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.

 

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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.

 ***

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.

 ***

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.

The End?


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The day has finally come. The end is here. And for weeks leading up to this moment, I have been all but clutching on, giving the old addicts’ excuses for why today should not be the day. How maybe tomorrow will be more optimal for our situation. Extending reasons of closure. Or my son’s health. Or convenience. Or even no real reason at all – just “because.”

Unlike most true addictions, though, I am not stopping because I have a medical or psychological necessity. No one is forcing me. And, if I didn’t follow through with it, there wouldn’t be any negative consequences. Quite the opposite, in fact. I’m sure I could keep going on with things as they are for years to come – possibly even another decade, if I lived in some random hippie-cult. Yet, as charming as that sounds, I don’t and I won’t. So, I am quitting today. Because it is time. I know it is. And, like it or not, I must do it.

What I’m talking about, of course, is weaning. Ending the breastfeeding relationship with my son. Or, in other words, cutting the milk cord.

There is a bright side to this era of change. In my moments of weakness, I try to focus on these otherwise-missed details. I will rejoice in the notion that my breasts and body will once again be mine. I can now consume caffeine, chocolate and cabbage with wild abandon (but, I probably won’t)! I can scrub my nipples with as much soapy water as I desire (though I doubt there will be a need for this)! My days as a spigot, randomly oozing and leaking on my favorite shirts, will be a thing of the past (yet, unfortunately my bladder will still betray me)! Nursing bras, breast-pumps and feeding schedules will be no more (they will instead be replaced with support bras, mammograms and picky eating)!

Yes, we are turning over a new leaf! But, ever the pessimist, I find it easy to allow uncertainty to set in. What if we won’t be this close ever again?, I wonder. What if my breast milk was the only shield keeping him from getting sick?, I fear. What if I’m making an irreversible mistake that I can’t ever change?, I plead.

The truth is, at 14-months, I have done all I need to do. I have given him quite a gift. And nothing can ever take that away. But still, no mother’s list of adventures would be complete without a guilt trip or two. Or three.

As I shed a few small tears, I conveniently forget about the wretched nursing strikes, the times I have been bitten, or the uncomfortable engorgement, let-down, clogged ducts, or wet bed-sheets. Instead, I remember how it felt to hold a small, floppy newborn in the crook of my arm and hear that sweet “chug, chug” sound as he gulped down my colostrum. I cling to the memories of his tiny hands, excelling in their dexterity, reaching and pulling at my shirt while in his favorite position. Or that soft patch of skin behind his ears that I would stroke as he ate. And the way his eyes would look glazed over and languid, so satisfied with my offering that he seemed at perfect peace.

Now, with him walking around, eating people food, and coming up with ideas of his own, he will certainly start to travel in circles further and further from my reach. He will transition from being my baby to being my kid, someday taking that leap from childhood to adulthood, and then from there into the oblivion of old age. I shudder.

The sentimentality of these things is stifling, I admit. But, if I want to be completely earnest, there is still another layer of my pondering that should be noted. Something whose loss will make me sad. So very sad.

As I push the Boppy deeper into the dark recesses of my closet, I sigh. I am all-too-aware that when I quit this breastfeeding journey, I will also have to quit something else I enjoy: reading. Not to say that I can’t still do it. It’s just the matter of practicality. And time. And the fact that there are scant moments during my day that will be calm enough or quiet enough to foster a suitable environment.

As proverbial lemons turn into lemonade, it seems nursing’s greatest challenge turned into a remarkably wonderful situation for me. Because my baby was so picky about his surroundings, he would only be breastfed in a dark, quiet room away from all noise and distractions. As a result, we would lock ourselves away from the world for countless minutes, several times each day, every single day, for as many months. In the beginning, I remember it feeling like an intrusion on my time. An interruption. A partition between us and the rest of the family. However, soon enough (almost as soon as I received a Nook for my birthday) that time started to feel like a mini vacation.

Basking in the words of others, I managed to complete more books in fourteen months than I had in the past decade. I finished the entire collection of musings by David Sedaris. I read about Malala and her struggle for girls’ education in Pakistan. I consumed the silly plots of World War Z and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter like they were candy. I polished off a murder mystery or two, along with some nameless trash novels. And then there was Anne Frank’s diary. And The Canterbury Tales. And that beautiful epitaph Sonali Deraniyagala wrote for those she lost in 2004’s tsunami.

I read so many wonderful books! And they each felt like little friends who kept me sane during times that otherwise would have overwhelmed me. But now they, too, will be gone. Perhaps, not literally. They will still exist on my hard-drive, floating around digitally in the clouds above us. Or on some nondescript server, embedded in a flurry of 1’s and 0’s. But, metaphorically, they will be gone. And with it, all sense of calm that once remained a calculated part of my day.

Suddenly, as this reality sets in, the fears hit me even stronger. Only this time, they are different fears. What if I never get to read another book again?, I wonder. What if I never get another quiet moment to myself?, I fear. What if I could have just one more peaceful day?, I plead. After all, quitting is for sissies. And hippies aren’t so bad! Maybe I will just finish weaning him after this last chapter… Or book…

I Am The Infected: Breaking The Silence Behind Pinworms


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That’s right. I have it – that thing no one ever talks about. I am infected with a plague that is growing inside of my body, an ailment so damning and taboo that I am unable to confess it to anyone. But I walk around in shame, hanging my head low, worried about the prospect of spreading it to others. I feel so alone. And dirty. And disgusting. But I know I can’t be the only one.

Statistically speaking, given the contagious nature of my malady, and with figures concluding that as many as 1 in 7 people in the world are infected at any given time, I know that there are others out there. People just like me. People looking to break the silence. And yet, there are no discussions. No ribbons. No awareness drawn to the issue. It is the biggest secret that most people will never tell.

As a result, there are a lot of things we don’t know about controlling the problem or reversing the spread. Questions remain unanswered. Resources are outdated or hard to come by. And, in our absence of education about the matter, many of us are doomed to failures that will result in becoming infected again. And if you are like most sane people in the world, once you have suffered with this you will never, EVER want to experience it again. So, despite my shy nature, my mother’s lessons in etiquette, and my hope to retain a shred of dignity, I am opening up about what I have learned in my fight against these invaders.

1. The First Pinworm Egg. Ever.

The first question most people with this upsetting problem will ask is “How did I get this?!” Truly, it could come from any number of places. But, most likely, as surely as you are reading this, you have a small child in your life (whom you love dearly) that is the sole culprit. And it’s not their fault, exactly.

They probably go to school. And the playground. And the library. And interact with other kids who go to other schools. And playgrounds. And libraries. And all of them, especially the youngest ones, do the things that grown-ups only do in private. They scratch their bottoms. And if their bottoms are coated in pinworm eggs, then chances are those grubby little fingers will also have at least 1,000 eggs just waiting to be smeared all over any surface they can grab. Hand rails. Door knobs. Books. Toys. Walls. Or, best of all, adult hands who love the feeling of their child’s warmth and innocent embrace.

Scientists have calculated that anywhere from 10-40% of children have pinworms. So, I’m not saying don’t hold your child’s hand – just be aware that you may be holding onto so much more life than you realize!

2. Pinworms Eat Shit And Then Die. But Before They Do, They Lay Lots Of Eggs.

It’s true. Their food supply is that endless trough of waste that comes through our bodies. Yesterday’s Chinese take-out. That piece of fried chicken we ate for dinner. Or perhaps this morning’s bagel. They thrive off of our “leftovers” and will scavenge until they get the nutrients they need.

And, just when it seems they will eat anything, apparently even pinworms have preferences. They tend to become empowered if we eat mass quantities of meat and sugar. But, fruits and vegetables, not so much. They will spit them out like any petulant child. Everyone is a critic, I suppose!

The best part of their “date night” ritual, though, is that after they have had a great, big meal, they do what any star-crossed pair would do. They copulate. Then, while doing their best Romeo and Juliet imitation, the male dies as the female makes her way down the colon to the anus, where she will then lay her best 10,000 eggs before dying. Oh, it would all be poetic if it weren’t so very gross.

3. Pinworms Eggs Are Microscopic.

This is probably the most terrifying fact of all. It means that they can be anywhere. Everywhere. And since they are too small to be seen by the naked eye, they are likely in places that you would least suspect. Kitchen counters. Door knobs. Toothbrushes. Toys. Computer keyboards. The possibilities are truly endless. And they aren’t just on these things for a little while. Nope. They can set up shop and remain as a potential hazard for up to three weeks. THREE WEEKS!

For those of you counting, that’s 21 days. Depending on your personality, it can either be 21 days of blissful naïveté in not knowing what is around you….or, if you’re like me, it can be 21 days of being ultra-paranoid that everything you touch could be contaminated. If you are the latter, Clorox wipes will become your new best friend. So will hand-washing. That is, until your hands start to crack, bleed and mourn the loss of your more sensible past-life.

4. Pinworm Eggs Can Be Airborne.

As if the whole microscopic thing weren’t bad enough, pinworm eggs are virtually weightless. That’s not a big deal, per se, unless you realize that this means that one slight gust of wind (say, from walking across a room, changing your clothes or sneezing) can cause them to breeze through the air, going along from one object to another, virtually catapulting along until they find their final resting place in your gut. All it takes is an innocuous activity. One time of rustling papers or sorting through a clothes hamper. You can breathe them in without knowing it, just like you can inadvertently eat them without seeing them. Again, the possibilities of transmission are seemingly endless.

So, not only can every surface be contaminated, but every motion can spread the bio-hazard. The best thing to do, for those of you unable to sit fearfully still in one spot for three weeks at a time, is to simply clean everything! If you can see it, you should clean it. Wipe down all surfaces with a bleach-laced wipe. Dunk plastic toys in a bleach/water solution. Anything that can be washed in the dishwasher or washing machine should be washed. The floors should be mopped or vacuumed. Pretend your mother-in-law is coming over and scrub, scrub, scrub. If it helps, even imagine that you are hosting a stately dinner party or inviting George Clooney over for the night. Just do whatever it takes to get that house clean(er).

5. UV Light and Heat Destroy Eggs.

Everyone is afraid of something. Pinworms are no exception. They fear two things: UV light and heat. These are the two things that can bring them down. Since we can’t just open up our roof and douse every inch of our homes in warm sunlight, the next best thing you can do is open your curtains. Let the light in. And then wash your clothes, pajamas, towels, bed sheets, blankets and washcloths in the warmest water possible. Dry them with an even hotter heat. And then do it all again…just to be sure. If you repeat this process constantly over the course of treatment, you will likely get rid of the bulk of the household problem.

6. Pinworms Hate Pineapple, Papaya, Pumpkin Seeds, and Garlic.

Some people like to think holistically. Personally, when I am faced with a challenge, I prefer to think in a more nuclear fashion. I don’t usually have the patience or the nerves to “wait out” the enemy. I prefer instead to “nuke” the problem and make it magically go away. Of course, with that said, it doesn’t hurt to add a little holistic warfare to the mix. As they say – “Can’t hurt, might help!”

So, in terms of natural remedies, it has been touted that the acidic nature of pineapple makes pinworms shrivel up and die. As for why they don’t like papaya, pumpkin seeds, or garlic, I am not exactly certain of the science behind them; but, these treatments have been around for centuries. And who am I to balk at them?! Anyway, whether or not they actually do any good, it may not be a bad idea to eat them like their going out of style during this critical time. After all, there’s nothing wrong with overdoing it…is there?

7. Hand-Washing Is Your New Job.

Seriously. If you want to bring these worms down, you have to wash hands at least a million times a day. No joke. Wash them after you go to the bathroom. Before you touch your baby. After you change his diaper. Before you get lunch ready. After you have touched the cereal boxes. Before you make lunch. After you have cleaned the dishes. Before you brush your teeth. After you pick up toys. Before you touch your iPad. It will start to feel like you live (and may even die) at the sink. But, despite how ashy, cracked and painful your hands will become, remember the old adage – cleanliness is godliness – and then pity those poor chafed deities from mythology! If you are not as stoic as they were, don’t be afraid to lotion up like a prepubescent boy! Trust me! It will be your only saving grace.

8. Buy Pinworm Medication Online. Avoid (Some) Embarrassment.

So, it’s not just bad enough that you have this problem. Or that your family may have it, too. Or even that you have had to endure 900 loads of laundry in a mere four days time. Nope. The cherry on top of this entire experience will come when you must make that painfully embarrassing trip to the store to buy the medication. I personally tried to accomplish this at a large chain store. More specifically, Target. And, you know, nobody shops at Target. Nobody!

As people were milling around, on the day that I was there, it seemed that everyone had some small stake in the pharmacy section. People were walking back and forth, up and down the aisles, as I had never seen before. I thought I had remembered those aisles previously being barren and desolate – but maybe I had been thinking of CVS instead. Either way, I tried to wait out the crowds. However, after thirty minutes of pretending to check out different brands of deodorant, I realized that I just had to suck it up and get what I came to get. And to do that I would need to talk to the pharmacist.

When I got the nerve up, I quietly and discreetly asked for the medication, only to have the (young bastard) pharmacist ask me to repeat it not once, not twice, but three times! Then, in his loudest voice, he proclaimed “Ah, yes, pinworm medicine. That should be on aisle 23. But, we have some right here, too!” He handed me the box with not a shred of remorse as an odd array of customers looked sideways at my secret. Oh, joy, I thought. How very helpful. And humiliating.

It was only after I got home that I realized Amazon and Drugstore.com also sold such things. And if I had just bought it from them, I wouldn’t have had to endure such a scene. So, lesson learned, I would strongly recommend that these things be purchased online and kept on hand for whenever the need will arise. And, as long as you have kids, the need will arise.

9. Take Two (Or Three…Or Four) Rounds Of The Medication.

The box of the pinworm medication says that one round of medication is all it takes to clear up your problem. WRONG! Since the medication only kills the adults and not the eggs, it would behoove you to take another round or two (or three) just to make sure any wayward eggs are destroyed. After all, who wants to do all of this housework and laundry only to turn around and have to do it again in a few weeks. I mean, except for the fact that you will have to do it anyway…but, who’s counting. Somehow it just seems worse when it’s forced upon you by tiny organisms crawling out of your backside.

10. For All Of Their Ickiness, Pinworms Don’t Really “Do” Anything To People.

Yeah, I know I have reacted to these creatures as though they were the worst invaders known to man. In my most horrified moments, I even have had nightmares that they were the size of earthworms and had sharp, pointed teeth like a young puppy. But, as we know, that is not the case at all. In earnest, my behavior, my frenzy, could be chalked up to the simple fact that this is my phobia. (Really, it’s #4 on the list of at least 20 thought-consuming fears – but that’s another topic in and of itself!)

As most are aware, a phobia is an extreme or irrational fear of something. Pinworms are gross, they are pesky, they are inconvenient, but they are NOT life-threatening. They are not the boogey men they may seem. They do not really harm people. They simply want to find a nice warm place to live where they can set up a metaphorical white-picket fence, raise a few (thousand) kids, and die after having a decent time on this planet. Just like us. The only difference is that their house is a colon and they like to raise their kids on an anus. So, maybe it could be said that they are no different than the residents of New Jersey. 

11. You Have To Pull Yourself Together. For The Kids.

I know that I most likely got these things from my daughter. I know she is often the Typhoid Mary of our household. And I know in years to come we will find ourselves facing many more battles with the things she brings home (viruses, pets, boyfriends). But, though this may be true, it is important not to fall apart and blame her for this nightmare.

As much as I wanted to unfurl the hazmat suit and spray toxic substances all over our entire quarantined home, my better judgment pulled back the reigns and made me realize what is important. My family. My husband. My son. My daughter. They may all be carriers of some sort of pestilence. They may have infected me. They may even infect me again. But, it is important not to fall apart over it. Or make them feel insecure, unloved and dirty.

Yes, it is hard to keep the heebee-jeebee’s from getting to me some days. There are moments when I sit on the toilet and cry, thinking of all of the prospective problems that we will face one day (a recurrence of this one problem included). But, the hippies do have it right about one thing – we should really just live in the moment, because it is the only thing we truly have. Well, and worms, too. But at least that will soon change, I hope.

The Opposite Of June Cleaver


june cleaver

Yesterday I reached an epiphany, an awareness about myself that was as startling as it was obvious – I am the polar opposite of June Cleaver. My hair is not set in any particular style. In fact, I am lucky if it sees a brush once a day. I do not clean house in dresses and heels. Actually, I rarely wear anything other than pajamas and bare feet. Pearls never drape around my neck. Only burp clothes caked with dried snot and baby food. My house, though tidy-ish, is not necessarily “company ready” at any given second. I usually require advanced notice of a day or two before someone “drops in.”

My meals, though the aim is nutrition, sometimes burn, sometimes fail and sometimes come out of a box. I’ve never made a roast anything. I’ve never been successful in getting my family to eat their peas. And, sadly, our dining table is a mere charade filling a void in a useless room. We eat our meals – all of our meals! – hunched over the coffee table, in front of our TV, just as I always vowed I would never do.

And that is just the surface stuff. My list of failures and low-points could trail on in a seemingly endless barrage of pathetic details. Episodes that would be funny were they not true.

Yesterday held one such example. During his afternoon nap, my nine-month old son managed to grab an almost empty lotion bottle from his changing table. I had no idea his small arms could reach so far – but they could, and they did! When he awoke and I got him out of his crib, I noticed the bottle in his possession. Then I realized he had apparently had his way with it and had (I assumed) eaten a small portion of the remaining lotion.

In a frenzy, I told my daughter to go play in her room while I did something for a moment. I didn’t want to tell her what was going on because I didn’t want to scare her. More honestly, though…I really just didn’t feel like answering her potential questions. (What happened? What are you doing? Why did he eat the lotion? What’s in lotion? What’s going to happen to him? Is he going to die? If he does, can I have his room?) So, I left her in her room, with my son in my arms, while I went to call Poison Control.

As I sat on the phone with a wonderfully calm professional, my daughter started to yell in the background. It wasn’t a cry for help, though. Instead, it was that all-too-familiar yell for “Momma!” In the background, it grew louder and louder, increasing in pace as much as in volume, with no feasible break in between for me to helpfully reply. As her screaming for me grew more and more desperate, my embarrassment grew with it. I imagined that the man on the phone from Poison Control thought we lived in a crazy house. All of that yelling. The sounds of an unhappy and restless baby. A mother asking, in frazzled tones, about her child eating lotion. By the end of it, I was almost certain that he had one finger on 911, just in case this picture turned ugly.

Sure, I wanted to attend to my daughter. But with no break in her screams, and my intention to make us seem decently normal for the man on the phone, I did the only sensible thing – I shut doors and burrowed further down the hall of our house, as far from the yelling as I could get. By this point, I had made my way into the laundry room, completely at the other end of the house. Any further, and I would have escaped through the back door. It was pathetic. But the worst part hadn’t even come yet.

After I got off of the phone (and after finding out that the lotion would not harm my son), I ran into my daughter’s room to see exactly why she had been yelling. She replied “Nothing. I just wanted to ask if we were going to have dinner soon.” Really?! The yelling, the banshee screams, the frantic shouting of my name while I was on the phone was for that?! THAT??? And that was the moment I lost my shit. Big time!

I lashed out at my six-year old baby girl. I growled at her in a voice so guttural that even a demon would have been scared. I shouted the worst, most horrible profanities that even a drunken sailor would swear were cruel. And, the anger, the overwhelmingly uncontrollable ire, just poured out of me like water from a broken dam. In that moment, as I delivered such a horrible display of parenting, I stood beside myself in angst, living an almost out-of-body experience. I knew it had all gone wrong right as it was unfolding, and yet I couldn’t stop any of it from happening. The tone, the words, the whole moment was something that had spilled out of me too easily. And it was a moment I could never take back.

She and I sat in silence in her room, unsure of how to proceed, for a few minutes following. Just awkward and hurt, disappointed and upset. And sad. We both shed many tears over the incident. We both made our apologies. We hugged and moved on with the day. But, even after we returned to smiles and happier times, I still couldn’t shake what had happened. And that was just one day. There were other times. Other things. My weaknesses, my impatience, my desire for control, my inflexibility – all of them, causing conflict, upset, discord, problems. It seemed a constant and recurrent theme.

And then June Cleaver appeared. On TV. There she was! “Leave it to Beaver” was on. Barbara Billingsley stood, reprising her famous character – the nurturing, loving mother. Buoyant. Chipper. Flexible. And endlessly patient. No. Matter. What. Though fictional, her representation of motherhood was one that I could recall from childhood, steadfastly holding it in my tiny mind as the ideal. The goal. The patron saint of matronly endeavors. So, after the defeat of the day, I did what came naturally. I said a little prayer to June:

Mrs. Cleaver, June, mother of all mothers, please help me to be wise like you.
Coif my head with gentility and open-mindedness.
Line my lips with a darker shade of self-control over my words.
Help me to stand tall in the heels of better judgment.
Give me the courage to wear a smile that bears true happiness behind it.
Lend me an apron to shield me from the messy nature of life.
And, endow me with pearls of wisdom that will get me through situations gracefully.
Though I will never be like you, please help me not to be so much like myself.

However, it took me a full day, when I finally wrote out the words of this little prayer, before it finally dawned on me – the difference between me and June is not that I’m a failure and she is not. The difference is that I am real person and she is not! If I had stylists making me beautiful, wardrobe artists dressing me up, set designers arranging my house, writers crafting my dialogue, and directors instructing me on how to act then perhaps I would have a picture perfect life, too. Our TV culture has done us in by the way of offering false realities for us to compare ourselves to. And I have bought into it, just as much as the next person.

Well…no more! Though I still love “Leave it to Beaver,” and though I still idolize how easy June Cleaver makes it look, I now realize that I should not compare myself to her any more than I would to Botticelli’s Venus or Michaelangelo’s David. Yes, I make mistakes. In fact, yesterday I made a big one. But, for every one of those moments I have hundreds of other more picturesque “good Mommy” moments that go unnoticed. Times like last week when my daughter and I made cookies together, laughing, licking wayward icing off our fingers. Or a few days ago, while I was holding both of them in my arms, reading them a story, spontaneously kissing their foreheads in between words. Or the airplane motions I have to make with my son’s spoon in order to coax another bite. Or the bandaged boo-boo’s I clean with the care of a surgeon. Or the love notes I pack in my daughter’s lunches. Or the countless games of Go Fish. Or hide-and-seek. Or peek-a-boo. Or listening to the same Barney song for the umpteen-millionth time! My love for them is everywhere. And my love for them is real. Because I’m a mom. Their mom!

Yes, I am the opposite of June Cleaver. Not because I’m a failure. But because I am real. I am what motherhood really looks like. And, barring a few exceptions, for the most part I’m pretty good at it. In my actions, even my worst ones, my children learn that a mother, like all people is a person who makes mistakes and gets back up, someone who is constantly analyzing, learning, trying to be better, though sometimes failing. A mother is also a person. And people have feelings. I am not so stoic that their bad behavior goes unnoticed. And I am not always so flexible to work around something that goes outside of my plans.

I’m trying. Every day I keep trying to be better. Every day I say a little prayer for improvement. However, from now on, those prayers will no longer be to fictional characters – and they will no longer be prayers to help me not be so much like myself. Instead, they will be prayers to help me to be my best self. When it’s all said and done, that is more the ideal, the goal of parenting, than any false image or TV reality.