Hobbies are Self-Care Too

I was doing some light reading yesterday in the doctor’s office because my appointment never starts more than 40 minutes late and I only have so much battery power on crappy hospital Wifi when I came across a chapter dedicated 100% to my procrastination. It said*, “Eda, the only thing stopping you from editing your WIP is you.”

*I could be paraphrasing. Maybe.

And while that isn’t all the way true, because I also have things like household chores, chasing a toddler, being pregnant, and working two jobs to contend with, I feel like maybe some of those times when I’m scrolling through Facebook searching for articles that confirm the downfall of the Empire or taking my third “Which pizza topping defines your archetype” quiz on Buzzfeed, I maybe could be editing instead.

I’m not even at the boring part of editing. I’m reading through to make sure it makes sense. I’m reading “for enjoyment” (and continuity). I’m not even proofreading, man. You’d think I could get through it quicker.

It’s a little bit procrastination, a lot of distraction, and a fair amount of guilt holding me back. There ARE, in fact, other things I should be doing. But if I care about this project, I need to make time for it. Writing and self-publishing is a hobby and I’m content with it remaining so but it’s one that keeps me sane so yeah, I need to make time for it too.

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The Fate of the Furious Mom Protagonist

Yes, I am still on a writing break because yes I am still pregnant, caring for a toddler all day and packing everything in my house for an impending move.

HOWEVER…

I need to talk about this:

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Don’t worry, they don’t fight it out for Dom. The writers solve the problem for them.

My husband and I saw Fate of the Furious this weekend while my in-laws watched my son. It was the first date we’ve had that didn’t involve grocery shopping AND there was dinner involved. Magical stuff.

We also both love the Fast and Furious franchise, he for the cars and the action, me for the kickass women and the action and I guess the cars too… a little. They are nice cars.

SPOILERS WITHIN. BE FOREWARNED. YOU KNOW, BECAUSE FAST AND FURIOUS IS KNOWN FOR IT’S MIND-BLOWING, M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN TWISTS AND TOTAL LACK OF OBVIOUS FORESHADOWING. ANYWAY… SPOILERS.

So Dom has a kid, huh? Never would have guessed (from that scene in the bedroom where they talk about kids)! But it’s with another woman?! Who has been kidnapped?! But, but… he just got Letty back and SHE wanted a kid and how are they going to Three’s Company meets The Brady Bunch their way out of this?!?!

Well, kids, Dom is all about family, right? More specifically, he’s all about found family. It helps when his BFF/homoerotic man friend marries his sister but even the people with no relation to him–blood, law, or otherwise–are part of his family. So it’s possible, right? Elena and the kid, Letty and Dom, all the other car-loving freaks, all One Big Happy Adventure-Having Family? I mean, if they can accept Statham after all the crap he’s pulled, then certainly, CERTAINLY they can find a place for both Letty AND Elena, right?

No. False. And not because Letty can’t handle it. She doesn’t even get the chance. Because the writers decided on the easiest possible route to the happiest possible ending: Kill the Bio Mom. Save the nuclear family. Who needs bio moms anyway?

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*Not an exaggeration.

And do they mourn Elena when they reunite at their NYC rooftop cookout that everyone else attends? Nope. Gone and forgotten. Movin’ on without even a nod to the woman who gestated, birthed and cared for this child while Dom was off driving cars through skyscrapers in Dubai* or whatever.

Did I mention I’m pregnant? And that cartoons make me cry? So I lost my shiz a little when they killed Elena. I mean, obviously, I would have gotten up and stormed out if they had killed the child because NO! NO! YOU DON’T DO THAT! But as the mom in the audience identifying with the mom on the screen, yeah, I had a hard time with Elena’s death.

LITTLE DID I KNOW that that would not be the worst part of my evening.

When we got to my in-law’s house to pick up our toddler, I found out that my mother-in-law had taken it upon herself to start potty training my child. Naturally, I lost my damn mind and let loose a fiery tirade at my husband about overstepping boundaries and children learning things in their own time instead of competing with other children in the family for grandparent bragging rights and laziness in parenting and childhood trauma, etc., etc. And while I don’t feel like anything I said wasn’t true and I have little intention of ever apologizing, it did take me a good ole cry and reflect the next day to figure out why I had reacting So Very Strongly.

Because that kind of action kills the biomom. It assumes that a child can be taught anything by anyone and as long as said child has a mom surrogate–a grandmother or stepmother or badass stunt car driving mentor–the mom isn’t necessary.

And this isn’t to say that a child can’t learn and thrive with a surrogate! That doesn’t even mean it needs to be a woman!! I have several gentleman friends who have adopted or fostered children with their husbands and those children are indeed doing very well. I know children who were adopted by grandparents or aunts and uncles because their bioparents either weren’t fit to raise them or were no longer living. A child with loving caretakers is a child with the potential to thrive. That’s not what this is about.

This is about negating a present, loving, capable mother for the sake of someone else’s story line.

In Fate of the Furious, it was about killing off Elena so Dom could have his uncomplicated happy ending. In my life, it was about my mother-in-law being the big damn hero by potty training my reluctant son so her sister-in-law would stop bragging so damn much about her own grandchildren (here’s another spoiler: my aunt-in-law will never stop bragging about her own grandchildren and my son will never be as wonderful and amazing and brilliant as her grandkids, not ever, no way and the fact that my mother-in-law still falls for this Grandparent Games baiting nonsense has everything to do with HER sense of self and insecurities and nothing whatsoever to do with my parenting skills or my child’s well-being).

You know who else pulls this crap? Disney. Disney kills off biomoms like it was no big thing. Star Wars. Children’s cartoons. Those freaking annoying teen shows where all of the adults are stupid and inept? They kill off moms for convenience too and replace them with stepmoms and surrogates that may be somewhat capable but probably not. They may be kind and caring, but probably not. And sometimes, maybe, the loss of the biomom is some sort of catalyst for the main character’s plot, but often it’s just a convenient device.

Either way, the biomom dies to serve someone else’s story.

Well, let me tell YOU something! I HAVE MY OWN DAMN STORY! And I refuse to be killed off literally or figuratively for the convenience of anyone else.

I … am not Elena. I am not cowering in a corner with a gun to my head saying, “PLEASE, JUST SAVE OUR SON!” before dying tragically while Charlize Theron accidentally strangles my child with her ill-conceived white lady dreadlocks.

Oh no. I am Jason Freaking Statham kicking some malcontent in the throat before shooting his associate in the balls while shielding my adorable little love nugget as he listens to the Chipmunks on comically large headphones. THAT is the kind of mother I am, bitches. And I will be potty training my own child when he is GODDAMN GOOD AND READY.

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When I’m not pregnant, I can kick higher than that. For now, it’s strictly ball crunchers and knee disjointers and you better HOPE you ain’t tryin’ to hurt MY babies.

I made a joke recently to a lady friend that I would start writing children’s books as soon as my kids were old enough to give coherent feedback. Now I’m starting to think the best children’s book I could write would be “Mommy has a life, too, you had better RESPECT that.”

Look for it on Amazon.

The Path of Moderate Resistance

I believe that taking the path of least resistance–while very Tao, maaan, VERY Tao–is usually the lazy path, the indecisive path, the path of fear and trepidation and the path least likely to lead to change or measurable results.

I also believe that taking the path of most resistance–of choosing to do something difficult for the sake of doing it or because it’s the accepted thing to do, or somebody bullied you into it–is pointlessly messing with the natural flow of life and will probably lead to failure, pain, fear, and loss.

By the way, this is not a political post. I feel like I always have to clarify that these days.

My son had a doctor’s appointment recently and when his snarky condescending doctor asked about his sleep habits, I told her (some of) the truth: he still wakes up at night but less often. Sometimes he goes back to sleep on his own, sometimes he calls for me and I have to lie down with him to get him back to sleep.

She didn’t say anything, but she did give me the wicked side eye. She’s a proponent of sleep training, you see. She has three children and she’s a doctor so she knows everything there is to know about children and sleep habits. Except for children who hate sleeping, of course, which is my child.

I know that if I had asked (and belieeeeeve me, I learned not to ask for her advice or opinion a long time ago), she would have chided me for not reading the 6 books she recommended to me forever ago and told me that I’m a horrible mother for helping my child fall asleep. She also once told me that if I rock my infant son, he’ll still be 13 years old and expecting me to rock him. I’m absolutely positive that’s true. All 13-year-old boys who were rocked to sleep demand their mothers rock them every night. That’s common knowledge, right?

But my son’s like me: busy minded. And it’s hard for us to fall asleep. So I lie down with him. We watch a couple of videos on my phone (also a no-no according to everyone who can sleep without help). We talk about what we did that day or about his toys or about the video we just watched. And I let him snuggle up to me and pull my head toward his for kisses until he falls asleep.

I don’t think I’m taking the path of least resistance. I don’t co-sleep (unless I fall asleep there which… happens but it’s not a parenting philosophy so much as a pitfall). I don’t succumb to every pre-bed time request (more water, more videos, more play time).

But I refuse to take the path of most resistance because of the damage I know it’ll do. He’s still a young toddler and I don’t see anything wrong with helping him get to sleep. I do all the things with him that I do on my own to help me fall asleep. When he gets a little older, I’ll teach him that he can do all of those things by himself. But I’m not going to leave him crying or screaming or helpless to get his body to rest when I know what the problem is and how to solve it. That’s just cruel.

I get the feeling that a lot of the “training” activities the “experts” are so fond of are just excuses for adults to be selfish and force their children to be more convenient. Potty training at 16 months? It’s because you don’t want to change diapers anymore. Cry It Out? It’s because you want to get more sleep. I like convenience too but I also enjoy not screwing up my kid for the sake of my ME time.

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Change is Nature’s Way of Saying STOP SCREWING THIS UP

As a writer, I think this is beautiful. As a mother, I am horrified. HORRIFIED. And disgusted. You have a fucking village, you savages! I’ve got a village of 5 people and 4 of them work full time but we still manage to take care of my kid.

The old ways are bullshit. That’s why we keep inventing new ways.

 

“Those who are unable to believe in the old ways go south, where life loses this rawness.” In the Tin House archives, writer Emma Cline publishes flash fiction, “Perseids,” set in Tasiilaq, Greenland.

via Perseids — Discover

Smug Mommy Shame Writers

I think I should state for the record that this has nothing to do with any sort of bitterness over not having any of my submissions accepted, because I’m not bitter. You can’t be a writer and hold grudges like that or you’ll go nutballs. I’m much too busy to go nutballs, you see. So no, this isn’t about bitterness.
Scary Mommy is getting harder and harder to read. For me. In general. Because THE OPINIONS, my God, the OPINions! I can’t handle the “I’m never doing this again” or “Moms who do this are crazy” articles and there’s just so many of them.

I’ve been a mom for less than 2 years so I am hardly an expert but I gotta tell ya, the road to sanity for this parent is all about flexibility, adaptability, and an understanding of the bigger picture.

This is how it works:

  • I have a parenting theory based on a value so I’m going to do THIS.
  • Wow, THIS failed spectacularly. I’m gonna have to do something different. I’ll try THAT.
  • No, THAT didn’t work either. OK, how about THIS OTHER THING.
  • THIS OTHER THING seems to be going well but I feel bad that THIS and THAT didn’t work. Am I a bad parent? No. Because forcing THIS or THAT on my child when it clearly doesn’t work for him would be bad parenting. I have to understand that my job as a parent is to get my child safely through childhood, instilling good values as best I can, until he becomes an adult and can choose his own values.

 

smug-mom-meme-280x185And that’s all there is to it*. I’m not going to shame myself or let myself be shamed for failure to follow through on something that’s not working, something I don’t believe in, something someone else is pushing on me but I feel iffy about, or some bullcrap that some freaking mommy blogger with a PhD in skimming Parenting magazine articles and then forming a silly opinion that she thinks applies to every other human is touting as gospel truth. No, thank you.

I’m not saying I won’t read magazines or blogs or Pinterest or even Scary Mommy sometimes because I’ve gotten some really good ideas from them. But just because it’s working for one parent or even several doesn’t mean that it’s for me.

And that’s… ok.

Unless you’re writing one of the overwhelmingly prevalent articles for Scary Mommy where you bitch about all the people making bento boxes for their kid’s lunches because WHO HAS TIME FOR THAT CRAP?! Well, the parents making those boxes are using the time they have to do something they enjoy to make their kids happy. Does that mean you have to do it too or you’re a bad parent? No. I’m sure some of those box-makers are smug better-than-youers, but some of them just enjoy food art.

What about those stupid crafty parents making HOME MADE HALLOWEEN COSTUMES?! HOW DARE YOU use your skills and hobbies to benefit your child because it makes both you and your child happy? HOW DARE YOU then post your creations to social media where you can show your friends and family something you’ve made that you’re proud of? HOW DO YOU THINK THAT MAKES ME FEEL not having the same skills nor the time nor the patience to do the same for my child? I’m gonna write a Scary Mommy article about that shaming you because if I feel bad that I can’t do what you do, you should feel bad about it too.

Moms, Dads, Guardians of children, Guardians of the Galaxy, you all need to relax. There are as many ways of showing your kids you love them as there are children in the world. All you have to do is find the thing that you know how to do or that you’d like to learn how to do and figure out how to use that to show your child you love them. And it doesn’t have to be showy or impressive and you don’t have to post it on Pinterest or Facebook to make it count.

Just love your kid the way you can. Just… love your kid.

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Me and my son, pretty much.

*Haha, just kidding. Parenting is wicked hard.

30 Minutes of Wonderful

My son was startled awake from his morning nap once several months ago when I opened the front door to retrieve a package that had just been delivered. He shrieked and ran to the living room gate, shaking it violently and screaming his name for me. I ran back up the stairs to see what was wrong and as soon as he saw me, he collapsed in a fit of the most heart-wrenching sobs I’ve ever heard. He thought I left him. He was scared and I wasn’t there to tell him it was OK. I’ve never had my heart broken like that and I’m not ashamed to say that I joined him on the floor and cried with him until we both caught our breath and calmed down. He wouldn’t let me out of his sight for the rest of the day.

shelbyAs I mentioned on Twitter, I saw Steel Magnolias for the first time over the weekend. My son took a long nap Saturday morning followed by some very focused self-entertaining play time involving play food and Ninja Turtles. While I can appreciate a lot about the film, I had a lot of trouble relating to the characters: conservative Southern ladies with a penchant for gossip who, although they were strong-willed and resourceful, didn’t seem to take any responsibility for the things that happened to them. Dolly Parton’s character wasn’t a savvy business-owner but a woman with an out-of-work husband who had to make due. Homegirl had a thriving salon. Take credit for that, woman; you did that yourself! Annelle maybe married a criminal but it wasn’t her fault, settled that nonsense and went off on a wild sinfest which wasn’t her fault, and then found Jesus again after a gambling trip that wasn’t her fault. Take some responsibility for your mistakes, yo. I have very little respect for people who just let things happened to them and shrug it off as not their fault.

Eventually, I saw through the facade of 80s cinema trying to make a non-confrontational women’s movie with female characters who could kick some a, but would never brag about it and focused on Ms. Julia. Yes, there are times you need to pshaw your doctors and make miracles happen (Walk On, Bruce Lee) but having a child isn’t the kind of situation where you just throw caution to the wind and hope things work out. You don’t say, “Well, this might kill me but as long as I get what I want for a little while, I don’t mind the risk.” To hell with that, I say. That is selfish talk. THAT is irresponsible and the reason I’m gonna go ‘head and hate this movie is because it showed me my very worst fear: my baby screaming for me as I lie unconscious on the floor, unable to comfort him.

Now, I had some postpartum complications that laid me up a little while and a surgery that made lifting my little love nugget almost impossible for a couple weeks but it was all unforeseen health issues I had no way of knowing would affect us the way it did. And honestly, it wasn’t all that bad. But the guilt and the ache I felt at not being able to even lift my baby sent me into hysterical crying fits (also, the hormones made me less than rational). I had food poisoning once and had to stop in the middle of a diaper change to go vomit and felt like the worst mother in the world. So to know full well that pregnancy would irrevocably damage my body such that I didn’t know how long I’d be around to raise my child? No. No, Shelby, you selfish piece of garbage, it is not worth it to have loved and lost in that way because it’s not about you, bitch.

And speaking of bitches who selfishly abandon their children, dying of a broken heart? I’m looking at you, Padme Amidala. Physically healthy but with no will to live? You think you’re the first woman whose husband turned out to be a piece of crap? You can’t deal, so you’re just gonna die? Leave your babies, who you’re alive enough to name, but not enough to think of a reason to live? Selfish. Although, to be fair, I consider that whole business to  have been created by the warped and inhuman brain of George Lucas who is himself a cyborg that doesn’t fully understand human emotion. Still. Selfish.

So here I am, Monday morning, with that image from Steel Magnolias playing over and over in my head of the little boy screaming while Shelby lays unconscious by the telephone. I’m here making sure my son can see me when he wakes up. I’m running to the bathroom to pee quick as I can. I’m making a mental checklist of my biggest fears and pushing “Surviving the apocalypse alone” and “Spiders” down to numbers 2 and 3. Oh, and I’m also trying not to be a total neurotic nut about this whole business which, frankly, is taking up most of my mental space today.

Will I get any writing today that isn’t about mom guilt and George Lucas conspiracies? Probably not. Might be a better day for laundry and bill paying and meeting the needs of house and family rather than personal fulfillment. Tomorrow, I’ll go back to storytelling.