The Cutest Little Psychoses

I’ve been doing some reading this morning on postpartum depression vs. “Baby Blues” and it seems to me that no one does a good enough job of finding the middle ground.

Do I want to throw my children out the window?

Not literally, no.

Do I blame myself for things going wrong?

No, I blame the child who puked on me or the husband who didn’t respond to the question I asked 6 times. I blame the toddler who jumped on my freaking head while I was sleeping or the visitor who didn’t understand that an invitation from my mother-in-law to visit MY house doesn’t necessarily lead to a warm welcome.

Am I so unhappy that I have difficulty sleeping?

Not as much as the screaming hungry angry gassy baby makes it difficult to sleep.

Am I having difficulty keeping up with chores and responsibilities? Am I overwhelmed by the pileup?

Yes! I have TWO needy children. I can’t open the freaking dishwasher without SOMEONE screaming at me.

Am I able to look forward to enjoying things?

I mean, sort of. I was super psyched to watch the premiere of Riverdale last night but the baby cried every time I put her down, the toddler and the husband came home 20 minutes in and neither would shut the hell up for 5 seconds, then the toddler threw an epic fit when I asked him NOT to put stickers on my face and it took half an hour to calm him down. So… CAN I look forward to things? Yes. Do I GET TO enjoy them? NO! NO, clearly not!

Am I able to laugh and find the funny side of things?

Sure. Maniacally. I can laugh maniacally at how awful things seem to be right now.

Have I thought about harming myself?

Bitch, I’m fabulous. Hurt belongs on other people, not on me. Unwanted visitors, for example.

 

So, what? I’m fine? I just have a touch of the baby blues because I’m not suicidal? Because I’ll tell you what: I’m not ok. I’m irritable and short-tempered and impatient. I’m totally overwhelmed and weepy. I find myself getting WAY too invested in fictional entertainment as an escape and forget to do things like… brush my teeth or make lunch because I’d rather being reading this 101,000 word fanfic than living my own life.

But I’m fine. It’s fine. I’m not experiencing any anxiety, so there’s nothing really wrong. I’m so glad they make you wait 6 weeks for an insurance-covered postpartum checkup instead of freaking checking on you a couple of times in the first few weeks to make sure you haven’t burned your house down in a fit of cabin fever.

Honestly, I don’t think I have PPD. I have enough experience with non-baby related depression that I think I’d be able to recognize it if I did. But I’ll tell you what: there is nothing normal or mild about these “baby blues” and it’s about time those damn medical professionals who like to dismiss women’s suffering–baby-related or not–got their heads out of their asses and started helping.

Just because I’m not tearing out my own hair doesn’t mean everything’s fine. Maybe I just have really good self-control. Maybe I really respect my healthy follicles. I don’t know, maybe it’s Maybelline.

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Motherhood is Glorious

My husband and my toddler are out on this beautiful Fall day picking apples and eating apple cider donuts, taking iPhone pictures that make my son look like a gorgeous baby model in light that Instagram filters try to emulate.

I am home in the dark house, shades drawn to protect my neighbors from the sight of my giant monster milk jugs as I switch between nursing and changing diaper, nursing and changing diapers. My daughter has so far puked AND pooped on every article of clothing that both she and I have attempted to wear today. And even though I have changed ALL of my clothes several times and washed my hands more thoroughly than a surgeon, all I can smell is the sweet sticky stank of dried regurgitated breast milk and chunky yellow baby poop.

But yeah, motherhood is beautiful… or whatever.

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Who Hasn’t Been Kissed by a Rose on the Gray?

I started writing something new a few days ago–another coming of age type story that uses Batman Forever as a turning point in a young woman’s understanding of sexuality– but I’m still… you know, pregnant and not having much luck in not sitting on the couch ignoring my discomfort and pain with endless article-reading and Buzzfeed quizzes.

I just think that there are times when you need to let time pass rather than spending it wisely and late pregnancy is one of those times.

But I assume there will come a time when I can write again, perhaps with an infant strapped to my chest, perhaps about all the things I won’t be doing because… I have an infant strapped to my chest.

Although… I do have a WIP that involves a woman with an infant strapped to her chest who walks out of Target only to meet up with a mythical creature spouting nonsense rhymes at her as a call to action. She complains a lot about her husband not helping enough and not understanding how difficult it is to constantly be with your child with very little outlet other than weekly trips to Target. And if that’s not “write what you know” then there’s no such thing.

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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.

Moms Need to Sit With Their Whole Butt

I was sitting in my boss’s office one afternoon, sometime before my son turned one, just chatting about kids and work and family when my boss said, “One thing I always hated was when my wife would hand me a kid the second I stepped through the door at night. Like I didn’t just work 8 to 10 hours. Like I didn’t need to take a little break too, you know?”

“Ok,” I said, measuring my words. He’s a cool dude, but he is still my boss. “Let me ask you this: How many times did you go to the bathroom by yourself on a day like that? Three or four? Maybe more if you had a lot of coffee? You know how many times she went to the bathroom by herself? Zero. And those are the times when she really couldn’t hold it. And she didn’t sit down and relax and let her body do what it needed to do for a couple minutes. Oh no. She did what she had to do as fast as she could. That’s what being home with a baby is.”

He gave me a “Yeah, I guess,” and changed the subject but it was something I was thinking about again today.

My son is no longer a baby which means I am not longer insane and I’m starting to see that whole period of my life a little more clearly now. Pregnancy and postpartum hormones are a bitch, ya’ll and I’m pretty psyched to be living in the age of Let’s Be Honest About This Bullshit Thing Called Motherhood because it means that I have proof–article after article of proof–that I am not alone in thinking about some of this nonsense.

I don’t know many mothers who haven’t had a dark period right after their child was born. Now I’m extra paranoid to begin with so my dark period just exacerbated that aspect of my personality to the point where everything was a threat to either my baby’s existence or to my own sanity. I had to stop watching some of my favorite TV shows because they were too real, maaan, just too real. They filled me with nightmares (when I got to sleep) and made me think they’d turn my baby into a devil child. I didn’t go out unless accompanied by another adult, I didn’t read anything I wasn’t already familiar with and I stayed the holy hell away from Facebook because so much evil lurks there.

So here I am thinking about this handing the baby to the dad when he gets home from work thing and besides the obvious–like, maybe she just wanted to put her whole butt on the toilet seat to pee for the first time all day–maybe my boss’s wife needed a break from the constant fear that she was going to hurt or emotionally scar or accidentally kill her child? I mean, that’s one of the reasons I handed the kid off to my husband or mother or mother-in-law and ran immediately to the bathroom during those first 3 to 5 months. I wanted to know he was safe but that it wasn’t exclusively my job to keep him that way, at least for 5 minutes. I just wanted to put my whole butt on the toilet seat and not have to jump back up if something went wrong. You know?

So to all the dads of newborns who just need to take a little break after they get out of work, let me tell you this: Your drive home was your break. Every visit you took to the bathroom was a break. Wherever and however you ate lunch, if it wasn’t in the presence of an infant, it was a break. Depending on your job, your whole goddamn day could have been a break compared to what your wife went through. Just hold the freaking baby and let the woman put her whole butt on the toilet seat. Just give her that, man. At least.

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Let the woman sit!

None of Us Are Good Enough

I can be obsessive, especially when something is bothering me. And the Scary Mommy Shame Articles are really bothering me. More so than they should, honestly, because I’ve visited the site a few times this week and I’ve found a great number of lovely articles and heartbreaking articles and insightful articles. So why 1) are so many of the douchy ones showing up on my FB feed and 2) for real, why am I so very bothered by them?

I think… I have discovered why.

It’s the Myth of the Super Woman. It’s the cultural expectation that we, as women, are only entitled to equal treatment if we can be all the things all the time to all the people. If you’re going to work in a male-dominated industry, you must be the smartest and contribute the most but you must do it without being too domineering. If you’re going to be an athlete, you must have the most skills and talent, enough to rival men, but you must look real good doing it. If you’re going to be a politician, you must be the perfect blend of strength and vulnerability, smiling when we want you to smile and being serious when we want you to be serious, having the perfect solution to every problem and never making any mistakes or missteps.

mom-shaming-300x185And if you’re going to be a mom, well… get ready. Because you can’t possible be a good mom if you disagree with the masses. You can’t possibly be a good mom if you work or if you don’t work, if you sleep train or if you don’t sleep train, if you breastfeed or if you don’t breastfeed (or if you do so publicly or hidden away in a bathroom stall). You must have all the skills of a traditional mom: sewing, cooking, cleaning. You must have all the skills of a modern mom: budgeting, scheduling, homework help/educational activity leading. And you must constantly, obsessively compare yourself with other good moms to make sure you’re keeping up.

It’s the Myth of the Super Woman that forces us to compare ourselves to others, find ourselves superior or inferior, and then write shitty blog posts and articles to justify our superiority or inferiority. I’m not a great cook so I have to crap all over people who make their own baby food. I can sew so I have to crap all over people who buy Halloween costumes (by the way, I don’t like to sew. I don’t make things. I already bought my son a costume from Target). I breastfed so I have to shame the nonbreastfeeders. I didn’t sleep train so I have to make excuses for why my son still doesn’t sleep through the night.

My God, people, can we just give it a freaking rest? Can we stop tattling on our neighbors for letting their kids stand in the doorway unsupervised? Can we let the people who bake well make the cookies and the people who schedule well plan the events? Can we accept our own choices as being valid and others’ choices as mostly being none of our damn business? Can we chill the frig out for 5 minutes and just live our own lives the best way we know how?

Nope. Apparently not. Because if it’s not one thing, it’s another. If it’s not Super Women in the workforce, it’s Super Women at home. If it’s not Super Women in politics, it’s Super Women in business. If it’s not breastfeeding and sleep training, it’s public school vs private school or soccer vs karate. Maybe it’s just the nature of people to be competitive or maybe it’s the reality of the society we live in that women in particular have to constantly be distracted by bullcrap to keep from rising up and taking over.

Either way, I’m out. I don’t want to play the comparison game anymore. I’ll be over here making the best informed decisions about parenting I can and voting for the only qualified candidate, despite her imperfections because frankly, she is a Super Woman. I challenge anyone to measure themselves against the standards she has been held up to and not come out looking like a hypocrite or an elitist or just a thoroughly imperfect person. At least she’s capable and qualified and dedicated, which is the best you can say for any mother these days. For any woman, actually. Most of us our doing more than our very best and all of us aren’t nearly enough no matter what we do. And none of that is going to change with That Man in office.

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The Day My Kid Stood Still

This morning, my toddler headbutted me in the cheek bone. HARD. My husband’s response was, “he didn’t mean it.”

Listen… if he “meant it”, then there’s something wrong with my kid. If my husband “meant” to do the things we end up fighting about, then I married the wrong guy. If most people “meant” to act like buttholes and hurt and lie and cut others off in traffic even though I CLEARLY had the right of way, then there’s something horribly wrong with all of humanity and I’m calling alien Keanu Reeves* to come clean up, nanobot-style.

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*I watched The Day the Earth Stood Still the other day.

Saying “I didn’t mean it” is the worst way to way to respond in situations like this, second only to “I did mean it. I hope you suffer. Ha!” It’s a pointless non-apology that doesn’t offer sympathy or take responsibility.

“He didn’t mean it.” Like I honestly believe my kid is trying to break my face and that’s why I responded with “OW! DAMNIT, that hurts!”

I guess the good moms respond with “I love you too, sweet snowflake. Do whatever you want to Mommy and I won’t complain because motherhood is pain and womanhood is pain and I am an alien robot mom who doesn’t understand the other side of humanity until I watch someone cry in a cemetery**.”

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**That’s how Keanu does it.

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

Toxic Masculinity: It’s Not Just for Males

I have two cousins roughly the same age who both got dodgy around their twelfth birthdays. Neither was interested in becoming a teenager and twelve was their last chance to be whatever they wanted before the TEEN GIRL police hauled them in for lack of nail polish or hair dos or whatever other stupid junk girls are supposed to be. They started wearing baggy t-shirts and watching sports and bragging about how horror movies didn’t scare them. They became the polar opposite of what they were told they had to be.

e353066dd8c76675785a93a3e9308184Now if sports and horror and baggy clothes are your thang, that’s not a problem. But that’s not all there was to these girls. They liked sports but they also liked dolls. They liked cars but they also liked purses. But in our culture, even in a post-High School Musical world, you can’t be two things at once. You’re a TEEN GIRL or you are not. And if you’re not a TEEN GIRL, then you’re a tomboy and you mock TEEN GIRLS because they are weak and frivolous and dumb. You want to be smart and strong and tough, like a boy is supposed to be, so you’re gonna have to dress and act like a boy. These are your options, so choose.

I did the same thing as a tween. A lot of us do. A lot of us are still playing out the “I’m not this so I have to be that” dichotomy.

Por exemplo: A friend of mine is not interested in having children. She is married and financially stable and of relatively good health. But she does not want children and that is that. I have no problem with that and I told her that BEFORE I had my son and then again AFTER I had my son at which point I added, “Homegirl, having now been pregnant, given birth, and nursed until my nips bled, I can tell you with absolute resolute confidence and honesty that I Do Not Think anyone who doesn’t want a child should have a child because it is HARD and it HURTS and it often SUCKS. The only thing that makes it not the most horrible thing ever is being very much in love with your very much wanted baby. If you don’t feel that, you don’t want this.”

Despite my support of her decision, she has mostly avoided me since my son was born. We ran into her at a public event a while back and she flat out ignored my son (who was an infant at the time and didn’t notice). It hurt a little bit. I know she doesn’t want children but does she have to pretend mine doesn’t exist? Ouch. She’s not a kid-hater either. She’s just going through an “I’m not this so I have to be that” phase. She is not and does not want to be a parent so she has to pretend all children are awful or invisible.

But what does this have to do with toxic masculinity? Well, I’ll tell ya! Where do you think this dichotomy comes from? It’s the notion that to be manly, you have to be NOT lady-like. Being a man, more than anything else in our culture means NOT being a woman, or worse, a girl. Because girls are weak and frivolous and dumb and who wants to be those things? Not me, a woman. Not my cousins, two preteen girls. Not my friend, a childless adult. And if we’re not girls, we must be men. We must burp and scratch and enjoy violence and sport and hide our bodies and pretend not to love the things we secretly, shamefully love.

It’s stupid and harmful and limits us all as people.

And I don’t have a solution. I can tell the girls that they are free to be whoever they want, but they’re not. I can tell my friend that no one will accuse her of secretly wanting babies if she says hi to mine, but they will. I can continue to be soft and vulnerable at home with my son but thick-skinned and professional at work, but feel pulled apart in the process. It’s a losing game for all of us.