When You Realize You’re Turning Into Your Mother

I am pretty sure I am turning into my mother.

I definitely inherited her love of giant hideous pajamas. We share the inability to keep a car clean for more than a few days. When I stand on my porch at the end of a nice evening with friends, wringing my hands and urging our guests to let me know when they get home safe, that’s my mom shining right on through.

We share the same pasty skin that burns in minutes, and the same fine hair that won’t hold a curl. On the upside, we can sing like nightingales, and we both have the features required to wear a red lip during the day and not look overdone.

I’ve always recognized that my mom and I share these silly little quirks and physical similarities, but I’m in my mid-thirties now, and I am starting to realize that it runs much deeper than that.

Courtesy of Katie Cloyd

I am who I am because my mother is who she is.

I am turning into the best parts of my mother, and that’s not bad news. It’s lucky for me. These are just a few of the amazing things my mom taught me with words and actions, and I’m glad they stuck with me.

1. Pride in your work.

My mother’s career has evolved over the years, but she has always been incredible at anything she put her mind to. My parents didn’t raise me with any respect for traditional gender roles. I always saw my mom making money, raising us, and pursuing her personal goals outside of work and family. She wasn’t a full-time homemaker, so that wasn’t the only thing I thought a woman could be.

It is, however, what I wanted to be. I have always known the world was open to me, and I could pursue any leading I felt in my heart. When I had my first baby, my heart led me home, and that is where I have stayed.

As fate would have it, a couple months ago, I got a job offer that I could never have imagined. I jumped on the opportunity, and I recently made the transition from stay-at-home mom to ecstatic work-at-home mom.

My mother’s blazing ambition has been ignited in me. I love working. I love deadlines and brainstorming, and I really love getting a paycheck with my name on it. When I am working hard, I know it’s because she provided me with the drive to succeed in anything I choose to do. Thanks to my mother, I feel no guilt about splitting my time between work and kids. I know they’ll benefit from the extra income, and also from living with a happier, more fulfilled me. Everyone wins.

2. The importance of hospitality.

It’s not only her drive that has allowed my mom to flourish in her career; it’s her warm, inviting personality. My mother has made lifelong friends on an airplane and in line at the gas station. She is funny and open, and people really love her. Our house was always full of friends and family. People have mourned and celebrated at my mom’s kitchen counter. She knows how to open her home to make people feel love and a sense of belonging.

When my friends are at my table, and I’m standing at my stove cooking a delicious meal, I realize that I am becoming my mother. Both her skills in the kitchen and her knack for hospitality have trickled down to me. Sometimes I look at my hand holding a wooden spoon, stirring a pot of marinara, and I could swear it was hers.

3. How to walk away from things that aren’t meant for me.

I’ll be honest: I used to think my mother had a hidden coldness inside her. As friendly and loving as she is, she is also able to quickly sever ties with anyone who causes her pain or threatens her family’s balance. I have only seen it in action a few times, but it’s always swift and decisive. She has no time to dedicate to relationships that have run their course. When she walks away, it’s final, even if it hurts her to let someone go.

I thought there was a side of my mother that must be unloving and emotionless. She could wash her hands and walk away, seemingly in peace. I realize now that she wasn’t always in peace. She still felt all the pain she didn’t always show me. She mourned those losses. Her heart is soft, but her resolve is firm.

She never begs at a closed door.

Because of my mom, I now value my own peace over peacekeeping. I have learned that I can love someone and walk away at the same time, and that I have no obligation to chase someone who leaves me. I am lucky I am turning into my mother because I’ll never waste another minute fighting for someone who doesn’t deserve it.

I’m not a carbon copy of my mother. I see my dad reflected strongly in parts of who I am. I also have a handful of strong women and mentors who helped me become who I am today.

More importantly, I have made me who I am today. I am exactly who I have chosen to be.

But I’m not fighting against all the ways I am becoming the woman who raised me. I’m lucky that my mother’s blood is in my veins, and her fight is in my spirit.

When I look in the mirror, I am not always proud of every single thing I see, but I am never disappointed to see my mother.

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To Those Who Saw Me When I Was Out In Public For The First Time With 3 Kids

I thought I knew what I was doing having three kids. I had successfully maneuvered a large box from the post office to my car with two kids in tow — and by in tow I mean one twenty feet ahead and another trailing twenty feet behind — while eight months pregnant. Surely managing an infant would be similar.

And it is exactly like that, except the box baby needs things, which often reminds the older two that they, too, need things. They often wait for inopportune times to loudly express their demands for food and water or to use the bathroom, or demand whichever thing I offered them only moments earlier, when I wasn’t changing a dirty diaper. Some days are exhausting, others are lovely (but still exhausting).

So thank you. Thank you for seeing me. Thank you for offering — even if I don’t take you up on it — I appreciate your offer, and more than that, I appreciate you.

You saw me struggling to buckle up the infant carrier. Usually an easy feat, I stretched my arms reaching for the buckle behind my neck, while balancing a tired, crying baby on my chest. Maybe it was my hair in the way, maybe it was the squirming infant, but the buckles would not meet. You asked if you could help, thank you.

Pixabay/Pexels

You saw me bouncing and swaying with a baby nearly asleep in the carrier, keeping an eye on my other two children, running wild circles around the other picnickers while waiting for our lunch. I filled a mini cup with ketchup and prepared to balance two precarious plates overflowing with food truck goodness back to where my older two were supposed to be sitting. You asked if you could help. Thank you.

You saw me as I herded my two children towards the ice cream line up. Anticipating sugar, their little bodies vibrated with excitement, causing them to physically bounce and spin and loudly shriek which flavor they’d prefer. With a baby in one arm and my other hand full of teetering lunch time garbage, I scanned the area for a trash can. You offered to help. Thank you.

You saw me struggling to close my very obstinate stroller. No amount of jiggling, jostling, pushing, pulling, or silent cursing were collapsing the cantankerous pram. Beads of sweat dotted my brow as I stared at it with a great deal of contempt and considered abandoning it altogether, when you walked by. You offered to help. Thank you.

 

You saw me walking ten paces ahead of my very over tired three-year-old. I used my very best patient voice and tried to coax her the last few steps to the exit of the park. Walking by with a group of friends and seemingly well-behaved children, you suggested we mothers should fist bump each other in trying times like these. Thank you.

You’ve picked up soothers, chased after me with fallen shoes, held open doors, helped my children off of swings and shared stories in exhausted solidarity. Thank you.

When my five-year-old daughter (sneakily fueled by sugar and freshly scolded) locked me out of the house and didn’t return to the door no matter how gently or furiously I knocked, I hesitated to ask for help. Partly because I thought she would open the door, and partly because I had never experienced helplessness at this level. It is hard to be completely helpless to circumstances, to admit things are completely outside of my control, especially sugar-induced spiritedness. With my phone inside, a baby in my arms and a very sweaty, very sticky, pant-less daughter by my side, all of us shoeless, I found you on the sidewalk. You didn’t judge me as I explained our situation and I asked to use your phone. You kindly listened, and empathetically distracted me with small talk as you walked with me back to my house. You waited as I explained the situation again to my husband on your phone. You waited until my five-year-old finally opened the door, a cheeky smile on her face, my phone in her hand and her dad on the screen. Thank you.

It really does take a village, and I’m so lucky to have a fairly capable body, a great husband and a strong circle of family and friends to help along the way. And then there’s you, lovely strangers, filling in the gaps. I never realized before how much that African proverb also pertains to the parents. It takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to raise a parent. Thank you for helping to raise me. Your kindnesses do not go unnoticed.

One day, when my hands are less full, I promise to pay it forward.

Thank you.

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A Open Letter From The House ‘Nag’

Dear Family,

You know how everyone has a place in our family dynamics? One of you is the jokester, always cracking us up and keeping things lighthearted. Another is the endless peacekeeper, always finding a way to mitigate an impending blow up and alleviate stressful situations at all costs. And then, of course, the troublemaker and rabble rouser in residence. You know who you are.

And my place in the lovely little world of ours? My role is, and will always be, the family nag. And while I take little joy in this role, I accept my place in our family unit. And you know what?

Shit gets done.

You are welcome.

You think I don’t want to be the happy-go-lucky one? The one that spreads joy and sunshine all under the guise of a quick witted retort or a side of clever banter? The one that lights up a room with an off the cuff nickname or a snarky joke?

That, dear family, is not my job. I make things happen. Pure and simple.

I go to bed with 42 things that have to get done in my head and I wake up with 22 more added to that list. You know how many of those things will directly affect how your day will go? By my count, 64. That’s right: with the exception of buying Midol (and let’s be frank, everyone benefits from that being ticked off the to-do list), pretty much everything I do revolves around you and yours.

And you know how that comes to happen? My relentless and unmitigated attack on each and every day. And as much as I would like to channel my inner Wonder Woman (and look completely and utterly badass doing it), Gal Gadot I am not.

If you want to ensure that the lives you have grown accustomed to keep on keeping on, then my superpower will continue to be nagging. It’s not glamorous or flashy. I can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound or scale the side of a building, but I can remind, badger, pester, hound and goad the hell out of a day. That I can do with my eyes closed.

That is how your paper gets in on time so you don’t fail and beat yourself up for a week. That is how you remember to put air in your tire so that you aren’t stranded on the side of the road. That is how the fish you begged me for doesn’t end up floating lifelessly at the top of the tank from starvation tomorrow morning. That is how it all gets done. Each and every single day.

Luz Fuertes/Unsplash

Why do I have to use “that tone,” you ask? Because time and time again, it has been proven that one gentle reminder in the most dulcet of tones has no effect. Zero. In one ear and out the other, as my grandfather used to say.

When you finally hear me at DEFCON 1, you seem to have conveniently mis-remembered that it had been preceded by multiple stages of requests. You don’t seem to hear the first request, as kind and pleasant as can be. This, of course, leads to ratcheted levels of requests that also seem to fall on uninterested ears.

And do you know what got us here? My inherent need to not let you fall off of some impending precipice in your life. To put it more bluntly—you know that red box that you see everywhere that has the words IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, BREAK GLASS? I’m it, baby. That’s me. I’m your lifeline between the world of “oh shit” and “thank you sweet Jesus.” And do you know why? Because of my superpower.

So I will live with those heavy sighs and over dramatized eye rolls. I will ignore the under-the-breath string of swears and obscenities. I will try not to be hurt or believe you when you mutter, “I hate you.” I will do it. I will fall on that sword for all of you to ensure that your day runs like a well-oiled machine.

And through it all, shit will get done. You are welcome.

Your House Nag,

MOM

P.S. I love you.

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Nobody Told Me Motherhood Would Make Me Feel Like I’m Failing All The Time

One of my least favorite and more tedious responsibilities as a parent is clipping all four of my tiny humans’ fingernails. I mean, that’s 80 freaking nails … 100 if I include my own. Because of that, it’s just sort of become one of those tasks that falls between the cracks in our big family. And unless my kids are scratching themselves or others, it keeps getting pushed to the bottom of my to-do list. (And really, if that’s my biggest shortcoming as a mother, I’ll take it.)

But it seems others don’t possess my “there are bigger fish to fry” mindset when pertaining to such, what I consider, small and miniscule details.

My twins were almost a year old when I was taking them for a well-baby checkup. We were already running late, they were screaming, my husband was at work, I forgot the snacks, and one of them demolished their diaper in the parking lot of the pediatrician’s office. Of course, right? I changed him in the back of the SUV when I realized — lo and behold — his fingers resembled those of Edward Scissorhands.

Well, shit. 

We made it into the doctor’s office (barely), and when the nurse who helped with weighing my babes looked down at his fingers, she passively squealed, “Aw! Mommy needs to trim your nails!” All the while, shooting me a dirty side-eye like I’d somehow neglected my child.

Little things like this happen to mothers all too frequently, don’t they? She didn’t remark, “Daddy needs to trim your nails.” She said Mommy needed to — I needed to. And although what she said wasn’t a huge deal, this type of gender stereotype amongst parents is a huge deal, and it’s making mothers feel like failures.

I’m a good mom. In my heart of hearts, I know this. My husband knows it, my friends know it and my kids know it (as long as their punishment isn’t an electronic ban or I’m asking them to clean, in that case, I’m the “worst mom ever”). But it seems for me and so many other good moms out there, the rest of the world doesn’t see or cherish our value yet. Because the truth of the matter is, no matter what we mothers do, society expects too much out of us while acknowledging us far too little.

We’re told by sanctimommies that if we skipped our seldom and much-needed moments of alone time, maybe we could be better. If we nursed longer, maybe we would feel more confident in our parenting. If we were older/younger, emotionally wiser or more financially stable, maybe we wouldn’t feel like such despicable failures. 

Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. It’s such a loaded word, isn’t it?  Sure, we all have the potential to be better than what we already are — even when giving it our all — but I’m starting to wonder, when do we stop to consider the damage being done to ourselves along the way?

Scary Mommy and Bettmann/Getty

Let me be clear, mothers worldwide would give up their lives for their child(ren). But when we are talking about day-to-day living, the broad concept of mundane, but magical, everyday motherhood, we can’t keep pouring from an empty pot. Yet it seems the world would have it that way.

But we are enough.

We give it our all until we are wrung dry, but We. Are. People. Too. Flawed ones, sure. We question our judgment, we make mistakes and we fall flat on our drained and deprived-of-the-light-of-day faces. But we get up every single day and try our best once more. On repeat. For 18+ years, and we do it because we love those wild ones who are the reason for those mile-long dark circles beneath the eyes.

For most, just “raising children” isn’t good enough. We want to give them a childhood that’s peaceful and joyful to remember. We want to be their home. But we can’t do and be all of the things 24/7 without thinking about our own needs too. When we try (and we do try, don’t we?),  it’s only mass-destruction for the entire family in the long-run.

So why is it getting to that point?

Why is it that Dad can be halfway through his steaming hot dinner while Mom is starving and still fiddling with the kids and their meal plates? When will we see a mom with a ton of kids and think about how lucky she is instead of criticizing her family size? And when will a mom be able to freely pull out her breast to nurse in public — regardless of her child’s age — without hesitation or shame?

Some let their kids eat day-old Flamin’ Hot Cheetos recovered from under the couch, because … well, as long as there’s no dog hairs, it’s totally fair game. And then there are others who only allow organic, steamed and clean-choice food in their home. No matter the style, we have all failed, leading us to feel like failures. Our motherly role has been doomed with a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” type of mentality, and we are tired.

Since we want what’s best for our kids, we want to be the best for our kids. But, somehow, we are confusing best with perfect time and time again … and it’s ripping our mom-hearts to shreds for literally no reason at all. If not for the world around us, we would parent on pure instinct. But because it’s impossible to scroll through social media, watch a popular show, or even walk through town without encountering some type of misogynistic view on the high demands expected from a mother, good moms feel like failures everyday.

Our parental instinct is burdened by the opinions of others, but we are enough. What works for one child or parent will not work for another. Most of us, well, we are running on the collaborated input of trusted professionals, our partner’s two-cents, as well as our gut’s intuition.

We are the mothers that friends, family and loved ones call “good,” and we fail every single day. But though we fail, we are not failures.

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I Thought It Would Get Easier When My Kids Were Older, But I Was Wrong

As a new mother, I gave myself over to my babies, every last cell of my body and brain, every second of my time, with the assumption that the chaotic feeling of having sacrificed myself would be temporary.

I approached every aspect of new motherhood with frantic anxiety, especially with my first. It was 13 years ago — I agonized over every tiny decision. Motherhood felt so enormous to me, it was as if I had invented it. I needed to share the discovery with everyone. YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE HOW MUCH WORK THIS IS, I wanted to shout in people’s faces, including people who were already parents, as if they didn’t know.

My house exploded from an immaculate, ready-for-visitors-at-any-time showcase to a toy-cluttered playground for my kids. My hours filled with doctor’s appointments, play dates, cooking, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, and squeezing in some work-from-home work whenever I could because I hated feeling like I wasn’t a financial contributor to the household. Motherhood was all-consuming. But that early hustle was temporary. Babies are hard. One day you’ll have time for your friends again, your hobbies, your career, your body. It gets better. Life slows down.

Um… does it? When?

In some ways, the hustle of early motherhood was temporary. I have emerged from the baby years and my body is mine again, no longer subject to the demands of round-the-clock breastfeeding, no longer with a toddler dangling from each leg. Except… this isn’t my body, not the one I so willingly gave up 13 years ago. I hardly recognize this body. It’s like I left town for a decade and came back home to find the old theater has been boarded over and is sitting vacant and the local park bulldozed to build a mall. I don’t recognize this place.

And my busyness looks different, but if anything, I’m more busy. My time is (I think?) more and more my own, as in, my kids are independent in many ways. They feed themselves and clean their own rooms and bathroom and fold their own laundry. But the hustle never stopped or even slowed down. It just shifted.

I thought things would get easier as my kids got older. I was wrong.

I am still really busy. I still don’t get enough sleep. I still rush through my skincare routine because I choose sleep over a moisturizing mask and vitamin C serum. My legs are hairy AF because I always rush through showers and have to choose at least one thing to give up on, and the legs always lose. Sorry, legs. I thought once the kids got out of the baby stage, my house would be cleaner, and, okay, so there aren’t legos all over the floor anymore, but now there are multiple cups stacked in each of their bedrooms, and wrappers and mismatched socks strewn about the house. I can’t keep up with this shit.

And oh my god, the driving. I marvel at parents of more than two children. How do they manage to get their kids where they need to be every day? We carpool for school (no buses here), so that helps, but UGH, all their damn activities. Of course, I want them to have activities, but holy shit, I am a taxi. Thank goodness I work remotely and can lug my laptop around and still get work done.

And my worries have grown in proportion with whatever new time I have gained as a result of my kids’ independence. I used to worry about sleep schedules or whether I should medicate my child who has ADHD. I used to fret over their diets–all organic, limited dairy, no food coloring. Now I worry about my teenage son’s friendships and social life. It’s so hard to get him to talk. I find out from other moms when there’s a conflict in his friend group.

I Thought It Would Get Easier When My Kids Were Older, But I Was Wrong

Why doesn’t he talk to me? Is he okay? Does he care enough about his grades? Is he always as kind I’ve taught him to be? And for my daughter, is she as confident at school as she appears at home? Does she know she doesn’t have to conform to society’s ridiculous beauty standards? Have all those lessons I taught her sunk in? And what about college? Will they get in? Have their father and I saved enough to be of actual help to them?

The truth is, I belong just as much to my children as I ever did. I still drop everything for them when they need me. (When they really need me. Not when they want a snack. They can make their own damn snack.) They may no longer be babies, but they always have my attention in one way or another, and if they don’t, I’m hunched over my laptop trying to cram some work in.

So currently I have this strange mix of feeling like time is running out with them and that I should spend every moment with them because in the blink of an eye they’ll be gone — but also, I am approaching middle age and have been doing this shit for 13 years and I’m tired and want a professional massage and to attend a painting class.

I experience wild moments of panic thinking of the literal mountains I want to climb and wondering if my body will still be in good enough condition to do all those mountain-climby things once my kids have flown the nest. And yet I also don’t ever want them to leave the nest. I mean, it would be great if they picked up their socks, but damn I love these assholes and really don’t want them to leave.

Parenthood didn’t get easier. It got busier. It got more complicated and in many ways, harder. The stakes are so much higher. But as it grew more complicated, life also got richer. And I know my kids inch closer to independence every day while, despite the never-ending hustle, despite my weariness, every day I’m less and less sure I want them to leave me. All that means is that, in every possible way, absolutely nothing got easier. But I guess that’s okay. Because this sure is a rich life.

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Why We’re So F*cking Angry All The Time

I was getting ready for a hot date last weekend and searching all over my bathroom for my favorite eyeshadow — because nothing makes my eyes pop like a smooth “pixie pink” shadow — and finally found it in my daughter’s room. I’ve asked my teenage girl many times to let me know if she is going to borrow something. That way I can save my energy for things other than tearing my bedroom and bathroom apart looking for my favorite t-shirt, eyeshadow, or all my socks, because apparently, my closet is a boutique for her and her friends.

Before I found my beloved eye makeup, though, I found an empty bowl of guacamole on her floor (right next to several pairs of my socks), which I’m guessing had been sitting there for a few weeks. Next to it was a bag of barely eaten corn chips that were staler than stories about how Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt really are getting back together.

I took a deep breath. And then another.

Why We’re So F*cking Angry All The Time

I applied my shadow, put it back in my closet, dropped off my kids with their dad, and tried transitioning into date night. But first, caffeine.

As I was waiting in line an older man walked up to me and told me to smile. I had fantasies of telling him my mind was drowning a to-do list a mile long because we all know the women of the household run that ship whether they are single or not. I wanted to tell him I didn’t fucking feel like smiling because the mental load I carry around in my head causes my resting bitch face to blossom like a tulip in May. I wanted to tell him he should try being everything for everyone and then get back to me on how much he feels like smiling. Also, he reminded me of an ex-boss who once said to me “Oh look, I see two high-beams coming at me,” as I walked down the hallway to my office. I was in my 20s, he was in his 60s. I should have twisted his nuts but I had bills to pay so I didn’t.

We’ve been taught to keep the peace and not speak up. That shit sticks with you so, when a man you don’t know comes up to you and suggests you morph into a happy person so he can feel more comfortable, we are rightfully angry and we let it be known. And it’s about fucking time.

We’ve had enough.

We feel ignored — at work and at home. We repeat ourselves only to be ignored again.

That evening on my date, the man I was with asked to walk me to my car. I didn’t want company and told him I was all set. He asked again, I said no again. He insisted and started following me anyway and I told him for the third time I didn’t want him walking me to my car.

“Can I at least get a hug then?” In his mind it seemed like the reasonable thing to say, I guess. Just UGH.

Why We’re So F*cking Angry All The Time

The next morning, I walked into my daughter’s room and saw the same bowl sitting on the floor with the stale chips by its side. Any minute I was sure to find a cockroach and together they all would have made quite the ensemble — exactly what I envision when I think about my home.

You know what comes next, right?

Yep, I LOST MY FUCKING SHIT.

I lost all of it right there in the middle of the hallway while my kids were half asleep. I didn’t hold back and I still don’t feel an ounce of guilt about this.

My kids wonder why I’m so angry all the time.  To them, losing it once in a while, after holding it in for what feels like centuries translates as being angry “all the time.”

Why We’re So F*cking Angry All The Time

I’ll admit I’m tightly wound. All I have to do is watch the news for a half hour, repeat myself to an adult male, get another note from school, or find a rotting, leftover buffet on my daughter’s room and I’m a goner.

I give in to that anger and so does every other mom I know because we talk about it all the damn time. As soon as one of my sisters or mom friends start spewing a story about how the world is going to shit, no one gives a damn about them and their needs, and they are the doer of all things, everyone mom within a one-mile radius nods their heads emphatically (and angrily) in unison.

Before the first sentence is even complete, the entire room shakes and no one dares approach the area because they know we need to dish about how there is no un-douching the world and for fuck’s sake, it sucks.

Why We’re So F*cking Angry All The Time

The fact is, what makes moms of the world crosser than a tailor trying to make a living at a nudist colony is that we speak up but no one listens. And frankly, they don’t give a shit about our feelings until our blood boils over and we let it be known we’ve had enough.

We have a ton on our plates. We worry about all the things (including the fact that we worry about too many things), but we don’t know how to stop worrying. It seems so easy for our family to forget all we do and there is nothing like painting a pretty little picture about how our minds operate (while going on strike for a spell) to make us feel better and to reset the family dynamic until the next time they all need a take down by their angry mom.

Moms of the world are angry because there’s a lot to be angry about. That anger builds and builds until it eventually erupts.

Why We’re So F*cking Angry All The Time

It’s not a bad thing, necessarily. It gets shit done — so we can all stop with the guilt we have surrounding the fact we are angry all the time. This is our life, dammit, and we are dealing with it the best way we know how. Sometimes that means we yell in the middle of the hallway early on Monday morning and I’m alright with that.

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I’ll Have 4 Teens At Once, And I’m Already Freaking Out

I had a hard time asking for help with any of my newborns. It’s not necessarily something that I’m proud of… it just is what it is. We have two sets of twins who are three years apart. So, let’s be real, I should’ve been more receptive to those offers of help — and should have made my own requests too. But I valued time spent alone with my babies, and I knew these moments would be fleeting.

Or… maybe I subliminally realized I needed to savor all of those “can I ask you a favor” cards for my kids’ later teenage years. Because we are going to have four teenagers at once in this household at some point, and OMG HELP ME. No, seriously… Send. Help. Pronto. 

First of all, moms with multiple menstruating kids, I’m dying to know if Starbucks has anything that can cure “we have three teenagers and a moody mother PMS-ing this morning?” If so, will someone please go pick one up for me so I don’t have to do real pants and people? We know how much the PMS-ing mother hates real pants and people. And if there’s no coffee to cure that ailment, then I guess a Moscato fountain will suffice. Oh, and we’ll need a pallet of menstrual products and chocolate. STAT.

And then there’s my lone son. Have I mentioned I seriously don’t know the first thing about teenage boys?

Valid question… when their voice starts to change, am I supposed to say something about it in a loving way, tease him about it, or act like I didn’t just hear a dolphin’s death cry between words? I’m breaking in a sweat just thinking about the probable response that’s reciprocated if I choose wrong.

HELP ME! WHAT DO I DO WITH A TEEN BOY?

How do you even carry a conversation to someone who only speaks/grunts to their parents in syllables and what sounds like an injured mammal squawking or ends every conversation with an exasperated sigh and dramatic eye rolls?

For example, what I’ve witnessed usually goes a bit like this:

Mom: “How was your day, sweetie?”

Teen:*annoyingly huffs, looks down and fiddles with sweatshirt draw-strings* Mehhhhhhh, I dunno.

You “dunno?” As in, you’re just a robot programmed to run through the motions all flipping day, huh? You “dunno” about ANY of it? Hmmm, how peculiar.

But I guess when I look at the big picture of my kids’ teen years, piss-poor attitudes should really be at the bottom of my list. I can deal with a teen who has a crappy attitude. I was a teen with a crappy attitude… and I remember how that role plays out incredibly well. What I’ve never been is a mother in the passenger seat while her teen sits in the driver seat. Now, that terrifies me.

I’d consider myself to be an anxious woman. In fact, my husband and I bicker constantly when I’m riding with him in the car on account of my professional backseat-driving skills. I try not to do it. I really do. But I. CAN’T. HELP. IT. We’ll be coming up on a semi and every muscle in my body cringes to tell me, “This is it. Head-on collision, baby. Prepare to meet your maker.” And as irrational as I (sometimes) know it to be, I can’t help but to curl into the fetal position and squeal, “LOOK OUT!”

I know it’s so annoying, and I know that he probably isn’t going to wreck the car. Yet, that doesn’t stop me from gripping the handlebar like my life depends on it and almost causing a real accident from my screaming frenzy.

So, yeah, I’m a lot of fun…. I’m sure my kids will love practicing their driving skills with me just as much as I’ll enjoy teaching them.

I can already imagine what that attitude is going to sound like. Something along the lines of, “MOM, would you just chill?!,” with an exasperated teenage huff and puff at the end.

Boy, I am seriously concerned for those future teenage days ahead. But honestly, in all seriousness, perhaps I’m a little more concerned for them than I am for me.

May they never feel lost in the big, humble-jumble of our wild life. Everyone says the newborn days are the most difficult, but that’s a lie if I ever did hear one. As I’m learning, it never gets easier; it just changes.

One day, my kids won’t think I am their everything. I’ll always be important and cherished by them, sure. But they will have others in their life besides me to call their best friend, and that’s something my mommy heart just can’t handle.

Parenting is bittersweet. Even though they tantrum all the time in their young years right now, I’m living in the sweet stage. But in a decade from this day, I’m sure there will be certain days where I feel lost in the bitterness of four teens.

I don’t want to say what will happen in those years, and I don’t dare say, “This will never…” We all know parents who say “never” are usually the ones who end up eating their own vinegar-soaked words in front of a laughing crowd. What I will say is that I’ll need the help I never asked for before.

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My Husband Is A Better ‘Housekeeper’ Than Me

My friends think my husband is the perfect man. And, in some ways, they’re not wrong.

“Liz’s husband is the type of man who unloads the dishwasher, unbidden,” my best friend once lauded him. Indeed, he is the sole keeper of the dishwasher, loading and unloading it daily, without complaint. He takes out the recycling and the trash, including emptying the diaper can in our daughter’s nursery and enduring its gag-inducing odor. Sometimes, when I’m watching TV, I hear the dulcet whirr of the vacuum cleaner in the next room. He cleans out the fridge as soon as he notices so much as a speck of mold. He grocery shops and cooks marvelous meals.

Were he a CrossFit enthusiast, he’d be a candidate for the book series “Porn for Women,” which features handsome, muscular men—often shirtless—performing household tasks, accompanied by quotes like, “As soon as I finish the laundry, I’ll do the grocery shopping. And I’ll take the kids with me so you can relax.”

Unlike other wives I know, I never have to nag my husband about household chores. He just does them.

So, I’m the luckiest woman in the world, right? The thing is, sometimes living with this angel of domesticity makes me feel like a big fat failure.

Somewhere deep down, I believe should be the “housewife.” More specifically, my idea of a good mother is an overburdened housewife. I read so many stories about how mothers still bear the brunt of household chores, even when both spouses are working full-time. Since my husband and I both work, am I getting off easy? I contribute to our household in plenty of ways that don’t involve scrubbing or sauteeing, but somehow I still feed bad.

When I was growing up, I was not neat, and my family did not teach me how to clean. My father collects stuff of all kinds, and he would freak out when housekeepers rearranged his things. So, typically the house was in disarray.

My mother was more interested in her career as a painter and intellectual pursuits than in keeping house. (To her credit, she took care of me and my brother part-time for our entire childhoods.) As a result, mounds of dirty clothes accumulated in the laundry room.

My husband’s family, on the other hand, didn’t order takeout as frequently as we did or have a housekeeper. I’ve never seen my mother-in-law leave dirty dishes in the sink, as my mother frequently did.

Six years ago, for The Christian Science Monitor, I wrote a paean to my mother, praising her for finding time for her own pursuits, even if it meant putting off some household duties. Her behavior was a kind of feminist manifesto, I wrote—not modeling how to be a perfect housewife.

New York had recently run a cover story titled “The Feminist Housewife,” which cited a survey from the Families and Work Institute, in which women said that they detested housework and wished for more free time. Yet, when the women got more free time, they cleaned.

“Psychologists suggest that perhaps American women are heirs and slaves to some atavistic need to prove their worth through domestic perfectionism,” the reporter, Lisa Miller, wrote.

After my daughter was born, I suddenly began to identify with these women who feel guilty for not cooking or cleaning enough—in spite of admiring my mother’s unconventional approach.

I work as a freelance journalist, and I stay home with my daughter part-time. My husband has the same dual setup, and outside of that, we are good at splitting the child care. But, when my daughter was a newborn and I was taking time off of work, I cleaned obsessively during her naptimes and at night. I tried to cook more often. I bragged to my new mom friends about how much laundry I did.

My identity as a writer seemed to disappear. I didn’t give myself so much as a few moments to read or write in my journal.

And, I took for granted my own contributions to our household. Tucked away in my home office, I manage our finances, sort the mail and pay the bills. I buy our health insurance (my husband and I are both self-employed), a daunting task that requires hours of comparing plans. I pay our taxes. I’m the researcher—of travel, child care, you-name-it. Between our wedding and our baby, I’ve written more than 125 thank you notes (I worship at the temple of Emily Post). These are important tasks and things my husband isn’t good at.

There are also some household duties that are my responsibility, including laundry. I grocery shop and cook a couple of nights a week. But, I often fall behind on folding burp cloths and onesies, and I’m typically the one who suggests ordering takeout.

Most of my contributions aren’t things you can see. They don’t involve reaching to the back of the fridge with a soapy sponge, or carrying a heavy trash bag down two flights of stairs. Even though my husband always thanks me for what I do, I know he sometimes resents that he does the physically demanding work. He has joked with my brother that he is the “custodian” of our family (a fancy name for a janitor).

My therapist suggested that I need to accept my “21st century marriage.” Meaning, my husband does more of the cooking and cleaning, and I do the tasks that, in the past, were typically assigned to the man.

She also said, “As a new mom, you have a certain idea about what makes a ‘good mother.’ ”

I need to redefine “good mother” on my own terms, as my mother did. For me, that means working hard on my writing; I want my daughter to be proud of her mother’s professional and creative life. I’ve started using my daughter’s nap times to write, and finding other, less-precious time for laundry.

To accept my modern marriage, and my mothering, I need to stop apologizing for being a sub-par laundress and unreliable cook. I need to start really hearing it when my husband says “thank you” for making sure we pay our taxes on time. I need to remind myself of the unseen ways I contribute.

My new mantra is, “This family could not function without you. You are essential.”

Sure, my husband might sometimes resent that he does his work on his feet and I do my work from a desk. But is any marriage without resentment? (Hopefully, not too much.) I’m a perfectionist. But there’s no such thing as a perfect wife and mother.

So what if my husband is more of the “housewife” or “house-husband”? But, wait. Both of those terms are so terribly sexist. Why do we need to qualify marital roles by attaching one of them to “the house”? Both my husband and I make our household work, in different ways—ways that don’t need to be assigned a gender.

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To The People Who Ask ‘Isn’t It Hard To Love A Kid Who’s Not Your Own?’

When I first became a bonus mom, I already had my hands full with three biological children of my own. I had lots of experience in parenting different personalities and a successful co-parenting relationship with my ex. What I expected was to love my stepdaughter (she was a pretty likable kid), support my husband in his parenting role, and help establish a stable home environment after an acrimonious divorce. I never expected to love her as much as I loved my own children or to feel like my heart had grown a few sizes overnight.

Maybe it helped that my stepdaughter and I “clicked right away,” as she likes to say. Maybe it’s that I didn’t feel the need to “mother” her at the beginning and was patient about how our relationship developed. Or maybe it’s that there were really no opportunities to treat one child differently when there are three others under your roof who demanded equality.

The health of a stepmom and stepchild relationship is crucial for the family unit to thrive. I’m sure if we hadn’t “clicked,” my husband and I would have thought twice about getting married.  Maybe if all of the kids hadn’t developed an inconceivably close bond instantly, we’d be looking at a very different situation. But, we did and they did, so here we are!

The question I now dread most is, “Isn’t it hard to love a child that’s not your own?” I mean, would you ask that of someone who’s adopted a child? The love I feel for this quirky, often dramatic, resilient kid only differs in that I haven’t had the pleasure of being there to see her grow up from the ages of 0-6. There are lots of stories and funny experiences that I have to learn about through their re-telling. But meeting someone when they are older doesn’t mean that your bond can’t be incredibly strong or that your love for them isn’t as valuable.

Although I’m sure she was a bit shell-shocked when she first came to live with us (being an only child and suddenly being thrust into an energetic home with three other kids will do that to you), I never thought about treating her differently. She was assigned the same chores, expected to behave in the same ways — to show politeness and kindness towards others, and most of all, to be be respectful.

The only way things were different parenting-wise was in the way we disciplined. When she misbehaved, I stepped aside and let her dad handle it. When she got stressed about going back to her mom’s house after a fun filled weekend with her siblings, her dad was the one who took her for a walk and talked to her. If she had a complaint, I let her dad take that one too. It not only helped to strengthen their relationship, it also helped her see that although I parented her in many ways, I was not there to “replace” anyone.

So to answer the question, “Is it hard to love a child that’s not your own,” no. Not for me. I’ve had my own specific journey to motherhood with my stepdaughter. It just may look a bit different than the normal path. I didn’t carry her for nine months and excitedly prepare for her to be born, picking out baby outfits and wondering what she would look like. I missed the joys of her first smile, her first word, her first steps.

What I did experience was the beautiful excitement of knowing she’d be coming into my life permanently, the getting-to-know-her phase as I figured out her likes and dislikes, the first steps of a close bond forming when she started to trust that ours was a forever family, the joy of helping her achieve things she didn’t think she could achieve, and…there have been plenty of “firsts” since I’ve known her. I’ve been proud of all of her accomplishments, all of her successes and I’ve held her close when she’s had her fair share of disappointments. She craves my attention when she’s with us. I crave for hers when she’s not. Biology doesn’t lead to love. It’s the commitment to your child that does.

 

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 pageis here to help parents survive the tween and teen years (aka, the scariest of them all.)

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Why I Started Asking To Have My Photo Taken More Often

Like most moms, I have a million photos of my children. I’ve gratefully assumed the role of family photographer. I take that role so seriously that the camera specs on a phone are more important to me than any other feature.

I use my phone camera for everything. It’s a godsend for catching quick shots of the kids getting into mischief. It’s been there for me to document the last stages of pregnancy on into the first days postpartum for two pregnancies considering that my family is 800+ miles away. And it’s done wonders when my husband has gone on extended work trips.

But a while back, I was scrolling through my thousands of pictures of my children and I noticed something heartbreaking. Despite having nearly a thousand images of the children and their father, and even the dog, I have very few pictures that include me.

The more I talk to other moms, the clearer it has become that there is a crisis in the family photo department. Mothers are taking millions of photos and doing an awesome job making sure that our family can look back on their various life stages. But no one is returning the favor to make sure we are included in the memories.

So today, I would like to put out an all-person’s bulletin informing loved ones that we want to be in those memories too.

I noticed the image inequity a few years back. I was an excited first-time mother snapping all the photos of my son and husband. I just assumed we’d share the photo responsibilities — except we didn’t.

I don’t think my partner maliciously set out to cut me out of family memories. But I do feel like it’s a symptom of the lack of consideration that women experience in all areas of life.

Day after day, mothers strategize and make intentional decisions to promote family morale. We suggest family dinners when no one seems interested. We insist on professional family photos to put on the wall despite moaning and groaning. And we tirelessly consider the physical and emotional state of every family member.

We’re so efficient at being the family secretary, no one thinks about our wants and needs. We work ridiculously hard behind the scenes but rarely have the opportunity to be the focus.

Unfortunately, I had to accept the fact that my husband was not going to go out of his way to think to take pictures of me with the kids. So instead of waiting for him to have a light bulb moment, I spoke up and handed him the phone.

At first, asking my husband to take pictures of me with the kids felt weird. It was a lot more forward than I was used to being. Plus, it took some of the candidness out of the family photos.

But now that I have an increasing number of images with me and the children, it all seems worth it.

Seeing myself in family photos reminds me that my wants and needs are just as important as everyone else’s. It’s also taught me that as a mother, there’s nothing wrong with actively telling your loved ones what you need from them. In contrast, not speaking up should be considered a disservice. We moms are too important to walk around feeling neglected.

Another reason it’s important for me to be included in photos is, God forbid something happens to me, I want my family, my kids especially, to have access to my memories.

Likewise, I have very few pictures of my mother — and almost none when she was my age or younger — and I hate it. Having a timeline of images is a great way to see moms as human. We haven’t always been mothers! We’re multi-dimensional individuals who have lives outside of our family. When I’ve gone, I want my family to see the diversity of my life experiences — I’m much more than “mom.”

Now I have memories to look back on that show the changes I have made as a mother over the last four years. And once those memories have passed, having documented them with virtual images is often the only remaining proof that the experience ever occurred.

I’m currently in the market for a new cell phone. I am choosing between the two top competitors and, again, I am interested in whichever one has the most high-quality camera. But this time my camera will not only document my beautiful children and my husband; it will be the first phone that includes images of me from start to finish because I’m gonna demand pictures be taken of me too.

And I don’t have a single ounce of shame in that.

I know there are millions of mothers who can identify with the “absent from photo heartbreak” that leaves me frustrated. But I’m here to tell you it’s possible that your family will never get the message. Sadly, mothers are often overlooked. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can speak up and demand that we are included. Speaking up to make sure we are in the picture can benefit so many areas of our lives.  And we deserve it.

I’ve learned that if I don’t consider my needs and wants, no one else well. Who knew I could learn so much in pursuit of getting a good family picture?

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