Motherhood: A Real Job


It’s been eight years since I’ve gotten a paycheck. Like, a real steady one. Not just a here-and-there check for some written article or published piece. Though I would like more of those, they are fleeting and rare, like the money I used to get as a kid for sweeping the porch of an elderly aunt.

When I say this out loud, that I haven’t been paid in years, I wonder if it makes me sound bad. But I already know the answer. The real truth. Outwardly, the world likes to tell me to be proud of my station in life. As a stay-at-home mom, the platitudes say, I am doing the most important job that a person could ever do. But, the thing is, I do it every day without pay. So, to a large portion of the populous, it makes what I do seem less real than the sorts of jobs that my working friends hold.

This leads me to a sort of existential meltdown sometimes and the questions come pouring out of my brain like a leaky faucet. In these terrible moments, I wonder, should I be ashamed of what I’m doing with my life? Should I feel bad about my useless degree? Is there a purpose to this seemingly pointless routine? Are my passions wasted on tiny people who may never appreciate my efforts? These are all my angry ponderings as I clean up Lego blocks from under the couch or sweep sandbox grit off of my newly mopped floor.

Yes, I lead a life of minutia. Truly. All full-time moms do. We don’t debug computers or build amphitheaters. Our days will never be thought of with the same level of respect as a Supreme Court Justice. And the problems we solve will rarely amount to life or death in the same way that it will to a neurosurgeon. But the struggles we face, as women who have chosen parenthood as our career, is very real. And, for that matter, so is our job.

In the beginning, when my daughter was a newborn, she had a battery of issues which made her a challenge – colic and reflux and a cry so loud even her screams could be heard from space! As a result, I was a mess. And so was my house. I didn’t get more than a fifteen minute interval of sleep for the first six months after her birth. And, though the washing machine was always on, it seemed like we never had any clean clothes. Everything was a disorienting blur. Without any help or time away from my home, I waded through the trenches of her early life like a beaten down doughboy in the Great War.

I had contemplated going back to work, especially in my weakest moments when I ached for adult conversation. However, financially and logistically, the idea of putting her in daycare, just so I could make a few extra dimes, didn’t make any sense. And, since my daughter was breastfeeding almost constantly, it seemed like the best path for me was to stay home. So I did. From that time forward.

During those early years, the struggles of my job as full-time mom weren’t evident to the world. All they saw was a young family, now complete, with a sweet baby in arms. Because I was cloistered away in the convent of motherhood, and no one saw my pains, they weren’t deemed real. Nor was my new vocation. People who visited us would always remark on how lucky I was to be home with the baby. How wonderful it was that I got to relax and luxuriate at home. How amazing it must be to live in pajamas and be able to dash off to the park or store whenever I got the urge. But really, this was simply never the case.

I remember thinking how lucky, indeed, I was to be able to hear the day-long cries of my wailing child whom I was thoroughly unable to console. How luxurious, in fact, it was to get the opportunity to milk scream feed repeat. All. Day. Long. And how amazing it was to wear pajamas – never mind the caked on spit-up of a rancid milk burp that even lingered after washing. Yes. Good times!

Now, flashing forward to our current life, with my daughter close to the double digits and my son somewhere in the quagmire of yucky boy youth, my days are equally busy. And my job is just as real. My fatigue level is about the same. The children’s screams aren’t as constant, though the fighting can sometimes make it seem otherwise. Relaxation amounts to being able to finish scrubbing all two bathtubs in the house before someone needs my help – with homework or missing action figures. And I still live in pajamas that, thankfully, smell better than their predecessors, though they do manage to get stained just as often.

I could go through the trite scenario of charting out my duties, with the intent to form a resume, so I can say to the world “Hey, look what I can do!” But I won’t. I may never change the minds of those who think my life has amounted to nothing more than diapering babies and baking cookies. Lord knows I certainly won’t impress many would-be employers with my “wearing many hats” routine. To my knowledge, melting crayons for art projects and getting silly putty out of bed sheets has never ranked highly as a skill set for those who are hiring.

But, to those who know me, or any other stay-at-home mom, I urge you to understand one very important thing: Motherhood IS a full-time job. A very REAL one, in fact. Just as real as the next fireman or accountant or plumber or attorney. It’s an occupation to be respected along with the rest! Sure, our paychecks aren’t traditional – they often come in the form of stick figure drawings or freshly plucked wildflowers. And, after years of service, there won’t be a large 401K fund for one’s efforts – but, with any luck, there will be some well-adjusted human beings who were actually grateful for their mom’s time and troubles.

So, to everyone at a party who has asked me when I’m going to “go back to work” (like I don’t already have a job at hand) or to every working friend who has mentioned their “real” job in passing (as though mine is any less trying or laborious), I want to shout it loud and proud: Motherhood IS my job! My day job. My night job. My full-time job. My real job. And if anyone thinks differently, I would love to hire them for a day and see how well they fare.

 

How to Throw an Awesome Pity Party


I’ve been feeling down lately. I mean, really down. Like so far down into the turnpike of the blues that all I want to do is cry, sleep and zone out with mindless TV. I know I’m not alone. I mean, I feel alone. I feel like no one cares and that my purpose in life is questionable. But, I know that I’m not special in this feeling. Others have felt this way a billion times over. It’s not a condition unique to me.

But it’s dumb. It’s not like I have a real reason. No one in our family is dying. We aren’t refugees forced to flee our home. No one has been indicted for a crime they didn’t commit. Heck, at the moment, I don’t even have a hang-nail, a paper cut or a neck spasm (which is rare for me, truly). But even though times seem fortuitous and everyone in my house is clothed, sheltered, fed and in good health, I just can’t get out of this funk.

So, despite all of this, in the thick of such deep emotions, I have felt it necessary to have a party. A pity party, no less. And, since I’m throwing one on a semi-daily basis, I thought it would be helpful to put together a “how-to” guide for all of those awesome people who have never indulged.

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Step One: Make a mountain out of a molehill 

Now, for those who don’t already know, molehills are small and mountains are big. So, your goal is to take something really tiny and make it the size of the sun. But, make sure there aren’t any cracks in it or the mountain won’t maintain its height. And, you’re going to need that height in order to scale the madness like a martyr and make a non-issue into an issue.

Step Two: Read between the lines

So, there are things that people say. And then there are the words, hidden between parsed lips, that hold the real meanings to what they have said. Learn to differentiate between the two. For example, when one of the insanely involved PTA moms says, “What have you been up to lately?” she is really asking, “Why haven’t you volunteered more, you lazy cow!?” Understanding the subtleties of hidden language and learning how to decode it is key to the pity party process.

Step Three: Make connections where none exist

Remember last Tuesday? Some of your friends were talking about a yoga class they all attended en masse. And they didn’t even think to invite you! Clearly, it can only mean one thing – they hate you. But that’s just the beginning.

The book you’ve been trying to get published has been rejected, again – so, you are a talentless twit. A thoughtful meme you posted on Facebook didn’t get a single “like” – you have no friends. Your house has been on the market for five months and hasn’t sold – the universe must hate you, too. Your kid didn’t get a part in that school play – you failed them on every level. Be sure to notice how one thing has a cross-connection with something else. Always. And, even though, in a court of law, your opinion could not be backed with any traceable form of proof, you feel like it’s right. So, golly, it must be!

Step Four: Hold unreal expectations

This is a great step because it is really the key to having an epic pity party. Maybe you always dreamed of being a CEO by the time you were 40, but instead you’re 38, pregnant and folding your family’s towels for the 9,077th time. Maybe you feel like there is some unspoken rule about iPhone etiquette in the presence of company that your friend just doesn’t follow to your liking. Or perhaps you think your husband should finally, after 20 years of marriage, know where the Lysol resides in the cabinet. But he doesn’t. And he never will. Holding on to unreal expectations, in any setting, can bring about the biggest disappointments in life (read: the best fodder for the blues).

Step Five: Dwell on the negative

This is the final step, and without it the party would not be complete. Hold on, with vigor, to all things morose and grim. When something good happens, wait for something bad to take its place. When something bad happens, wait for things to get worse. And if they don’t get worse, keep waiting. But, while you’re waiting, reflect on all of the other bad things that have happened to you. Ever. And try to go back to step three, just to see if there are any new, negative connections you can make that haven’t already been visited before.

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After having done all of these things, let me assure you, a pity party will be epic and unavoidable. Probably the best one of your life. And, by best, I mean ABSO-effing-LUTELY worst. Party. EVER! So, go solo. Bring a box of tissues. Hang out in your comfiest pajamas. And cry until you’ve gotten it all out of your system. And then, when you snap out of it, maybe you can throw a party. For real.

The Truth About Santa (and other people)


There comes a time in every child’s life when the leaps of faith in fantastical beings (like the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny and Santa Claus) get trampled and overtaken by more mature thoughts of probability, pragmatism and logic. My friend’s daughter reached that stage this past weekend. There were some tears (from both sides). They had a talk. And, then that evening she left her daughter a note that she would find when she awoke. Here is what that note said:

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To back up a little, this girl has been a “believer” in all things big and small since she was a mere tot. And, her mom had a huge part in shaping those beliefs. They basked in every holiday, adding magical lore and fanciful figures to each and every celebration.

At Christmas, the traditional tales of Santa were told, as well as many untraditional stories her mom made up. These stories explained everything from why there were different Santa’s at every mall, how he made it to all of the world’s houses in one night, and of course the amazing “Santa election process!”

At Easter there was an Easter Bunny. But, unlike most that just leave Peeps and cheap trinkets, he would instead leave plastic eggs with scavenger hunt clues that lead to a bigger prize in the end. And then the Tooth Fairy – she left glittered notes and a magical two dollar bill in exchange for each tooth lost. A pretty sweet deal, if you ask me! Of course, the story behind why she needed children’s teeth became very intricate and had something to do with powering an entire city. Ever heard of “tooth juice?” Yea, me neither, but her mom did and that was a whole other topic of its own!

Yes, my friend had created a very elaborate world of lovely folklore that her daughter ate up with delight. The very best of them all, however, was the Elf. You know, those elves that everyone displays during the holidays. That brilliant Elf on the Shelf from which some ladies amassed and empire?! Yes, those! My friend had gone above and beyond each Christmas season, preparing intricate and exciting Elf displays. Each year had a theme. The first year started off small, with little inspirational quotes.

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The following year got more educational, with the elf embodying notable figures throughout history. (If you want to see all of them, go here. They are pretty darn cool! http://www.boredpanda.com/inspirational-elf-on-the-shelf/)

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And last year, the Elf went all out reenacting scenes from movies. (More here: http://www.boredpanda.com/the-quotable-elf/)

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It was pretty great!

But now it can be no more. Her daughter no longer believes! I know I was sad to learn of this new reality. And I wondered, in my time of pondering, was there anything wrong with instilling such a detailed belief system only to have it shatter and fall to the ground one day?!

The answer is simply: of course not! By telling these stories and keeping this mythology alive, she did a wonderful thing for her daughter. Though it’s not quite how we do things in our house, I understand the logic (or madness!) behind it. She gave her child something we are quite lacking today – the gift of imagination, belief in something grand as well as pure and simple joy. Even though none of it was real, even though some could contend it was nothing more than a web of lies, it was done with love and the good intentions of a parent who wanted nothing more than to give her daughter some special childhood memories. And, that’s pretty great, if you ask me – a cynical girl who always knew such things didn’t exist.

Maybe those tears they shed together were necessary. Maybe this conversation about the “truth” was hard. But, from what I hear, it also ended in hugs and a new sense of wonder. This time, though, the elation existed over what *other* things they could create, together, that could be just as fun as an Elf, a city run on tooth juice and a fat guy who delivers good memories for all! And, boy, I can’t wait to see what they come up with together!

Killing Time: A Mother’s Confession


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Oh, time. How I wrong thee.

 I spend opening lines of conversation asking where you went. Wondering what happened to you. Thinking about you, in your absence. But really, what did I ever do to appreciate you in the first place?! I act like we’re besties and you just took a hike, but really it’s my fault that you vanish so quickly.

 I walk around in this life, killing you at every turn. Killing. That’s right. With a capital K! All. The. Freaking. Time. And, what did you ever do to deserve that? You operate in a slow and steady motion, incremental, succinct, constant. I should anticipate your metered breath. I would be wise to move as steadily and as reliably as you. But, I don’t.

 Instead, I waste you. I throw you away. And, by doing this, I am losing the best parts of my day. My week. My year. And, if you want to get downright dramatic about things, my very existence!

 For starters, there are so many times when I should be on the floor, playing with my toddler, sucking in his sweet, pudgy-cheeked cuteness and breathing in these moments before they float into oblivion. But, I don’t. Instead, I zone out. I check my phone. Read nothing of importance. Do nothing that matters. I fritter you away on foolish things, momentary chores and tasks that I could put away for later. And I think I am deserving of these frivolities because I’m just trying to “get through” the day.

 These time-wasters are my reward. Or so I think. But, really, they just make me sink further into the rabbit-hole of time loss. They are the cause of my wild recklessness and existential crime. They rob me of small moments. And, in turn, I rob you of my allegiance.

 So, I’m writing this confession to you now. I have been your worst enemy. Your fair-weather friend. Your slayer. And, for that, I’m truly sorry. I ask for your forgiveness. I beg for it, in fact!

 I apologize for causing my children’s youth to blur because I was so hell-bent on rushing you away. I’m sorry I mapped out our days, in a fuzzy, pseudo-involved way, so that I could find things to do to spend you in order to “make it” until nap time. And, I’m sorry that, once my kids were in their golden slumber, I used you for nothing more than a couple of endless hours of internet surfing and candy bar eating.

 I feel ashamed. And disgusted in myself. But mostly, I just feel sad. I look at my daughter, now a saucy pre-teen, and wonder why it went so quickly. Why she isn’t still my sweet, slathered in pink princess who loves tea parties and Disney movies. Where did she go? Did you take her away from me? No. I guess I did that all by myself.

 The haze of parenting and the fatigue that sets a stage for adult life made me push her into that curve faster than I wanted. And all because I just wanted to “get through” it. “Make it.” Reach my end goal of nap time, bed time, weekend time, whatever. Faster and faster and faster! Never wanting to live now. Never wanting to stop and slow down. Never allowing myself to enjoy it all just yet. Waiting, instead, for that magical, elusive “someday.”  

But now that I am finally there, you are gone. And so is she. At least, that part of her. That era.

 I know you stop for no one. You won’t even slow down if I ask you nicely. But, please, be kind. Just know that I am small and weak. And, did I mention, tired. But I’m willing to give it another try…if you are!

 So, let’s be friends. I’ll be there for you if you’ll be there for me. I promise not to stare too much at your long and wiry hands, hoping they gallop along while in the midst of a Daniel Tiger marathon. Nor will I wish that those school choir events will zoom by at a higher tempo than their typical molasses pace. I won’t even dream about a way to fast-forward my son’s potty-training that is to come (despite my awareness of many hardships and pee puddles that await!).

 Instead, I will try to be content in my surroundings. Happy in my home. Present for my family. And aware of each and every second that I am lucky enough to call them my own.

 At least, that’s the deal I can promise for right now. Of course, these feelings may change in a heartbeat if I have to attend a season of swim meets or soccer matches – in which case, please know that my desire to assassinate you will only be in self-defense! But hopefully it won’t come to that.

 Just know, in the meantime, that I’m trying. Desperately. And I love my kids. Wholeheartedly! But I am flawed. Completely. Not like you, dear time – my perfect and reliable (albeit, not necessarily forgiving) friend.

#FacebookFast


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With social media being what it is, a virtual soapbox for people to air out their grievances, there are many movements on the rise. It seems that everyone has a hash-tag for something they feel to be important. Whether it be controversial political stances or simplified forms of unity, there is a mark for anything. Everything. And, seriously folks, it’s getting kind of ridiculous.

But, pause right there, because I have something that will make a little sense as I go on. I’m starting my own movement. One to end all other movements. At least, on one platform. I’m calling it: #FacebookFast

That’s right! I did it! I am currently (and for the unforeseeable future) continuing on a fast from this format of social media that I find most offensive. After all, it’s really the only viable one. Twitter is for twits. Pinterest is where creativity (and time) goes to die. MySpace is all but defunct. Google +…what the hell is that, anyway?! So, Facebook it is!

And, hold on, by offensive, I don’t mean in the conventional sense – the politically correct sense, the touchy-feely panties in a wrinkle sense. Nope! Instead, what I find offensive about Facebook is the people on it. And their need to over-share. And under-like. And up the ante on false concern. And lower the regard for real human connection.

What I dislike so greatly about this very addictive, very feeble attempt at community is the fact that while everyone is on it, most people on your friend list are noticeably absent from really supporting or encouraging their global “village.” It seems to have become nothing more than a voyeur’s haven. A place where you can watch and laugh from afar at your unwitting, foolish neighbors without bothering to really make the effort to launch yourself into their life.

And then there’s the show. Aren’t most people on Facebook really just showing off?! Yes. How many pictures of sandy feet at Cabo or beautiful blue eyed children do we need to see before we raise the white flag and surrender?! Okay. You did it. You have the perfect life. You win!

In reality, nobody cares about the chocolate cake you “made” from “scratch.” They don’t care about your cat’s mischievous green eyes. Or your perfect duck-faced photo of a girls night post-appletinis. And, for the love of Pete, just how many selfies does one person need to post?! There is no etiquette guide. No Emily Post for the modern era. But, I can imagine that it stops shy of two dozen.

In my angst over Facebook (see my previous article: When “Friends” Don’t “Like” Your Facebook Posts), I have opined about how annoying it is when your own friends (and even family) don’t “like” the things you post. As if that really matters. As if it means something.

In truth, Facebook is just a microscope of all of the worst traits of humanity. Small. Petty. Boastful. Brash. Over-opinionated. Under-educated. Inefficient. Ineffectual. Waste. Of. Time.

So, I’m over it. I’m done. And I encourage you to do the same.

Go out. Enjoy a sunny day. Plant a garden. Read a book. Call a friend. Make a soufflé. Or, you know, whatever. Just live life. Engage in real conversations with real people. Stop showing off. Stop pretending the illusion matters. Stop forgetting about the things that actually do matter. And follow my movement.

#FacebookFast

You might have nowhere to post it but you’ll be glad you did it!

Donald Trump: 7 Ways He Is A Role Model (For What I Don’t Want My Kids To Be)


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Very rarely does one person embody an entire package of parental lectures. Most people, despite their flaws, offer something positive to the landscape of humanity. At very least, a small morsel of goodness for which an objective person could reason “they aren’t all bad.” Usually.

But then we have Donald Trump. He’s a person whose existence I choose to ignore simply because he has no bearing on my daily life. I don’t live in Manhattan. I don’t gamble. I don’t support beauty pageants. And I don’t watch Celebrity Apprentice.

However, now that he is entering into a new venture – running for President of the United States (gag!) – Trump is standing front and center on the national stage of thought. And the idea, just the mere notion of his holding office, is a terrifying possibility…especially as a mom. But, all fear aside, I can say very truly that he has now become a role model in our house – a role model for what I don’t want my kids to be. And these are just a few reasons why:

1) He’s A Bully

Lawsuits are sometimes necessary; but, the overuse of the legal system is just a formal, privileged way of being a bully. And, as we have all seen, Donald Trump is the king of the bullies! So small is his own (fill in the blank) that he has felt the repeated need to abuse our legal system. And, for what?! Someone said he was a “millionaire” rather than a “billionaire.” Someone made a joke about his parentage. A media outlet decided to no longer show his pointless beauty pageant or reality show.

If I were his mother, I would tell him what I tell my own kids – “Deal with it! Not everyone is going to like you, but don’t give them more of a reason to dislike you! Instead of being a bully, just walk away. Be the better person.” But, I guess, first you have to be a better person.

2) He Has an Entitlement Complex

There are many aspects to an entitlement complex, not the least of which could be the hallmark notion of one person having priority over others. Living at the expense of others. Stepping on others to get to the top. Craving attention. Asserting dominance. Failing to negotiate or compromise. Not being concerned about hurting or offending others. Even going so far as to punish people through verbal abuse and torment if they don’t do what you want them to do. In other words, going to any length to succeed in life. And whining until you “win.” Classic case. Classically vain. Classically Trump!

3) He Has No Sense of Reality

The problem with having everyone around you too well-paid or too afraid to tell you the truth is that you grow up totally lacking in reality. “Yes, sir. No, sir. You’re right, sir.” Those were probably the only words he has ever received from another person, yet they are totally hollow and ineffectual in creating an authentic human experience. That doesn’t exactly prepare a person for dealing with the real world.

4) He Has No Personal Filter

Opinions are like….bellybuttons. We all have them. But, seriously, this guy has no filter for his. Somewhere along the way, he fell under the misguided delusion that everyone, everywhere, should be lucky enough to hear his nuggets of “wisdom.” So he spews these delicious gems freely in the direction of any idle ear. As most could guess, this behavior is a byproduct of that entitlement complex. Because he has always been surrounded by sycophants, he’s never been punched in the face or told to shut the “front door.” As a result, he has been bred without any sort of social graces that would be befitting to a president…or any human being!

5) He Is Disloyal

Divorce. Divorce. And, future divorce. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are certain circumstances that allow for this life-change. And I don’t fault people for finding their bliss. But, come one…three marriages?! What happened to the concept of making it work?! Perhaps that’s only a concept for those of us who actually work.

6) He’s A Cheater

He isn’t self-made. All of his fortune (or at least the pivotal part which formed his early nest-egg) was handed to him. Literally. And how hard would it be to become a millionaire (billionaire?) after being given millions in investment properties…in Manhattan?! Not to discredit the authentic nature of his idiocy, but a person would have to be pretty dumb! It is so very unimpressive that he merely took some golden thread and spun a golden cloth. Big whoop. At best, it is a tepid reminder of “Richie Rich” building golden towers that go nowhere for people who won’t remember them. And, to top it all off, when these golden towers go asunder (as his history shows they often do), he simply cheats his way out of debt by filing for bankruptcy – a cowardly way to reboot your financial system.

7) He’s Rude

McCain isn’t a war hero? Obama doesn’t have an American birth certificate? Megyn Kelly has blood in her eyes? Sheesh! And that’s only a few of the clean insults! If this ruffian had been raised rather than hatched, he would have learned a few wise words that the rest of us know – “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” But, after removing the vile quips, what else would there be for Trump to talk about? After all, he doesn’t really know much about…anything. Except tantrums. And trophy wives. Or bad hair. Maybe even a failed venture or two (or three or four). However, anything pertaining to or assisting with diplomacy is far, far out of his league. Not exactly the person we want to have talk with Vladimir Putin or Kim Jong-un!

With all of these terrible traits, it would be prudent to worry about what our country could be in for if he wins. However, maybe I’m just a silly optimist, but I still believe in the good of people and the prevalence of common sense. And I believe that Trump will fail. At least, that’s what I’m voting for.

An Elf’s Guide For Momma’s Holiday Survival


It’s that time of year again!!

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These days, it seems to be a holiday requirement for each home to possess their own Elf on the Shelf. And, if you’ve been paying attention, you will notice how every single household is trying to outdo the others in ways of creativity, cutesiness and cheer. Parents are going into full-blown planning mode, months and months in advance, all so that they can come up with new and interesting ways to hide these ubiquitous imps. And frankly, folks, it is turning into insanity!!

I have seen my fair share of moms break down and lose it over a bad Pinterest picture, a plagiarized hiding spot or a momentary creative block. Luckily for me, our family has a very different kind of elf. And he has a very different message! Here are the nuggets of wisdom our elf has imparted to us – tips that have helped me to survive this…

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