselves too much.
After a whirlwind year, it was time to get back to real life. Our daughter was starting Kindergarten in the fall, and we needed to find our footing again. I eventually went back to work. But, my husband? My husband stayed at home.
Let me just say: the contribution of a stay at home parent is nothing short of earth angel status.
For two years, while my husband’s main responsibilities centered around managing the household, I had never felt more supported and more in synch as a family. His role allowed me to dive head first into mine. Promotions, new opportunities, travel, and professional development – all of this soared while our home was single-handedly well managed by my husband. We never scrambled for childcare for things as simple as school pick-up, the grocery shopping always got done, dinner was almost always home cooked, our house was a home, and I was able to be fully present in my professional life through it all. Hell, we even moved internationally for a new job opportunity of mine.
I felt incredibly lucky to have the role of “breadwinner” in the family. Sure, work could be stressful. Of course, there are ways that working outside of the home can be challenging. But, in the meantime, I got to feel fulfilled in my own identity outside the home. I had a purpose and meaning beyond my title of “mom” or “wife.”
Instead of viewing my financial contribution as the important one, as I had been indoctrinated by society to believe was the only one that mattered, this set-up allowed me to see it as just one part of a winning combination. I immediately realized my husband’s role was just as important and key to our success as a family as mine, and I was baffled I could have ever looked down on such a sacred responsibility. I started reaching out to all my friends and family who were their own family’s stay at home partner or parent, and giving them unsolicited praise for the major contributions they provided their household.
Even so, my husband did so much, and so seemingly effortlessly, that it was eventually easy to overlook all of the effort that went into keeping things moving so seamlessly every day.
Then COVID hit.
We live in Italy which was the world’s first hotspot outside of China. I had just gotten major surgery right before they announced the country-wide lockdown. It was clear I wouldn’t be going back to work for a long, long time.
Like most, at first our family was at home together 24 hours a day. What became the norm was the “stay at home parent,” or the “work at home parent” for those fortunate to have kept their jobs. The only outings we were allowed were trips to the grocery store or pharmacy. Given my lowered immune system due to recent surgery, my husband managed all of those.
As we’ve finally crawled out of lockdown, our roles have now reversed. I’ve been furloughed, and it is uncertain if there is a job waiting for me on the other end of all this. My husband was able to find work outside the home and I now suddenly find myself in a role I never thought I’d have: I am a stay at home mom.
The cliché rings true: it is a very tough job, certainly not for the lazy or unmotivated. What I find particularly difficult is feeding my family. The decisions on what the menu will be, the act of buying the right ingredients, the fear my cooking skills aren’t up to par with my husbands (they aren’t) – all of this sends me into a tailspin before noon.
I am also not a very natural homemaker. Sure, I can keep a place tidy – but does our house look like a home? The jury is still out.
I absolutely love love love all the time I get to spend with my daughter. But some days, keeping her entertained is not so easy and my capacity to focus most of my attention on her can easily wane. This is especially true when I hear the words, “Mom! Watch!” seventy times a day, only to look over at her doing something that can only rationally be described as nothing, but since she clearly needs the attention and love, I oblige — trying to maintain enthusiasm. It can be exhausting.
So, this is my ode to the stay at home parent.
Whether the house is spotless, or filled with loving chaos… You are amazing.
Whether you are left standing at the end of the day, or regularly sink with the sun into a wine-happy bundle on the couch… You are unstoppable.
Whether you have chosen this role, or have been pushed into it by unforeseen circumstances… What you are providing your family is valuable beyond comprehension.
Whether society would look at you and pin you as the “breadwinner” or the “homemaker…” You are the perfect person for this job.
Whether your partner regularly says this or not… It is because of your dedication to this role that they can be fully realized in theirs.
I do look forward to going back to work one day and putting the stay at home parent status firmly behind me. But, for now I know it is the very best thing I can do for my family.
And it is an absolute honor.
The post My Husband Was The SAHP While I Worked––Then COVID-19 Happened appeared first on Scary Mommy.
I’ll never know what it’s like to go through a pregnancy without having a sex preference. I wish I never cared from the start, but I did. Although I played sports competitively growing up and didn’t own a skirt until I was in 10th grade, I just didn’t picture myself as a boy mom. Yes, eventually I wanted babies of both sexes, but I had this fantasy in my mind of having a girl first, of her establishing a calm tone for the family and becoming my little helper and friend as she grew.
Before my husband and I had children, we optimistically wanted 4-5 children. Like so many naive pre-parent thoughts and expectations, actual parenthood would shift our desire.
There was never any consideration whether we would find out the sex of our children during pregnancy. The idea of “we want to be surprised” at birth never entered our minds. In fact, I like to say that discovering the sex of your baby is always a surprise, the only difference is when that surprise occurs. And as my friend used to say, “I find out during pregnancy so I’m not disappointed when the baby is born.” It’s better to take time to deal with that disappointment.
So when we found out our first was a boy, I bought myself (yes, myself) a cute pair of boy booties, decorated the nursery in Classic Pooh, and told myself it would be fine. (Of course he never even wore those booties as these things never fit newborns, and I probably lost them by then, and who has time and energy for multi-piece outfits. But that’s beside the point.) I told myself baby boy clothes can be cute too, and we have 3-4 chances left at a girl (remember I hadn’t experienced parenthood at that point).
And it was fine. I mean it was hard of course, as parenthood always is, especially with a newborn, and especially your first newborn. But I loved and love that little boy beyond words.
Then I was pregnant with my second baby and I was sure this time it would be a girl. But it wasn’t. And I told myself it was fine. They would be friends. I used to say, “I just wish that I could have a promise that the next one will be a girl.” But there are no promises.
The next pregnancy, at my 12 week ultrasound, the doctor told me, though it was just a guess at that point, she thought it was a girl, and the technician agreed with 90% certainty. So I held that hope for a glorious three hours, until my doctor’s office called to tell me the blood test results came in, and it was, indeed, another boy. I remember that call vividly. I remember I was driving my kids home from swim lessons, and I remember on which specific street I was. I remember how my doctor’s assistant first asked me what genders I have, and by her reaction to my answer, I knew what was coming.
It wasn’t until this third time that there were tears and depression at the news. It was a hard pregnancy for me, starting with finding out that I still wasn’t getting the girl I dreamt of. On top of that, I ended up getting the overwhelming news that I had gestational diabetes, which plunged me further into depression. Now I didn’t even have the option of eating my feelings.
And I had a lot of feelings and a lot of guilt about those feelings. I was sad and disappointed even though it felt wrong. I wondered if this pregnancy was worth it, especially having to poke a needle into my finger four times a day, having to be hyper-cautious about the foods I ate, and dealing with the anxiety of whether I would make it through the pregnancy without insulin. Then, one of my closest friends became pregnant with a girl during my pregnancy. It was hard not to be jealous no matter how hard I tried to tell myself not to compare, and to instead be grateful for what I have.
Of course I deeply love my three boys, now 6, 4, and 2. I love each of their individual personalities, even if I don’t always get their name right until the third try. I love sharing my Harry Potter obsession and my affinity to math with my eldest; I love the goofiness of my 4-year-old and watching him complete 12-year- old LEGO sets; I love the sweet, caring, cuddly, fun presence of my youngest. They are your stereotypical energetic boys who love ninjas and superheroes, building, sports, and, of course, fighting with one another. For each one present, the energy level grows exponentially.
Having three little boys is exactly as bonkers as you would expect. Parenting them isn’t what I thought it would be (definitely a lot more chaotic and louder), but I’m confident all parents would say the same. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t a parent, while somehow at the same time maintaining my certainty that I want to add a fourth child.
And, although I don’t have firsthand experience with girls, I imagine they truly aren’t always sweet and calm and having glittery flower decorated tea parties attended by unicorns. I imagine my fantasy of having a little friend and helper for life, like all things in parenthood, wouldn’t turn out like I expect. And I wish I could tell you (and myself) that I’m perfectly satisfied being a boy mom. But it’s time to be honest with myself. I still want that girl, and I’m done apologizing for it.
Of course I’m grateful to have each of my healthy children, especially having had a serious health problem in my childhood. I’m grateful I had no issues conceiving, carrying, and birthing them. I know there are many people who desire all these things, and I want every woman to have all of that too. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have my own feelings about what I haven’t gotten, how important it is to me, and what I’m willing to do to get it. I can love what I have, wish for the best for others, and still yearn for something more for myself all at the same time. And if I haven’t tried everything in my power to get it, I know I’ll always regret it.
The post I’m Done Apologizing For The Fact That I Want A Daughter appeared first on Scary Mommy.
I am 41 years old. While not old, I feel like plenty of years should have passed between now and my childhood to still be dealing with shit that happened 20 and 30 years ago. But even through my frustration, I know this isn’t true. Self-awareness, education, and therapy have helped me understand the way my brain was formed and how every aspect of my existence has been impacted by years of abuse and severe sexual trauma.
I can’t think my way out of the chemical connections in my brain and the emotions that bubble up when an old wound is exposed. I can, however, understand them, adjust my words, and change my actions to take care of myself and form authentic relationships. I have done this with mixed results, but will continue to put in the effort to undo what was never supposed to be my life’s work. Putting distance between the present and my childhood means I have had to put distance between the people who raised me, too. Out of good conscience, a repulsion at the thought of being like my parents, and a desire to be better and different for myself and my kids, I have broken many toxic cycles. However, it hasn’t been without backlash and pain.
Doing what’s best for me has not been free of negative impact. Cutting off contact with my abusive parents who turned into toxic relationships should have made my life lighter and easier. The absence of complicit extended family members should have given me more freedom and confidence. Instead, removing abusers from my life who I depended on, who I loved and who said loved me, created a mind fuck. Why would someone who loves me hurt me? And if I was hurting, why did I go to them for support and comfort? And why can’t I shake this guilt as if I were the one who did something wrong? Because none of us seemed to know any better until I finally did.
I knew my ongoing hurt even after the physical and sexual abuse ended was a direct result of the abuse itself, but it was also in the interactions with people who seemed fine with our shared memories and removed from my pain. It was as if time really could heal all wounds—for them. Their ability to move on made me wonder if I was wrong. Having kids of my own helped me realize I wasn’t.
Cognitively, I know I did what I needed to do and am healthier for it, but I still feel pangs of guilt for walking away from people who wanted me to stay and to forgive all sins. They wanted relief from accountability and access to the growing joy created by the existence of my children. In my survivor’s guilt and the agony of knowing I hurt another person by ending contact, I misdirect that guilt onto what I think my own parental failings are on any given day. I wonder if I yelled too much. Did I work too many hours? Say no too often? Do my children feel loved? Do they feel seen? What if they don’t feel my love? What if I missed something?
When I snuggle with my kids at bedtime and they wrap their arms around me or wiggle away and ask for space, I know they are safe. The physical and emotional nets of safety I have provided for my kids are visible in their outbursts and laughter throughout the day and in their slow and soft breathing as they drift off to sleep beside me each night. It’s visible in their ability to push me away in their frustration when they push boundaries. The work I have done to be different and to provide a better environment for my kids than the one I knew is evident in our talks about consent, tricky people, and privacy. It’s there in heated moments when we yell, swear, and sometimes throw things. Because while we are angry with one another, we are not out to hurt each other. We express our feelings, but we don’t use them as weapons. We are allowed to express our feelings.
I still mourn the relationships I don’t have and the grandparents my kids don’t know. And when I feel that intense sadness, I imagine their pain of missing me. Is it better to be missed and know I am causing hurt or to be let go of completely? Those feelings shift to missing my own children before they have even grown and left the house. Will they let me go? Will my children come back? I question if I will ever welcome family members into my life again. These thoughts and fears are often right on the surface of my interactions with my own children, with the hope I am doing things differently.
I know I am, but will it be enough? Have I sufficiently healed to trust that I am the parent my kids need? On most days I think I have, but on the hard days, it’s easy to forget that I have already broken the cycle. Being the change still impacts my mental health and how I see myself as a parent. I am constantly holding several, often opposite, emotions at once because detoxing is necessary, even if it’s painful. I am far from a perfect parent, but I am a probably a better one than I give myself credit for. Someone once told me that the addition of these intentions and thoughtfulness has created space for me to develop healthy and long-lasting relationships with my children. That would be a more than ample reward for all of us.