I know. And I’m sorry.

Dear husband,

I know. And I’m sorry.

I know that I must seem like an over-tired, cranky, anxious, judgmental slob these days.

I know that sometimes my words sting, even though I don’t mean them to. It’s just that I’m used to saying sternly “Eat your dinner. Put on your shoes. Are you listening to me?” and I’m too tired most of the time to remember to soften my tone when I go from mommy-mode to wife-mode.

I know that I am hyper-focused on our two young children, often at the expense of listening to and conversing with you the way that you deserve. It’s just that when there’s a 3 year old screaming “Mommy, can you please get me more milk RIGHT NOW?!?” and a baby crying for me to pick her up, sometimes it’s hard to hear anything else.

I know that I must seem critical of your every move sometimes, suggesting (politely or not) that you hold the baby this way, talk to the 3 year old that way, dress the baby in this or the other, but definitely not that! It’s just that I get into a sort of motherhood groove (call it a ditch if you want) and I sometimes forget that there’s more than one “right” way to do things.

I know that I fly in at the end of the day like a panic-stricken, anxiety-ridden, the-world-is-crumbling-around-me kind of disaster some days. It’s just that I am worried that I won’t get everything done in time to get that baby to bed before she loses her proverbial shit and decides to stay awake for hours past her bedtime. And the thought of even less sleep than I am already getting sends me for a tailspin. Sometimes I forget that I don’t have to do it all alone, even though you’re standing in front of me telling me that.

I know that I sometimes swoop in and take over parenting tasks that you are more than capable of and totally willing to do, and then I get overwhelmed because I just can’t do it all. It’s just that I feel guilty as hell for being away from the kids all day, and I feel like I have to give them every single moment of time that I possibly can to even begin to make up for it.

I know that I am no longer the young, self-assured woman that you fell in love with 9 years ago. It’s just that this parenting thing is hard, and sometimes it shakes my confidence to the core.

I know that I don’t put much, if any, effort into my appearance these days. When I’m not at work, I’m usually wearing whatever is comfortable, easy to nurse in, and still fits me in spite of the extra 10 pounds of baby weight I’m still carrying 10 months after the baby was born. It’s just that I have no time these days to work out. Most days I’m shoving whatever vegetarian, non-dairy food I can find into my mouth so quickly that I don’t even taste it, let alone contemplate its calories and the effect it may have on my body. I know that this is a far cry from my attitude and appearance when we were married 5 years ago.

I know I don’t exude sexiness. Like, ever. It’s just that I’m so tired from being up with the baby every single night that sex is, sadly, very seldom on my mind.

I know I’m different. I know the person you are married to these days may be someone you don’t always recognize. I may or may not be someone you would have chosen if you had known. You never let on and you would never give voice to these feelings if you have them, even though I suspect that you do. But here’s the thing…I will be back. I promise you that some day soon, when the baby is sleeping and the tantrums have passed, when bedtimes are later and the kids aren’t so clingy, when I manage to get some time to focus on me, rather than on them, that I will be able to focus on you again too. When nursing is done and the house isn’t riddled with tiny things to step on or choke on, when the kids can get their own damn milk from the refrigerator and get themselves dressed in the morning, when I’ve slept for more than 3 hours at a stretch the night before, I will give you my undivided attention. So if you can stick it out with me until then, I promise I will be back and better than ever. I hope that the woman you fell in love with, and the one I will be then with a whole wealth of experience and mothering accomplishments under her belt, will be worth the wait. Thank you for waiting for me to come back. I love you.

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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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A Different Village

I dream of a different village.
One where dads kiss boo boos as often as moms, and where it’s understood that moms are as capable of designing nuclear reactors as they are of making bread.
One where every boss understands that there are some jobs that only a mom can do and also that sometimes dad should leave early to pick up the sick child at school.
A world where we all agree that our daughters as well as our sons need to see mothers do so much more than bake bread, care for children, and socialize with other women. They need to see us use our minds and not just wear down our bodies.
Motherhood can be cripplingly isolating. Regression to a time when women were viewed as unworthy, incapable of, and unnecessary for any other contributions to society is not the answer. Expanding the “village” to include men and to recognize the vast potential of women in all facets of society by providing the support, flexibility, and opportunity is. Demanding more of fathers is. Raising the level of discourse on systemic gender inequality and discrimination is.

So today, I won’t invite you over for tea or bread. Today, I’ll meet you in the board room. Please feel free to bring your daughter.

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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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Any Given Day

My husband is a stay-at-home dad by circumstance, not choice. On any given weekday, he watches me rush out the door, leaving him to get our 3 1/2 year old to preschool with a cranky, overtired baby in tow. On any given day, he’ll be lucky if he gets to eat lunch in one sitting, or sitting at all for that matter. He’ll take at least three walks because the baby won’t sleep unless she’s in the car seat, the stroller, or with me, and I’m not there. He does all, and yes I mean ALL of the housekeeping. In the course of that any-given-day, he will wash and fold at least three loads of laundry, including cloth diapers, wash the dishes, vacuum the house, unpack the dishwasher, clean the litter box, and even clean the bathroom. And he’ll do it all with a cranky, overtired baby in tow.
On the weekends, he unbegrudgingly takes the baby from me when he knows that I am exhausted from having been up with her or attached to her all night long. And when he gets back from walking with her, he jumps in to play with our 3 1/2 year old son, who has boundless amounts of energy, even at 7:30 am. They spend the day running around, mowing the lawn, going to playgrounds, kicking soccer balls, and playing with toys. At 3 1/2, our son is not always the easier to get along with. He’s bossy and moody, and easily frustrated. But on any given day, my husband will keep him occupied and moving for the entire day so that bedtime with him will maybe be a little less nightmarish for me.
Almost a year ago, my husband found himself a victim of a poor economy and a dysfunctional company. We had just bought a house, and I was 7 months pregnant with our second child when he lost his job. He never wanted to be a stay-at-home dad, and it’s still not where he wants to be. But he never complains. And to watch him with the kids, you would never know that it wasn’t a choice that he made, but rather one that has been temporarily foisted on him. On any given day, he is an amazing father, who manages to put all of his own disappointments aside and be wholly present with his children.
Today is not any given day. It’s Father’s Day. So today, honey, please know that I see all of this, and I love you more than any words could say. Happy Father’s Day.

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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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It’s hard. Period.

So Gweneth Paltrow made some stupid, judgmental comments on E! the other day.  And then McKenzie Dawson made some comments back calling Gweneth out on her stupid, judgmental comments.  Gweneth says it’s harder being a movie star mom than it is being a “regular mom.”  Stupid.  McKenzie says it’s harder being a “regular mom” than a movie star mom.  Stupid as well.  Every mother has her struggles.  Sure, Gweneth has the luxury of financial independence in a way that most working moms don’t.  But does that mean she misses her kids any less when she travels for two weeks at a stretch?  And sure, many “regular moms” get out of work at 5 pm and get to spend the evening with their kids.  But does that make the financial stress any less?  Or bedtime for that matter?  Every mom has her struggles.

While I certainly appreciate Dawson’s piece for calling attention to the absurdity of Paltrow’s comments, I think she went about it in a destructive and degrading way.  Moms have enough people shooting them down every step of the way.  We don’t need to do it to each other.  So Gweneth and McKenzie, how about we try patting ourselves and each other on the backs once in a while for the outstanding job we’re all doing keeping our heads above water in this great sea of motherhood.  Motherhood is not a competition to determine who has it harder.  It’s hard.  Period.  So let’s stop judging each other and cutting each other down, and instead start supporting and encouraging each other, both publicly and privately.

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