Here’s To The Long-Distance Friends Who Love Us From Afar

“VAMPIRES?!” my BFF texted. “You’re writing about vampires?! And I had to find out about this on Instagram?!”

“Sorry,” I replied. “It’s for Halloween.”

“I hereby declare that we have not been speaking nearly enough if I had to hear about this on Insta,” she said.

“I concur,” I texted back, along with an appropriate gif. She lives 700 miles away. It’s not like I can drop by her house and tell her about the vampires. And yeah, I should have told her a day or so ago, if just for her predictable and immediate reaction (total disbelief followed by a demand to know, in-depth, the mythological framework I’d decided to use and where I’d taken it from).

Sure, she’s a long-distance friend, but I can always count on her, even when she clearly had to put the phone down for a half an hour to do something, to answer me, make me laugh, or cry along with me.

That’s what long-distance friends do.

When people ask who your friends are, they tend to mean “the people you see on a regular basis.” When I tell them that my BFF lives half the country away, they look at me like I’m bonkers. Like, how can we possibly be BFFs if we live that far apart?! But there’s this thing called a phone? And text messages? There’s also an internet. We use them all. I remember, when we were kids, that it cost her huge sums of money to call our other friend, who lived maybe 25 miles away. Now my long-distance friend and I can call 700 miles on our regular phone plans without counting the minutes. Plus unlimited texting, with gifs and pictures.

We talk to them because we have all these amazing tools at our disposal, they’re easy to use, and why not use them to talk to the people we care about the most? So simple to snap a photo and send it to long-distance friends, or have a conversation totally in gifs from your mutually favorite TV show.

Some of us talk to our long-distance friends more than our close-by friends. I know my BFF’s work schedule and commute time. And this mitigated space sometimes makes it easier to, well, tell them things. Like things you wouldn’t really tell people you have to look in the face the next morning. Not because you love them, or because they’re strangers, but because long-distance friends are far away, and that distance is just right for embarrassing stories, or sad stories, or the chance to cry over something you’d never, ever admit to someone else.

Long-distance friends can be there for things you wouldn’t tell anyone else.

I have a mental health issue I’ve been struggling with for a while. Almost no one close by knows about it. I haven’t bothered to tell them, even though it’s fairly obvious. But my long-distance friend knew. She knew long before any of my close-by friends. Don’t you dare say she doesn’t count because she’s far away.

You don’t casually have long-distance friends. There’s a reason for that friendship. Maybe you met them on the internet, and you had so much in common that you became really close — you have more in common with them than almost anyone else you know. Maybe your long-distance friends are people who moved away, and you loved them enough to keep up with them. But whatever the reason, they mean a lot to you. They have to, because even with all the internetting and the texting and the calling, it’s not easy to be long-distance friends. You have to commit to calling, to remembering, to caring enough to pick up that phone or send that message. At a time when it’s much easier not to care, when it’s much easier to say we don’t have time, when we’re all stretched so thin, that can be a big deal.

In my case, I’m the one who moved after college. And after a long, long hiatus, one of my former high school bestemies (best friend + enemy, see what I did there?) and I reconnected and became BFFs, but for real this time. We’re long-distance friends for a very, very good reason. And we make the effort. We put the time in. We send birthday presents and kid pics and actually care enough to check up when the other one is sick.

Their presence is just a different kind than that of close-by friends. Close-by friends sit at your kitchen table. Long-distance friends sit with you too, but you’re at two different kitchen tables. And though you don’t see them randomly throughout the day, you never know when you might get a little message or text from your long-distance friends. They’re like little presents, just for you, that you never know are coming. I never know when my phone might ding, and I might see a screenshot of my BFF’s spotify playlist playing some weird song from high school we used to giggle about (I’m looking at you, Deep Blue Something). I never know when I might get a text message reading, “VAMPIRES?!”

She’s here. She’s just a different kind of here. And that’s a whole other kind of gift. You can’t compare long-distance friends to close-by friends.

But when I finally got Hamilton tickets, guess who I texted?

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If You Don’t Want To Hear What I Really Think, I’m Not The Friend For You

“I needed to hear that from you; you are right,” my friend said after I gave her my opinion. She had come to me enough times complaining about another friend of hers who would never change, yet she refused to cut the cord. She kept hanging out with her, not saying anything about her passive-aggressive ways, her low-key insults, and how she gossiped about everyone behind their back. I told her if she wasn’t going to do anything about it, she should just accept the situation for what it was and stop talking about it.

Honestly, I was sick of hearing about the backlash, and I’m sure she was tired of being tangled up in it. I nicely told her if she wanted to continue on with that friendship, great. But I had better things to do than listen to the bashing over and over and over again.

Sound harsh? Well, I happen to believe we can love our friends and not love all of their choices. We can also show them how much we love them by not staring at them like a deer in headlights instead of telling them how we really feel. We can love our friends and ourselves by showing we have no interest in being used as a doormat for them to vomit on. The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

I’m not one of those people who can sit and smile while blasting sunshine up someone’s ass. When they ask for my advice, I can’t lie and tell them I think they are making a great choice if I don’t think they are, even if it will ruffle feathers. I know I want to be held to highest version of myself by the people who mean the most to me. So I offer the same in return.

Call me silly, but I think it’s showing more empathy and caring than keeping my trap shut when I’m witnessing someone do something I know they are going to regret.

I guess I could coddle my kids, family members, and friends by telling them what they want to hear, but I wouldn’t like myself very much. Nor would I like it if they kept coming to me for validation because no one else would give it to them. After all, isn’t that the definition of a needy, fake friend?

If someone comes to me for advice and I advise them to take the easy way out, don’t call them out on their assholery, or remind them how much more they deserve and should demand it, I think that’s being mean, not to mention dishonest. I’m not saying they have to follow my advice to be my friend; I’m just saying I’m not going to be quiet about my feelings around the matter in hopes of preserving the friendship. Sitting back and smiling through your teeth while someone is doing something you know is damaging to them is a recipe for resentment, and I don’t want to resent my friends because I didn’t speak up.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about insulting someone, and I’m not talking about kicking them while they are down either. If someone is grieving after a fuck-up, you don’t need to dump rubbing alcohol all over them. This isn’t a shaming game. I’m also not talking about those situations that are in the grey area, where one person might do one thing and another friend another thing, but both are valid.

What I’m talking about are those bright line, in-your-face situations. I’m talking about saving a friend from their future self by letting them know they need to stop texting their ex because sending nine unanswered messages isn’t a good look. I’m talking about letting someone know they are complaining too much, and that’s probably why some of their friends have gone MIA lately. I’m talking about telling someone they have bad breath when you’re out in public because they obviously don’t know.

I’m talking about saving people from future mishaps by speaking the hell up.

Sure, it’s more comfortable to not tell your friend they have boogers in their eyes before a girls’ night out, or lead them to believe they “don’t act that obnoxious” after three margaritas at your favorite watering hole where they have a crush on the waiter and definitely act obnoxious after three margaritas. I know it’s cost me some friends, but this is how I operate. I can’t help myself. I want the same handed back to me in return.

Women who aren’t afraid to call me out are the women I want in my life. It’s a form of lifting each other up, of not letting each other fall below our potential. And I’d rather let the friends who can’t handle hard conversations and who just want things peachy all the time fade away. I’ll keep the ones who appreciate my honesty and will throw it right back at me.

Finding time to spend with friends is hard enough. And for me, there’s no need to invest in surface-level conversations where we’re walking on egg shells.

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Becoming A Mom Has Made Me Miss My Grandma Even More

The first time watching Coco with my son, I was sobbing by the end. Not just because it’s a beautiful movie, because it is. But watching Miguel and his great-grandmother together hit me right in the heart. And to this day, it makes me miss my grandma. Watching that scene drove home that my son would never get to have that kind of bond with her. And he’s really missing out.

My grandmother died when I was 15. At this point I’ve been without her longer than I was with her. Being a teenager, missing her wasn’t actively on my mind. When she died, we were kind of estranged, and family tensions were high. In the days following her death and leading to her funeral, I was alarmingly stoic. My best friend and I did teenage things, and at her wake, I sat in the lobby, chatting with my other friends who came to pay their respects. It wasn’t until her funeral, when my great-aunt, her twin sister (who I called “Auntie Grandma” as a child) broke down in tears, that I cried. And even then, it was over quickly.

But motherhood is funny. There are random moments where memories will come flooding back.

A couple summers ago, after my son and I moved cross country, his favorite movie was Hello Dolly starring Barbra Streisand. Weird for a three-year-old, I know. But I did watch it a lot when I was pregnant, so maybe he has a memory I don’t know about. Seeing him dancing and singing with the movie brought me back to doing the same thing with my gram. Old movie musicals were our thing.

Now my son is a little older, around the age where memories really form. When I think back to being his age, all of my most prominent memories feature my grandma. We were super close when I was a little kid. And even though she’d be pretty old now if she was still alive, I know she and my son would have been just as close as I was to her at his age. That’s what breaks my heart the most, knowing he’ll never get to create those memories with her.

If he got to meet her, he would love her. She was in a wheelchair after suffering a stroke when I was a toddler. I can see him joyriding in her chair while she was in bed, or sitting on her lap while she zipped around. And I know that she would keep a steady supply of Hershey’s Kisses in her secret chocolate drawer because they’re his favorite. Every night I can see them sitting together to watch Jeopardy! because my gram never missed an episode. I bet they would stay up late watching TV on a Saturday night the same way she and I did. He would have delighted in handing over the back scratcher she jokingly called her “husband.”

There are so many things I can see them doing together in my mind… she and her best friend (who died years later) strapping his booster seat into the car and going on adventures, the two of them taking him to local theatre productions like they did with me, going to the same diner they took me to a million times, that somehow hasn’t changed even though it’s been 20 something years since I sat with them in a vinyl booth. He would wrinkle his nose at the stuff she ate (like liver and gefilte fish), but he would probably love a matzo spread with butter at Passover. (We’re not Jewish, but my grandma worked as a housekeeper for Jewish families back in the ‘60s.)

And even though we live across the country from my family, if my grandma were still alive that wouldn’t matter. She’d probably yell at my mom to show her how to video chat. And she would be a captive audience for my son while he pretends to be a YouTuber. Just like she sat and happily watched me dance for her. Sadly, they wouldn’t get to share the experience of watching her “stories,” because her favorite soap operas have been off the air forever. But he would watch The Price is Right with her. And just like she and I did when I was his age, they’d watch The Golden Girls together. Except now they’d be watching it on Hulu.

As much as I know she and my son would be the best friends, I can’t help but wonder what my relationship with her would be. There is so much of my life that she didn’t get to be a part of. And it never really bothered me until I had my son. She didn’t get to see me graduate from high school or college. Would she have traveled from Staten Island to Manhattan to see all of my plays in high school? Or would she and her bestie have road tripped up to Boston to see my one big play in college?

She never got to see me fall in love for the first time. Even though that relationship didn’t last, I still wonder what she would have thought. Would she be disappointed that we didn’t stay together? I can’t help but think of what she would have said when I came out. How would that have changed our relationship? She’d probably have been proud of my writing career, telling the old ladies she sat outside with that her granddaughter was published in The New York Times.

It’s hard to explain to my son how much my grandma meant to me. He’s young, so talking about abstract people isn’t something he understands. But I want him to know how much I loved her, and still love her. I hope he knows that if she were still here, he would love her too. Because she was the best. And I know I took her for granted because I thought we’d have more time.

And that’s why when Miguel kneels next to his Mama Coco and sings “Remember Me” to her, my heart breaks all over again. Because my son doesn’t get to have a relationship like that with my Gram.

Then again, maybe they’ve already met and that’s why he loves Hello Dolly so much.

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Social Anxiety Can Have A Huge Impact On Your Life

Actual, diagnosable, pathological social anxiety can be crippling. It doesn’t mean “oh, I’m scared to go out around people because I might mess up.” Pathological social anxiety, according to the Social Anxiety Association, affects about 7% of people at any given time, and 13% of people over the course of their lives. The group defines the disorder as “the fear and anxiety of being negatively judged and evaluated by other people.” Moreover, “it is a pervasive disorder and causes anxiety and fear in most all areas of a person’s life.”

So you’re not just scared to meet some moms out for coffee. You’re freaked out when you have to drive through Starbucks, because you have to talk to the barista.

Usually, people with social anxiety feel a “constant, intense fear.” There are plenty of physical symptoms, like blushing, a racing heart, dry mouth, and trembling. These things get triggered by many things, most of which boil down to “feeling insecure and out of place in social situations.” It’s important to realize that this stuff is chronic, pathological, and a problem with your brain chemistry. You need to rewire it. The only way to do that is through cognitive behavioral therapy, according to the association. Medication worked fine for me, but I may be in the minority.

But What About The Rest of Us?

What about those of us who don’t fall into that category yet still feel some level of social anxiety? We don’t freak out all the time. We’re not afraid of the barista; we’re afraid we’ll screw up meeting new people, and we’re afraid of messing up in front of important people, and we’re afraid people won’t like us — but we don’t quite meet the standards for diagnosable social anxiety. I’m treated. My psychiatrist will tell you I’m treated. But I still freak out when it comes to new playgroups or hanging out with moms I don’t know well or seeing people I don’t deem good friends — people I don’t know well, people who might not tolerate my social fuck-ups.

And even this low-grade social anxiety can affect us in profound ways. I find myself reluctant, for example, to go to certain events or to hang out at them for very long. I might not know the other parents there, and I’m shy to get to know them — I’m terrified they won’t like me. This makes me look standoffish, so other parents disregard me, and it becomes a vicious cycle. I become convinced that people who probably do like me think I’m deeply weird and probably talk about me behind my back, so I avoid them (I actually switched homeschool associations because of thisa fairly drastic move). I think I might avoid social gatherings just because people I know don’t like me will be there, rather than showing up and ignoring them.

So What Can We Do About Social Anxiety?

HelpGuide has several really good solutions to help combat social anxiety. I use some of them, and they really do help. First, we have to recognize our irrational thoughtsMost of us, as the Social Anxiety Association points out, know our thoughts are irrational. But we have to actually take the time, in the middle of them, to pause. We have to realize we’re having irrational thoughts and label them.I like to actually say the words in my head: “The idea that my friend thinks I’m weird is an irrational thing to think.” We may need to say this more than once. It helps.

Next, we can, as HelpGuide suggests, “stop and analyze these thoughts.” Ask yourself questions. You can acknowledge your feelings — “I’m nervous that my friends think I’m weird” — without validating them. Then, after you acknowledge the way you feel about that irrational thought, you can try to analyze it. Does being nervous my friends think I’m weird actually mean my friends think I’m weird, or am I projecting? What actual evidence can I produce that my friends think I’m weird?

When I think about that evidence, I need to step outside myself and give myself the same grace I give other people. If someone came to me and told me the same things I’m telling myself, what would I say to them? Would I agree that yes, your friends think you’re weird? Or would I say no, you’re making this up, honey — you need to take some deep breaths? This is one of the most difficult parts, because you have to think as if you’re someone else. You have to look at your life as if it was someone else’s, and that can be really, really hard when you’re caught in the middle of it.

But it’s probably the most important step to overcoming your social anxiety. You have to take a step back. You have to say, is this a rational thing that I would let my friend persist in believing? If the answer is a big fat no, give yourself the same grace you’d give your friend. Realize you’re being anxious. And remember that you can experience the feeling without giving in to the truth of it. You can let yourself be anxious without believing in that same anxiety. Practice saying things like, “I am anxious, but there is no reason to feel this way.”

It helps to develop rituals, then, once you realize that there’s no reason for your anxiety, to calm yourself down. You can take a walk. I like to read a book or write, both of which take me out of my own head. You could play with your kids or your dog. I also like to sing along loudly to music on the radio. Squeeze a stress ball. Practice mental imagery. My husband has a calming app he uses on his phone.

If you don’t have diagnosable social anxiety, there’s plenty you can do on your own to help yourself get over those panicky moments that crop up to ruin your fun times. If you do have a social anxiety disorder, you need the help of a qualified therapist or psychiatrist — and you can still use these techniques to help you while you get better. But either way, social anxiety is treatable. It’s conquerable and curable. You can beat this. You can do this. You can get better.

You don’t have to live in fear. I promise.

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My Post-Divorce Advice? Quit Hanging Around People Who Suck

When you’re working to get your confidence back and build boundaries after divorce, there is one “hiding in plain sight” barrier that will keep you from reaching your goals.

And that’s surrounding yourself with shitty people.

You know exactly who they are…

The pushy one with unsolicited advice that makes you doubt your decisions.

The catty woman with snide comments and back-handed compliments.

The one who blames you and makes herself the victim when you call her out on her crap.

Sound like anyone you know? Is this a sister? Your mother? Your adult daughter? That “friend” who says she’s “only trying to help you?”

Literally every woman deals with these shit-heads on the daily. And his/her comments are so hurtful because they know which button of yours to push. They’ve known you for a long-ass time, and know your sore spots, triggers, and vulnerabilities.

That’s why one of their comments can leave you devastated for days.

The secret about toxic people in your life…

100% of that criticism has nothing to do with you. She is projecting her own insecurities onto you she’s not taking responsibility for her own issues.

Remember the time your sister said, “That dress looks a little snug on you, don’t you think?” although she knew you were counting calories and going to yoga three times a week?

Remember that time you got that promotion at work and instead of congratulating you, your mother said, “Oh, so I guess that means you’ll be spending even less time with your kids.”

Like, WTF?!

So, what do you want to do about her? 

Continue to let them walk all over you, saying “that’s just her”? This option is risky as shit, because you put yourself at risk of continued frustration and hurt feelings.

Stand up for yourself. This doesn’t have to look like a Jerry Springer fight. But it takes courage.

“Hey [insert person’s name], it really hurts my feelings when you do/say [insert harmful action here]. I would ask that you keep those comments to yourself.”

“Hey [insert person’s name]. I notice that you’re always commenting or giving me unsolicited advice on my divorce/looks/weight/recovery/insert whatever they’re always commenting on. I would ask that you don’t do that anymore, at least until I specifically ask for your advice.”

So, a quick heads-up when you stand up for yourself…If the person has any amount of emotional intelligence, they may take a step back and say, “Oh, wow.. Sorry. I didn’t mean to make you feel bad,” or something along the lines of that.

Or they may get defensive and turn it on you. They may say,“I’m only trying to help you. If you don’t want my honest opinion, then fine.” And then they might stomp away or hang up the phone or stonewall you or some other 5-year-old-at-the-playground BS.

If that reaction occurs, that is a HUGE RED FLAG that maybe this relationship is unhealthy. This ain’t the end of the world–it’s just an opportunity to set up healthy boundaries.

Oh, and I get you may not just be able to walk away from that person so easily. She might be a relative or close friend.

But remember–being related to someone DOES NOT give them carte blanche to treat you like crap.

It takes a Herculean effort to be confident enough to speak up and stand your ground when they push back. But until then, remember:

Be aware that some of the most toxic people may be the ones closest to you.

Their trash-talking has nothing to do with you, but everything to do with their own insecurities.

You have the power to speak up for yourself.

Family members and close friends do not get to throw shade just because they’re in your life.

 

We are Scary Mommies, millions of unique women, united by motherhood. We are scary, and we are proud. But Scary Mommies are more than “just” mothers; we are partners (and ex-partners,) daughters, sisters, friends… and we need a space to talk about things other than the kids. So check out our Scary Mommy It’s Personal Facebook page. And if your kids are out of diapers and daycare, our Scary Mommy Tweens & Teens Facebook page is here to help parents survive the tween and teen years (aka, the scariest of them all.)

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I Broke Up With My Friend Over Her Anti-Vaccine Views

I had to let my friend go because of her staunch anti-vaccine views. I didn’t let her go happily. Honestly, I was sad to sever the ties. We had been through a really tough time together, and our friendship survived things that many don’t.

Initially, her anti-vaccine views just made me roll my eyes. She was always one of those everything-natural, essential-oils, no-chemicals, kind of people. She made her own elderberry syrup. I’m not against all-natural things, but I’m just a lot more mainstream when it comes to medicine, cleaning products, and personal care. We joked about how she was my hippie friend, so it was “on-brand” for her to be against vaccines. I wasn’t surprised by it, but I was disappointed when I found out.

We discussed it briefly once, it didn’t go well, and that was it. We chose not to discuss it again. For a while, no matter how much I disagreed with her, I chose to ignore her many anti-vaccine posts on social media because I loved her.

She has three kids who are all so funny and quirky and beautiful and smart. We had so much fun together with our kids and without. Her ideas about vaccines didn’t feel relevant to me. My kids are vaccinated, and I don’t have to agree with my friends on every issue.

Right?

As a part of her anti-vaccine stance, she has been vocal about her belief that autism is a vaccine injury. I always adamantly disagreed with her in my mind, but I am ashamed to say, I never felt the need to speak up for people with autism because I didn’t know any.

How ugly is that statement? Phew. Thank goodness for personal growth.

Last winter, my son was diagnosed with autism, and the whole game changed.

My heart was heavy the day I ended our social media ties and decided that I wouldn’t contact her again. The last anti-vaccine post I saw on her social media was autism specific, and I just knew that for Walker’s sake, it was time. I wasn’t happy to lose her friendship, and it didn’t feel great to just quietly disappear, but ultimately, I thought that was the best way.

Her ideas about vaccines are too deeply rooted for me to make any difference, but more importantly, she’s a grown woman. She can disagree with established science if that’s what she chooses. As dangerous as it is, I have no right to demand that she change her views to accommodate me.

That said, I also don’t have an obligation to respect (or even tolerate) her views and opinions. Vaccines save lives, and when you don’t vaccinate, you put fragile populations at risk. Newborns, the elderly, immune-compromised individuals and people with allergies to vaccine ingredients need the rest of us to keep vaccine-preventable disease at bay. The best way to do that is to limit who can contract it — and that is what vaccines do.

I didn’t choose to end our friendship because I was angry, and I didn’t go quietly because I felt she didn’t deserve an explanation. I wasn’t angry at all, and I’d be happy to explain if she asked what happened. She’s never asked. I haven’t heard from her. I’m sure she knows that it comes down to vaccines, and she knows as well as I do that we can’t find common ground when it comes to that.

And I can’t ignore the anti-vaccine rhetoric anymore. It’s not a difference of opinion about whether to trust in established medical science at this point. It’s my son.

Walker is an amazing little boy, not despite autism, but because of it. It is part of who he is, and it is how he was made. Some people assume he is fighting against autism to succeed, but that couldn’t be less true. Every time Walker excels, it’s because he has learned exactly how to thrive with the brain he has. As his parents, we are finding ways for him to be everything he can be — not looking for ways for him to act more neurotypical.

And to be honest, I’m tired of acting like anti-vaccine proponents aren’t just flat out wrong about the vaccine/autism link. Doctors and scientists agree that autism isn’t an injury or brain damage. It can be part of a wider diagnosis, or a standalone diagnosis, but either way, it’s just the way some brains are wired. From the womb to the grave, my boy will have the atypical and amazing brain that he has.

The autism spectrum is vast, and every autistic person is completely unique. Some people, like my son, show some signs of autism from birth. Some people are diagnosed in childhood when their spectrum traits begin to show up more prominently. A few people even get all the way to adulthood before discovering that they are on the spectrum. We don’t yet know exactly how autism works, but science gets us closer every day.

What we do know is that there is absolutely no valid scientific link between vaccines and autism. That science is clear, and I won’t waste even a sentence trying to convince anyone of that.

When I saw her latest post about autism and vaccines, it all became so clear in my mind. I knew I could love her, but I couldn’t change her mind. It felt disloyal to my boy to continue to look the other way. When I ended our social media ties, I knew in my heart that it was the end in real life, too. I wish her well, but I will not contact her again.

I have no doubt that she would always treat my son with kindness in person. She isn’t a monster. She’s a kind person who believes some things that I know to be incorrect and dangerous.

This isn’t about protecting him from her, specifically.

It’s about protecting him from ideologies that would cause him pain and self-doubt. It’s also about protecting my own heart from the constant reminders that some people — even ones I count as friends — see my son as damaged goods. I think that even if it bruises my heart just a little bit, it’s okay for me to let go of anyone who doubts that Walker is absolutely, 100% the exact person he is meant to be.

If you want a seat at our table, you have to celebrate Walker for all that he is.

Autism does come with a host of specific challenges. But my other child without autism has a whole host of specific challenges, too. Don’t we all have hurdles to jump on the way to the life we imagine?

I don’t wish Walker was neurotypical. He doesn’t suffer with autism. He thrives with it. It’s my job as his mom to create a life for him that allows him to continue to blossom, so he will be capable of any future that he chooses.

I just can’t allow people who don’t see him as totally whole to have a place in my life or Walker’s.

He deserves better.

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You Don’t Just Lose Your Partner In A Divorce

When I first realized my marriage was over, I thought about what life would be like without my spouse. What changes would be made to my family now that we were a family minus one. What would it be like sleeping in bed alone? Never having someone in the house to delegate tasks I realllly didn’t want to do to? What about when bedtime gets bad and I could use a hand, but that hand lives somewhere else now?

I wondered about losing a spouse and partner in the home and what that would mean for our dynamic and how our home would function now with one less person. But I took me a while to realize that in divorce, you lose so much more than just your spouse.

1. You lose friends.

People pick sides. Whether they intend to or not, they seem to feel the need to form alliances and mutual friends tend to lean one way or the other. Many of my ex-husband’s friends were made during our marriage, which made this especially hard for me because in my eyes, they were just as much my friends as they were his. But they didn’t see things that way. I lost a lot of friends, which in turn meant I lost a lot of support I could have used.

2. You lose your confidence.

Nothing makes you question your ability as a human being like realizing you made the CATASTROPHIC desicion to marry the wrong person. If your divorce is ugly and harsh, like mine, it chips even more away at your self-esteem little by little as you wonder how you could have stayed this long, how this man you shared your life with could do and say these TERRIBLE things about you, and how stupid are you that you didn’t see him for who he really was sooner? You question your judgment, your ability to move on, you wonder if you find someone new if you’ll make the same mistake(s) again. You feel fragile. Broken.

3. You lose your family.

My ex and I were together for 12 years. His family became part of my family. And whether or not we had a great relationship, they were still family. And they are always family to my children. But during (and even after) divorce, the relationship changes so drastically. They are no longer people you would want to turn to in crisis. You don’t want to confide in them or rely on them any longer. You feel like they are judging you. And you know that they are on his side, they are his family in blood.

4. You lose time with your kids.

You know you’ll have to split holidays and birthdays. Share special days throughout the year or spend them in awkward silence with your future ex, but you don’t realize how much that time really adds up and how much it hurts until it happens. And it doesn’t get easier. The minute they leave, you miss them. And the minute they get home, you’re already worrying about the next time they will leave again.

5. You lose STUFF.

It sounds like a #firstworldproblem to be concerned about material things, but it’s true. You lose your favorite couch or your best towels. You lose your house when you’re forced to sell it and split things down the middle. You lose your credit limit because it’s no longer a shared entity. Your cars, your plates, your blender, you lose HALF OF EVERYTHING. And you don’t think about this at first, but rebuilding an entire life from 50% back up to where you left off can be hard (and costly) to do.

6. Which means, you lose money.

Between splitting your finances and your assets, you also spend thousands on attorneys, mediators, babysitters to help you get through it all. You spend so much money on divorce that the idea of getting divorced ever again means you’ll probably never accept another proposal because you can’t risk the financial hit it sends rippling through your accounts.

7. You lose your pets.

Maybe you are the one who keeps them, but in divorce pets can’t live in two places at once so one of you will be bound to lose your furry friend’s companionship on a daily basis. In my divorce, I was so worried about my children and what would happen with them I didn’t even think about my animals until my divorce was almost finalized. They weren’t an item that came up in our talks with our attorneys and if you ask me, that’s not right. My pet stayed with me, but he’s not the same. He lost someone too.

Divorce is hard. It turns your world upside down and forces you to find yourself all over again after years of thinking that this is your “forever life.” Everyone around you gets effected by the residual effects of your mood, your change in lifestyle, your new independence. But you don’t think about how much you really LOSE when you decide to call it quits. It’s more than just the partner you’re divorcing. And that part hurts enough.

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It’s Hard To Be The Forgotten One When A Friend Goes Quiet

One of my closest friends, the one I can 100% be myself with, say anything to and I know there will be zero judgment, has gone missing again. Right now, she is really overwhelmed with life, and when this happens, she shuts down for months at a time and I barely hear from her. She’ll call if she wants to talk, or is in the mood to chat, but if she’s not, she goes silent. 

My occasional texts and phone calls get ignored so I don’t push it and let her be, but I’m not going to lie: it is hard for me and to be on the receiving end of this if I am struggling too, want to check in, or simply want to make myself available to see if there is anything I can do for her. While I am aware of her needs right now, there have been times these past weeks when I really, really needed her. And the silence hurts.

Being a single mom who has gone through divorce, I’ve had some hard stretches in my life lately when I’ve shut down for a short period of time. There were times when I didn’t feel like I could lift my head off the pillow, return a text or phone call, and I lost motivation to connect to people. So, I get this is a way we self-protect and preserve, I really do.

But honestly, when I go into hiding to recharge, it doesn’t last more than a day or so. My friendships are a crucial part of my life, and I don’t feel good about keeping them on the back burner for a long time. While I have stretches of being a bit introverted, and taking time to sink back into myself when something is wrong, at the core of my soul, I need my people.

I long for human interaction and connection. I feel better after talking with my best friend, or just getting out and mingling with different air and people to get my mind off my problems. There is nothing more humbling than being there for someone else, helping them move or redecorate, or just be a sounding board.

For me, when I shut down and don’t communicate with family or friends, or focus only on myself for too long, I spiral and feel even more hopeless.

There have been times when simply getting out of the house has jolted my out of my own tiny world and made me realize the power in a change of scenery or focusing on another person.

When I’m in a dark place, I’ve realized reaching out helps my mental health in a big way. I’ve never regretted picking up the phone and asking for help, or getting out of my slump by putting those jeans on and getting my ass out of my damn house, even when I didn’t want to.

Julia/Reshot

So it’s hard when someone goes dark for several weeks at a time.

I’m not talking about being needy and calling someone who I expect to be available 24/7 and come to my aid whenever I have an issue. I’m not talking about having high expectations of your friends, or not understanding when they have too much going on to see you– I get all of that. I’m talking about those times you want to get a coffee, have a good bitch session, or someone to go to spin class with to take the edge off and shed a bit of light on your world when things feel off.

I’m talking about reaching out with a text and getting a response within a day.

I’m talking about that person who is able to say, “I want you know I am overwhelmed now, but let’s get together in a few weeks.”

And when you have a friend who shuts you (and everyone else out) when they are in the thick of it as their way of coping with something, it can be lonely. You can understand their situation and not want to be self-centered and still be hurt by it.

After all, science says good friends make us live longer and I fully believe that. I’m a better version of myself when I nurture my friendships. The times when I’ve really needed a friend and I’ve been pushed to the side, or even ignored, it feels like being kicked when you are down. It feels like rejection. It feels like you are left waiting in the wings until they are able to make room for you, and it can damage the friendship even if you try and be the bigger person.

I know this probably sounds like I’m setting up to have a huge pity party, but let’s be honest: being shut out for months at a time by a really good friend can make you question the connection. Again, I am not talking about being ghosted or knowing your friendship is changing and you are desperately clinging on while they are trying to let you go. I’m referring to those times when you need a sound ear, when you miss your friend, but they aren’t available at all because of the things going on in their life.

We all deal with things in different ways. I do respect my girlfriends and our differences, and I never want anyone to feel like they are doing me a favor and spending time with me because I am clingy and they grow to regret me.

But when you need a friend and those you count on the most aren’t responsive because they aren’t capable of that, it can take you to an even darker place. 

There is a fine line between giving someone space and feeling like you are cast aside whenever life gets too overwhelming for someone because they know you will just be waiting in the wings when they are in the mood for you. 

I don’t care who you are, when you are already feeling low, this can be a tough pill to swallow.

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I Want To Be Invited, I Just Don’t Want To Go

I was coming off of a pretty damn good weekend, as far as life with young kids goes. We had stayed busy but not frantic, the kids had long stretches of actually playing together nicely, and I even managed some catch-up time with both my husband and a great book.

Then I did a quick scroll through Instagram before bed Sunday night and saw a series of photos of a group of close friends enjoying a joint family barbecue. And just like that, my little bubble of good vibes popped.

I bestowed the obligatory “like,” but my honest feelings were the opposite. We were in town! We enjoy barbecues! We’re fun(ish)! Why weren’t we invited?

I grumbled those sentiments out loud to my husband a little while later and he looked at me with his patient, you’re-bonkers-but-I-still-love-you expression. He gently reminded me that at the end of an enjoyable but tiring weekend, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to go to this gathering anyway.

100% true. And 100% not the point!

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I think of my reaction as the Mom Social Paradox. We want to be included in everything and, by extension, we want our kids to be included in everything. And then we want to say no to almost all of it – we are, after all, extremely overscheduled and extremely exhausted. In this scenario, it truly is the thought that counts.

Without a doubt, social media delivers moms our share of FOMO-inducing blows.

But even if we avoid refreshing our feeds, we’re still going to hear about the group gatherings where we (or our kids) didn’t make the cut. And it’s going to sting a bit every time.

This is where a bit of perspective and rationality is needed. In fact, those are important skills for us to teach and model for our kids. There are going to be instances when all of us are – or at least feel – left out. But if we know we’re spending our time with people we love, or doing things we enjoy, then who cares about missing the other stuff?

Yes, enjoying a glass of wine out with your girlfriends would have been great. But so was enjoying a glass of wine while watching that “Where Are They Now?” special on all the former Real Housewives. And you couldn’t have worn sweats to the first one.

What’s more, most of the time, being left out of something is completely unintentional. We’re all secretly convinced other people are thinking about us constantly, with good or bad intentions, and they almost never are; they are too busy thinking the same thing about the people around them.

Even recognizing all of that, feeling overlooked will always hurt. It’s human instinct to want to be included. (And every instinct humans have is magnified when it comes to our children.) But I’m going to keep focusing on the relationships and experiences that are truly most important to me, and trust that genuine friendships don’t depend on being asked to every barbecue.

All the same, however, please continue to send invites my way. I think I’m busy that day, but I appreciate you asking.

 

We are Scary Mommies, millions of unique women, united by motherhood. We are scary, and we are proud. But Scary Mommies are more than “just” mothers; we are partners (and ex-partners,) daughters, sisters, friends… and we need a space to talk about things other than the kids. So check out our Scary Mommy It’s Personal Facebook page. And if your kids are out of diapers and daycare, our Scary Mommy Tweens & Teens Facebook page is here to help parents survive the tween and teen years (aka, the scariest of them all.)

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As A Single Mom, My School Mom Squad Is Essential

It happened again last night.

I looked at the upcoming week and wondered how I would make it to Friday. Two nights of soccer practice. One night of gymnastics. Five nights of dinner to plan and make and clean up from.

Four nights of homework.

Five days of lunches to pack for three kids who won’t eat cafeteria food.

School picture forms to fill out and uniforms to iron.

Two class Halloween parties to coordinate. Not to mention that little thing that I do during the day called work.

The excitement of the first day of school has faded and the reality of the work-school-sports-homework juggle with three kids has set in.  And when you are the only adult in the house like I am, it can also be the time of year when you are one missing cleat away from losing your mind in a way not even a Pumpkin Spice Latte can fix.

Most days, despite the odds, four of us are out the door to school drop-off and work on time. Lunches are in backpacks and permission slips are signed. I cook dinner and we get through soccer practice and gymnastics and bed time with only a few tears (mostly mine).

I have come a long way from that newly-divorced, mom of three-kids-under-five, who barely crawled into a laundry-free bed at night.

So how do we make it work, especially when I don’t have family nearby to help?

Some days, I have no idea. And other days, it doesn’t. But on the days that it does, it’s often thanks to a group of women in my life: my School Mom Squad.

Hero Images/Getty

This is not the kind of group who does Girls’ Nights or brunches or weekends away together. They weren’t there when my kids were born or when my marriage fell apart. I don’t call them to vent when I’ve had a long day.

My School Mom Squad is the group who sends me a copy of the spelling words when I spill coffee on them the night before the test. Who offers to carpool to the birthday party when I can’t be in two places at once. Who sends me pictures of my kids at school events and field trips when I have to work. Who texts to ask what I actually need for that classroom Halloween party instead of just sending in napkins.

If you’re picturing a group of parents standing around gossiping at drop-off each day or a bunch of hovering, helicopter parents, think again. You won’t find us with perfect blow outs, wearing matching yoga pants, micro-managing our child’s every move and baking intricate after-school snacks each day.
In fact, you’re more likely to see us dressed for work, dashing out of the school parking lot to make a 9:00 a.m. meeting. We are working parents. We are married and single and divorced and remarried. We live in big houses and small houses and apartments. We are different ages (though my daughter proudly informed me last week that she won a “who-has-the-oldest-mom contest” with her friends).

Some of us have only children and some of us have four. We send in delicious cookies from the grocery store and we send in Pinterest treats, too. But we have one important thing in common: our kids.
I didn’t always have a School Mom Squad. When my daughter started kindergarten, I didn’t know any parents at her school. And I managed to keep it that way for the entire year. I didn’t talk to anyone at pick up; I didn’t volunteer or join the PTO.

I honestly can’t even remember sending anything in for class parties. It was the year I filed for divorce and there was no energy left to make new connections. Everything was just so hard.

When she started first grade, though, I decided it would be different. I didn’t have more time than I did the year before, but I needed to make connections. We needed to be more connected. We needed a school community.

So I showed up. I volunteered to be room parent, which led to emails with other parents, which to led chatting at drop off and pick up. Eventually, I started hosting movie nights and group activities at our small house on a Dollar Store budget. Everyone in the class was welcome (which, thankfully, was possible with a small class size). It gave the kids a chance to connect outside of school and the parents a way to get to know each other, too.

Slowly, a group started to form. We would visit at birthday parties or soccer games and text to set up play dates. Then, came the social media connections and glimpses into our lives outside of the school parking lot.

“Love M’s new haircut!”

“Aww… A was such a cute baby!”

By the time our kids were in second grade, a group message began and our safety net took shape.

“Hey, does anyone know if tomorrow is a dress down day?”

“Is the field trip form due this week?”

“What time does the costume parade start?”

My School Mom Squad understands the juggle. They do the same balancing act that I do. They are trying to find a way to make it to the meeting at work and to the Color Run at school. They want to remember when the permission slips are due and when it’s Crazy Hair Day.

Knowing that there are other women whom I can rely on when life is overwhelming often means the difference between feeling like I’m not enough and feeling like I’ll make it to June in one piece.
Here’s the best part about our School Mom Squad: it is open to anyone.

Your son goes to school here, too? You’re in.

Come sit next to me at the school concert.

You can’t be at the concert because you have to work? Don’t worry. I’ll text you a video.

We are in this together. The School Mom Squad has my back and they are happy to have yours, too. If you want to see what women supporting women looks like, come sit with us.

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, The parents at my school are too cliquey or judgey or unfriendly. Or I want to be part of a group, but I just don’t have time or energy to make this work. I know. I’m a working, single mom to three kids, including twin boys. I didn’t have the time or energy either. I am not naturally outgoing. And, yes, it can be intimidating to start a conversation with parents whom you don’t know well.

It took time and effort and energy, but trying to connect was worth it for me. And if you are wondering just how you will make it through another school year, it might be worth it for you, too.

What is there to lose by asking “How are you?” while waiting in the pick-up line. Or by sending a quick email to classroom parent offering cookies (the grocery store kind) for the holiday party. Or by following another parent’s business on Instagram and liking a post about her work.

It just takes one little step and before long, the small conversations could turn into longer chats at school functions. And then, one day, a parent might message you a picture of your child at the birthday party you missed because it wasn’t your weekend.

Slowly, you might feel less alone in the School Year Shuffle. And on the days when it feels like you don’t have enough hands, you will.

My School Mom Squad has saved me more than once. They have carpooled with me so that my daughter could be at a school rehearsal at the same time my boys had to be at a birthday party. They have stayed when I’ve hosted drop-off parties to help me manage sugar-crazed kids and clean-up afterward. They have texted me things like, “You’ve got this!” at precisely the moment where it doesn’t feel like I do. And we have sat together at more school functions than I can count, making things like freezing at a Friday night football game fun.

Is having a School Squad the only way to make single-parenting work? Of course not. And if this is not for you, that’s fine.

But it is for me.

My School Mom Squad is not a group of friends that likely would have formed in high school or college. We are as different as our children are. We are friends because our children happened to be in the same class at school. And I am grateful that we are.

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