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.

Advertisements

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.

It’s Time To Talk About Maternal Mental Health, And Be Civilized About It

{Serious Post Alert}

I am not one to pretend I know everything about the way the mind, or the body, or the world for that matter, works. But if there is one thing I know based on factual research, history of our culture, observations in society, and my own, anecdotal experiences, it is this: having a baby seriously fucks you up. It fucks up your body. It fucks up your sleep patterns. It fucks up your life as you knew it. And it fucks up your head.

Sometimes it really really fucks up your head.

So much so that there is an entire array of postpartum mental health disorders that you can find yourself diagnosed with. Postpartum depression. Postpartum psychosis. Postpartum anxiety. I am sure the list goes on.

The question is: why won’t anyone do anything about it?

Shortly *before* I had my third little ball of perfect, I started having major problems with anxiety and panic attacks. I was approximately 8 months pregnant, 34 years old, and all of a sudden I couldn’t handle going to the doctor. I would worry – excessively – in the days that led up to whatever appointment I had. Something was going to be wrong, I just knew it. Then when I got to the office, with absolutely nothing wrong, I would have a full blown panic attack. On several occasions, it rocketed my blood pressure up higher than it has ever been.

If you know anything about pregnancy, you know that high blood pressure is bad news.

It got to the point where my OB started me on a mild sedative to make it through the duration of the pregnancy. It worked, a little. While in the hospital, they gave me something else that was safe in breastfeeding, then sent me home saying that the hormones with breastfeeding would likely fix everything. And if it didn’t, call my primary care physician.

Since then, I have lived in a constant state of anxiety. Constant. Not a day goes by that I am not worrying about things I cannot control, making myself sick to my stomach from the fight-or-flight adrenaline rushing through my body, being angry about things I am not entirely sure anger is an appropriate response to, and having about one full blown panic attack a week.

This has gone on for 21 months now.

At first, I tried to deal with it, patiently but also impatiently (as anxiety has a tendency to draw minutes out into agonizing years). I thought to myself: you know what, I am sure when the breastfeeding gets going, it’ll help like they said.

When I went in for my six week c-section follow up, I mentioned that the anxiety had not gone away, so my doctor gave me the card for a psychologist who specialized in postpartum mental health.

She wasn’t in network for my insurance.

So I called my primary care physician, who – in short – did very little. Six months later, she gave me a prescription for Xanax with the side note that no you really shouldn’t take Xanax while breastfeeding – but she finished breastfeeding at six months, so maybe this would give me the incentive to quit breastfeeding at six months too. Then I could deal with my anxiety.

By taking boatloads of Xanax.

When I said that the World Health Organization recommends a minimum of two years breastfeeding, she said that the AAP only recommended six months to a year. So think about it, here’s the Xanax if you decide to wean.

I changed doctors.

Unfortunately, over the course of the following months, it’s been more of the same. Either a doctor doesn’t support breastfeeding beyond a year, or they don’t support treating a woman with postpartum anxiety, or they don’t support either.

My most recent doctor finally said: you know, there just really aren’t many options, why not give therapy a shot with someone that is in network.

So I went on the search for a local therapist that supports breastfeeding, deals with postpartum anxiety, is in network with my insurance, and is taking new patients.

38693295_299832154085755_649562366991663104_n

Very few that meet all of that criteria exists.

So few, in fact, that it got down to one guy. One fucking guy. He called me back (which most of them didn’t even give me the courtesy of doing), he asked about what insurance I had, went over a little phone interview, then scheduled an appointment.

Here is how the appointment went, in a short list:

  1. {Appointment started 20 minutes late}
  2. “Oh hey – you said you have California Blue Shield? Yeah so…I’m out of network with them now. It’s August now, last week when we spoke it was July so… I’ll take your regular copay for now and then when I get the EOB in 90 days, we can just settle up whatever the difference ends up being for all the appointments. Cool?
  3. “So when do you plan to start weaning so you can take some medication? I just want a timeline to see what we are looking at here? OH you’re letting the baby decide? Huh…
  4. “Alright, if I have this straight, your husband works nights and you are alone with the kids…you say you get about 4 hours of sleep a night? Well you should do something about that, it’s probably making your anxiety worse.
  5. “I think you should consider this workbook about cognitive behavioral therapy…I mean it’s for teens but don’t think that means I think you are stupid. Well you are a stay at home mom HAHAHA, just kidding…it’s just a good workbook.
  6. {Appointment ended 10 minutes early, which – combined with the 20 minutes late, turned an hour into 30 minutes of paperwork and literally just the above comments}

So uncivilized.

I left horrified. And yet still I had scheduled a follow up visit, figuring I would give the guy another chance. I mean…I was at the point where he was literally the only therapist in a 50 mile radius that fit the bill.

But there was still that sticky insurance thing, so I called the insurance company and – long story short – out of network meant my weekly copay to see this pseudo-sexist quack was going to be $57 instead of the in network $10.

That would be $228 instead of $40 a month. An unreasonable difference that – honestly – was out of my copay budget and – frankly – not worth it. I’ll deal with the fucking worrying and upset stomachs for now. My baby – now a toddler – is 21 months old; it is very VERY likely this will begin to subside soon anyway. And if it doesn’t, by that point he will likely wean on his own and I can explore a safer non-narcotic medication approved for anxiety.

So I called the guy to cancel the appointment, explaining – what I thought politely – was that I had called the insurance and the copay was just going to be too high, and here was the TEXT MESSAGE he sent me, within minutes:

“Heather i will take you out of the book for friday. You are PPO fyi, and although you would likely pay some what more, it shouldn’t be exorbitant as you claimed.”

Okay.

At what point are we going to talk about maternal mental health, or mental health in general, and actually make the situation better? Or how about we just address the general lack of healthcare available for anything?

It is terrifying to think that so few doctors in my community want to actually doctor. It is even more terrifying to think that so few doctors in my community seem to be able to put their personal opinions and beliefs aside so they can assume their call of duty as practitioners of whatever specialty they chose.

To be honest with you all: the thought of going back to the drawing board with this therapist situation seems to have straightened my anxious head right up, anyway. Every time I start worrying, I think to myself now: Heather, the last thing you want to do is have to go back to a quack like that jerk that called stay at home moms dumb. Panic: away!

It’s 2018. We should be able to talk about this shit, and for that matter to be civilized about it. Not everyone is so lucky to be able to redirect their thoughts so easily as I seem to have. It is for those people that we need to have this discussion.

 

 

 

 

 

Breastfeeding is Such Crap You Guys

I want to start off with a few things I don’t want to deal with when writing this post.

For one, if you are one of those people that reads anything about breastfeeding and then feels an uncontrollable urge to comment well formula feeders have to deal with all that and more– move along, and keep it to yourself while doing so.

For another, if your panties crawl up your back hole when you hear words like breast or boob or nipple or whatever; if it makes you even feel awkward and somewhat sexual to hear or read them – move along, as well.

And for a third thing, if you are a formula feeding mother who is going to get offended because I am now going to go on complaining about breastfeeding, because you couldn’t or didn’t have the time or whatever; I’m sorry, but you need to stop here too. I don’t have the mental capacity right now, when I feel like shit as a mother about everything as is, to feel even more like shit because I feel like shit about something that I should totally feel hashtag-blessed to be able to do.

I don’t have time for any of that nonsense.

Breastfeeding is just such crap you guys.

Like it really is best – that’s another thing, please don’t at me with your no, fed is best happy horse shit. No, it’s not. I mean if it’s a choice between letting your baby die and feeding them formula, OF COURSE feeding them formula is the right choice. But isolated in terms of empirical and scientific evidence alone, breastmilk is actually the best thing for baby. If – and this is a big if – it’s possible.

There are a lot of things that make it impossible. A mom’s health. A mom’s supply. A mom’s lifestyle. Baby’s lifestyle. Baby’s health. Baby’s immune system. And so on. There are a lot of instances in which women end up feeding their babies formula, some of which are just because they wanted to. And that’s perfectly fine. It’s great! Baby is fed, that’s cool.

But if you are in the camp of us that did end up breastfeeding – either by choice, necessity, guilt, or whatever – it fucking sucks.

I am currently experiencing a trifecta of health problems: 1) severe allergies; 2) chronic sinusitis; and, 3) what I am assuming is an undiagnosed but long standing case of TMJ. It only occurred to me recently when the dentist suggested that I probably have TMJ to look into it. There’re like 40 symptoms of it, of which I have 39. Anyway, I’ve had these problems for pretty much forever, especially the allergies and sinus problems; and I had them pretty under control.

That is until I had my third deliciously chunky kid, in the 2010s – what I like to call the post-Michael Jackson-death opioid epidemic era – when ain’t nobody wants to treat a pregnant or lactating mother for shit because they’re afraid they’ll get sued or, worse, go to jail lest something bad happens. Because bad things are happening to every day people all the time now, and mothers are always the ones yelling that they want to speak to the manager – so obviously they’ll be the most likely to sue.

What a time to be alive, amiright?

So my baby is 18 months old now. I’m trying to not actually be one of those mothers that counts things out by the month, but then when I say something like well he’s a little over a year people glaze. The really blunt ones will sarcastically ask me do you …know… how old your child is? – to which I have to answer with a laugh, all-the-while resisting the urge to slap a bitch.

So anyway, a little over a year ago, before he was six months old, our family doctor and I had this plan to treat my allergies and sinusitis as needed to get through until I was done breastfeeding and could go gung-ho on my previous treatment of the problems. Of course, the way it was handled before wasn’t an option while I was pregnant or now, while I am breastfeeding; so this seemed a tenable solution.

Then my kid turned six months and suddenly the family doctor seemed to be on a crusade to get me to stop breastfeeding.

Well she stopped at six months, why wouldn’t I?

He’s eight months old now, he should be entirely on solid foods.

A year! Well that’s all is standard in America, we really need to push him to stop.

And as time drudged on, she began to push back on treating me – her patient – because of her disagreement with my choice to breastfeed.

He’s now a year and a half and still going strong. He eats regular meals as well, but still gets his milkies whenever he wants them (which he signifies by walking up to me and putting his hand down my shirt, shouting BOB! BOB!).

So flash forward to today, I’ve had a really really bad flare up of my allergies and chronic sinusitis; and I went to refill the prescription that is OK to take while lactating – the thing that we had as our plan to make things work while I continued to breastfeed.

No refills.

So the pharmacy called the doctor, as did I. Several days and phone calls went by before they finally got back to me today – while, of course, I was in the shower.

No refills. Doctor wants to see you first because she says you shouldn’t be breastfeeding anymore so just give the front desk a call to make an appointment.

I called and said “no, I’m still breastfeeding, do you still want me to make the appointment?”

Yes, she wants to have a serious discussion about your continued breastfeeding in the office before any medications are dispensed.

Are. You. Fucking. Kidding. Me?!

And this – in my opinion – is why ultimately so many women that want to breastfeed do not. A lack of support. I can see a number of circumstances in which a woman wanted to breastfeed for the two years the WHO or UNICEF recommends (or even just breastfeed at all), and then got discouraged for any number of reasons revolving around a lack of community support, so gave up.

I can even see instances in which a woman thought she couldn’t breastfeed when really all she needed was a good doctor or lactation consultant to help her make it work.

This is why breastfeeding is total crap – everyone acknowledges that it is without a doubt – from an evidence-based, empirical standpoint – what is healthiest for baby, but no one actually wants you to do it.

And if you breastfeed beyond a year in America – well watch out! Everyone is coming at you left and right to tell you about what they read or heard is actually the case about the composition of your milk at a year. Or, less eloquently, with phrases like “if the kid can chew a steak, he shouldn’t be chewing on your tit.”

Classy, Cletus.

A few months ago, I had my annual visit with my allergist. They’re just as bad about the prescribing of things, and have deferred to the family physician until I’m done nursing as well. But what they do continue to do is treat my asthma. Anyway, so it’s been five years since I had allergy testing, and I had received the letter that it was time to get that done again; so I booked my appointment. At some point I will begin treating my allergies (with allergy shots) again, so why wouldn’t I…right?

As I waited in the waiting room with the paper robe on my front, I heard a baby crying in the next exam room over and my milk let down, soaking the paper smock. The nurse walked in, took one look at me, and walked out saying just a sec. Like five minutes later, the doctor – an allergist I had actually never met before, not my usual allergist in the practice – came in the room and said I should reschedule when I am feeling better.

Feeling better?! The fuck does that mean? Nursing isn’t an ailment!

That’s what I said in my head, really I just clarified that I was still breastfeeding and sorry, I’ll put on a new smock.

They refused to perform the allergy test.

I see stories all the time on the Internet and hear them from people about the ugly side of being a nursing mother; and yet I never really believed it until recently. It is the most natural and biologically normal thing for a mother to do, and yet – for whatever reason – society is totally and completely aghast in the face of it.

Breastfeeding fucking sucks. But so does saying No to that perfect, little face that I have kept alive for a year and a half, as he shouts like a terrorist BOB! BOB! BOB!

34564346_10100179578785023_8562980721575067648_n