Why The Cousin Bond Is Like Nothing Else

Growing up as an only child, my cousins were more like siblings. I was particularly close to one cousin, who is still one of my best friends to this day. She’s three years older than me, but the age difference never mattered. Because we were tight.

She is invaluable to me. The big sister I never had. A confidante, gossip buddy, and soulmate. Even as adults, through the thick and the thin, we have a bond that goes unbroken. After all, she’s been there since my very first breath. 

Cousins are irreplaceable, because they get you unlike anyone else. It could be an expression written all over your face, maybe it’s your lack of words in contrast to your otherwise boisterous self, or maybe it’s just because they know you so well that, without having to utter a word, they can feel what’s in your heart.

They are a firsthand witness to all of the family flaws, the drama, what makes you tick, and the upbringing that’s formed you into who you are today. There’s no such thing as being too silly, too loud or “too much” around your cousins, because they love the “you” you might not feel comfortable showing others.

Considering you’ve known them intimately since the beginning of time, or perhaps since the beginning of theirs, they take you as you are. They’ve witnessed your grin go from gummy smile to baby teeth, watched you blossom from a child into an adult. All the while, they were there with you, growing into their own self too.

For those with cousins close in age, puberty probably reared its ugly head around the same time. An unfortunate event for the rest of the family on the receiving end of those newly-minted PMS symptoms, but fortunate for those needing a buddy to commiserate with or someone to show them how to properly use a tampon (cough, cough, me).

You were in a hurry to grow up together, making plans you may look back on and laugh at from the sheer foolishness today. Thoughts of those days carry with them inside jokes that nobody else could possibly understand, memories which can only be remembered (and sometimes whispered about) with one another, and a bond nobody else could share.

The cousin thing is unique, because although your relationship was created by blood, not choice, you’d still choose them a million times once more. There is no one else you would’ve rather shared your childhood with, because those little, everyday moments are what made up your younger years.

Even the sick days weren’t so bad because a day home from school meant time spent at Grams and Gramps’ house with the germ-infested cousin who likely gave you the bug in the first place. Because of those days, your cousins understand what it means when you say nobody makes chicken and noodles like Grams used to. And they can relate to how you could miss something as simple as a home-cooked meal after her time had passed.

They were around for those sad times, the joyful days, happy moments, special occasions and holidays. And when they weren’t, you remember feeling like, “Mom, why did we even come here in the first place?” Because, from a kid’s perspective, what’s a family get-together with a bunch of adults without your cousins? Boring AF, that’s what.

Cousins are what fueled our childlike wonder of make-believe back in the days. Maybe you played house, cats, witches or school in your elementary years. Whatever the usual charade, it was something no adult would spend hours on end doing with you… but your cousins would and did.

They are the hands of the forts you made as a child, the tune to the most played Dance Dance Revolution song, and the one with identical dirty feet on summer days which proved hours of outdoor, non-stop entertainment.

Cousins are the arm around your neck after being awarded a first place ribbon, memories of bubble baths you used to take together as a child, and pageants you participated in while growing up.

In a cousin, there is a lifelong best friend — someone you never have to pretend with. One who recalls what it was like to survive the god-awful, matching windbreaker-stage and forced family pictures together. (The ones you loathed to prepare for as a kid, but cherish on a deep level as an adult.)

When you look back on those photos of a simpler time, isn’t it just pure nostalgia? And when you’re with your cousins today, are you taken back in the same way I am? Do you feel a sense of comfort that feels like home through them?

Though time moves all too quickly — months may go by without speaking, and miles may separate the distance — your cousins have a way of making you feel that wholesome sense of childhood in the maturity of adulthood. Because, in a way, they are your childhood.

Even as an adult, you could never be “too much” or too yourself for those cousins who love you the most. They are the ones with whom you can bare your soul without judgment. The family members you don’t have to explain your predicament to, because they already get it. Without saying a word, they just sort of know.

Because they’ve witnessed every version of you: The child you, the teen you, the adult you and even the mom you.

Your cousins are more than just family. They are the keepers of your childhood heart’s home.

The post Why The Cousin Bond Is Like Nothing Else appeared first on Scary Mommy.

I Cut My Mother-In-Law Out Of My Life — And I’ve Never Been Happier

My mother-in-law verbally abused me for years, and I ignored it.

One day, she went too far, and that’s when I cut her out of my life.

There’s this stereotype about a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law not getting along, interactions filled with tension, discord, and conflict. I get it, really I do. But what I experienced by my mother-in-law for years was far beyond a stereotype or what any person should tolerate, whether from a family member or in-law relationship.

I have decades of abusive comments, interactions, and hostile behavior. Here are the top ten that at times, pop into my mind. These are the ones that cut the most, continuing to echo as if no time has passed.

When my husband and I struggled to conceive, she told me I was so fortunate to have a husband who didn’t divorce me because I couldn’t get pregnant.

When I was a new mom, nursing twins, and we were up for a visit, upon arriving at her home for dinner (9-hour car trip) starving, as any nursing mom can relate, I served myself a bowl of pasta and sauce. My mother-in-law rushed up toward me, took the bowl out of my hand, and proclaimed that her son eats first, then went to the next room and handed him the bowl.

When I moved from the state where I lived for thirty years to another state because of my husband’s new job, she told me she was glad my parents would know the heartache and suffering she’d experienced not having lived near her son.

When I had a second-trimester miscarriage, she told me I was selfish for not reaching out to her and consoling her because she lost a grandchild too. (Please note I had a D&C after the miscarriage and then a week later was hemorrhaging and went to the emergency room for another D&C because remnants of the placenta remained in my uterine tissue. I was super sick for many weeks).

When I threw my husband a surprise 40th birthday party and asked for her help, she refused to help, then agreed to help and never did any of the tasks she said she would. She arrived at the party and pointed out to the guests the mistake I made with a photo of my husband as a baby. (It wasn’t him but his brother. I made a mistake with one photo; he and his brother looked a lot alike).

When my third daughter had her first communion and friends and all four grandparents gathered, she proceeded to talk about immigration issues and loaded political topics. Worse, she shared some horrible beliefs that all immigrants shouldn’t be allowed in the US, even legally. This in front of my father, who immigrated to the US as an adult. My dad, ever so classy, confronted her in a kind yet direct way.

When I gave birth to my fourth child, my mother-in-law came to meet the newest family member. In the hospital room, my husband left with our children to get a snack leaving us alone in the room. As she held my newborn, the moment the door closed and he left, my mother-in-law said to me, “What are you going to do to make sure this doesn’t happen again?”

And, more recently, when I was in a conversation with her about successes in my career (which she initiated and asked about), she followed up with telling me, “You’re nothing special.”

I can handle some things, but when you insult my children or my mothering, we are done. Because I know better, I know my children, and I will protect them against anyone and anything, always.

Two critical moments: Making an anti-LGBTQ remark (one of my children is gay) and telling me something is wrong with my youngest child when she had a meltdown at a family gathering. She said to me in front of my child that something was wrong with my child for crying. That behavior should have been over with at age 5 when childhood ends, not age 7.

And that moment of verbal abuse, about my daughter, riddled with shame and anger and judgment, well, that was it for me.

At that moment, she revealed who she is and what she is capable of. And absent from the list: a loving, compassionate and empathic person.

Say what you want to me, but my children? All bets are off, and mama bear comes out.

Do you know what my biggest regret is?

That I didn’t cut my in-laws out sooner.

I had this belief it would get better.

I kept making excuses that she didn’t really mean that.

I was so busy with work and having babies and raising children that I didn’t realize how toxic it was until the criticism was directed to my children.

And the most amazing part?

The more time that goes on between us and the distance, the more I decompress and detox from how bad it was.

I was verbally abused and bullied by my mother-in-law.

That’s the tricky thing about verbal abuse: unless it’s written or recorded or witnessed by another, it can be hard to imagine as real.

You say to yourself, did she really say that?

Did she really mean it?

Is there a chance I misunderstood?

And if no one is there to witness it, then when you do say something, as I did to my husband, that is what breaks a marriage down, because the manipulation of the verbal abuse is this unspoken tension, saying pick a side, who do you believe? Your wife or your mother?

My mother-in-law was so crafty, so manipulative. She’d often say the kindest things about me or express her concern about how hard I work and take care of the kids to him (never directly to me), which was her tactic to keep the confusion, manipulation, and abuse going.

Here is what I know: the pain, the words, the soundbites of manipulation and abuse echo long past the interaction.

It took being out of that environment and relationship to understand this.

The worst part? As I process and begin to heal, I have come into this awareness: The whole family treated me poorly, and at gatherings or events, when my mother-in-law crossed the line, no one, including my husband or father-in-law, did a thing.

I’ve come to understand they were powerless to put her in her place. They too had all been emotionally abused and manipulated their entire lives by her. So to them, this behavior was normal, expected and accepted. It’s hard to be the outsider and try to change a family system when they don’t even think there’s a problem.

And my husband? Now that I am out of the picture (he has a relationship with her on his own, sans me), he has to see and experience firsthand (because I was the buffer, the shield) the anger and abuse. I sure hope he finds his voice and path away from them.

Until then, all I can do is heal and reaffirm that my self-worth is not about who I please or what I put up with or how another person treats me, even if that person is family. My self-worth need not be proved; it already is. And that is one unexpected lesson I’ve learned.

Sometimes you have to let go of relationships to know your worth.

The post I Cut My Mother-In-Law Out Of My Life — And I’ve Never Been Happier appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Here’s To The Friends Who Love Us Even When We ‘Go Quiet’

I rarely get to see one of my best friends. This has nothing to do with distance; we live five minutes from each other. It has more to do with life. Her kids are older than mine so their activities are different. Our kids play sports but, of course, they are at conflicting times and on conflicting days. Work, family, relationships, and time for ourselves all interfere with our ability to connect with one another.

I want to be better about connecting, yet I know she will always be there even when I seem absent and she knows the same about me. I cherish the few texts we manage to exchange within the span of a month or two; I don’t complain that there aren’t more. Life is bonkers and neither one of us takes our silence personally. We get it. We still love each other even when we go quiet.

Thankfully I have other friends who this applies to as well. I need patience and understanding, not resentment and anger.

I used to have a friend who would post passive-aggressive comments on social media about feeling left out of gatherings. She was really good at “vaguebooking” — or maybe not so great because I knew exactly what she was bitching about. After seeing photos I posted with friends in common, she claimed she was never invited places. This friend was watching and taking notes. It didn’t seem to matter that she posted similar pictures of outings where I was not invited. She only seemed to care about herself and her status within a group that actually didn’t need any sort of membership. Another friend I used to have would keep score. She would constantly remind me that she was the one who called last, or she was the one who invited me to do something. She would complain to me when other friends didn’t reach out in a timeframe she felt was appropriate.

I barely have time for the amazing people in my life; I certainly don’t have time for people with standards I can never live up to or high maintenance relationships that require a lot of obligatory work. I am no longer friends with those women, but it wasn’t because I didn’t try. It seemed as though I could never do enough, and I got tired. I got quiet. Instead of taking it as a sign that maybe they could do something differently or even ask me to make changes, they let go. Not without huffing about it and throwing tantrums, but they decided to end a friendship because I wasn’t meeting their expectations. Without seeing what was wrong, they assumed I was in the wrong. The right thing to do was part ways.

Maybe I expected too much. Maybe I was a bad friend or not the kind of friend they needed. While it initially stung to be dismissed, I realized just how valuable it was to have friends who don’t take shit so personally.

I don’t always text back. I should say “I love you” more often. I don’t call when I mean to. I should see when the people I love can take a timeout to get coffee. These may seem like flaws, and if they are then the friends I keep in my inner circle have them too. We are human. I am far from perfect, but I have surrounded myself with people who not only trust my loyalty but are secure enough in themselves to know that if I not around or seem unavailable, it has more to do with me and nothing to do with them.

My friends intuitively know when to see if I am okay. They check in without judgment. They hold me with compassion instead of withholding it. My friends may miss me, but instead of letting spite get in the way of love, they know when it’s time to check in and not check out.

And for this I am so thankful. Good friends don’t keep score, but we do return the favor of sticking our noses into our friend’s business when it’s for their own good. When real friends haven’t heard from one another, we ask how we can help. We all know how busy and hectic life can be. Work, kids, aging parents, struggling marriages, depression, anxiety and all of the things that make it hard to function make it easy for us to shut down. Find people who get it. Find people who will send you a meme just to remind you that you are loved. Find the people who hear struggle in your silence, and hang onto the ones who love you anyway.

And if we put together a string of texts and gifs that double as a full conversation, then we feel caught up. We don’t mourn the way we used to communicate; we breathe a sigh of relief that after all this time, after all of life’s hiccups we are still communicating in vulnerable and important ways even if interrupted by bedtimes or as explained through emojis.

Thank you to the friends who hear me when I am silent. I hear you too. I may be quiet but my love for you is not.

The post Here’s To The Friends Who Love Us Even When We ‘Go Quiet’ appeared first on Scary Mommy.

I May Be Almost 40, But I Still Need My Mom

I have never raised my voice to my mother. Never called her a bitch or told her I hated her, not even as a teenager. I never even thought those things. I was present on several occasions when friends of mine did this, and I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. This was a level of disrespect I couldn’t comprehend. It wasn’t because I was afraid of my mother. She never spanked or yelled at me, or not that I can remember anyway. I just respected her far too much to say something so hateful. I knew it would hurt her, and I never thought she deserved to be hurt.

I have always only seen my mother as a force for good. Even when she was preventing me from going to some unsupervised party or risky social engagement I was desperate to go to or grounding me because I’d lied about where I was, I was confident she had my best interests at heart. Even though I was angry and resentful, deep down I trusted her decisions. I trusted that none of her choices were arbitrary or to purposefully make me suffer.

That feeling hasn’t changed. These days, though our opinions differ on many things, I still see my mother as only a force for good. My mother is my fiercest advocate, and I really don’t know what I’d do without her.

Yes, even now, as a grown-ass adult about to step over the threshold into my forties, I still very much need my mom. It’s not that I feel incompetent or dependent, or like I can’t manage my own life and relationships. It’s just that her unwavering support has become such a reliable part of my life that I have no idea what I’d do without it.

And I still see her as this incredible force for good. I still see her as one of the few people who will never, ever judge me. I know there is nothing I could ever do to make her stop loving me. This probably should be the standard for mother-child relationships, but it surprises me a little that, at this stage in my life, I still feel like I need that particular layer of security. My mom’s support is just different than any of the other support in my life.

I have friends who give excellent parenting advice, some who are professional therapists even, but there is an unparalleled comfort that comes with the advice I get from my mom. Other friends and family members may read my books and articles, but there is an extra thrill, an extra layer of pride, when my mom tells me she couldn’t put down a book wrote. It doesn’t matter that she’d probably tell me that even if she didn’t totally love the book. It still makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

And, on the hard days, on the days when it feels like the world is on a mission to tear me apart, a phone call to my mom brings me right back to childhood snuggles when her reassurance was all it took to make me believe my world would soon be right again. When I don’t think I’m strong enough, she reminds me that I am—that my strength grew from hers, which grew from her own mother. She growls it at me and I hear my strength in her voice, and suddenly I know I really am stronger than I thought. This is pure, unadulterated magic.

When we disagree, ultimately, it just doesn’t matter. Because she’s in my corner. I know she’ll hear me and see my point even if we have to agree to disagree. This trust that is bound up in unconditionals just can’t be found at this level in any other relationship.

So, yes, I’m on the doorstep of 40 and I still very much need my mom. At the same time, I know this need — the ability to feel it as well as the ability to have the need fulfilled — is a luxury. A privilege. I know it’s not like this for everyone. More friends than I can count have either lost their mothers or have had to cut ties because the relationship was too toxic. Still others remain in relationships fraught with conflict and dysfunction, feeling every bit of the need that I do and yet unable to have that need met.

I know many people who don’t have a relationship with their mother like mine find this love and unconditional support in other places. Or they do their own magic and manifest it for themselves. I have watched in wonder as friends who have had to cut ties with their own mothers pull up fountains of love from their souls and shower it on their own children. They may not have gotten the love they deserved from their mothers, but they embody it anyway for the generation going forward, and it’s so beautiful and awe-inspiring.

Still, I know how fortunate I am to still have my mom as such a vital, positive force in my life. I know our relationship is rarer than it should be, and I will never take her presence for granted. I wish the peace and strength I get from knowing she’s there was something that could be bottled and given away, because everyone deserves to have this kind of love in their life.

The post I May Be Almost 40, But I Still Need My Mom appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Move Over Tanner Family — We’re A Modern Multi-Generational Household

The looks of confusion, skepticism, and could that possibly be horror? After the shock factor subsides, most respond with an “Oh?” and a smile that doesn’t quite reach their eyes. The follow-up questions customarily run the gamut when I first tell people I live in a multigenerational household. I have brought them into uncomfortable territory and most times feel like I have just laid bare my deepest, darkest secret.

The typical American home today consists of a single family dwelling containing, well, a single family. As a millennial growing up, moving out of your parent’s house was touted as the ultimate first step into “adulting.” So how did my husband, our two children, and I come to live with my parents (who my girls affectionately refer to as Grammy and Grampy)?

At first, it was graduating from college with the ever burdensome student loans and entering a job market that wasn’t spectacular for an elementary teacher and a proud owner of a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology that is practically useless without a Master’s Degree. So, without a clear path to stable income, my parents graciously offered my husband and I a room in their home. Eventually, I did find a job and my husband found one too, in addition to beginning his Master’s program. About a year later, we found out we were expecting our first child and began eagerly looking for an apartment.

Then came the complicated pregnancy, the previously undiscovered autoimmune disease and along with it the unwavering support of my parents. We didn’t immediately relinquish our dream of moving out, but our search was postponed for the time being. Our daughter was born in early 2015 and the residence we brought our baby back to was my childhood home. Her nursery was arranged in my newly painted childhood bedroom. And countless nights I rocked her to sleep in the very same spot my mother rocked me.

My parent’s transition to grandparents was swift, and they assisted my husband and me in countless ways. There is something to be said for an extra set of adults when living life with a newborn. Four doting caregivers all under the same roof. My mother is truly a saint. Caring for me in those first few postpartum weeks and loving on my daughter; going so far as to get up with her for those 2 am feedings.

We quickly adjusted to a new routine of two families living in one household. As the years went on, we occasionally floated the idea of moving out but it never seemed to suit anyone. My parents have never pressured us nor even mentioned the idea of alternate living arrangements. When asked about their kids never leaving the nest they respond that they couldn’t imagine it any other way. They dote on their grandkids (a second girl was born in 2017) and provide my husband and me with undoubtedly safe and loving live-in childcare. I find that I am able to squeeze in more free time for running and my husband has additional time for his side business than if we were living on our own. My parents instill in my children the same values they imparted to me and assist in raising my girls with a parenting style that mirrors mine and my husband’s.

Admittedly, at times when scrolling through social media and stumbling across the first home posts, I feel a shadow of a doubt. Are we lacking for still schlepping it with my parents? The guy who lives in his mom’s basement, is that equivalent to my family? But the moment passes.

The circumstance in which we find ourselves is nothing new. Multigenerational households were once typical and still are in other countries. Social constructs have told me that this should be a source of embarrassment and avoided at all costs in conversation. But should it be? Really? Believe me, I have tried in a previous workplace to keep up pretenses that I live with my husband and two children in a single family household — not with my parents — and it is incredibly difficult. Altering every story and statement to reflect a nuclear family and obscure my true living arrangements is tiresome and ridiculous. My parents unabashedly tell friends, colleagues, and strangers (groan) that we all live together! A statement which for me evokes visions of The Waltons. This declaration often elicits quite a different response from the older generation; one of jealousy. My parents’ peers counter with “I wish I saw my grandchildren more” or “my children cannot manage to even call me once a week.”

Watching my children believe normal is living with their mom and dad, and grandma and grandpa is altering to my schema. Something that I am so nervous to discuss with others my age, a fact that I will often skirt around when posed the question “where do you live?” is something my children consider commonplace. Honestly, I feel like I have now reached a point where this is my normal as well. I am a millennial living in a multigenerational household, and it is absolutely fantastic; I am ready to own it. We share financial responsibilities, household chores, and childcare.

We are so compatible it is almost incomprehensible. At times, I worry over what my children will face when they announce unashamedly to their peers that they live in a multigenerational household; however, I can only hold fast to the knowledge that this living situation provides us all with immeasurable benefits.

The post Move Over Tanner Family — We’re A Modern Multi-Generational Household appeared first on Scary Mommy.

I Limit The Amount Of Time I Spend With My Mom For My Mental Health

“I don’t know if I can handle this anymore. You need to set some boundaries. After you spend time with your mom, I pay for it for like a week.”

I’d heard my ex-husband say this to me since we’d met decades ago and it never really registered that my mother had that much of an effect on me. But after I broke out in hives because I’d agreed to let her come over and spend the day with me and my kids as I squirmed complaining about it on the sofa, I knew I had to do something.

For years, I’d spend time with my mom. I’d seethe during our visit, and the hangover from our meetings would linger, but I always told myself it was due to something else. I felt like I should be able to handle it because enough time had gone by since I’d last seen her, and a family gathering or afternoon with her should be something I could take in stride. Besides, she wasn’t that bad and perhaps I was the one who had the problem.

But what would happen is I’d let her get deep under my vulnerabilities. She’d scrape old wounds and know how to pick where it hurt the most. And I kept allowing it to happen by exposing myself and showing up to see her, expecting the worst.

It’s funny how we usually find what we are looking for, even the shitty stuff.

I’d come home and fall into a heap. Instead of being relieved our time together was over, my body would tense, tighten, and twist in preparation for the next time I’d run out of excuses and have to see her again. Because I somehow I thought seeing my mom was an obligation, like a job. But it wasn’t something I was handling well and my feelings and emotions about my mom would overflow onto my family and it was affecting us all.

My relationship with my mom has been strained for a long time. As a child, I was always too much for her and she told me so. I was too loud, talked too much, had too many friends, and asked too many questions. It was clear I annoyed the hell out of her.

Then, I really screwed her life up when I told her my grandfather — her father — had been molesting me for as long as I could remember. She didn’t want to deal with the situation or have to choose between me and the man who raised her, so it went ignored.

It drove a deeper wedge into our already busted relationship and broke it into a million pieces that we’ve never mended correctly because we just didn’t fucking want to. It was too much work and it was easier to dislike each other and white-knuckle our way through my adolescence.

Then I grew up and so did she. I tried. She tried. And for a really long time, I figured we weren’t going to ever make it fit and the relationship I had with my mother would always suck.

But then after I broke out in hives and my (then) husband told me this was getting out of hand. For my own mental and physical health and the wellbeing of our family, I needed to figure this out, stat.

“You can’t go on like this,” he said. “Either cut the cord, set some boundaries, or something. But this isn’t good for any of us.”

He was right. It’s a gift when someone outside the situation loves you enough to be honest with you and tell you what you need to change — for yourself and your family.

I realized my part in this complicated relationship. There was a long time when I tried to force it all while keeping my mouth shut (especially after having kids). She’d make passive-aggressive comments about my size, or how I didn’t eat right or drank too much wine or spent too much money on clothes. Everything became a competition. If I was sick, she was sicker. If I did something, she’d done it too only harder or better or more times. She’d come over unannounced after I already asked her not to and plop down and mention how she used to do this that and the other different ways than I did.

I felt like I was being pushed around, and I played victim. But really I wasn’t setting boundaries that were firm enough. Instead of asking her to leave, or tell her I wasn’t looking for advice, or stick up for myself, I’d sit and twist and stew and think about how much I couldn’t stand to be around her. I’d sweat it out until she left. And each time, it felt worse.

After my kids got old enough to realize I didn’t really like their grandmother, and holidays would drain me and leave me crying in tears, I knew I had to do something. Not only was I sick to my stomach from anxiety when I was around her, breaking out in hives and taking it out on everyone else in my family, I was setting a horrible example for my kids.

I was teaching them it was okay to not speak up and to talk about someone behind their back. I was showing them you don’t have to set boundaries and you can suffer and break out in a red blotchy rash from stress because you’d rather be physically uncomfortable than have a conversation about my feelings. I was showing them how to devalue your own feelings to make another person comfortable and how much resentment stems from that.

It’s okay to want some sort of a relationship with someone in your family without wanting the whole kit and caboodle. We can have a relationship that fits into our lives and, for me, I am able to have the best relationship I am able to, with the mother I was given, by setting limits.

I know I am okay if I see her in short bursts, so I do that.

I realize I do better when there is a buffer so family gatherings or dinner dates with my kids in tow are easier than one-on-one visits.

I tell her when she is doing something I’m not comfortable with, but I have zero expectations about how she should react to what I say. Expecting people to change is like drinking poison, then being pissed you keep getting sick.

I look for the positive things in her and our time spent together, and I stopped talking about how shitty she makes me feel and all the bad things she does to me.

I had to.

The other choices — to keep going on the way we were or completely cut her out of my life — wouldn’t have worked for me.

She’s not perfect, and neither am I. But she is my mother, and she’s the only one I have. She’s also the grandmother to my children and they love each other and want to have a relationship. My kids’ experience with her is different than mine and I need to give them space to develop something with her without adding snippets about what’s happened between the two of us. And I feel good about that decision. If I see something that’s wrong or unhealthy when it comes to my kids and my mom, I will take care of it and that might mean ending our relationship.

But for now, I’m so much happier about the space we are in. It wasn’t easy but the work I put into it, without expecting her to do anything, has been worth it. No more hives, sick stomach, or seething. Just speaking up, saying no, and searching for the positive.

Damn, it feels good to enjoy holiday food again and not put my family through the ringer any longer.

The post I Limit The Amount Of Time I Spend With My Mom For My Mental Health appeared first on Scary Mommy.

My Sister And I Are Estranged And It Feels Like Heartbreak

I’m incredibly fortunate that I have somehow never had to deal with the hurt of a broken heart.  I started dating my husband when we were just 18 and knew within the first month it was true love and he was the one for me.  So I managed to skip over the inevitable heartache that usually comes with dating in your teens and twenties.

I’ve read countless books and listened to endless songs about the pain of a broken heart though, and it feels a lot like what I am currently experiencing with my sister. Four months of radio silence from her came to a head in a heated text exchange where I once again felt like I shared my hurt and offered to meet and talk, and was quickly shut down and disregarded. My heart literally feels like it has been stomped on. I’m angry with her, sad our relationship has turned this way, and feel like a piece of me is missing.

I remember my sister growing up – I was 10 when she came into the world and so I always felt a motherly protection over her. Good memories come at me hard and fast — watching Fantasia with her when she was a baby, changing her diapers, making holiday magic for her with my mom, bragging to my friends how my 2-year-old sister could already say her ABC’s, Grants Farm visits, sitting on the back porch with her and my parents just talking about nothing, doing each other’s makeup and having dance shows, swimming together all summer, going on her school field trips, visiting her with school lunch when she moved to a new middle school, going through our parents’ divorce together.

I also remember the rough times with her. Taking her on trips with me that always ended in some kind of drama, picking her up from high school parties or school when she didn’t want to call our parents, letting her live with us when my parents had had enough, having to tell her to leave when she lost our trust, celebrating her high school graduation when she refused to even take a picture with us, visiting her in rehab, nonstop “emergencies” for years that took precedence in our family over everything else.

I say I don’t hold a grudge against her and I’m a forgiving person, but the ease with which I came up with the list above makes me question how true that is. Can you really forgive if you don’t forget?

I tell myself I won’t bring it up with my husband tonight or let it ruin our much needed date night. I make it two minutes into our car ride to the movies before my voice cracks and alligator tears pour out, ruining my carefully applied date night eyeliner. It all spills out at once in a mess of sobs.

I’m angry.

I’m hurt.

I’m sad.

I’m scared.

I’m embarrassed.

What kind of person can’t get along with their own sister and family? That must say a lot about me, right? “Unlikable” is the word that floats to the top of my head as I try to push it down. I will never forget a conversation with my dad when I was about 16. I was sitting outside watching him work on a truck and he told me he loved me because he had to, but he didn’t like me. That stung. And, sadly, nothing in our relationship since then has really changed to make me believe he thinks any differently now.

My husband reassured me lots of people deal with this. A guy at his work doesn’t talk to his mom and sister. Examples of good, kind people we know with estranged family. I think of Angelina Jolie and her dad. I’m totally an Angelina Jolie, right? The difference is, they all have family to spare. I have three people in my family, and two of them don’t like me. My own dad and my own sister. More tears.

My husband has been on this ride with me for 14 years now. He’s loved her like his own sister — he’s cheered her on at her cheerleading games with me, he brought her to take her driving test, he’s let her live in our house when we had a newborn at home, and he’s always supportive of anything I feel I need to do to keep the sisterly love intact. He brings up the thought-provoking point that, at the end of the day, the only thing tying my sister and me together is biology/blood. We have nothing in common except that. Maybe it’s not enough.

I can’t help but think of my beautiful, kind, loving 4-year-old who looks up at me and tells me I’m the most beautiful, best mommy in the world. I see my sister at four (not as sweet, but energetic, charismatic, and with some moments of tender hugs and love) and think, what if he feels this way about me in 20 years? What if I diaper him, feed him, love him with every fiber of my being since the moment I saw his little gummy bear body on the ultrasound, and one day he looks at me and decides “Eh, not worth it?” The thought alone makes my heart feel like it’s developed a new crack. If it’s just biology holding us together, how can I guarantee that won’t happen? I love him more than anything and would do anything for him, but haven’t I felt that way about my baby sister too? And look where it got us.

This must be the path people go down when they become jaded. Build walls too high to let others in. I refuse to allow that to happen.

I think of the quote, “People need love the most when they deserve it the least.” I could be better at this. I’m going to drive to her house tomorrow with donuts and a coffee, grab her by the shoulders, look in her eyes, and remind her I ALWAYS will love her, she can’t push me away, and that we are going to fix this.

I think of the quote, “If someone treats you badly, just remember that there is something wrong with them, not you. Normal people don’t go around destroying other human beings.” I hate her. She’s crazy. I’ve done nothing to deserve her treatment. I’m going to drive over there tomorrow on my high horse, stomp through the door, and demand an explanation. I’m going to tell her just what a pain in my ass she is and to stay out of my life for good.

What’s the right answer? I truly don’t know. I’ll let it sit for a week or two and let my emotions calm from a raging wave of anger crashing in my ears to a dull ache in my heart. I’ll think more clearly when I calm down. Deep down I know the emotions will subside, even though it doesn’t feel like it in this moment.

Until then, I will love on my sweet babies as hard as I can and try to build a foundation of love and trust that is so rock solid, the heaviest blows couldn’t damage the base of what we’ve built. I’ll try to nurture that love and respect between my son and daughter.

It won’t be just biology for us, I reassure myself.

Is it just biology?

She’s my sister.

I love her.

The post My Sister And I Are Estranged And It Feels Like Heartbreak appeared first on Scary Mommy.

I Kinda Hate My 30s

I often wonder if I’m the only person who feels this way. And, any time I gather up the courage to say it aloud, to say how I’m really feeling — I’m met with blank stares and disbelief. So maybe I really am the only person who feels this way.

I hate my 30s. I hate the monotony. The 9-5++++. The busy schedules. The around-the-clock responsibility. The sheer and utter exhaustion. The caregiver burnout.

And, most of all, I hate the loneliness. My 30s are filled with heart-aching, gut-wrenching loneliness, boredom and lack of stimulation. Yes, I love being a mother. But I need more than that. Lately I’m wondering if maybe I need more than most.

Maybe I watch too many sitcoms featuring groups of happy 20-somethings spending all their time with their friends, but nowadays, hangouts with friends are a rarity. They happen once in a blue moon, when everyone isn’t exhausted, breastfeeding, sick or taking care of sick kids, overworked or on parenting duty.

Here’s the even more bonkers admission: I miss being in my carefree early 20s. Those days were filled with spontaneity, random road trips, always something to look forward to. And, as cliché as it sounds – my wallet was empty, but my heart was full. I had what I thought was a solid group of friends around me, and I was never alone. We did everything together.

Yes, alcohol is my social elixir, and in my 30s there’s no real reason to drink it. So, I’m alone on the couch at 7 p.m. every night in the same damn pink fuzzy robe.

My heart aches from loneliness. From stress and from lack of self-care. From lack of meaningful interaction. From a lack of passion for anything.

I exist in my 30s. That is as far as it goes. I’m alive, but I’m not thriving. Not in the least.

I have so many Facebook photo albums hidden that highlight my 20s, and I’m guilty of looking at them way too often. Feeling sad and alone. Wondering if any of those people even think of me (newsflash: they don’t).

My early 20s were the happiest times of my life, and I can’t help but think it is just going to keep getting worse.

I have anxiety. I’m isolated. I don’t want to make new friends yet desperately need to. I know I come off as clingy and desperate and crazy for wanting any human interaction at the end of the day. Everyone else seems to get along just fine with their robes, their TV shows, and their families filling the space where bars and parties used to be.

But it’s not enough for me, and I can’t figure out why. I can’t understand why I need alcohol to open up. I feel like no one even knows me. I fade into the background. No one notices me.

I want adventure. I want to stop working myself to death. I want spontaneity. I want to be free of anxiety and worry. I want a break that actually feels like a break. I don’t just want a break – I desperately need one.

The people I had in early 20s aren’t in my life anymore. From what I can tell, they’ve all managed to keep a close relationship, but certain circumstances made it so I was cut out, and I’ve felt so lonely ever since. Some of them didn’t treat me all that well, and ironically as soon as I finally stood up for myself, I was left lonelier than ever. It makes me feel as though I would have been better just shrugging it off — just to maintain some sort of companionship.

Does anyone else find their 30s depressing as hell? I realize that now we’re parents and we have responsibilities, but why can’t I seem to get over that period of my life? Most people are happy to put those times behind them, but I can’t stop thinking about them.

And how the hell do you make a friend in your 30s, anyway? Are we destined to only have “mom friends”? Am I nothing more than a mother? Will I ever talk about anything but my child again?

People joke that I spend too much time online, and I do. But no one realizes that online is the only place I have ever felt like I can be myself. Online is the only place anyone will stop to listen to me or consider me. I don’t fade into the background online like I do in real life.

Being an introvert is hard. Being a socially anxious introvert reliant on alcohol (and actually being in society) to open up is even harder.

I’ve written lots about how I’m planning to make friends, but the truth is, I just can’t seem to pull it off. I love my mom friends, but I’m so much more than a mom. I’m smart. I’m sometimes funny. I know deep down I’m someone worthy of knowing. But I can’t force others to see that in me. I’m in desperate need of meaningful conversation. I’m so tired of talking about my child, but that’s all anyone cares about. It’s like my identity is being absorbed entirely.

I miss my 20s. I want them back every day.

The post I Kinda Hate My 30s appeared first on Scary Mommy.

It’s Hard Watching My Dad Be The ‘Perfect Father’ With His New Family

Until recently, I’d always felt like I was less valuable than other children because my parents weren’t married. It always felt like something was missing when I’d go to school and public events. That something? My dad.

He wasn’t a stranger; he’d just decided he’d rather create a family with someone other than my mother around the same time I was born. I knew him and saw him periodically. But our relationship had no depth. For the first 12 years of my life, I probably saw my father for a cumulative 48 hours. From time to time, he’d pick me up from school, but that seven-minute drive felt like nothing.

My childhood brain created a host of excuses for why I was the “outside child” who’d never seen my dad’s home or family. All of which were made worse by a world that suggests the father-daughter relationship is the most pivotal relationship of a young girl’s life.

I believed in the value of a relationship with one’s dad, and the absence of it left me feeling worthless.

It was shameful growing up knowing I was a statistic.

But in seventh grade — a day I’ll never forget since it was also the day my mom’s favorite musician died — I nervously went to my father’s house for the first time. During that visit, he tearfully apologized for allowing his family, particularly his soon to be ex-wife, for keeping us apart. It seemed sincere.

From then on, we entered the tumultuous process that is delayed parent-child connection. Of course, being a teenager didn’t make that process any easier. In fact, there were many moments it felt like we’d take one step forward and then five steps back.

Despite the difficulty and several gaps in communication, we made lots of progress after that. I’d see him trying, and I started looking forward to our talks.

Still, the dynamics changed again soon after that. A few years after we reconnected, he entered a new relationship. Since then, they’ve married and created their own blended family. I can see the love he has for her in his eyes from across the room. But, if I’m honest, it’s terribly painful to watch my dad be a “perfect father” with his new family when he wasn’t there for me.

In my youthful mind, he exchanged the chance for us to develop a real relationship for her. The old limitations and restrictions were rotated for new ones. My time became less of a priority, and eventually, I didn’t want any time at all.

It might seem ridiculous that this still bothers me. I’m an adult with a husband and my own children. But having an absent dad has had a lasting impact on my life, and seeing his new perfect family sucks.

Since I’m aware of how silly I might sound to some people, I typically stay away from everyone else on that side of the family. Most times I feel like a reminder of a different time in my father’s life. It’s left me visibly different from his other children. Not to mention I’m the only one out of nearly ten kids who has a different last name.

But, in order to understand my reactions, one must have context. Out of several biological and nonbiological children, with multiple mothers, I am the only one who never lived with him. The other children, both older and younger, know my father on a deeper traditional level. I, on the other hand, have never had the opportunity.

We’re never alone. I need to share his attention with the needs of the older kids and the demanding schedules of the younger kids. I feel extremely limited in when it’s acceptable to call because work, extracurriculars, and family time don’t leave much of anything.

I recently found out that he didn’t sign my birth certificate, out of personal choice. The fact that he still hasn’t taken the time to resolve something that small hurts. At this point, it’s likely not an intentional lack of action. But the way he hasn’t amended my birth certificate before signing his name to the birth certificates of his other kids is a painful reminder that I will always be different.

As a teen, I remember calling him in tears begging for the opportunity to live with him instead of my mother and being met with silence. Time after time, an apathy toward my longing to be closer to him — or at least to have time with him alone — made me question why I continued fighting for this relationship.

I’ve talked to him about these things more times than I can count. The loneliness, the frustration, and the discomfort of being the only child to watch through a glass window.

PTA, team sports, and dance recital for his younger kids all take priority over engaging with his adult child. It’s frustrating to know that the sacrificial, omniscient, and loving perspective that others have of my father is something I will never know.

He tries and invites me to functions but it feels weird. Within the first few minutes, I feel uncomfortable. It all looks so perfect — the love and financial stability give a sharp contrast to the single parent life of poverty I grew up in.

I’m envious watching his other children grow up upper middle class. I bet the new kids have trust funds to accompany their houses and college dormitory payments.

I, on the other hand, had student loans and needed to reach out to my extended family to find a co-signer on a loan.

His other children will never understand the struggle of getting to know him on rotating weekends and being dropped off at home unsure what will be for dinner. And they’ll probably never know me either,  since I’m decades older than they are and still unable to handle the image of perfection that they offer.

So now, after all this turmoil, I’m thinking about finally letting go.

No one wants to be the reminder of a bad decision or a stain on someone’s perfect life. I might be better off just walking away.

The post It’s Hard Watching My Dad Be The ‘Perfect Father’ With His New Family appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Instructions To Leave The Grandparents Who Watch Our Kids

My husband and I just got back from four glorious days away. Alone. No kids. Just the two of us and glorious freedom. Freedom to get up when we wanted. To go to sleep when we wanted. To do whatever TF we wanted whenever TF we wanted. Did I mention it was freaking glorious?

Getting ready for a getaway – whether with kids or without – always involves an obnoxious amount of preparations. Laundry. Packing. Coordinating carpools and transportation to various activities. Making sure whoever is watching your kids has everything they need – including a detailed list of instructions on what is and is not allowed while they are in their care.

HAHAHAHA. Eye rolls forever.

You know what instructions we left before leaving our kids with their grandparents for four days?

HAVE FUN. That’s it.

Well, that’s not entirely true. We also told our kids to not be assholes, but other than that, HAVE FUN was the only thing on the list. And really, there was no list at all. It was more like a hurried reminder to “have fun!” as we literally ran out the door.

There were no reminders about the appropriate bedtime. No details about bathing schedules. No instructions to limit candy. In fact, it was Easter weekend so there would be mountains of candy. Quite literally.

Did we return to sugared-up little hellions who whined and complained when they were reminded to do their chores the next day? Sure. Did they sulk when they couldn’t have chocolate waffles dripping with syrup and dipped in sprinkles for breakfast? Yep. Were they overtired with zero recollection about basic hygiene? For sure.

Did they come back acting like little assholes? Maybe.

But truthfully, they were acting like assholes before their weekend at Camp Grandma and Chez Cousins. Because they are kids and KIDS ACT LIKE ASSHOLES.

Some parents justify their mile-long lists with complaints about how their kids behave worse when they come back from spending some time with their grandparents. And that might be true. But that’s a small price to pay for free childcare and time to foster a strong relationship with their extended family, and allowing their parents some much-needed time to recharge. A small price indeed.

Because what my kids get from spending time with their extended family – grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins – without their parents around is absolutely invaluable. They learn to rely on, trust and respect adults other than their parents – something that will be increasingly more important as they get into the teen years. They get to be silly and wild and… you know, generally be a silly kid. They get to play with all sorts of annoying toys – like kazoos and Whoopie Cushions – that would annoy the hell out of me at home. They get to sneak off with their cousins to tell stories and make fun videos. They get to be spoiled and loved on – even if it does come in the form of cheap plastic toys and sugary foods and hours spent watching goofy YouTube videos.

So be it.

I’m painfully aware that not all grandparents are created equal. Some folks don’t have extended family who live nearby. Some grandparents are physically or emotionally unavailable. Some grandparents have medical conditions that prevent them from caring for someone else, much less a child. And some grandparents just don’t want to take on that responsibility.

But if your kids are fortunate enough to have grandparents around who are willing to show up for them, I have a few words of advice: Soak. It. Up.

And maybe let go of the rules and “dos/don’ts” lists and detailed instructions. (Other than car seats, of course.)

Sure, it’s annoying when your kids come home practically shaking with sugar withdrawal, carrying bags filled with more annoying toys than you know what to do with. But it’s worth it. Because these are the things your kids will remember. They’ll remember staying up until midnight hiding Easter eggs with their grandma. They will remember choreographing music videos with their cousins. They’ll remember eating so many lollipops that their tongue turned blue for days. They’ll remember feeling loved and free.

Their grandparents will benefit too. They’ll know that you trust them (they did do this parenting thing before, you know?) and appreciate them. They get time with those adorable little assholes – er, kids – of ours. They get to create a shit ton of amazing memories, listen to loads of hilarious stories, and love their grandkids in the way that only a grandparent can.

And we parents get time away. We get to reconnect with our spouse and remember what it was like before we were known as  “Mom” and “Dad.” We get to enjoy time away from those little humans who drive us mad but we love so much it hurts with the comfort of knowing that they are with people who love them (almost) as much as we do. We get to freaking sleep. (Glorious, I tell you. Absolutely glorious.)

Which is why my list for the grandparents is this: Have fun. And thank you.

Oh, and don’t forget about the car seats.

The post Instructions To Leave The Grandparents Who Watch Our Kids appeared first on Scary Mommy.