So much noise

The dog tore her ACL.
The not-so-much-a-baby-anymore still isn’t sleeping.
The almost 5-year-old won’t try anything new to eat.
No one wanted to eat dinner last night.
We’ve been fighting all weekend.
The cat screams at me at 5 am every day.
The laundry needs to be folded — even the socks.
The litter box needs to be cleaned.
All of the clothes in the toddler girl’s section are pink-i-fied.
My niece’s college is on alert because of a possible threat.
Animals are being abused at an alarming rate and with a disgusting level of brutality in this country.
Women can’t get ahead professionally if they have children.
There are armed military personnel in Port Authority Bus Terminal when I arrive in the morning.
Cancer.
A police officer beat an unarmed woman he stopped for an alleged seatbelt violation in front of her two children, causing a concussion and long term memory loss.
There was another bill introduced today attempting to regulate women’s bodies.
Another unarmed black man was shot by a police officer.
The Syrian refugees need help desperately.
48 million Americans live in food-insecure households.
There was another school shooting. Lawmakers won’t do anything about it.
A fifth grader shot an 8 year old child with a shotgun today. You won’t see it on the news.

(Lack of) Gun control. Homelessness. Mental illness. Poverty. Climate change. Homophobia. Childhood obesity. Tsunamis. Fracking. Unequal access to education. Wild fires. Hunger. Children killing children. Addiction. Human trafficking. ISIS. Historic floods. Unemployment. Religious persecution. Violence against women. Austerity. Religious wars. War on women. Hurricanes. Genital mutilation. Transphobia. Mud slides. Racism. Euthanasia. Suicide. Homicide. Genocide. Deep sea drilling. Terrorism.

These are all thoughts, words, headlines, and issues that entered my brain through one channel or another within the last 12 hours. The issues swirl around in my mind like one of those timewarp vectors in Austin Powers.

I work in New York City.  Today, during my lunch hour, I felt a palpable level of anxiety that I was not safe.  A freight truck dropped its tailgate with a loud boom and nearly sent me running for safety.  A police siren blared (a very common sound in NYC), and I glanced around for a gunman headed my way.  Maybe I have an anxiety disorder.  Maybe we, as a society, have a collective anxiety order.  Maybe there should be less in the world for us to be anxious about.

It’s a lot of mental noise to listen to all at once.  There is so much wrong in the world, that I hardly know where to start.  I simultaneously want to shield my children from all of the evil in the world, and prepare them for it so they are safe, and I cannot figure out how to do both.  How do I tell them to hide, run, get down if they see someone with a gun, when I don’t even want them to know that there are crazy people out there shooting children in schools?  How do I talk to them about this without scaring the ever-loving life out of them?  I feel the pressure increase in my chest, and suddenly feel like I can’t breathe.  I have to do something.  There’s nothing I can do.  These issues…these overpowering, seemingly unsolvable problems that plague us as a nation, as a society, as a species…what can I, as one person, do about any of them?  I blog.  I read the news.  I share information.  I sign up as a member of organizations that are “fighting the good fight.”  I donate when finances allow.  I vote with my conscience.  It’s not enough.  And I don’t know what else to do.

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Then 4 Happened

Four. It’s a seemingly small number, but today it feels huge. You are four years old. It completely mystifies me that four years ago, you made me a mom. For that, you will forever and always hold a place in my heart that no one else can.

You are my smidge. And even though you’re growing at an alarming rate these days, you’re still so little. We tell you you’re a “big boy” and often demand that you behave like one, but truth be told, you’re still so little.

I see it in certain instances, like when I pick you up from school and you run towards me yelling “Mommy!” as you leap into my arms. And there are times when you unknowingly still call me “mama,” which makes my heart melt and break all at once.  You’re at such a weird age right now. Sometimes you are still a baby. And others, you seem fully grown. Sometimes when I reach for your hand, you choose not to hold mine, but other times you insist that I carry you. I try to let you set the pace with these things, but I probably send you mixed signals about which direction I want you to go. It’s because I can’t choose myself!

The last year brought so much change with the arrival of your little sister, and along with it, the many, many tantrums and defiant behavior that come with being three. Let’s just say that just like everything else you do, you excelled at being three.  You struggled.  You wanted me to yourself.  You didn’t want Little Roo around, especially at bedtime.  But we got through it.  And now, you maybe even like her a little!  You’ve grown into a really good big brother, which I always knew you would be.

You’re a lot like me, and because of that, I understand where you’re coming from most of the time.  You’re strong-minded, stubborn, and always want to be right.  You want to be bigger, faster, smarter, and everything else “more” than anyone else.  As you grow, I hope you can learn to harness the drive and desire to be “more” in a way that brings achievement rather than resentment. I’ll do what I can to help guide you in that direction.

You’re figuring out the rules of social interaction now too.  It’s difficult, I know.  There’s that one kid who you want to play with so badly, but who doesn’t treat you very nicely.  And there’s the kid who wants to play with you, but who you don’t pay much attention to.  I’m trying my very best to instill in you not to waste your time with anyone who doesn’t value you.  I keep telling you “If someone doesn’t want to play with you, find another friend to play with.  Just ignore him.”  I worry that you will get caught up in the drama of wanting what you can’t have, which will not serve you well down the road.  So every night, before bed, I remind you just how special you are, in the hopes that as you grow, this will be an intrinsic belief of yours.

Every night, I hold you on my lap in the chair in your room, and we talk.  Some nights you don’t feel much like talking, so I just hold you for a bit and enjoy the silence, breathing in the little boy in you before he is consumed by the bigger one.  Some nights, we talk about nonsensical stuff and laugh.  But there are special nights, where we connect for real — nights where you give me the chance to pour my love all over you like a waterfall.  The other night, we had a talk about what would happen if you got lost.  I promised I’d always find you, and told you that moms can always find their kids.  You asked “what if I get dead?” and I promised I would never let that happen, that I’d protect you no matter what and always keep you safe.  I meant every word.  I would give my life to save yours in an instant without a moment of hesitation.

You’ve got big, heavy questions brewing in the background of your mind these days.  Daddy and I may not always have an easy answer for you, but we’ll always try to tell you the truth and to reassure you that the truth isn’t so bad.  I hope that you will always talk to me, whether it’s in the still moments before you rest your head on your pillow, or as we drive in the car, or as you run in and out as older kids often do.  Please know that you can always tell me anything.  There is nothing you could ever do or say that would make me stop loving you.  I promise.

You and your sister — you’re everything.  You are my joy and my constant challenge all at once.  You make me a better person than I knew I could be.  You are more vital to me than the air I breath, and more precious than anything else.  I love you all the way to the moon and back (in a red rocket ship with red rocket boosters) ten million, trillion, gazillion times plus infinity!  Happy birthday sweet boy.

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Happy Birthday, Little Roo

photo 1
How is it possible that a year has passed since you arrived? Time is flying by so quickly that I can hardly keep up. But alas, Little Roo, you are a year old already!  The last year has been a whirlwind of work and nursing and chasing your brother and nursing and chasing you and nursing and barely any sleeping at all. But it has, in its own way, been wonderful.

photo 2

I look at you, and I see joy. I see unbridled, unfiltered love and curiosity. You are unyieldingly tenacious and gloriously stubborn in a way that I didn’t think was possible in such a young baby, but it will serve you well in life. You have already shown us that you go after what you want, and you don’t give up!

You are goofy and laugh at things that I would fail to see the humor in without you. You make your dad laugh easier than I’ve ever seen anyone else do. He walks in, your face lights up as you say “Dada!” and then his face lights up to match yours. It’s truly amazing.

photo 3

You are an ideal baby in all respects except one…the sleep thing. Let’s talk about the sleep thing. You are an absolutely AWFUL sleeper! For a long time, you woke up every 45 minutes unless you were sleeping with me. Now, after a year, you’ll sleep for a few hours on your own before demanding to sleep with me or not at all. Truth be told, as much as I protest, a part of me loves to sleep with you. You are warm and cuddly, and it helps me feel close to you. But nonetheless, it would be great if before your next birthday you could figure out how to sleep through the night. Let’s work on that, ok?

You are chatting up a storm. You can say mama and dada and boo, cat, and dog. You can ask for more and tell me you’re all done. You refuse to call your brother anything besides “beh” which we can’t quite seem to figure out but accept anyway. You adore him. You watch his every move with wonder and awe, and the second you are both on the floor together, you climb on him.

I need you to know that I feel a connection with you that I have never felt before. When you were just under 2 months old, as I sat in the sleepless haze of a dark, warm room nursing you to sleep, I wrote this, and I’ve felt this way since the moment you were born:
“I believe that I am interminably connected to you in a way that no other two people are, except maybe me and my own mother. I would know you anywhere. I believe that in a dark room filled with a thousand babies, I would find you in an instant. You are my blood and my blood is you.”

Maybe it’s because you’re a girl, and I feel like I understand the struggles you will face more than I can with your brother.  Or maybe it’s because you’re the baby, and my last chance at this motherhood thing.  There’s a savoring that happens with a child when you know he or she is your last baby.  I am more acutely aware of the fleetingness of it all than I was with the first, so I stop and live in the moment, enjoying the sweet smell of baby on you whenever I get the chance.  All too soon, you’ll be running alongside your brother, and I won’t be able to fully breath in your babyness anymore.  It’ll be a scent that I try to remember, but can’t quite grasp.

Whatever the reason or reasons, the connection is there, and it runs deeper than I anticipated.  It’s difficult to put into words.  It’s like there is a string tied directly from my heart to yours, and it carries all of the feelings you feel to my heart so that I can feel them too.  It’s just a knowing, a familiarity, a truth, that I haven’t felt before.

You and your brother are the light of my life. You give me purpose and remind me what’s truly important in life every single day. I love you with all my heart and I cannot wait to see what the next year brings. I love you Little Roo. Happy birthday sweet girl.

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Happy freakin Labor Day

It was Labor Day weekend and here at our pad, not a creature was sleeping. Things had gotten quite bad.

The boy had a fever, with a bad croupy hack. The girl cut a tooth, on the left, near the back.

“Cuddle in bed with me, could you please mom? I want you to stay, and please leave the light on,”

The four year old begged with a sad look in his eye, when what should I hear from below, but a cry.

The baby was up, and she wanted to nurse. My husband went in and he tried not to curse.

“Switch kids with me” I said as I whipped out my breast. “The boy is quite ill, we’ll be getting no rest.”

“Can I please have some water?” I heard the boy call. So I got him a drink and some Advil for all.

Some for his fever and some for her tooth. I’m not sure she needed it to tell you the truth.

But no one is sleeping. We’ll try anything. It’s been two more hours, so I’m nursing again.

I rock and I sway, get the baby to doze, but when I lay her down gently she always knows.

In comes my hubby. “Did you wash your hands?” I ask? Spreading these germs will double out tasks!

So he washes. He scrubs. Then he gets her to sleep. We both put our heads down and try to count sheep.

She’s sleeping. He’s sleeping. Quick, get me some zzz’s. But now my husband is snoring. Oh jeez!

He’s loud. So loud. Like a Mac truck. And I’m honestly thinking, “Honey, you suck!”

But it’s not his fault. He’s tired too. So up to the guest room with my pillow I flew.

Sweet quiet. Sweet slumber. I drift off at last! Then the cat appears. The black one. The ass.

3:30 am, the cat wants to play. I lock him out. It’s been a long freakin day!

I try one more time. This time success. I sleep for an hour! Maybe a bit less.

The baby wakes up. It’s 4:45. I’m not really sure if I’m dead or alive.

So this Labor Day, when you’re drinking your beer, please have one for me, we’ll be spreading no cheer.

Whatever the time, you can be sure we’re awake. Please think of us and enjoy your break!

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The Real Mommy Wars

Last night, my 3 1/2 year old son threw a fit when we told him it was time to go to his room for a story and bed with his dad.  Last night, he wanted me. So he threw a fit – cried and yelled at the top of his lungs, succeeding in waking up his baby sister, who hardly ever sleeps alone in her crib but was miraculously doing just that. Once she was awake, I knew what had to be done. I disentangled myself from my son’s freakishly strong grasp and went to nurse the baby back to sleep, while my son cried and yelled some more as my husband carried him up to his room.

These are the real mommy wars.

When your kid is the one at daycare who is biting other kids, and you’re desperately trying to figure out a way to get him to stop before they tell you he can’t come back…

When you’re struggling to care for a child or children with special needs who push you well beyond any limits you thought you had…

When your boss criticizes you for not being “more available” in the evenings , but you know that you’re steeped in bedtime routines with your kids from 6 pm on and you just can’t seem to figure out how to make it all work…

These are the real mommy wars.

When your kid scratches, hits, or kicks you and laughs while she does it, no matter how hard you try to explain why it’s not OK…

When you’re up all night every night with a baby who just won’t sleep, and you feel like you just can’t make it a moment longer…

When you know your child is struggling with something huge, but there’s no way you can take the burden from him…

These are the real mommy wars.

Trying to get your screaming baby to latch onto your breast and eat in public, without being criticized, judged, or made to feel as if you’re doing something wrong just by feeding your hungry baby…

Trying to convince your teenager that you’re not the enemy and that it’s OK to open up…

Trying not to cry as you drop your child off at college for the first time and the emotional weight of it all washes over you…

These are the real mommy wars.

Knowing you need to find some sort of emotional reserve to support your husband when you feel like you have nothing left to give…

Knowing that at some point, you have to do what everyone says, and put your own needs first once in a while, but wondering how to do that and where in the world you’ll ever find the time…

Knowing that no matter which choices you make as a mom, someone will tell you that you did the wrong thing, and feeling like you’re never doing a good enough job because of it…

These are the real mommy wars.

Through all of this, if you ask any mom, she will tell you that what made it tolerable, what helped her get through it all, was the support from and camaraderie with other mothers.  In these trying times, we are not at war with each other like the media would have you believe.  We are one.  We are united with a solidarity that no one but another mother can truly understand.

We get through it because we have the support of other moms who know that at the end of the day, it’s not about how clean your house is or how many hours you worked.  It’s not about whether you breast fed or bottle fed today.  It’s not about whether your child is attached or permitted or something in between.  It’s not about whether you parent like a helicopter or like a tiger.

We are touched-out, burned-out, over-tired, sleep-deprived, and guilt-ridden.  We are emotionally tapped but somehow manage to find untold reserves of emotional wealth.  If you want to know what our secret is, it’s simple.  It’s each other.  It’s every other mother who has gone before us, who knows the tricks of the trade that we haven’t yet learned.  It’s passing the tricks that we have learned on to other mothers.  It’s looking at our children and knowing without a doubt that being a mom is the most important job we will ever have.

It’s a knowing smile from a fellow mom in line at the grocery store as your child melts down for the umpteenth time that day.  It’s the compassionate understanding from your boss when you have to leave work early because of some crisis with your child at school, because she’s been there.  It’s your own mom listening to you talk endlessly about your kids when she would probably rather be doing something else, because you’re her kid, and she understands what you’re going through.

The real mommy wars don’t rest between mothers from different backgrounds, or mothers who hold different beliefs.  They don’t arise between moms who think breast is best and those who choose formula.  There is no war between mothers who work outside the home and those who stay home raising their children full time.  The war lies within each of us, every single day, as we try to navigate our way through the most challenging and most rewarding job, the most mundane and most frustrating tasks, and the moments that make our hearts soar and break a thousand times each and every day. The real mommy wars are fought against all the challenges we face, knowing that we have no choice but to figure out how to navigate them without causing irreparable harm to ourselves, our marriages, or our children.  The mommy wars are real, but they’re not what you think.  And the only way to win these wars is to fight them together.

 

 

 

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Fathers of Daughters, Take Note

Last night, I handed my phone to my husband and said, “Here.  Read this.” He grumbled and asked why.  My response was, “Because you’ll need to do this for your daughter one day.”  So he read it, and then asked “Why would I treat my daughter any differently than my son?”  I thought about his question for a moment, and then said, “Because the rest of the world will treat her differently, and you need to help prepare her for that.”

The more I thought about what had transpired, the more I realized how critically important a father’s role is in his daughter’s life, and that perhaps, in some cases, we should be treating girls differently than we treat boys.  So honey, here is a whole host of reasons why you should treat your daughter differently than you treat your son…

daddy and roo

Because you are the first and most important man in her life and she will always look to you for cues about how men should treat women.

Because she’ll grow up in a world where her body and women overall will be simultaneously hypersexualized and shamed.

Because women, on average make 77 cents on the dollar compared to men.

Because at some point, she’ll be told she can’t, or shouldn’t, just because she’s a girl.

Because she’ll read stories about how other women struggle in massive ways in cultures that treat women like property or second-class citizens, and wonder why she is any different.

Because when she has sex she will be slut-shamed and when she doesn’t, she’ll be called a prude.

Because if you don’t, she may give some other guy power over her that he shouldn’t have.

Because her sense of self-worth should include pride in and comfort with her body, but also a recognition that she is so much more than just her body.

Because she needs to understand that her body is about so much more than sex.

Because one day, someone will make her feel like she’s not good enough because of one physical attribute or another, and she will think that her value as a person is intricately tied to her appearance.

Because she will look at other girls and women who are thinner, taller, prettier by social standards and feel less-than.

Because people will say things to her that sound like compliments, but that will make her feel uncomfortable in her own skin.

Because chances are, people will comment on her appearance more often than they will comment on her accomplishments and the challenges she overcomes.

Ultimately, there are things that a father can instill in a daughter that a mother cannot.  As she grows, she will develop more of a sense of self each day.  Let her know that it’s OK to talk to you about her body, and that you love her and are comfortable with all topics, so that she feels safe coming to you with things she may not want to talk to me about.  Tell her why she should never give a boy the power to determine how she views herself, and that she should always feel safe to tell you if something happened that made her feel uncomfortable or felt threatened by a man.  She will undoubtedly go through that typical teenage phase where she hates me, and adores you.  It won’t matter if or how much I tell her that she’s beautiful because of every single attribute she possesses taken together.  But it will matter beyond belief if you, as her father, don’t.  So tell her every day in every imaginable way that she is beautiful, and that her beauty is based on every part of her being, including her body.

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No One Told Me…

No one told me that when you have a second child, everything changes. Of course I knew that from the first. But no one ever really tells you all of the emotional shit that comes along with having a second child. No one told me that my first child, in all his three-year-old glory would turn into a veritable monster. No one told me that the baby would need to nurse at precisely the same moment that I was trying to spend some quality time with the monster. Every. Single. Time. No one told me that bedtime would go from taking one hour, to taking more than three.
But more importantly, no one told me that all of the emotion I felt with my first child would be compounded more than two-fold with my second. No one told me that when I held my new baby in my arms, not only would I be flooded with love for her, but also with the memories of holding my son when he was as small. No one told me that when I began to contemplate returning to work after 3 months with my daughter, I would become teary-eyed with the memory of leaving my son for the first time 3 years ago. No one told me that I would lie in his bed at night and be completely overwhelmed by how big he’s gotten after holding my tiny three month old just minutes before. Every ounce of love and emotion I feel for her is blanketed with nostalgia for the time gone by with him. It’s replete with the knowledge that all too soon, this time with her will be a fleeting memory too, and I will be looking at her with amazement at how big she’s gotten. No one told me that when I see my son now, I also see what the future holds for my daughter. Their lives, past, present, and future, are intertwined in a way that I never expected, wrapped up in me. When I look at either of them, I see them both.  I look at her, and I see him back then. I look at him, and I see her in the days and years ahead. It’s more surreal than I expected, and so much more awesome. And no one told me.

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Handling it

Things you cannot do one handed while holding an infant:
Drive
Button your jeans
Open a jar of peanut butter
Clean a litter box
Bathe a 3 year old
Tie your shoes
Shower
Open a bottle of wine
Fold the laundry
Put your hair in a pony tail
Tear a paper towel off the roll
Stop both the infant and a 3 year old from crying at the same time

Things you can do one handed while holding an infant:
Pee
Make lactation cookies
Eat lactation cookies
Let the dog out
Let the dog back in
Brush your teeth
Feed a 3 year old breakfast
Make dinner
Carry a 3 year old up a flight of stairs
Check your email
Post a photo on Facebook
Complain on Facebook about having or carry an infant everywhere
Send a text message
Call your mom for moral support
Unload the dishwasher
Wash the laundry
Put shoes on a 3 year old
Pet 2 cats simultaneously
Sleep (note: this sleeping method has not been approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics and only applies if said infant will allow you to stop moving for more than 30 seconds without crying.)
Make coffee
Drink coffee
Reheat coffee at least 4 times in microwave throughout the day
Carry a screaming and kicking 3 year old out of a shopping mall

Write a blog post

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For My Daughter

Dear Sweet Baby Girl,

You are here. And you are beautiful in every possible way. You are already a month old, and I have been remiss in writing to you. I want to apologize. I’m sure ate some point you will realize that your brother has a book with letters that I wrote to him before he was born. But you have no such book. I have no good excuse except that life got infinitely more crazy once your brother entered our lives. But still…I am sorry. I am writing now, and I will write again throughout the years.

There is so much I want to say to you that hardly know where to begin. You came into our lives during a time when things were stressful, to say the least. But you have already brought such joy and love with you that things don’t seem quite so bad. I have just under two months left at home with you before I have to go back to work, and I am trying to breath it all in, to soak in every moment of holding you, comforting you, loving you, before I can no longer spend all day every day with you.

I want to tell you about the challenges you will face as a girl and a woman that your brother will probably never have to face as a boy or as a man.  And I want to tell you that you can meet any challenge you are faced with.  I want to tell you that you have more strength than you think and that you can do anything, be anything, if you put your mind to it.  You will face trials and tribulations.  You will be judged, and you will judge others, although I hope you will think long and hard before you do.  But know this – I will never judge you.  As your mother, I will always be there to listen and support you.  There will be times – probably lots of them – when we will disagree.  During those times, I will be honest, but also patient and kind.  I will defend you ferociously to anyone who tries to harm you.  And I will be your biggest fan in all that you ever try to achieve.  When you fail, I will be there to help you pick up the pieces and start again.  And when life fails you, I will do the same.  I will be there to help you find your way at every fork in the road.

I will listen to your dreams and aspirations and do all that I can to make them a reality.  I will tell you about the struggles I have faced in achieving my own aspirations.  Hopefully those stories will seem obsolete to you, as if from another time entirely.

I will hold you when someone breaks your heart and you feel lost beyond being found.  I will listen when you decide to break someone else’s heart and are struggling with the guilt of it.

I have so much more I want to say about what life may throw your way, and how I will be there to guide you, to support you, and to love you.  But alas, I only have so much time before you wake up and cry for me to hold you.  So for now, I will leave you with this – I will love you, unconditionally, and without fail, every single moment of your life, with every breath I take and every beat of my heart. You will never be alone as long as I am alive.  Welcome to the world my sweet girl.  I can’t wait to stand by your side as we see what life brings you.  I love you.

Always,

Mommy

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Leaning out

Coming off a week of solid family time, during which I was able to truly reconnect with my son (to the point of throwing my back out from carrying him so much) and my husband, I found myself placed right back into the common conundrum that plagues so many of us working mothers.  I was faced with an article in my newsfeed this morning focusing on the same issue that’s been dominating much of mom media these days.  Lean in to work?  Or lean in to your family?  Make a decision.  And just like before, I found myself asking the same questions — Why is it a choice?  Why do I have to choose?  Why can’t I do both? In the article, Sara Uttech says that her greatest advice to other working moms is to not be afraid to ask for accommodations (like working from home sometimes), even if the response might be no.  But what happens when simply asking is held against you?  When it leads to the perception (real or not) that you’re not dedicated to your work, or that you can’t handle full-time commitments to both your career and your family?  And what happens when that perception makes you start to question your own ability (and desire) to handle both?

It’s been made clear to me that advancement at work would require more flexibility than I am currently providing.  I strongly believe that advancement at work should  be based on performance, on quality and quantity of work, rather than on the number of hours I am able to log sitting at my desk.  Yet the message I’m taking away is that I need to do more, to be more, all while trying to hold my marriage together, parent my child(ren) and maintain the tiniest semblance of the self that I have worked so hard to build and maintain over the course of my life.

On work days, I spend a total of about two hours with my not-quite-three year old son.  One half hour of that is spent running circles around him in the morning while he sits on the couch and munches on cereal watching cartoons, while my husband and I try furiously to make sure we’re all packed and ready for our day.  So when it comes down to it, I get to spend about an hour and a half of “quality” time with my child each day.  With baby number 2 on the way, I can only imagine it will get harder.

Speaking of baby number 2, I already find myself wracked with guilt, and she’s not even here yet.  By this point in my pregnancy with my first, I had already written him numerous letters, started a baby book, painted a mobile, bought tons of clothes…This time around, I can barely find the time to tread water, let alone move forward.  I already foresee that my first letter to my daughter will be an apology letter for not finding the time to write to her sooner.

And my marriage…well, is it really any surprise that my husband often gets the short end of the stick that is my attention?  There is only so much time in a day, and by the time I get home from work, spend a small amount of time with our son (which often involves a battle over bedtime), prepare what I can for the next day, and eat something, I usually find myself plopped on the couch like a potato, with little energy left for much else.  It’s unfair, and it’s unsustainable, and I know it needs to change.

Through all of this, I am constantly asking myself why I feel the need to do more.  Why am I not just content to do my job and not advance?  Why do I get so fiercely defensive whenever the subject comes up or lose hope altogether and shut down emotionally?  I think that ultimately, what it comes down to for me, is that I don’t understand why it has to be a choice.  I do my job, and I do it well.  I have a strong work ethic and have always been a competitive and driven individual.  For the first time in my life, the glass ceiling doesn’t feel so “proverbial” as I feel my head constantly bumping against it.  As a mother, as a woman, as a human, it goes against everything in me not to push back. Perhaps instead, I should be asking why that ceiling is there in the first place, rather than why I feel the need to push against it.  Maybe I should ask others to take a hard look at why their perceptions are what they are.  This paradigm has got to change.

But I will tell you this…If I am forced to choose between my work and my family, my family will win every single time.  And I don’t mean in the small scheme of things, like missing dinner with my family occasionally.  I mean in the larger scheme of things.  If advancing means less time with my family overall, then I won’t advance, even though I know I can do the job better than most people in less time.  I stand by my conviction that it should not be a choice.  But if it is a choice, I choose my family.  So for the  moment, I am leaning out of choosing and simply living my life.

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The Pigtail Paradox

 My kid is cute. Not just any-other-kid cute — She’s like, Gerber-baby cute. With pigtails in her hair, she pretty much melts the hearts of everyone we encounter. But she absolutely hates it when I put pigtails in her hair. She yells “no!” and runs away whenever I try. 

It dawned on me the other day that by fighting her, and essentially forcing her to allow me to put her hair in pigtails, I am sending her a message that I stand so strongly against in theory, but apparently have not been able to avoid despite my best attempts. By forcing her to wear pigtails because she looks so damn adorable in them, I am basically telling her that her appearance is more important than her bodily integrity. I’m telling her that it’s more critical that the people around her (often complete strangers) think she looks cute than that she be comfortable in her own skin. I’m telling her that her opinion doesn’t matter — that all that matters is that she conform with society’s expectations of how she, as a little girl, should look. 

When I think of it in those terms, it’s easy to say I will never attempt to put pigtails in her hair again. But what I will continue to struggle with is my own deeply-rooted belief that a little girl should look a certain way. I have noticed without question that people actually react to and treat her differently when her hair is in pigtails. It’s not as if she doesn’t get noticed without them. But when she has them, it’s a foregone conclusion that people will stop us to soak in her adorableness. As a mother, perhaps on some primal, instinctive level, I want the world to adore my children. I want them to stand out from the crowd as smarter, cuter, better… 

It’s not an easy thing to admit that I want my kid to be better than yours, but there it is. I said it. And it’s equally difficult to admit that I may be willing to infringe upon my daughters autonomy over her own body to ensure that she is liked. 

There’s a lot of research out there about society expecting women to be like-able. I’ve read a lot of it. I’m aware of the double standard. I know that the entrenched expectation that women be like-able leads to women being paid less than men, being held back professionally for being assertive in the workplace, to women feeling somehow less-than their male counterparts. And yet… I keep putting pigtails in my daughter’s hair against her will. It seems that it may be time for me to hold myself to the same standard I hold the rest of society to…to allow women complete autonomy over their bodies, and to reward strong-willed, assertive behavior, rather than suppressing it. 

My daughter is strong-willed. She challenges me in ways that I never thought possible. She refuses the most basic requests with the lack of rationality that is all too common among toddlers. She knows what she wants, and perhaps more importantly, what she doesn’t, and she’s not afraid to express herself. These qualities, while challenging, are ones that I hope will persist as she grows up. I can only hope that she will maintain her self-confidence and belief that she should have ultimate control over what is done to her body, and over her appearance and the value that should be placed on it. I want her to grow up knowing that she is beautiful, in every conceivable way, no matter how she wears her hair, no matter how she chooses to dress, no matter how she chooses to allow others to interact with her physically. I want her to have the confidence to stand up for herself when she knows she’s right, even in the face of a society that says she shouldn’t. 

As for me, I will continue down this path of introspection, and from now on, if she doesn’t want pigtails, there will be no pigtails. 

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We Got This! 

If you’re anything like me, you are constantly feeling like you don’t have your shit together as a mom, and that all of the other moms around you do. It’s a constant, nagging voice in the back of my mind most days. I see moms out with their kids, smiling and playing, as if parenting is the easiest and most joyful thing in the world. And I think to myself, “Joyful? Yes, most of the time. Easy? Hell no!” Some days it’s a constant battle not to scream at my kids. Other days I struggle to remember to take care of myself. Everyday, I try to remind myself that things around me are often not what they appear. 

Case in point…

A few months ago, my husband and I and our 2 young children met some friends in the city for lunch. We arrived at a “family-friendly,” yet pretty upscale restaurant on the upper west side of Manhattan only to find that they had screwed up our reservation. After some arguing about why our table could not accommodate both a high chair and a seat with a booster, we relented, and put our 4 year old in a regular adult chair. By the time we got to the table, I was already pretty fried. 

Our friends, two couples who each had small children (one about 6 months old and not yet mobile, and one just under 2) seemed calm and content with our over-crowded, noisy location. 

I spent the next hour sitting between my 4 year old and my 13 month old, frantically trying to keep them happy, fed, quiet, and relatively clean. This is no small feat, mind you. Kids are messy, and there was ketchup involved! 

As I sat there, feeling somehow less together than the other two young moms at the table, I noticed something. They were in the same boat! I watched one mom visibly cringe and whisper to her husband for help as her 6 month old pulled a hot cup of coffee off the table and onto the two of them. And I caught the other mom quietly but quickly escape from the table after her 2 year old threw ketchup on her beautiful white sweater. 

What I realized in that moment, is that for the most part, we are all pretty much faking it. We, as mothers put so much pressure on ourselves to be everything to everyone, to appear like motherhood is easy and fun at all times, and to never let on if we are anxious, unsure disasters on the inside, that we often fail to look around and notice that we are ALL putting on the same act.  

So here it is…my confession du jour…I am a total, utter, and complete disaster about 90% of the time. About 10% of the time, I hit my stride. I am in the zone and parenting is a breeze. But the vast majority of the time, I have no idea what I’m doing.  So if I appear like those moms who’ve got their shit together (which I highly doubt), please know that it’s not the reality you’re seeing. It’s a contrived, intentionally falsified persona who is simply trying to meet society’s expectations of what/who/how a mother should be. 

Even typing that sentence makes me angry. Why the hell should we care what society expects moms to be??? My kids are loved, and they know it. Most of the time, they are happy. They are well cared for, listened to (and actually heard!), fortunate in both material and non-material possessions, and guided when needed and given freedom to figure things out on their own. 

You know what all that means? It means that their dad and I are damn tired! We both work full time and do our best to parent well. It means that there are times when we will fail, and instead of being patient like we know we should, we will lose our cool and yell at our kids. It means we will serve them peanut butter, apples, and cheese for dinner some nights because it’s what they want, and frankly, we have no time or inclination to cook something that they won’t eat anyway. It means that I leave the house unshowered about 50% of the time, often forgetting to feed myself. It means I’ll look disheveled sometimes, but my kids rarely will. 

So the next time you are feeling inadequate as a mom because the mother next to you appears to be showered, happy, and engaged without missing a beat, remind yourself that she’s probably just in her 10% zone, or she’s faking it. Hang in there, mamas!  We got this. 

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The Hundred Years’ (or maybe just 15 months’) War

My daughter is just over 15 months old.  In her short life, she has learned to walk and to talk. She can dance and feed herself with a spoon. But among the life skills in her repertoire, there is one vital skill that is noticeably lacking – the ability to sleep. She has never slept through the night – ever. The longest stretch of sleep she has gotten in her entire life is 7 hours. The longest I have gotten is 4.  Yes, you read that right.  In over 15 months the longest stretch of sleep I have gotten is 4 hours, and that was the exception, not the rule.  On an average night, she wakes up every 2 hours, or 4-6 times. So when you ask me how I am, and I respond “Ok. Tired.” it is a colossal understatement. 

At this point, I am running on such a massive sleep deficit that it is thick and palpable, with black finger-like appendages that have permeated every single facet of my life.  Sometimes I am emotionally volatile in ways that I never knew possible, lacking patience with myself and those around me. I over react on a daily basis. Other times, I am devoid of emotion altogether and apathetic to those around me. 

Some days, I lack the mental acuity to answer even the most basic questions. Other days, I hit some sort of transcendent plateau of existence where I seem to have a higher sense of clarity and lucidity than the average person. On those days, my life feels surreal. 

Most days, I trudge through, not quite sure how I am awake and functioning. I am in the trenches of a war that feels like it will never end, waiting for backup to arrive, but it seldom comes. And when it does, the enemy shoots it down quickly, putting me right back on the front lines. I am not sure how much longer I can hold the line. The enemy is fierce, and cute as hell, making my defeat all but certain. 



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The Privileged Many

In the wake of the recent uprising, protests, and general unrest over the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases, I have begun some serious introspection into my world of white privilege.  The issue is charged, to say the least.  But if we don’t each, individually, begin to look at our lives, our attitudes, and the benefits that are bestowed upon us by virtue only of the color of our skin, then we are missing a unique opportunity to effectuate change.  In the words of Peggy McIntosh from her essay White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack, “In my class and place, I did not see myself as a racist because I was taught to recognize racism only in individual acts of meanness by members of my group, never in invisible systems conferring unsought racial dominance on my group from birth.”  Prior to really paying attention to what is happening in this country, it had never occurred to me that I may be contributing to racism simply by accepting the privilege and dominance that were given to me at birth without my ever asking for them.

I have heard comments from white friends and acquaintances over the last month who believe that they are not part of the problem.  “I am not a racist!” they emphatically cry at every opportunity.  But I hear the same people trying to invalidate the personal accounts of so many of our African American friends, who are simply trying to get us to understand that their experience is, by virtue of a broken system, different than ours.  Acknowledging that blacks in this country face a different life condition than I do does not threaten my ability to live a safe and happy life.  Not acknowledging it, and instead dismissing it as untrue, does us all an injustice.  It perpetuates the overarching, but misguided notion that it is OK to benefit from a system that holds you above others as long as you are not, individually, intentionally oppressing anyone else.

To begin my introspective journey, I am questioning every perception I have of minorities. If I’m totally honest, I am probably part of the problem, which I believe is a result of societal representations throughout my life.

It will take time and effort, but I am trying to reteach myself how to viscerally react to people of color. Now, when I seen an African American walking down the street in NY, I am forcing myself to think “I wonder of he/she has been the victim of profiling or other unjust treatment because of the color of his/her skin,” instead of giving in to the unfounded immediate fear I used to feel. Now, I am beginning to see a sadness behind the eyes of many of these people. I’m looking closer, both at them and within myself.

In her essay, Peggy McIntosh lists some of the ways white privilege manifests in her life.  I was struck by the universality of the items on her list, and also began to think of other ways that I experience white privilege in the course of  my daily life.  I am going to begin acknowledging these publicly every time they occur to me, and I challenge all of you to do the same.  I will be posting status updates on Facebook with the hashtag #thisiswhiteprivilege every time I find myself being advantaged by virtue of the color of my skin, whether it be to the obvious detriment of anyone else, or simply an indication of a more subtle, systemic advantage conferred upon me because I am white.  Through individual introspection and collective dialogue, perhaps we can begin to raise our consciousness and move towards a world where we are all truly equal.

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