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.

Just Call a Cab (Mom)

Imagine one day you wake up to discover you are an Uber driver. It’s not what you want to do, and definitely not your career path. It takes away from your other responsibilities. And you don’t get paid.

But you have to do it anyway. There’s no way around it.

You put 200 miles on your car per day, 7 days a week. Sometimes more, never less. That 200 miles is spread out between the hours of 8 AM and 10 PM. 

You never have the time to go in and see what is going on that you are driving people to…because you have to go drive someone else somewhere else. Or someone forgot something. Or someone has to go to the bathroom. Or someone is hungry. Or you were so strapped with everyone’s schedules that you have to run home to brush your teeth still, or shower.

Of course no one outside of your situation understands that. In fact, you routinely find out that people say terrible things about how unsupportive you are for not always going in to see what’s going on.

You have a 2 year old who has to ride with you. He is miserable after 1 hour. He wants to play, instead he has to just keep riding and playing with what he can from his seat. If you do happen to go in and take him in with you, he bothers everyone with his noise and his playing and his toddler-ness, so you just don’t. You stay in the car, or he stays home (if someone is there to watch him and you had better believe you’ll be asked where he is with a disapproving look). Sometimes you take him to a nearby park, or other place he’d enjoy; but usually you have to be somewhere else to drive someone elsewhere and there isn’t time. Or you have to run home to take care of other stuff there that needs to be taken care of, like getting dinner in the oven or cleaning the toilets, because you already only get 4 hours of sleep a night. If that.

Also, remember, you are still missing out on what is going on where you dropped the other people/person off.

Your toddler has to usually eat at least one meal in the car. And did I mention he gets carsick? Also, he’s still breastfeeding, so that has to be done in between car trips, smashed in the backseat in some dingy parking lot too.

Your spouse drives 100 miles a day, roundtrip, in their commute to work at their dream job. Andd while others recognize you are busy, they regularly tell you that you are lying when you say you are driving 200 miles a day, even if you offer to show them your odometer. “Poor him he has it so hard… you?  …well you’re making it up stop telling stories HAHAHA” has actually come out of people’s mouths to your face.

People tell you all the time that they would love to help – JUST CALL! That ends up in one of three scenarios: 1. occasional help, which is awesome; though, more often it’s 2. the few times you ask, they are not able to 3. you get help, a little bit…just a smidge…but you feel SO GUILTY and have SO MUCH SELF-DOUBT about it all, that you feel bad asking again.

And you just know that if you were to write something like this, the single mothers of the world would be waiting on bated breath to pounce in the comments section with “…at least you have a…”

You should be able to handle all of this, right? If only you were managing the schedules better. Or had a tougher mentality about it all. Maybe you are going in a circuitous, illogical way.

The house, the housework, the grocery shopping, the schoolwork, the bath times, the bedtimes, meals, snacks, scheduling doctor’s appointments, holidays, the bill paying – you should be able to do it all plus take everyone to everything they need to and want to be at, on time every time, with a smile on your face.

Your budget for gas is $200 a month. You are using $120 a week (that’s $480 a month for those that cannot math). 

You don’t get paid for any of your time driving (duh). And you have to figure out that extra gas budget on your own with absolutely no help from anyone. Including the people getting rides from you.

OH ALSO: this free driving labor that has turned you into a terrible mother and a resentful person is giving you lower back problems to such a degree that you think you may need to see an orthopedic. (PS, just for fun let’s add in that you had back surgery for scoliosis when you were 13 years old, have Herrington rods on your spine, and definitely do not need back problems because they WILL result in surgeries.)

But wait…you can’t make it to any of your own appointments because someone else has to be somewhere else, and their thing is much more important. Always.

This is my life right now.

Every, single detail of it.

I completely understand that a large part of parenting kids over 10 is driving them from thing to thing.

However, a lot of people have a partner that helps them. I don’t.

And I know that will make a lot of single mothers angry, because I am married. I wouldn’t necessarily call him a partner, though. He’s just my husband. He works all the time, overnight, in his dream job. When he isn’t working, he’s sleeping. On weekends, he sleeps or works too. Last Saturday, he slept until 7 pm. If he can, he sleeps between 10 and 13 hours a night. He is working on Easter. He worked during our 11 year old’s birthday party last year. After I had major abdominal surgery (a c-section), he went to work two days afterwards, the day I came home from the hospital. With three kids to wrangle myself, stomach staples and all. He is, for the sake of discussion, not involved at all. When I hear other parents talking about how they “tag team” their multiple kids – split up events and such – I seethe in bitterness and resentment. It kills me to hear it.

A big big BIG factor in this is that I ALSO have a 76 year old man that I have to drive from place to place. That would be my dad, who lives with us. At the present time, he is unable to drive, leaving me the lone Uber driver. I had no idea how much work it was being retired and old.

A lot of people have SOMETHING – some sort of a break from it all. I don’t.

I think to myself regularly about how stressed out and tired and overworked and sick of being in the car I am, and I think that one day I will look back on this and wonder how I made it through it all. Originally I thought talking about it to people was the answer. I was wrong.

When I try to define what is going on for others, I inevitably offend people. I’m not a single mom. A solo mom? That pissed off a few people, so I stopped with that too. Absolutely no one wants to hear that my husband is absent in daily life.

This leaves me a bit of a Debbie Downer. Debbie Downer the Uber Driver.

I hate driving. When my kids are older and my dad doesn’t need rides places anymore, I’m going to move somewhere urban and never drive another car again.


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.






An Open Letter To Single Mothers, Everywhere

Suck it up.

Yep, I said it. Suck it up.

I mean this with the utmost understanding of the struggles you are experiencing.

Suck. It. Up.

That’s what I read over and over and over again in the comments section of an article this morning on Scary Mommy, although it was the single mothers, everywhere, that were screeching it in what I can only imagine the shrillest of tones.

Nobody has it as bad as you, right?

UGH.

Suck it up.

So I woke up this morning, and as I always do, checked all the notifications on my phone. Then, after clearing them, scrolled through my Facebook feed and ran across this:

Single mothers everywhere, came to this post in particular, just to tell a woman (women, because others had empathized in the comments and were being directly addressed as well) to suck it up.

To the writer of this article: I identify. Big time.

My husband doesn’t travel for work, but he is never around either. He works the nightshift, extra hours, and takes extra jobs on weekends as side projects to further his career. When he is home, he is sleeping or sitting on his phone or answering emails from work.

He is not and he has never been an extra set of hands.

I am the lone ranger of our home. I do all the cooking. All the cleaning. All the driving. The baths, the bedtimes, the runny noses and endless doctor’s appointments – you guys get it, I do it all. There is no me time, no self care. No “I do the cooking, you do the dishes.” I do all of it, and then I make my husband a plate of food to eat the next day and many times he just throws it in the trash because “work catered this morning.”

Most days it’s all I can do to keep my head above water. And all for the income of barely above a livable wage, because not only does my husband sacrifice his time for his career, he sacrifices good wages. I cut my own hair, I cook every meal at home, and I go without basic necessities time after time after time to give my kids opportunity and my husband the chance to achieve his dreams.

This isn’t about my struggles, though; or my husband’s clear lack of participation in our family dynamic. Let me be clear: IT IS NOT. I’m just attempting to clarify why I am qualifying my own right to say to single moms, everywhere:

You. Need. To. Stop.

If I or someone else, like the writer of “This Is What Parenting Feels Like When Your Spouse Travels For Work,” ever dares to open our mouths and lament a particularly difficult aspect of our own situation – which certainly a lot of people can identify with, and benefit from hearing about – the army of single mothers, everywhere, come in on their high horses, spewing hate and venom about how no situation can ever be as bad as theirs.

Give me a break.

The defining comment on that article this morning was one of the first I read. It had over 600 reactions, and over 100 replies in unison:

“So, like single parenting but with an extra income? Asking for 13.7 million people.”

You can feel the ire radiating from the screen.

Comment after comment from there agreed and told the writer to suck it up. To “man up” and deal with her situation.

“At least you have that extra income.”

“Suck it up, at least you have an extra pair of hands when he’s in town.”

The ballsiest:

“No one’s situation will ever be as hard as mine.”

OH. MY. GOD.

We get it. Your life sucks too. The operative word there is “too.” Shockingly, misery in adulthood is not mutually exclusive. A lot of people experience it, in a lot of different ways.

You had a failed marriage. You told a man you were pregnant and he fled town. You don’t get child support. You do get child support, but it’s insufficient. You never get a break. You get a break, but you have to fight incessantly as coparents. Your kids will never know what it’s like to have two parents in one home. Your kids will and remember, but they will always have the trauma of a home, broken. You have to work two jobs to survive. You have to work one job, but long hours.

None of that is sufficient to invalidate the experiences of others.

There are a lot of people in the world that have it much worse than all of us. There are refugees. People on the street. People in abusive situations that feel they can’t get out. People with terminal illness. I could go on.

The point is that a lot of people in this world, dare I say most people, are struggling in one way or another. Other people are allowed to have a hard time with their situation while you have a hard time with yours. Moreover, it doesn’t make your experience any less valid to validate that of others.

I’m sorry, it doesn’t.

It sucks to have your struggles shit on. To the single moms, everywhere: just stop.

The point is: we get it. I get it. I hear you. Now it’s your turn to hear me.

Suck it up.

Not suck it up to your situation; rather, suck it up to the fact that you are not alone and you do not have it particularly worse than any given person.

Something magical happens when we stop shitting on each other and start working together: things get easier. I am much more inclined to carpool with a single mother that recognizes my own struggles, than to carpool with one who responds to everything I say with “at least you don’t…” In exchange, I am a listener, and will listen to you as long as you need me to.

It isn’t a pissing contest. We can both be miserable, and in acknowledging that, we can also both get some happiness, together.

Dinner For One

Valentine’s Day is this week. ARE YOU READY?

Someone said this to me today when I was picking up my kids from tennis. I smiled and nodded, and said “what about you?!”

In reality, I should have said “Dafuq? Ready for WHAT?”

Valentine’s Day, traditionally, is a huge disappointment for me. Most years, my husband is at work. Since he works nights, that means my idea of a sexy weeknight outfit is stained yoga pants and my MOM AF t-shirt with a gaping hole under the left armpit, and last week’s spilled rice still stuck to the chest.

There’s also the simple fact that I don’t particularly give a shit about commercial holidays, Valentine’s Day being one of them.

I guess my disappointment actually comes from the fact that I feel like I’m expected to care – a lot – about the vacuous, mundane celebration of love, when in actuality I just don’t. Sorry! I don’t.

I get weary of always feeling like I have to explain or answer to people just why I am the way I am, or of having to justify my feelings. I don’t owe anyone anything, including – and especially – an explanation of who I am. Yet still, I have an entire deck of excuse cards, always ready to pull out for why I don’t what others do.

And as with many commercialized holidays, there is also the obvious: why do I need a special day to remember or honor or celebrate something I should be doing *every day?*

[Cue the high horse.]

This isn’t to be confused with the celebration of Valentine’s Day with my kids. I am all over that shit. Any opportunity to use colloquialisms and special events to teach them how to show people that you love or care for them, I’m all for it.

What I do for Valentine’s Day with my kids is pretty basic, too. I buy a gift bag for each of them, and slowly – over the course of about a month – fill it with things I see while I’m out that make me think of them, know they’ll like, or that I think they need. When the bag is full, it gets topped off with tissue paper and, vóila.

Then, on Valentine’s Day, I make our meals V-Day themed. Because it’s fucking cute.

As the years go by, and my kids get older, though, they become less and less impressed with the commercialism of it as well. That, I believe, is in large part due to the fact that you can’t go anywhere without the holiday being shoved down your throat.

Honestly, CVS: I’m looking at you.

I’m trying to then gear it more towards teaching them to give gifts that have personal meaning. An old necklace I had to pass on, a card that’s just silly, or something I saw while out that was only $1 but made me think of them. Arguably the most commercial of all holidays, Valentine’s Day seems an opportune time to teach gift giving sans commercialism.

So when I first met my husband, it was just before Valentine’s Day, and I will never forget his rant about how much he loathed the material aspect of it all (ironic given my husband’s propensity to acquire stuff, but we’ll save that for another post)…

Being the late stage millennial hipster that I am, and not knowing how much of a hoarder of things he really was yet, I ate that shit up. Ate it with a spoon.

I, too, had a deep disdain for The Man, and all of the ceremonious, faux holidays that came with it! What a match we were – we had so much in common philosophically!

That year, on Valentine’s Day, we agreed that we would hang out anyway and not be – like – romantic. But we were planning to hang out anyway, and it just happened to be Valentine’s Day, and we had to eat so we should probably cook too. Definitely not a Valentine’s Day thing though because fuck The Man.

[Cue the second face.]

(A little side anecdote for you guys: having also had a conversation about how my unbeknownst husband-to-be had never had Macaroni and Cheese with BBQ sauce mixed into it before; I, trying to be coquettish, said “well I’ll just make it for you on Valentine’s Day then.” We did hang out that day and made mac and cheese. And if you guys really want to know how intolerable this whole thing became, when I showed up he said he thought it would be REALLY ARTISANAL if we added some red onion and FAKEN BACON, which he had pre chopped just assuming I would be fine with such a culinary abomination, quite obviously a portends to what was to come in our marriage no doubt. I know, you guys… I know…)

Anyway, so then we got married and suddenly it was like: okay yeah, but married people do Valentine’s Day, and they like it. So we thought: well, shit, if other people do it and like it, we probably should too.

The first year, we went on a fucking gondola ride in the swampy canals of Long Beach. Name me something more cliche to do on Valentine’s Day than that, I’ll wait…

[Cue the crickets.]

To this day, it remains to have been the most uncomfortable and awkward two hours of my life. I mean the boat was cool and all, but the guy doing the paddling sang while looking directly into our eyes, with a really weird I’m-borderline-sexual-about-this-song-and-paddling-gig, then turned and said he would “give us privacy.” All the while, dirt bags and homeless people were hanging out along the canal waterfront; one guy so drunk he repeatedly belched, seemingly in tune with our gondola guide’s song, which at that point had turned into something of a rhythmic, hip-thrusting chant. Towards the end, a lady and man in matching tight-fitting speedos and muscle shirts paddle-boarded past us, screaming at each other.

For years, we tried. Well, I tried. Or at least, tried to get on board. My husband always got home from work super late, pretending to be all stressed out because he got “stuck in traffic” (he had really just worked late like he always does). I would make a romantic meal, or I actually put on makeup for once, and then I would sit there – the doting wife – tapping my toe while I waited for him to get home.

It was so ridiculous.

One year we went out to a Japanese restaurant and I ordered this sautéed edamame dish that was so goddamned good I basically woofed it down like a pig with a feed bag on her face.

The next year, I saw a Groupon for a pearl necklace and was convinced that I needed those pearls. So my husband got them for me, but there was also a big Lakers game on that night so he threw them in my general direction as he made a beeline for the TV to turn on the game.

Then he started working overnights, and Valentine’s Day sort of just faded away.

I’m certain he has gotten me cards, either at CVS or one he printed off the Internet, typed message and all, since then. But every year it has been less and less of an effort. This year, I am firmly expecting not even an acknowledgment of the day.

To be honest, it has been a relief. That is, until I started feeling like people wanted an explanation as to why we didn’t celebrate as ostensively as possible.

The other day, we were celebrating my oldest daughter’s fifteenth birthday, and the topic of the swiftly approaching Valentine’s Day came up. Everyone was talking about their plans.

I was talking about my kids.

People were saying they had dinner reservations (for two), had special gifts coming in the mail, and my mother in law even said she and my father in law would be going on a boat cruise.

I said I would be making a cutesy dessert for my kids that night, and/or leaving them at home and making a dinner reservation for one since my husband will – obviously – be working. I was mostly joking; the truth was I would do the dessert and then binge watch You on Netflix (assuming I don’t finish the season beforehand).

In response, I got all these pity kind of faces. Like oh poor you, you’ll be so lonely, so sad, and so on.

Normally, I would start up my canned speech about how commercial and material Valentine’s Day is. I would blather on about the “why do I need a holiday to do what I already should be doing” sanctimonious speech I always give. And I would start up all the excuses I could fathom for why my husband and I ain’t doing shit at all.

This time, I didn’t go down that road, though. I just said: “I love myself enough to not need all of that.”

It cleared the room, and it’s true.

I don’t need my husband to buy me flowers (I buy them for myself), or candy (my tastes in candy change frequently, so it’s better that I pick out my own anyway). Cards are nice, but a couple of words in passing are just as good. I don’t need the fancy dinners and the boat rides and the romantic walks and the wine tasting limo rides to feel good about my place in my relationship and, more importantly, my life.

That may not be the case for everyone, but I think every relationship is different. For me and my husband’s, it works. And I’m done explaining it away because people just can’t accept that not everyone does what everyone else seems to do.

I’m perfectly happy and in love with my yoga pants and Mom AF t-shirt, stains and all. Don’t like it? Enjoy your gondola ride.


The 6 Stages of Watching Movies With My Husband

My husband works in film. Well, sort of.

He works for a multimedia marketing firm that makes trailers, sizzles, and other promotional materials for upcoming movies (including those dumb, digital billboards you see at the mall). He’s in the Disney division, so basically Disney movies have been forever ruined for us – not that he’s telling us anything (they are pretty crazy about their security); but Disney movies are now usually marred by how many hours of overtime the ad campaigns kept Dad away from home.

So anywho, you all can imagine that watching movies with him is therefore…trying…

There’s all the idiosyncrasies, the technical talk before and after, the “love of the game.” All of this for someone (that being me) who doesn’t give a single fuck about any of it, and moreover thinks the majority of movies made these days are piles of crap.

People tell me that this makes me super unsupportive of my husband’s chosen career. That because I don’t feign an utter love of the industry and films, in general, that this means our marriage is doomed and I’m the worst wife ever. Well beyond the simple fact that I was raised to believe that a job is just a job, and that your real life is actually defined by what you do with your family and for yourself…isn’t it just a little shitty to say that because my husband works in film, that I therefore must change my longstanding feelings and beliefs and just general preferences? That would be like a woman who hates baseball suddenly pretending to love it because her significant other likes the Dodgers.

Sorry, but that’s not how I play the game.

My husband is more than welcome to have his own enjoyments, and I of course support him, and make hearty sacrifices, for him to work in the career he chooses to work in. And in return, I expect the same for me. And whenever I intersect in this whole film thing…well, I try. I really, really try.

I always thought it would get better, or maybe easier; but alas all these years in, it hasn’t. In fact, every time we watch a movie, I go through a process. Sort of like a process of grief, I always make my way through these stages when watching movies with my husband.

Stage One: “Sure, this movie looks OK”

Even when it doesn’t look OK, I think to myself that it does because I need to go in being positive so that I’m not disappointed or angered too soon into the movie-going experience.

I should add that my husband and I watch a lot of movies, so I really try to keep upbeat about it because if I weren’t I’d be annoyed with the movie choice most days of the week.

The problem is that my husband has a very odd taste in film. Usually it’s some fucked up Lars Von Trier shit – and I absolutely cannot stand that guy. Or it’s something like a musical (in fact, we are watching Les Miserables right now, which I’ve seen before and just can’t deal with because I despise Anne Hathaway).

So I go in thinking “sure, this movie looks OK.” Even when it doesn’t. This is basically the denial stage.

Stage Two: “When can I start talking?”

I’m a movie talker. Not at the theater, no way. But at home, I like chatting it up about the movie while it’s going on. It’s just the way I am.

My husband, by contrast, is a silence-during-the-film authoritarian. If I breath too loud he gets upset. When we first started dating, we went to see The Reader in theaters and I sipped my Diet Coke (not even loudly), only to receive the dirtiest look from him I have ever received from another person.

It’s in my nature to banter through the movie, so usually pretty early on I begin to crave it. Like an itch I absolutely have to scratch, I start chomping at the bit to be able to say something – anything – about the movie that happens to be on.

Stage Three: “How did someone come up with this crap?”

To be absolutely fair…not every movie we watch is crap. And, I think I have a really high and strange standard for movies. My friend Jeremy used to make fun of me for how much I disliked basically every movie I watched.

I guess I just have really high standards. Or no patience. Or maybe I’m just not a movie person. I don’t know, but I’d say that 9 times out of 10 – unless we are talking about 80s movies – I get to a point where I wonder how someone even came up with some of these plot lines/stories/characters/whatever.

Stage Four: “Why couldn’t we just watch Uncle Buck again?”

I would be perfectly contented watching the same, ten or so 80s movies over and over again. I could just spend a whole day watching The Money Pit on repeat.

Why my husband is not willing to just do this continues to be beyond me.

Stage Five: “Fuck it, I’m going to talk.”

I’ve given up all hope, we’re usually about halfway through the movie at that point. And this is when I start to get the dirty looks, the sighs, and the attitude.  I typically start off by asking how much longer the movie will last. Then my husband will pause the movie over and over and over and over and over again as I ask questions, which just escalates into me rambling or talking or making the comments I wanted to make much sooner in the film.

Finally, we get to a point where I realize that the length of the movie is only being greatly prolonged by his constant, incessant pausing of the film. So I stop, and I move on to the final stage.

Stage Six: Sleep

I just turn over, lay down on the couch, and go the fuck to sleep. Go. The. Fuck. To. Sleep.

Rarely does my husband even notice that I sleep through the remainder of the movie. In fact, the other day he started asking me if I noticed something in the movie we had watched the night before. “Uh yeah, I was asleep for the entire second half of that one, did you not notice?”

He never notices. Which is perfectly fine by me.

The next day I always wake up, refreshed from my extra sleep yet guilty that I didn’t spend that time reading, and we start the process all over again. Either that night or later in the week. Another lull in our daily lives occurs, and we decide to put on a movie. And my process begins again.

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Toxic People That Are Family Are Still Toxic

There. Someone had to say it.

I’ve written about family issues – generally speaking – on this blog before, and I am sure I’ll write about them again. But when I go through the history of my posts on this issue (the family issue), I can see a change in me as I’ve aged. As I have grown, I have come to realize something very important. Almost profound, at least as far as life and family and every day dealings go for me:

Toxic people that are family are still toxic. And there is nothing that requires you to allow toxicity in your life.

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If You Aren’t Someone’s Cup O’ Tea, Oh the Fuck Well

We have a lot of family issues, probably in part to the fact that we live close by to a lot of family (both on my husband’s as well as my side).

The other part I think is that I’m not many people’s cup o’ tea.

I am honest, and I speak out about injustice. I can be a little loud. I don’t say things like “someone has to say it,” or “I’m just telling it like it is” as an excuse to be a bitch, but at the same time I do speak up and out when I see something that I think is wrong.

And in two families full of work-a-day workers, who wear their busy schedules and hard work days like a fucking medal of honor, my lifestyle of writing into the wee hours, sleeping past 10, painting in my pajamas, reading for at least 3/4 of the day, and subscribing to more shows on Netflix and the DVR than any sane person could find the time to watch, has created – shall we say – a bit of tension.

It isn’t only all of that, though; my husband and I just have much different values than a lot of our family members. We believe in holistic care, my husband’s hair is shoulder length and he has a hippy beard, we homeschool the kids, and I can’t remember the last time I wore a bra. To top it all off: we eat gluten free.

I can’t tell you the last time we attended a family event where people weren’t harping on us about our lifestyle choices. Particularly my husband’s facial hair (I mean really, people, it’s just hair…); and then there’s that whole annual intervention where every single person we know within a 50 mile radius makes it their life’s mission to get us to stop homeschooling the kids (this is usually around the end of summer when the new school year is about to begin).

Of course there will always be the grandmother in the family that harps on the way people dress, or the aunt or uncle who have an opinion on everything. But then there is an innocuous old lady set in her ways, and people who legitimately believe that they have a right to tell you how to live your life. In the latter, the only thing to describe them as is: toxic.

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It’s only recently that I’ve realized, though, that you can’t be everyone’s cup o’ tea. And, that I’d rather be true to myself than someone else just to make people happy.

The Worst Comes Out Of People When You Start Saying “No.”

Especially when it’s hell no, but we don’t say it that way very often.

My husband and I only have ourselves to blame on this one: we used to say “yes” to everything. Ev.er.y.thing. Everything. Even when we lived 50 or so miles away from our respective families, we still would say “yes” to every fucking thing that asked us to do. And our health and relationship paid for it.

Finally, our kids started growing older and getting into more sports, which meant our time was limited. And then my husband started working the night shift at his job, making the “no”s a necessity. We didn’t have the luxury of being able to passively do what everyone else always wanted us to do anymore. Finally we had the reasons we had been looking for all those years to have balance in our lives, the balance we had been craving for so long.

We were going to have to say “no” to some things. A fair amount of things.

It is then when the worst comes out of people. After years of pushing us around and getting us to everything our families wanted us to be at, they have gone down kicking and screaming – in their own ways – since the first time we had to say “no” to something. So much so that now even when we say “yes,” what we say it to is never enough.

Go to a party for a few hours, “but why didn’t you stay longer?”

Have other plans the one day a week we have as a family with no sports and no work for my husband, “you should have cleared your plans with us first.”

This is why setting boundaries with people that have never had any boundaries set on them before is so difficult: they don’t like it, and become completely unreasonable and irrational. Because really, what kind of a person sits by the clock keeping time as to how long you stay at a party, or actually has the gaul to suggest people check with their social schedules before making their own plans? For their own lives.

I’ll tell you what kind: a toxic person.

Toxic People That Are Family Are Still Toxic, and Being Family Does Not Mean You Owe Them Anything

A meme went around the Internet the other day, something to that effect. You do not owe anyone anything, especially toxic people and in particular family that is toxic. Blood relation does not mean that a person has an uninhibited license to treat you like shit. Being someone’s cousin’s cousin or sister-in-law’s mother or even a closer relative, like a brother or a mother – be it by blood, marriage, or another association that makes these people call themselves family – does not predicate any obligation what.so.ever.

Let me be clear: the minute you identify a person as toxic to you, any obligations or shit you owe them (for example: owing someone for giving you life, as I often hear my father say) go out the window. Out the window. Out the fucking window. Out the fucking window and miles away.

You paid your debts to them tenfold just dealing with their toxicity for however long you dealt with it. Even if it was only once and for just a day.

And so for this reason, my husband and I have taken a pledge to our selves and to our kids to cut out all the toxic shit we have dealt with for so long. People want to say nasty things, be nasty people, and act in nasty ways? Well they will be flushed out with all the other nasty toxic shit that gets flushed out of our lives on a daily basis. We don’t owe anyone anything, especially our happiness and senses of self worth. And our kids deserve to be surrounded by good people, or else that cycle of being surrounded by bad ones will just continue.

I’m not saying that everyone in my or my husband’s families are toxic; and honestly this post isn’t about us or them or a particular incident. I’ve only been thinking about this lately because I’m just so tired of being mad at myself for letting people treat us, and me, in ways that I would never treat someone else. And I’m even more tired of seeing and hearing people overlook bad behavior for the sake of the family. What about the sake of the self? Does that not matter anymore?

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