No One Understands What It Means To Have Toddlers (Or Just Kids In General) Anymore

I’m not sure what the reason is for it, but it’s as if no one remembers or understands what it means to have toddlers (or just kids in general) anymore.

Or maybe it isn’t that they don’t understand. They just don’t care.

I have three kids, at various ages. One is a teenager, turning 16 next week. The second is a tween, having turned 12 last December.

And then, I have my toddler. My 3 year old. The baby of the family who keeps all of us on our toes.

Well… he keeps me on my toes…

There’s something I’ve noticed with this, my youngest child, that I never noticed before: people, generally speaking, don’t seem to get it anymore.

They don’t understand that several hour-long phone calls to insurance companies or to fix the cable, or to just gossip about what aunt so-and-so is up to over coffee, is rarely – if ever – an option.

They don’t understand that if I do actually do something other than entertaining the toddler (and/or making sure the toddler doesn’t roam out into the street of busy traffic), I can’t just – like – drop everything to show them how to change the ink in their print cartridge, or send them a detailed email about how to start a blog. Or even sometimes engage in a twenty minute conversation about [insert just about anything here]. That if I work or go to school, the time I have carved out in my schedule is literally the only time I have.

Or – shocking as it may seem – usually when I have free time away from my toddler, I am taking care of my other kids.

They don’t seem to be able to wrap their heads around the fact that there are three of them and one of me, and I can’t actually split myself into three pieces to be at three places at once. Sometimes, appointments have to be scheduled around the other kids’ things. Sometimes, I can’t get them to an extra curricular activity that day. Occasionally, other things in the house have to wait so that the children can be cared for first.

Sometimes, if I’m sitting at one of my older kids’ tennis matches, I’m not a “bad mom” for having my laptop open and my school books out (as many parents so eloquently “joke” to me). It’s that it’s literally the only time I have that I am not talking about Toca Boca or Paw Patrol with a 3 year old to get that other stuff done.

When you have a toddler, that’s how life is. It’s a delicate balance between having enough time to fit everything in, and making sure your toddler is cared for.

This is honestly the way it is when you have multiple kids.

It is a lot of time cleaning. Cooking. Picking up food they threw at the wall.

Having a toddler is not showering sometimes. It’s going days without realizing that all you have eaten in 48 hours is Goldfish crackers and Jell-o.

Add two other kids at completely different stages of life to this, and forget it.

My time is spent driving my teenager to her college- and life-preparatory things, helping my middle schooler with her school work and making sure she gets to all of her extra-curricular activities on time, and taking care of my toddler. That includes developmental things, play things, reading times, and interacting with other kids and the world. When I’m not doing one of those things, I’m cooking dinner for all of them, making lunches, serving breakfasts, and cleaning up the messes.

It’s balancing screen time and play time. It’s taking a kid to an appointment and letting the other kid have more screen time so you can hear the doctor speak, then it’s managing the tantrum because that kid had too much screen time, all while answering the phone when people call you back about the one kid’s appointment and helping the third kid with her SAT prep book.

What I’m saying is, I have my hands full. A lot of people are in this position now. A lot of people have been in it at some point in their lives.

A lot of people have forgotten.

I’m referring to the people that ask me over and over again at tennis matches for my older kids where my little guy is, but then complain when he even breaths too loudly when I do bring him.

I’m referring to the people that don’t do their jobs, too. Like a doctor’s office, that owes me a refund and says they’ll refund me automatically, only for me to find out a month later they never did, resulting in an hour of sitting on hold to get it straightened out. Or a local water company that charges us six times for the same, one, bill, requiring me to both call and sit on hold, as well as go in to dispute the extra charges.

Maybe I’m just complaining, because I’m feeling a little overwhelmed right now. I’m not complaining about the fact that I am taking care of my three kids and have these jobs to do with caring for them.

I’m complaining about all the interference the world outside of me and my kids is interjecting into the mix of it all.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve been asked to do all of these things, and then some, and then a little more, but – and this is a big but – I have to do it with my hands tied behind my back.

Or when I read articles about Stay At Home Moms or Working Moms, I sometimes feel like I’m going to explode. Not because of anything the article says (usually), but rather the comments from the working moms “oh, imagine having to do all of that and work a full time job.”

Except you don’t. When you are at work, someone else is doing all of this (vaguely gestures at school/cleaning/working/feeding/watching/caring for/etc) and the difference between a Stay At Home Mom and those people that provide those services so that you can do your job at work is one thing, and one thing only:

Those people get paid.

I’m not suggesting that I should be paid to care for my children (although it would be nice if somewhere in the budget were things for me like toiletries, healthcare, makeup, hair appointments, clothing, or – oh I don’t know – anything)?

And I’m not suggesting that Working Moms do not have other challenges or concerns or sacrifices that are distinctly unique from mine.

I’m just saying that at the very least, I could be paid in support.

I could be paid in understanding.

I could be paid in an occasional “hey, did you do something different with your hair today? It looks nice.” Even if my hair looks like a crow’s nest on top of my head.

I could be paid in the conscious decision to let things go and not harass me about stupid and mundane things, or demands that I drop everything to deal with X, Y, Z thing that – in the grand scheme of things – can wait. Or… dare I suggest… could just not happen. I could be paid in competence by insurance companies, so I don’t have to spend my time on the phone with them. Or a cable service that is good and doesn’t require regular and routine cable man work done by Mom (keep dreaming on that one, I know). I feel like everyone is constantly breathing down my neck for things they want – be it my husband, my dad (who lives with us), outside family members, or the lady at the allergist’s office, who has called me five times in the last 24 hours to fill out patient paperwork. Like I’ll get to it when I can, Linda. I’ll get to it when I fucking can.

Perhaps I am just complaining right now because I find my situation to be particularly Cinderella-esque at the moment. I don’t even get “Happy Birthday”s or “Happy Anniversaries” or thanks for meals anymore. The other adults in the house don’t talk to me about anything but what they want and things they need, and my text messages are largely ignored.

But maybe my situation isn’t that unique, and it’s what a lot of Stay At Home Moms experience. We – as a society – tend to think that if a person doesn’t contribute financially to a household, they aren’t contributing anything. Of course the stupidity of this is self-evident, and yet large groups of people believe this way.

Or maybe it’s something more.

Maybe it’s that people just don’t remember what it’s like having a toddler or having kids. Or maybe they always had other people taking care of things for them, and they were never aware of how acutely precious a mother’s time really can be.

Maybe no one ever said anything about it, because they knew their words were just falling on deaf ears.

Well I’m here to say it today. I’m a mother. A Stay At Home Mother, at that. My kids are my job. And just as I wouldn’t march into someone else’s place of work and criticize them, tell them what to do, interrupt them multiple times for mundane things, or actually have the balls to expect them to stop working so I could get or say what I need to… I’m going to have to start expecting the same courtesy.

“Please be quiet during the meeting” is a sign now permanently hung on my door. At least for the next decade or so.

It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like F&ck This

Sorry for that whole censorship ‘o’ the title thing, but a lot of times blog posts won’t make it into email boxes if they have swear-y words in the title.

Fortunately that doesn’t apply to the content. So here we go.

It’s beginning to look at a lot like FUCK THIS. That has been going through my head over and over, AND OVER, again for about three or four weeks now.

I don’t know about you guys, but Christmastime is a combination of magical wonder and complete and utter bullshit for me. I have been screwed over, stressed out, raked over the coals, and that was just in the prep leading up to the *big day.*

Some of it didn’t even have to do with the holidays, either.

  1. Thankless Thanksgiving

I wanted to do that thing on Thanksgiving that yuppies do, where they go around the table and everyone says something for which they are appreciative. We don’t pray, and the other adults in our house have a hard time being grateful and complimentary; so I just thought it would be a good time to set a better example for the kids, you know?

I was too buried in mashed potatoes and mixed emotions to even remember to have everyone do it.

The thankful part of Thanksgiving – unfortunately – went largely unrecognized. This isn’t to disregard the sincere and kind comments made by our guests; I’m really just referring to the 25 times I had to ask the people that live here “is it good? Is the turkey moist? Do you guys like the sweet potatoes?” …only to receive grumbled “it’s fine”s, or to notice that many of the dishes I lovingly prepared went largely untouched.

Which was fine. We had enough leftovers for me to spend the day after Thanksgiving turning all of it into freezer meals that fed us for roughly 9 days.

2. Who has time for hurt feelings, though, when medical stress descends upon you?

We’ve had some medical situations that sort of pumped the brakes on the rest of life, anyway.

My oldest daughter – almost 16 years old – had been having weird pain symptoms for some time, and because she’s a woman, naturally, every doctor we had seen prior to the last two months has dismissed her as “just another chick complaining.” She’s had three, main things going on – simultaneously: migraine headaches, severe abdominal pain, frequent and unexplainable “sports injuries” (in bilateral joints). We’ve been blown off by doctor after doctor after doctor. “Just a chick with migraines.” “Oh obviously you are playing too much tennis and not resting enough!” “Cramps are normal.”

One doctor at UCLA Women’s Health – a woman, younger than me no less – had the audacity to look me blank in the face, say “believe it or not, pain is actually common in many women that experience periods.” Then she asked me to leave the room and asked my daughter what kind of birth control she was really there for.

So in the last couple of months, it’s all sort of gotten worse. My daughter has hardly played any tennis or worked out at all, and yet she’ll still feeling pain in her knees or her shoulders as if she’s been training 6 hours a day. Her migraine headaches have gone from once a week or two, to Imitrex every day. And a few weeks ago, she started having the abdominal pain she got intermittently, which she describes as barbed wire being wrapped and pulled around her waste and back (those of you familiar will immediately think endometriosis, I know…); well that’s been happening almost daily now, and so badly we’ve wound up in the urgent care, the emergency room, and a solid two weeks of one doctor’s visit after another.

What has made the situation all the worse is this: everyone is a fucking asshole.

Healthcare in this country is total garbage. And I’m not just talking about the expense of it.

I made an appointment with one specialist over 100 miles from our home. We got halfway there and were going to be a few minutes late for the paperwork check in time (but still on time for the appointment), so I called, only to find out that the person who made the appointment never actually scheduled it. We turned around, defeated.

In a startling turn of events, when it was time to figure out the migraine situation – in late November – I learned that there is exactly one neurologist in the entire county that sees children. And he isn’t taking any new patients right now. One. Apparently kids don’t have neurological problems where we live, this is just too perfect of a place, right?

Luckily I found a phenomenal physician in LA County, we just have to drive 57 miles each way to see. Every four weeks.

(But wait…the migraine maintenance medicine he prescribed makes her so groggy and sleepy she can’t even do her schoolwork.)

What else…

  • A kid in the ER one night threw up on me.
  • Over 6 different people have suggested that birth control will resolve everything (it won’t, in fact birth control makes migraines worse and if she really does have something like endometriosis, birth control or any hormones for that matter are not the answer).
  • We hit our out of pocket maximum, and yet everyone is still collecting the money up front, leading me to be owed over $4,000 now at this point in refunds, reimbursements, and “hey this is YOUR share of the medical expenses.”
  • For pain, someone gave her Naproxen, and even though she has no problem with Ibuprofen, with the Naproxen, she broke out in over 20 canker sores inside her throat and mouth.
  • I asked the nurse practitioner at our primary care physician’s office to send her for abdominal ultrasound, just to be sure…sure, sure, no one thinks her pain is anything legitimate, but can we just check? The ultrasound came back with her left ovary literally swarmed by ovarian cysts. (The nurse called to tell me the news and suggested I put her on birth control, even though one day prior we had discussed just how that was not a solution and would only worsen her migraine headaches.)
  • In response to the news that my teenage daughter, who has been experiencing pain in some way or another for at least six months now, to the point that she is unable to function in her normal life on many days, was going to have to start having tests and seeing specialists to get a handle on what is going on, my husband asked me when the budget would be freeing up for him to get some things preventatively done on his commuter car.

The good news is that we are – hopefully – finally getting to a point that we are going to be taken seriously. Why? Because finally the neurologist suggested I just take her to my OBGYN practice. They are old men and they don’t really deal with menstrual disorders, but they won’t blow her off and they will advocate on her behalf to get good care.

3. It’s beginning to look a lot like fuck this

And then there was Christmas. Because of everything going on, Christmas was a scurry in the last couple weeks to make magic. I think I slept about two hours a night, while the rest of the time baking like crazy, ordering gifts on Amazon, and – finally, in a moment of desperation – paying my 16 year old (who is too nonfunctional to do much else) to wrap the majority of the gifts.

I did manage to take the kids to a light show, like we do every year; although – lesson learned – my dad can’t go in the future because he just rushes everyone through it, complaining about how cold he is and ruining the evening with his griping.

When the real FUCK THIS came up, though, was about a week before Christmas, when I attempted to take my kids to the Polar Express train ride out of Fillmore and Western.

If you are in Southern California, you know that one of the priciest and – supposedly – magical Christmas experiences is actually to take a ride of the Fillmore and Western Polar Express. Everyone shows up in their Christmas pajamas, there’s lights and music and they act out the movie/book in front of you as you take a train ride and sip hot chocolate. Everyone gets a bell; it’s fun.

We had never been, and I decided with everything shitty going on, it would be a fun break one evening for my kids. So we attempted to go, and the bad news is that my 3 year old – who gets startled pretty easily – was getting on the train with me, and a man behind us started yelling to his kids who were ahead of us. It scared my little guy, and he started to cry.

Not like a screaming tantrum crying though. A basic cry. It was honestly so loud in there, my other two kids didn’t even know he was doing it.

Nonetheless, we were sitting in the front of that car, and had barely even sat down; he was still crying and I was starting to calm him down, when the train employee came over me and told me I should take him off the train to calm him down.

I understood, but I also didn’t. Like I know my kid, and I know that I can calm him down before the train leaves. We still had 30 minutes, and literally no one could have noticed what was going on. I also knew that if I did take him off the train, there was no way I would get him back on. When a toddler cries for a calmer situation and immediately gets what he wants, instead of learning to self soothe and adapt… well, come on…

Still, I understood that the lady was just doing her job. Right? And I don’t like the thought of being one of those people that ruins the experience for everyone else with drama; especially at an event for kids. So we got off the train, and I – obviously – couldn’t get my little guy to go back on. The train left, without us.

So I emailed customer service, and this is where it gets really annoying. I told them what happened and just asked if they could maybe send us the bells. At the end of the whole thing Santa gets on the train and gives everyone a bell. My kids just really wanted their fucking bells, and I paid for them, you know?

I got an email back from them not apologetic. Not saying I could have my bells.

I got an email back saying it didn’t happen. That what I said DID. NOT. FUCKING. HAPPEN.

At that point, I just gave up and gave in. Christmas became fuck this. I did the gifts, the day. All of it with as big of a smile as I could manage. I made Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas morning brunch, and we did all the things and I’m sure that it is a fact that my kids had fun.

But I was also just done.

The terrifying part is that Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas is just the start of it for us. Now we have birthday after birthday after birthday, Easter…Moms have it hard you guys. We don’t just do it all, we bear the mental and emotional load of it. We are the figure it out-ers, we don’t just have to take our kids to the stuff, we have to figure out how to make it all work and advocate for them and make sure everything is where it needs to be so that things don’t get worse.

But also, we do it all because we want to. And that is where being a Mom is the weirdest and most emotionally conflicting job of them all.

So if you had happy holidays that resembled the most picture perfect scenario you could ever imagine in a Hallmark movie or quaint Christmas card hanging on someone’s mantle, I am genuinely happy for you. If you’ve had it rough this season, I feel you also. Or, if you are like me, and it’s a mixed bag of negatives and negatives, but also positives and unbelievably happy children – in spite of it all… well, I am right there with you in the trenches, my friend. This is a weird place in life to be. It’s beginning to look a lot like fuck this, but also fucking bring it.

I’m A Stay At Home Mom Because It’s Too Costly To Not Be

I woke up this morning with a start, realizing it is November 2nd and the gas bill was due two days ago.

I’ve been so swamped lately, it just slipped my mind. This was the last of the bills to go on autopay, I just hadn’t gotten around to setting it up yet. Fortunately, I called and the gas company said I was within the 5 day grace period. So the bill wasn’t even really late. And they set up autopay right then on the phone, too, so now I literally never have to make the effort to pay bills anymore. It just happens.

It got me thinking about the costs (financial and otherwise) of working, though, because the reality of the situation is that for about four weeks now, I have been working even though I’m really a Stay At Home Mom.

Doesn’t make sense, does it?

Well without going into all of the emotionally exhausting and – quite frankly – mind numbing details of my husband’s attitudes with regards to me and the children, and money, I decided to try and start doing some work on the side of my full time mom gig, just so we had a little extra money so that the kids didn’t have to miss out on anything (fun or otherwise) when he gets into one of his moods.

There was a problem, though, with the whole arrangement. Well, several problems:

  1. My husband works overnight, and long hours, in film. It’s not like he can be counted on for anything with the kids. He can’t. He leaves for work at 4:30 in the afternoon, gets home when the work is done, then sleeps until it’s time to get up and go back to work. It isn’t like he comes home and takes over with the kids. I do everything. Everything. Cooking. Cleaning. Yardwork. Errands. Driving. Everything.
  2. My two oldest kids homeschool. I am their educator.
  3. I went back to school in August, after a ten year hiatus, to start working towards finishing the graduate degree I (foolishly) stopped working towards all those years ago. SO now I’m the teacher. I’m a student. I’m the only parent most of the time. And I’m working?
  4. I have no real childcare whatsoever, and no budget for said childcare. My two oldest kids had to free babysit my toddler, while I worked. Or my dad, who lives with us and is 76 did, but he’s old and has limits. (I’m sure you can all imagine how healthy that is for everyone involved after a couple hours of Grandpa time; my dad has to nap for an average of 3 hours after just an hour with my little guy…)
  5. I was already stretched thin scheduling-wise and getting only about 4 hours of sleep a night.

So for one month, I started writing part time in a freelance writing position. I used to do this before I had my third child, and was relatively successful. But things are different now, and three kids is no joke, so success isn’t exactly how it went this time.

Within a week, I stopped having time for almost anything. No more gym. I was driving my kids around town on virtually no sleep. I even started skipping meals and showers, just to keep up with the schedule.

I worked about 6 hours a day, but got only minimal work done because I was trying to juggle everything while doing the writing. The worst moments were when my toddler was running around, crying because I was on the computer. He would run up and slam the laptop screen shut. Stay up until 2 in the morning to have playtime with Mommy. Within a week, he was getting even more clingy, too. He still nurses and was suddenly nursing double what he had cut back to.

The best moments were when I turned my freelance writing profiles on “out of office.” I did this twice in the four weeks, for two days each. That means I took exactly four days off in the entire month. But it wasn’t really time off, because it’s when I had to catch up on all of my other stuff. I cleaned the house, did heavy yard work, caught up on grocery shopping.

The first two days “out of office,” I realized towards the end of the two days that I had gotten behind on planning the kid’s homeschooling. So I stayed up for 36 straight hours to make sure everything was set for the rest of the month. I literally had no other option, the clock was ticking and there was just too much for me to do.

That is the first time I considered forcing my kids into public school. When I finally went to sleep after 36 hours of working and catching up on everything, I did so crying.

In the four weeks, I made a lot of connections and got almost 100 positive 5-star reviews.

After taxes, site fees, PayPal transfer fees, and getting screwed by not one, not two, but seven people who decided not to pay their bill, but publish my work as theirs anyway, I brought home exactly $46.

Forty. Six. Fucking. Dollars.

I felt so guilty for all the time away from them and everything that had sort of fallen apart, I used it all to take my kids to the movies.

Here were the costs:

  1. I spent less time with my kids, and by “less time,” I mean virtually no time. I went from Stay At Home Mom to Mombie, sleeping less than 2 hours per night, and just going through the motions to get through each day.
  2. I had no time after the kids went to bed to work on my blog, and for the first month in – I don’t know, the entire time I have blogged – my blog was not self-sustaining (because my clicks and social media ticks went down).
  3. That thing about my toddler being sad.
  4. That thing about my two older kids losing their educator, and having to become almost full time babysitters.
  5. I forgot about two assignments for school, and didn’t have time for a third. So now I’m unsure that I can even do this school thing with the kids and everything else.

And then there were the risks. I was driving around town on virtually no sleep, with three children in my car. Several times I caught myself thinking I could close my eyes for just a second. On more than one occasion, I was driving faster than was safe for the conditions, because I needed to get home to get the work done so I could get school done so I could make dinner so I could finish the laundry so I could …

My blood pressure went from its normal and healthy 110/68 to an alarming 148/92

People said my older kids could pitch in more. I disagreed. They had already all but quit sports and school to help with my toddler, pick up the slack with cleaning and laundry and dinner… And while I know that kids do that all the time in a variety of situations around the world, I started to ask myself: why would I ask that of my kids when there is absolutely no necessity whatsoever? No necessity, and it’s actually costing more?

But I digress…

There are two issues, as I see it. One is that I don’t really want to work, I want to be with my kids. I know, I know…what mom doesn’t? and all that jazz. But here’s the other thing: it cost us significantly more money and other stuff for me to work last month in a semi-regular position (unlike my blog and books, which can be done here and there as I please), and I didn’t even get into childcare.

To work in any capacity for the long term, we would have to completely change the children’s lives, most importantly there would be paid childcare needed and paid help with transporting my older kids to and from school and other activities, or if they continued to homeschool we would have to pay someone else to educate them.

At a minimum, for me to work and have that help, I would have to bring home – net pay, after everything – around $30,000 a year. And that would leave nothing, not a penny. Again begging the question: why do it?

(Not to mention the fact that $46 a month is not $30,000 a year.)

And there’s also all the other stuff. I’m one person, managing a lot, and I do it all alone. Adding this was just too much. To allow myself the indulgence of a cliche: it really was the straw that broke this camel’s back.

So I notified my regular “clients” today that I just can’t keep up with this anymore, and I’m backing out. My blog and my books are sufficient; school is sufficient. Being a mom is enough.

I’m a Stay At Home Mom because it’s too costly for me to not be. Costly in terms of money. And costly in terms of who I am and what’s most important.

Wine Is No Longer A Part of My Narrative

I remember the general time period when I started to question whether or not my husband and I were drinking too much, too often. It wasn’t one incident in particular, rather a group of them.

It was Easter Sunday several years ago when I walked into a back room at my in law’s home to find my husband had passed out, drunk, on fruit-infused vodkas.

It was a Monday when “Sunday dinner” had included more wine than food, and that day was a special hell of feeling too headache-y and nauseated to do much in the way of parenting. So I called a babysitter.

It was wine in a coffee mug, even though I don’t even drink coffee.

It was selecting restaurants based on whether or not we’d be able to have a drink with our meal.

I wouldn’t say that I had reached the point of interventions, Betty Ford clinic, and AA meetings for the rest of my life. But I could see it going there, quickly. I had no ability to moderate or regulate my drinking.

So I quit drinking, altogether. Wine is no longer a part of my narrative.

It is still a part of my husband’s, which is a little weird. Since I never got to the point of having an actual problem, I guess it seems innocuous.

But still, it’s weird because in the grand picture, deciding to no longer drink alcohol is a pretty big life decision; one that isn’t taken lightly and certainly requires support. Most of the time it doesn’t matter to me, though. I’m not – like – salivating at the thought of a glass of wine; and I still cook with wine or beer and vodka. I even occasionally take a drink and hold it politely to lessen having to explain myself at parties.

I get it. Drinking your way through the hardest years of parenting (or just adulting, in general) has always been a thing.

Ladies used to drink their martinis after serving dinner in the 50s; and they’d down wine coolers all day to get through the summer months in the 90s.

Alcohol is to motherhood as fish are to water.

And yet, to me, it seems more now than ever before.

Probably – at least in part – thanks to social media, just how much women drink to get through the trials and tribulations of motherhood is in your face. It’s everywhere, every day. Having a bad day? How about some rosé. Midweek got you down? WINESDAY! Stressed to the max just getting your kids out the door for school? It’s 5 o’clock, somewhere, right?

It’s everywhere.

Making matters worse is the attitude the general public takes when you stop drinking.

We don’t live in a society that supports quitting. Anything. Giving up alcohol in 2019 is like showing up for an AA meeting only to be greeted by shots of tequila and motivational handouts that say “it’s okay once in a while…”

It took me about 6 months to actually quit the sauce, altogether. Every time I told myself that this was it, I’d have another bad day and meme after meme on Facebook justified (in my head) that wine was the Land of Milk and Honey for mothers. Or we would go out to dinner with family that orders by the bottle, and that was all I needed to postpone my cutback another day.

Then, in 2016, I got pregnant, so wine was officially off the table. That’s when things got weird.

It’s either I was too tipsy to realize how weird things were before, or the result of me no longer drinking – when I used to be a regular partaker – was that things became uncomfortable between me and the general crowd in which I find myself often.

Nonetheless, uncomfortable.

There were the people that wanted to prove to me that it was perfectly safe to drink in pregnancy.

There were those that – after I was no longer pregnant – made a big deal about how I could drink again. And when I told them I was breastfeeding, they went into the prove-it’s-safe mode again.

Now they run the gamut.

There are the people that I never realized get sloppy drunk every. single. time. I. see. them.

And there are those that ask what I’m drinking, then joke that since there’s no alcohol in my cup I must be pregnant (again).

Then there are the people that ask stupid questions when I say I stopped drinking. Like “well what do you do to have fun?” (As if the only way to have fun as an adult is to get shit faced.)

And finally there are the people who use it as an opportunity to justify their own drinking (“oh I just couldn’t do that”) or even get outright hostile towards me. As if – at the end of the day – my personal choices with regards to my body and what I put in it have anything to do with anyone else but me.

If that makes other people uncomfortable, I guess that speaks more to them and their own issues than anything else.

Wine was such a prevalent part of my narrative for years. It no longer is anymore.


I’m Offended. Here’s Why You Should Care.

My birthday is coming up and the craziest thing has been happening: I’ve been telling people I’m turning a year older than I am actually turning. Either it’s the old age, or the fact that my husband just turned that age (he’s a year older than me). But I’ve been doing it.

The fact is: I was born in 1982, which makes me – what I like to call – a late stage millennial. I’m like an older millennial who can see some of the ridiculous shit us millennials are doing, all while doing it. And loving it.

Like avocado toast and blaming the financial problems we millennials face on the crippling behaviors of Baby Boomers. Or using mason jars for drink ware. Spending my time reading labels, and breastfeeding my kids well past two (and in public!).

There are also, though, a lot of millennial things I can’t get on board with.

Millennial men’s haircuts, I can’t stand. Right now my husband is sporting a hairstyle that makes him look less like a Nick-the-film-editor; and more like David, the wanna-be goth who wears black lipstick and works at my local Starbucks as a barista. (It’s awful, and sorry David – I hope you can forgive me.)

I also cannot do the whole MLM candles, essential oils, and workout programs thing. The thought of taking forty-five selfies of myself a day, and posting story after story on Instagram in which I just sit there and talk – all in an effort to sell something – is …undesirable to me. That isn’t to say there’s anything against people who do it (and in fact I find myself envious of the people that can take so many photos and videos of themselves while I have to take 537 shots before finding an angle that suits me).

It’s just not my jam.

The conflict I really have with myself as an older millennial is the being offended thing. It is so typical of me as a millennial to get offended by things to such the degree that I do. (And isn’t that just the mark of our era: to always find a reason to feel offense at something someone else said/did/posted?)

And yet… I completely get it (the being offended).

Yesterday someone’s post on Facebook so severely offended me that I told literally every person I talked to about it for the rest of the day.

Today I was at Target and found myself feeling offended no less than four times.

Then tonight I made the error of going online, and …well…

Basically, it happens a lot.

The thing is: if you spend any time scanning the comments sections of online, you’ll see that it is hot topic now to not only get offended by things, but also – on the flip side – call out anyone that takes anything personally. Honestly, it makes me a little sick (or maybe offended, how meta would that be?) to see how crass people can be about it.

I get it: some people have taken it way too far. Like over the edge of the cliff and halfway down the river in the ravine far.

But also, in other instances, I think a lot of people have missed the point.

Take today, for example. It’s April Fools day, and while there have been a myriad of dad jokes and corporate brands having a good time posting dumb shit on the Internet for us all to enjoy, there have also been some steadfast reminders going around about what is too far.

One of those things that goes beyond clever and turns into just, plain crass is the ever-predictable fake pregnancy announcement. What better way to fool your family and friends then by posting a faux memo for the entire world to see that you have a bun preparing itself to fly out your lady hole. Then on April 2nd you let the truth be known that your womb is, in fact, still childless, and everyone had a good laugh. Right?

No. Just no.

I guess if I’m in my 50s and everyone’s going through menopause, it has the potential to be silly. But I’m 36, almost 38 (scratch that, 37) and a fair number of people in my group of peers has lost a child, miscarried a pregnancy, or had a tremendously difficult time getting pregnant. And while those people may all have a sense of humor, I often wonder if for everyone that thinks it’s silly, there isn’t someone quietly hurting as a result of the insensitivity of the whole prank.

I’ve been saying this for years: fake a marriage, fake a gigantic Amazon delivery. One year we put candy melts on brussel sprouts and fooled my husband into thinking they were cake pops. Awesome!

But don’t fake a pregnancy.

The best equivalent I can think is going up to a friend whose Grandma died on March 31st, and saying “my grandma died – APRIL FOOLS SHE IS ALIVE!”

I’m not one to take life so seriously, but I know when the time for jokes is over and the time for compassion begins. It seems that others are starting to figure it out as well, because this time, I saw an article going around about this very topic: how not funny the April Fools pregnancy announcements can be to some people.

And as usual, the comments proved how awful humanity has become.

The comment that I read on one of the postings that stuck out the most for me summed up perfectly what is wrong with the our culture (or at least one of the things):

“When are people going to understand that it’s not my responsibility to worry about what everyone is offended by?”

Who the fuck said anything about being offended?

From there I got sucked down the comment hole, in which I read heinous reply after heinous reply, all from the likes of women named Candy and Monica, with big haired profile pictures and those stupid cause filters laid over the photographs, quite obviously meant to cover up their total and utter lack of humanity. Yeah you are really passionate about lupus, but don’t give a fuck about people’s feelings, Tiphani with a ‘ph.’

That’s when it hit me: it’s super cool to make fun of millennials for always being overly sensitive to people’s sensitivities; and yet a lot of the time, what we are talking about are actual matters of human compassion.

The same woman who says it’s not her responsibility to worry about what others feel (because that’s what that comment is saying) is the same person that will drive by a homeless veteran and call him a drunk. It’s a weak viewpoint, weakened mostly by narcissism.

This is where things get dicey. Because you don’t want to be one of those people who’s just up in arms about everything. But also, you need to be compassionate towards others: even if it doesn’t affect you. And it’s dicey only because there’s a fine line between the two, one that is incumbent on all of us to walk along carefully.

So I’m pretty offended, obviously, about this whole issue. April Fools. Fake pregnancy announcements. Being offended. People saying people are offended too easily. Millennials.

And you should care for the same reason I do: the world of Candys, Monicas, and Tiphanis lacks the thing that makes us who we are. Our humanity.

To The Mom That Doesn’t Want To Be Told She’s “Lucky” For Having a Husband That Helps Out Around The House

Alternative Title: To The Mom That Doesn’t Want What Her Husband Does To Be Called “Helping”

Third Rendition: To The Guy Who Feels He Should Receive Zero Praise For Changing Diapers (Yet Still Posts About It Incessantly On Social Media)

I added those alternative titles in there just so we don’t get hung up on any semantics and lose our critical audience.

Sometimes when I read things on the Internet, I worry for my own health. Like: can you hurt yourself when your eyes roll so far back into your head that you see your brain?

Is it possible to have a stroke from just looking at dumb things that show up in your Facebook feed?

Last week I saw a doozy of an article, written by a woman that had just had it UP TO HERE with people telling her she’s “lucky” for having a husband that helps out around the house.

Upon reading it, I almost swallowed my tongue in disgust.

Her premise, which does make sense on some level, was that their home is equally his home, just as their children are equally theirs. So taking care of all of it is, presumably, just as much of a responsibility of his as it is hers.

It sounded, frankly, like the most entitled and ungrateful thing I had ever read.

I constantly see people rally behind that sentiment among my own, personal friend’s list. Every Sarah, Janet, and Cindy that I know has – at one time or another – posted a lengthy Facebook rant about how it isn’t “helping” when it’s your own child’s laundry you are folding. [Insert another brain-viewing eye roll].

Joining with them are the handful of men I know from high school and college that now pat themselves high key hard on their own backs for doing the most basic of things, while hard core lecturing everyone else for acknowledging it.

The point is well taken at this juncture: men and women are supposed to be equals, the result of which is that the work should be divided just as that. Equally.

But it’s like we can’t just do things for or with each other and be grateful anymore without offending people.

Or lament your own situation without getting a lecture from some hippy carrying a Dude Bag (the hallmark of fragile masculinity, as I see it…carry the diapers in a Vons bag in the fucking glove compartment like the rest of us).

Now we have to ban words from our vocabulary when it comes to adult-y type things like cleaning the house and changing poopie diapers.

Proponents of this current trend towards word fascism argue that to say that a woman is “lucky” or “fortunate” because her husband “helps” is to say that the work is not just as much a responsibility his as it is hers.

Hives are breaking out on my arms just thinking about this.

Expressing gratitude or acknowledgement of a person’s given fortune does not in turn deny anything.

Initially – like years ago – I agreed with the sentiment. I thought for sure it would begin a change in paradigm when it comes to household responsibility if we start to reframe the way we say things. I would say things to my husband like “no, you aren’t helping me with the dishes, those are just as much your dishes as they are mine to wash.” Or at family parties I would say: “it isn’t babysitting when they are your own children.”

I can feel my stomach churning every time my Facebook soap box sermons show up in my “on this day” memories posts.

Guess what happened? Very little in the way of a paradigm shift.

Also, I sounded like a pretentious and ungrateful bitch.

This isn’t to say that my husband does much in the way of anything when it comes to our home and raising the kids worthy of praise anyway (there I go being an ungrateful bitch again, but really now…). You could call it helping or you could call it doing his fair share, the bottom line is he doesn’t do it.

And he would be in the statistical majority of men that just don’t. Banning words from the colloquial vocabulary doesn’t change that.

It is because I fly the ship solo when it comes to our home and kids that I feel I can say with some authority that women whose husbands do stuff around the house AND help with the kids, ALL while bringing in a decent salary AND also being good husbands (because these things are not, and will never be, mutually exclusive), need to accept the praise from others, and be grateful.

Honestly.

Be grateful.

Be grateful that you have a partner in life, not a roommate. A lot of women in this world have roommates and it fucking sucks. They would give anything to have a man that does dishes or picks the kids up from soccer practice, reliably, and with no consequences.

Recognize how fortunate you are that a man didn’t skate town when the pregnancy test came up positive, or that your husband didn’t come into hard times and now finds himself in prison, with you holding the bag for everything.

Be grateful that you didn’t wake up one day to a stranger in your bed. You woke up to the same man he’s always been, and he’s downstairs vacuuming.

Thank. You. Goes. A. Long. Way. In both directions.

Be grateful that you aren’t in the statistical majority of women who, even if you work full time and bring in an equal or greater income, still come home and do the majority of the house work and child rearing.

Be grateful if you are a stay at home mom and your husband still recognizes how much you really do every day, above and beyond what anyone could ever imagine.

And if you are a man that is taking on his equal share of the responsibility, take the compliment. You earned it. It does not hurt your ego or your place in the world one bit to smile and remember that you are a statistical anomaly.

It also does not change that statistic to lecture people about your role as Dad or post video after video after video with captions a mile long about how you do your part and don’t appreciate people implying that you shouldn’t be when they say you are a “good man.”

I guess the critical part of the equation is that this isn’t really a part of feeling like you really hit the jack pot as a woman, or like you are taking a stand as a man in the 21st century, so much as it is just being a good person in a mutually respecting relationship. Wife does laundry, husband thanks her. Husband changes diapers, wife say she’s fortunate to have a man like him.

Seems pretty basic.

Women unequivocally continue to be the main providers of care to the home and children, in spite of the word fascism growing over the years.

To deny the anomaly of a man that does his fair share is not only factually wrong, it is taking the situation and fortune of it for granted.

We live in a weird time. I say that for many many, many …many reasons. But this time it is because somehow we seem to have misunderstood what it is to change the way people view responsibility.

Banning words won’t change who our culture believes should run the household. Modeling it for our children over an incredibly long time, and acknowledging the ones who are doing things right along the way, will.

So, to the mom that doesn’t want to be told she’s “lucky” for having a husband that helps out around the house: suck it up. Stop being ungrateful, and take the comment in stride. You are fortunate. You are a rarity. Your husband is a real man. It’s OK to acknowledge that. I’m certain he will still put the dishes away and maybe change all the diapers that night too; do more than his half of the work because sometimes that’s just what people do.






Please Stop Telling Me I Should Do Things For A Living

The title, alone, sounds ridiculous. Please stop telling me I should do things for a living? What do I expect – to sit around and do nothing as a grown ass adult?

No. That’s not what I mean at all.

A couple weeks ago, we had a little family and friend get together for my toddler’s second birthday. It wasn’t too extravagant. About 20 people came by. We had burgers and broccoli cheese soup, a cake, and a donut display. Truth be told, he slept for 75% of it, having started his nap that day a little late.

As I always do: I made the party set up a little on the extra side. The table of desserts and foods looked Pinterest-perfect, which truth be told I always do. Not because I feel that I have to, but simply because I want to. It’s what I do to feel alive.

Yes. I want to have personalized water bottles and theme-specific drink glasses. Yes, DIY tables cape projects actually make me feel like I’m living my best life. This is just something that’s important to me as a parent, to give my kids some of these fun picturesque memories that I didn’t have as a child.

Sue me.

Just as with all parties I throw, meals I cook, or hostess gifts I bring, the comments almost immediately rolled in:

 Oh Heather, you should do this for a living! Seriously you should get into event planning, think of how much money you could make if you did this for a real job!

You are doing too much for someone that doesn’t get paid!

Imagine how nice this party would be if you were getting a paycheck to throw it!

[Insert drawn out eye roll]

I completely get that this is meant to be a compliment, and isn’t it just so late-stage millennial of me to be offended by something someone said that was meant to be nice?

But honestly: is there ever going to come a point when a woman can be a mom and have that be enough?

As in this is just what mom does – she throws parties, and those parties are extra.

Or when a woman, who is a mom, does something nice and it’s just a part of what she does as a mom – not something she should do in another sphere for a financial payoff; will that ever just be enough? That Mom did something really nice for us?

And really, when did we fall into this black hole of equating the things people do solely by how much money they bring in?

When people tell me that I should event plan or personalize shop or bake for a living, they are telling me that what I am actually doing for a living – raising and educating three human beings while running a household so my husband can pursue his dream job – is of little or no value to them. Like it’s temporary, or just something I do for fun while figuring out what I’ll do when I become a real adult.

Every time I am told that I should do something else for a living than what I am actually doing, a little piece inside of me breaks in half and turns on itself. What if what I do has no value?

Moreover: what if my children heard someone say that to me (which they have)? Will they begin to find no value in anything I do? If they want to do what I do when they grow up, will they feel as worthless as this makes me feel?

And the big one: what in the hell am I doing spending all this time with people who share values I don’t espouse, or want to raise my kids to learn?

There’s a folly to it all because it is meant to be a compliment: that I do something so well I could make money by doing it professionally. But does it really teach our children the value we want to teach them – that something is only really valuable if it brings home a paycheck? And, taking it a step further, that if someone does something for free they are either wasting their time and energy, or not contributing to some grander vision?

I’ve asked so many questions, to which I have one answer: a mother’s contribution is not defined by how much money she does or does not contribute to the household budget.

As I said, I do these parties, the Sunday dinners, the homemade gifts because I want to. The things I do that I do not get paid for as a stay at home mom go well beyond that, too. It’s the homeschooling, the Mom Therapist Mode. The extra curricular activity taxi cab driver. The scheduler-medication administrator-personal chef- laundry woman-housekeeper. It’s all of it.

Becoming a stay at home mom was the most valuable decision I ever made, and one even my husband continues to believe is not what I really want. Women have come so far, how could I ever want to define my life as just a mom? You could do so much more if you did something for a living.

Please stop telling me to do things for a living. As I see it, I am. I’m doing a lot of things for a living – not for a paycheck or a promotion. But to live.