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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Would You Judge Me If You Knew? I Hope Not.

To the parents who gave me a rude look when my boys were fighting at the school’s Family Fun Night, and I couldn’t break it up because I was holding my baby while pushing the stroller…

Would you judge me if you knew my husband was away for half a year with the military…and how hard it was for me to take them places in the winter/snow/ice by myself? Especially in big crowds during their normal bedtime hour?

To the person who judged me for getting my son diagnosed with ADHD because they “just don’t see it” or they think I’m “exaggerating” his behavior…

Would you judge me if you knew about his uncontrollable screaming fits and all of the hour-long meltdowns, insomnia and night terrors, inability to keep his hands to himself at school…or sit at the carpet…or keep things organized…or do something after only being told 2 or 3 times? Would you judge me if you knew I needed the diagnosis for my health insurance to cover behavioral therapy? Would you judge me if you knew how many phone calls I get from his school on a regular basis?

To the person who judged me in a restaurant for breastfeeding my baby…

Would you judge me if you knew how much work it took to get out of the house with a newborn and other children? How I was going bonkers and needed to get out? How I had fed the baby right before I left?

To the school official who judged me for my son hitting another child and saying “he needs consequences and he needs to know to keep his hands to himself”…

Would you judge me if you knew about all of the disciplinary actions we have tried – timeouts, TV and dessert revoked, being sent to bed, etc.? Would you judge me if you knew how many discussions we’ve had about keeping his hands to himself? Would you judge me if you knew that I reminded him EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. before school?

To the fellow Preschool Mom who judged me for my 4-year-old clinging to my legs and throwing a fit at drop-off…

Would you judge me if you knew my husband usually drops him off, and he’s away with the military and my son cried almost every night because he missed his dad?

To the individual who saw me yell at my kid for something they thought was no big deal…

Would you judge me if you knew he was constantly getting in trouble at school for doing that “no big deal” thing and I am doing my best to prepare him better for acceptable behavior at school?

To the individual who is judging me for not medicating my son’s ADHD

Would you judge me if you knew how hard of a decision it is to not medicate – or medicate – a 6 year-old? Would you judge me if YOU were in that situation and YOUR decision had not supported? Would you judge me if you knew about all of the hours of research I’ve done on the subject?

To the mom who judged me for not taking my shoes off in the infant room at daycare…

Would you judge me if you knew my husband was gone so I’m single parenting three children and had to get all three ready and dropped off at different locations by 7:30 am by myself, the baby got me up 5 times the night before, and I am late for a meeting?

To the stay-at-home mom who judges me for working, because “they’re only little once”…

Would you judge me if you knew that I love my job, and what I do? Would you judge me if you knew that at my job I advocate for those discriminated against in my community? Would you judge me if you knew I work towards empowering women and their right to work or not work?

To the working mom who judged me for being a stay-at-home mom (I have summers off) instead of advancing my career and finding a year-round job that pays better…

Would you judge me if you knew I that even though I lose my patience sometimes, I still love having that time with my kids? Would you judge me if you knew I’ve turned down interviews with better paying jobs because I can’t stand the idea of not having summers off with them?

Let’s do less judging, and more supporting. We need to believe in ourselves – and others – as a parents. NO ONE knows a child better than their parents, and there is no better advocate for them than their parents. Let’s just all take a moment to remember that.

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Why I Was So Shocked At What Happened In The Coffee Shop

In the words of my three-year-old and Stephanie Tanner, “How rude.” I have noticed a trend lately where people are so self-absorbed and consumed that they cannot even hold a dang door open for a mother pushing a stroller while holding a toddler. That mother was me today.

Now it wasn’t my first choice to “pop” into a Starbucks with two small children. But when your three-year-old says they have to go potty “so bad,” we’re talking seconds before that car seat is soaked and your car smells like urine for weeks. I see the Starbucks and pull in. I figure I’ll kill two birds with one stone. I get caffeine (much needed as a mom with two kids under three) and my daughter can use the restroom.

I walk up to the door where there were plenty of grown-ups sitting outside (we live in Florida). I’m wearing a heavy mom backpack full of supplies, pushing a very large one year old in his stroller, and carrying my three-year-old daughter. I stop at the front door and look around. I see people smile at the kids but not ONE person stood up to grab the door. I’m talking there were like seven people outside–both women and men. I pull an Elsa and decide to let it go. I put my daughter down and tell her to stay right by me as I awkwardly pull the heavy door open and hold it with one foot, all while herding my children in like cattle.

I go straight to the counter to place my quick order and rush my daughter to the bathroom. Of course, it’s locked. My daughter does the “pee dance” trying to hold it in. Finally, a well-dressed older woman walks out, looks at me and the kids and slams the door behind her. I stare at her in shock as she struts away.

My daughter turns to me and says, “Mommy, why didn’t she hold the door open? She’s a grown-up.” I shake my head in disbelief. My little girl goes over and tries to hold the door open for me and her brother in the stroller. I’m already cringing at the germs on her hands. She relieves herself and I’m ready to GTFO of here.

I grab my much-needed coffee and look around at all the people standing by the door. I think to myself, okay, one of these people HAS to open the door for me. I’m now carrying a hot coffee, pushing a stroller, and at this point wearing my daughter and the backpack. Not one. Not one person near the door, sitting down, or standing in the general vicinity held that door open for me. I’m talking people of society here: a doctor in scrubs, men in their mid-forties, a mom with her son, a business woman, a grandfather.

I struggle to get the door open, and after a couple of tries, we finally escape. My daughter then stops, turns around, and says, “That was rude.” She’s three, people. She’s three and she knows that we should help each other. People should look out for one another. People should say please and thank you. I don’t care who you are, I will always hold the door open for the person behind me. I don’t even look to see who is behind me, I just automatically do it. Now, that may be the Midwest in me, but it’s also called being a decent human being.

Maybe I should have just asked for help. Maybe I should have been more direct. But as my daughter pointed out, these people were all grown-ups. They all saw a tired mom struggling. I have hope for her future and in her generation that respect and kindness will overcome this self-indulgent time we are in. I will teach my son to always hold a door open. I will teach my daughter to always be kind. How we react to people and help others changes their mood and perspective for the day–maybe even their life.

So next time you see someone (or me) struggling, help a mother out.

 

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.)

The post Why I Was So Shocked At What Happened In The Coffee Shop appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Chances Are, You’ve Probably Told Your Kid One Of These Lies

I’m pretty new to this mom thing; I haven’t even reached the 5-year mark yet. Still, social media interactions have led me to believe there are a few non-negotiables in parenting culture. Hilariously, one of those must-do’s seems to be lying to your kids.

Parents lie for a multitude of reasons. Some are good, some are a little suspect. But we’re still lying.

While I get ready to pass my parenting initiation test, let’s review some common lies parents tell their kids.

1. We have eyes in the back of our heads.

I’m not sure if all parents do this or if it’s mostly a woman of color thing. But my grandmothers (yep, plural) told me they had eyes in the back of their heads on multiple occasions. It made sense to me and it seemed like the only explanation for the reliable inkling they had when I did something wrong.

2. This food is too hot for you, Baby!

Kids beg for everything. They’ll take your clothes, they’ll take your joy, and if you let them, they’ll steal your soul. All right, that last one was a little dramatic (but only a little).

But they’re definitely going to try to take your food. Who among us hasn’t told a little white lie that our meal was too spicy or too hot (temperature wise) for our child to have some?

* Raises both hands *

3. Santa

Whether we admit it or not, the whole Santa-Claus-delivering-gifts thing is probably the most popular parenting lie in the history of lies. Santa never brought me any gifts growing up. Therefore, he must not be real. Hmmm… or maybe I didn’t get any gifts because I was always in trouble with my grandmother. 

4. If you sneeze with your eyes open, they’ll fall out.

My dad is very much a jokester. Of course, that made me uncertain about whether or not I can believe a story he told me about a college professor who sneezed with his eyes open and had a pop out in front of the class.

I don’t have any intentions of ever sneezing with my eyes open. But even if you could, why would anyone want to do that? 

5. If you go outside with wet hair, you’ll catch a cold.

Old ladies love to give folklore-based health information. The connection between wet hair and colds is definitely an example of this. I don’t care if this is a lie, I don’t like being in the cold with wet hair anyway. Plus, I have low porosity hair so it stays wet forever! Lie or not, I still don’t go outside with wet hair.

6. Strangers hold all the danger.

I completely understand why parents tell children not to go off with strangers. The world is a wild and scary place. But adulthood and social media have shown us that strangers aren’t really that bad. And a lot more often than I would have expected, they turned out to be a lot nicer than the people you already know.

7. If you turn on a light in the car at night, BAD things happen.

To this day, I get anxious when turning on the center light in the car. And you will never catch me driving with the light on.

I’m curious about the origins of this lie though. When you’re driving a car, that light can be distracting. Maybe it’s out of concern for the driver’s vision?

But, again, you don’t have to worry about me finding out the hard way.

8. Watching too much TV will damage your eyesight.

I remember being told watching too much TV can hurt your eyes and a few similar things like sitting too close to the TV can make you go blind. Lie or not, if you get too close to the TV it will give you a headache. I’ll pass.

9. Swallowing gum = Seven years of digestion

Remember when chewing gum was banned in school and the only way to get rid of it quickly was to swallow it?  I’ve never swallowed gum but a lot of my friends did, and I wholeheartedly believed they would be digesting that gum until college.

Even now, I am still afraid of the “it’ll take you seven years to digest gum” concept. I know this has been debunked since then — but I ain’t swallowing no gum.

10. You can do whatever you want when you’re older.

Did anyone else’s parents imply unrealistic degrees of freedom accompanies adulthood?

I was told, “You can do whatever you want once you’re out of my house and paying your own bills” so often that I expected adulthood to be hella fun.

Spoiler alert: it isn’t. Adulthood in two words is responsibility and bills. If we had to add two more words for happiness and balance, it would be breakfast ice cream.

11. If you keep rolling your eyes, they’ll stay that way.

Do kids still roll their eyes?

As a ’90s kid, some of my favorite memories included rolling my eyes. It was a very expressive gesture and it could have a wide range of meanings.

Back when I was living the good life and rolling my eyes all the time, some random adult told me to stop rolling them or risk them getting stuck in the back of my head. I didn’t believe it, and I kept rolling my eyes anyway because I’m sassy.

Now that I’m older I’ve noticed that rolling my eyes gives me a headache, but that’s probably from overuse.

12. Swimming after eating causes cramps.

Growing up, I heard plenty of authority figures say you had to wait 30 minutes after eating before getting in the pool or risk cramps. I spent very little time around pools so I never investigated this any further. At the time, it made sense to me. Plus, it sounded like a great excuse to stay away from the water.

As an adult, I am shocked to know that there are no consequences from eating right before getting in the pool. At the same time, why would you want to do any form of exercise right after eating?

I haven’t decided what lies I’m going to save for my children. But I know that parenting is hard, and those lies give us the opportunity to either get a break from nonsense or temporarily stop them from doing something that will hurt them in the long run.

Here’s to several decades of parenting and lies!

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My Extended Family Lives Close By But They Still Don’t Help

my-village-doesn't-come-around

Sometimes I wish I lived back in the good ol’ days when one’s extended family was just an arm’s length away. Maybe then someone would help me when they hear my four kids crying, whining and bugging me in the dim hours of the morning, the wee ones at night and all of the little tantrum-filled ones in between. If not for my own sanity, maybe for theirs. 

But then I remember how much my in-laws drive me crazy, and my wish for time travel to the supposed good ol’ days is immediately squashed almost as quickly as the times I ask others for help with my kids. 

This wannabe villager isn’t putting up a “poor me” front. Let me be clear, I can do it all and be it all when needed. After all, I’m a mom, and we all know mom gets shit done. But I’m depleted from being forced to do it all and be it all when I was promised a village to help me along the way. 

Because the truth of the matter is this: My “people” are near in distance, but far off in presence. They offer to help, (key word: offer), but I take their words with a grain of salt each time. Their absence is hurtful, and they are becoming unreliable in my eyes. 

When the offer to help rolls in, sentences are usually started with a maybe. “Maybe I can take the kids this weekend if I don’t have anything else I have to do.” 

(If you’re a mother, you already know what “maybe” typically means.)

By now, those words go in one ear and out the other with an “okay, we will see when the day comes” type of attitude attached to the end of it. 

I don’t mean to be snarky, hateful, or resentful to the people I love, but there are only so many times someone can offer help and not follow through before I don’t believe them anymore. 

I don’t want to get my hopes up. I know that may sound bonkers — getting my hopes up over some alone time away from my own kids — but it’s true. I have work I need to do at home, and when my village gives me idle promises and I rearrange my day’s work to compromise for those promises, only for me — and my kids — to be met with disappointment, their words start to hold little value. 

I’ve heard it all: 

My head hurts. 

I forgot… I have to do this, this and this. 

I’m SO sorry, but… [fill in whatever bullshit you want here]. 

I can’t because of… (wait for it)…. MY DOGS. 

The. Damn. Dogs. Now, I’m an animal lover with my own dogs myself, but come on, I’m not an idiot. Just say you changed your mind and be the asshole you are instead of attempting to be a nice asshole with some bull-crap excuse coupled with it. 

I get it, this is what I signed up for when becoming a mom. Being accessible to my kids’ every need, want and desire, 24/7. I’m thoroughly aware, and I wouldn’t trade all of this mom-exhaustion for the entire world plus some. 

But my supposed-to-be village’s absence stings. And it’s not just affecting me, it’s affecting my kids too. 

We are big fans of FaceTime around here, probably because that’s the only way they’d regularly see their family. But it’s incredibly disappointing when family tells the kids while talking on FaceTime that they will spontaneously pick them up, only for them to change their minds last minute for one of the many excuses listed above. Or, sometimes, there’s no excuse at all. No phone call, no text, only absence. 

It sucks that they can’t be upfront with the help they are and aren’t willing give. And it sucks even more that I have to explain their fall-outs to my children standing beside the door with their coats and shoes on, already anticipating the family day they were promised.

I’m left with not only my own distrust in them, but my kids’ too. And in their flaky attempts to help lighten my load, they oftentimes add to it further with their empty words.

I’m not saying they are all bad, but it’s difficult to understand why nobody will help me in the ways I’d be willing to do for them. It’s infuriating, actually. Because in the many attempts my family has made to promise me some help, I’ve had one kid-free night away. ONE.

I’ll take what I can get, but I’d like to point out that this alone time began one hour before their scheduled bed-time, and I picked them up the following morning one hour after their scheduled awake time. To put it candidly, that “break” wasn’t really a break at all.

And it’s not even just about me and my lack of alone time that upsets me — I can deal with that. But I hate that my family is missing out on these extraordinary little people while they are still little. Because, to me, they are the greatest, most caring and smartest little people. And while I know in my heart that my extended family still values their worth, they don’t seem to bask in it the same way I do. And they don’t seem to cherish it the way my extended family cherished me when I was younger either. 

My heart feels sad because of that, but maybe an empty, unreliable, and extended village is just what I and the rest of my big family needs, whether we expected to be dealt this hand or not. Maybe we realize that, even without the outside world’s help, we still have it all with the ones who are gathered around the table daily.

No more, no less, just us.

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How I Responded When I Saw My Teen’s Friend Acting Like A Jerk

My oldest son had a friend over to spend the night before the day of their high school orientation and I had them both in tow as we sat through a seminar and they toured their new (very large) high school.

I didn’t know his friend very well; he seemed quiet and shy and I didn’t push him too much by asking a million questions.

As we were making our way back to the car and the students were standing in groups talking, we passed a bunch of kids. One of them stopped mid-conversation to make a point to say “hi” to my son’s friend and address him by name. I was shocked that my son’s friend responded by giving him a dirty look, making a funny noise, then proceeding to laugh in his face.

The boy who said hello to him was clearly stunned, embarrassed, and wasn’t sure how to handle his behavior.

Neither did I.

I didn’t know this boy well, and though he wasn’t my child, he appeared to be since he was with me and his mother was not. To me, that made him my responsibility for the time being.

What I wanted to do was set him straight in front of all the kids that were present and had just witnessed what had happened, but my goal wasn’t to make another person feel like shit that day and publicly shame them.

Instead, in an attempt to take the awkwardness out of the situation, I said hello to the nice boy and asked how he was.

Then, once we were sitting in the car, my son said, “Mom, just don’t say anything” — because before I even opened my mouth, he knew what was coming.

I won’t lie, it was hard not to lose my shit in the face of such blatant unkindness. And I worried that if my son’s friend acted like this in front of an adult, how did he present himself when there were no adults around?

I wasn’t sure I wanted to know.

“What was that about?” I asked him. “That guy clearly went out of his way to say hello to you and you acknowledged him by making a strange sound and laughing at him. It was rude and hurt his feelings.”

He stared at me, blinked once, and said nothing.

“How would you feel if someone did that to you in front of your friends?”

Silence.

“Listen, being a teenager is hard enough. You gotta be nice to each other, dude. You don’t have to be best friends with the guy, but answering with a ‘hello’ back and moving on takes a lot less effort than what you did.”

“Yeah, I guess,” he said. “I just don’t even know him. We just met in the group and now he’s going to think we are friends.”

“Oh, how horrible to make a new friend,” I said sarcastically and laughed to lift the mood.

I’d called him “Dude.” I was trying to be light and airy about this because I thought if I let my true feelings around the situation flow, he wouldn’t hear what I was saying.

“Okay, Mom,” my son said. “Please, can we just go now?” Clearly he was struggling too and annoyed with me.

He wasn’t the only one — we were all a little annoyed and uncomfortable that day. But I’d like to think because I took the time to address this kid’s behavior instead of just ignoring it, or going off on him like I originally wanted to, he was able to reflect on what he’d done and not do it again. At least, I hope so.

Being a parent to your own kids is difficult enough, but it doesn’t stop us from wanting to get up in someone else’s shit when we think we know better. Then we remind ourselves to stay in our own lane and worry about ourselves.

Except….

Witnessing a child who’s being unkind, acting like an asshole for no reason or is engaging in unsafe behavior is definitely cause for stepping in and speaking to them in a constructive and kind way in private. I don’t care what anyone says. If I see your kid being unkind, I’m going to say something to them about it in a way they can (hopefully) hear.

If it was my child being a dick, you better believe I’d want someone to speak up, make them aware of their behavior, and remind them people have feelings and they should be treated with kindness.

Too often, bad behavior gets ignored. We are too busy, don’t want to take them time, don’t know what to say, or think it’s hopeless.

Then, the heavy lifting is left solely up to the teachers and parents of the world who work their asses off to pick up the slack. And you know what? Parents and teachers aren’t always around to shed some insight on wrong behavior.

If we all chipped in just a smidge, fewer people would try and get away with acting like bungholes whenever they wanted to. Kids would learn. The world would be a better place. Seriously.

Parents and teachers can use all the help we can get. Even the ones who think they have it all under control will find themselves in a tough spot and not know where to turn.

So, if you see a someone being unkind, speak up. There is zero reason to let someone be degraded without talking to the person who is being an jerk. Shitty behavior needs to be called out and it can be done in a productive way. Unkind behavior doesn’t warrant an unkind response (especially when kids are involved), but there is a way to respond to the situation with kindness and compassion.

Maybe I didn’t make an impression on my son’s friend that day. Or perhaps I did but it won’t sink in until he’s 28 and watches a kid do something similar to his child. Who knows.

But what I do know is this: he’s never pulled anything like that around me since then. And as soon as we sat in the car, my son knew exactly what was going to happen, which reaffirms that I’m setting a good example for my own kids and doing a small portion of this parenting thing right.

Does that mean my three kids are angels? Hell to the no. All kids, even the “good ones,” know how to pull out their inner asshole and show it to the world even if they know better. They are kids, and they’ll make mistakes. Hell, even adults aren’t their best selves from time to time. We’re human, after all.

But if we don’t bring it to their attention — even if we only whisper in their ear, “Hey, you are a good kid, you can do better than that” — they will do it a hell of a lot more.

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Productivity Is Not A Contest

I recently clicked on an article titled “16 Moms Who Have More Productivity In Their Pinky Than You Have In Your Whole Body” because, honestly, I wasn’t feeling all that productive and was almost looking for a reason to continue my latest round of self-loathing and doubt. I was curious, resentful, and skeptical.

Let’s just see what these moms are up to because I have a feeling this shit is fake, shamey, or worse, real, and it’s going to make me feel horrible about myself.

Anxiety and depression are a blast, you guys.

I was baited, but the article wasn’t quite what I expected. I realized it was a dangerous depiction of moms doing too many things at once, sometimes looking miserable, and calling it productivity.

After scrolling through the photos, I realized I wasn’t feeling any of the things I thought I would. With each photo showing badass mamas working while breastfeeding, working out while being pulled on by a toddler, and cleaning, cooking, and working while baby-wearing, I got angrier. This is not productivity; this is life. This is survival.

Moms HAVE to juggle all the things, and it’s not that all of our energy or motivation is in our pinky, it’s that our entire beings are used to support ourselves, our kids, and our families. Productivity should not be about bragging rights. Nor should productivity be based on what one accomplishes in an hour, a day, or a week.

I have learned this lesson the hard way. And as my opening paragraph showed, I am still learning it. I struggle with cycles of depression and recently was reminded of the mania I used to experience. During my dark days, daily tasks are exhausting. Forcing my brain to focus on work and not negative chatter is nearly impossible. Fighting guilt from not being able to work at my usual speed or my version of quality is a battle I tell myself I shouldn’t be fighting. I spend more time judging my own thoughts and ability to check items off of a to-do list than I do being kind to myself. Because productivity. I get stuck in the idea of “shoulds.” Some of these are self-placed; some are placed by society and the notion that we can have it all.

Before I was properly medicated, I would have manic episodes. I would spend hours, sometimes days in a state of racing thoughts, high energy, and what I thought were super productive hours of writing, cleaning, and working out. While my baseboards were very clean and thousands of words were put to paper, I was so uncomfortable. I could not rest. I could not shut off my brain. I could not crawl out of my own skin despite feeling like it was covered in acid. What looked like productivity was peak mental illness.

Recently, I felt a surge of this old energy, but at first I didn’t put a name to it other than a sense of feeling good. If I feel off these days, it is because I am sad or slow moving. But when I wrote a 700 word essay in 30 minutes, I thought I was just feeling a flow. When I laughed uncontrollably with my twins at bedtime, I thought I was just happy. And when my body felt like it needed to run, to move, to sweat, I thought I just needed to workout.

But then my brain felt like all the windows had been thrown open to let in a rave. So many colors, sounds, thoughts. I couldn’t control my breathing. This had nothing to do with feeling good and being productive. Something old was stirring in my body, and my brain was trying to process it.

This old experience scared me, but a friend pointed out that this was not an old pattern returned; I have not felt this way for many years. And while my brain was on fire with ideas and I could have physically done more in a few hours than I normally could in a day, I forced myself to go slow. I didn’t need to do all the things. I didn’t need to take advantage of this energy surge. I needed to find my baseline.

For me, and I think for most, productivity is fluid. My baseline is a wave. I have too many roles to play to simply take one snapshot and call myself a rock star or failure based on what I accomplished in a day.

Whether you struggle with mental health or not, we are humans with big feelings, stressors, and responsibilities; it’s more than enough to take care of ourselves, but we also take care of children, spouses, coworkers, friends, and family members. I know the message in the article that started this reflection was meant to show that moms are badasses. And we are. But also, sometimes moms just can’t, and that’s okay too. Slowing down, having nothing to show but self-love, is badass too.

We need to create a culture that nurtures parents, moms especially, and not push them to feel like they aren’t doing enough. Because honestly, just making it through the day in one piece is enough. And our worth, our productivity, should not be measured by the list of things we can do all at once or even in a lifetime.

If we love ourselves and our kids in a way that feels safe and nurturing, then the rest will follow. Productivity, however we define it, is not a competition.

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