It’s Alright to Cry

The other day I saw this post on a local Mom’s Facebook group I belong to:

“Is crying in your car on the way to work totally normal on days you feel like your failing at mom life, housework life etc? Asking for a friend…….. “

The responses from the group were overwhelming and unilateral: Yes.  Yes, it is normal.  Yes we all have those days.  I am grateful that a site like Facebook gives this woman a safe space to be able to reach out for her “friend” (she later admitted it was for herself, no shocker) and hear from others in her shoes.  Because the thing is all moms have been in those shoes – maybe you’re wearing them right now, sobbing into a glass of wine on your couch or reading this while you’re up late nursing your baby or between screams of a toddler tantrum or…. you get the point.

While I’m glad this mom turned somewhere to ask the question, why didn’t she ask her friends? I am sure this woman has friends.  I took two seconds to check when writing this post and she has over 1,300 friends on Facebook, and I am assuming some of them are real friends, and real moms.  The post on the Facebook group isn’t anonymous and the group has 11,000 members, so she was exposing herself to more people than her friend group by asking it on that page vs. her own Facebook page.  But for many women, for many people, really, its harder to say your truth out loud to people you know vs. people you don’t.

I am an oversharer on my Facebook page about my parenting struggles, which is how this blog came about.   I’ve admitted weakness, anxiety, depression, resentment – all sorts of fun stuff.  I’ve asked questions I thought were fairly benign that based on the answers showed a stunning lack of awareness on my part (trying to force my daughter to brush her teeth with fluoridated toothpaste even though she hated it so much she gagged and ended up vomiting was definitely not my finest hour as a mom).  In other words, I’ve been real.  But a weird part of my defense mechanism as a person is to call out my shortcomings before someone else can. So I share my shame. But I think for a lot of moms the mom shame burns inside of them, and they don’t know who to turn to to confess.

What I want to encourage, what I hope this blog and my Facebook posts encourage, is the idea of being real with the moms in your life when you are having trouble.  I know it’s not in everyone’s nature to share, and it doesn’t need to be done so publicly, but you need to find your support system.  Whether it’s your mom, your sister, your best friend, a new friend, a stranger you meet in a store, you need to tell your stories, good and bad.  You need to ask for advice. You need to cry, and be ok that you cried.  You need to know that you are not alone, that your feelings are not just yours, and that we are always stronger if we do this together.

I used to be judgy before I was a mom, and even for a while after I became one.  I won’t say that I’ve gotten over it completely, but what I’ve learned from mom confessional sessions with friends and strangers alike is that we’re all just trying to make it through this.  You want to judge the mom who co-sleeps?  Maybe her child has terrible nightmares that wake her up ten times a night, and mom is a zombie at work if she has to jump up and go into her kid’s room every hour so for now it’s easier to be able to just roll over and hold her tight.  You want to judge the mom who is bringing special food to a birthday party for their kid instead of having them eat pizza and cake?  Maybe their kid have such severe food aversions that the doctor told them that the next step if they can’t put weight on him is a feeding tube, and so they are just trying to keep their kid fed with one of the three foods he likes.   What about the kid you see in the store screaming and hitting his mom? You want to judge her for not having control over her kid?  Well maybe he’s on the spectrum, and he is feel overstimulated by his environment and mom needs to just grab 2 more things on her grocery list before she takes him home otherwise there won’t be anything for dinner tonight.

In other words, we are all struggling, we all have our secrets and we are all just doing what we can to get by.  Even those of you who love being a parent and find the experience to be like riding a magical unicorn through a fairy forest must experience moments of doubt or anxiety or exhaustion.  So tell someone.  Tell me if you want, but tell someone.  There’s a good chance she’ll have advice, support, a similar tale, or a nice glass of wine to take the edge off.

 

The gross, the grosser and the grossest

No one can describe parenting to you in a way that you’ll truly understand until you do it.  Every day, in big and small ways, you experience things that even your most intricate imagining of parenthood couldn’t possibly encompass.  Some of these are lovely things, moments that make you weep from the joy of them.  Others, are just.. gross.

Case in point: I pulled a dog hair out of my daughter’s butt crack the other night.  Did I lose you yet?  Was that too gross for you? Well, welcome to parenting. She was complaining of an itchy butt, and I went to check if she might have not wiped properly after pooping.  The sheer joy of not having to wipe my daughter’s butt after she poops is not always the freedom I envisioned in the early toilet training days.  Because sometimes, a five year old can’t entirely be trusted.  To wipe well, to wash their hands thoroughly… I mean, why do you think that little kids are constantly inundated with stomach flus and pink eye?

Anyway, the inspecting of butts doesn’t end after diapers, and is weirder and grosser the older they are, but such is parenting life.  So yeah, I made my daughter bend over, and there it was.  An errant dog hair stuck in her butt crack.  That dog’s hair gets everywhere.  In other gross news, I once got an infected abscess in my foot that turned out to be because of a dog hair splinter from this damn dog.

The other day a guy was talking about an old surgery and asked me if I wanted to see a picture of the scar from when it first happened, warning me it was gross.  I’m thinking to myself, sir, you haven’t seen gross.  I have been peed on so thoroughly that I had to change my entire outfit, including my underwear.  I have caught vomit in my hands, more than once.  I have seen baby poop squirt across a room.  I have had many, many types and pieces of half chewed food handed to, spit out or thrown at me.  I have picked and sucked boogers out of noses though I draw the line at the Nosefrida thing that somehow involves your mouth as suction for the snot. I get that its not like you suck the snot into your own mouth, but something about that bothers me somehow.  But I digress. But basically –  the things you’ll do for your kids, right?

In your old life, your pre-gross childfree life, what you considered icky now seems like child’s play (hah, pun unintended, but I’ll keep it).  Vomit? That was for food poisoning or drunkenness.   Poop?  Happens in your own bathroom, by yourself, with the door closed.  I’m one of the lucky ones who’s kids don’t feel compelled to be in the bathroom whenever I go (at least not usually).  But apparently bathroom stalking their moms is one of small children’s favorite activities.  Your sheets might get nasty because you were too lazy to change them, not because your kid peed the bed.  The sleeve of your shirt got dirty because you spilled a drink on it while dancing at a bar, not because your child decided they needed to use you as a napkin for their ketchup-y hands.

The amount of gross things you see as a parent desensitizes you to these every day gross things.  I’ve never been particular squeamish, but having children really puts you over the edge. And frankly it starts from pregnancy – morning sickness, hemorrhoids, sweating, swelling feet, heartburn, leaky boobs.  You name something gross, some pregnant woman has experienced it. I even read a story about a woman who lost all her hair when she was pregnant.  Like, literally went bald.  It was falling out in clumps.  Apparently it all grew back after she had her baby though!

Then you give birth and there’s a good chance you are going to poop on the table.  You have this debate yourself, if you have an epidural, as to whether you should ask.  Do you want to know if you did?  Or if you can just live in denial will that make it easier and less gross? So even if you don’t poop, or don’t know you pooped, you expel a wailing baby covered in gross goo. Then you have to deliver the placenta afterwards.  The placenta just hadn’t occurred to me.  They tell you about it in birthing class but you’re just so relieved you pushed the baby out that when they tell you you’re going to have push more just to get a bag of goo out too, it’s just, ugh.  Just thinking about placenta grosses me out a little …. but very little else does anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The present of the past

In college I was obsessed with Sarah McLachlan.  Discovering we looked a lot alike happened after I had already developed the obsession with her music, but certainly didn’t hurt it. When I decided to cut my hair short, I even brought in a picture of her style as inspiration.  But I digress. One of my favorite songs of hers then and now is “Ice Cream”.  It’s both sweet and sad at the same time.  Back then I spent a lot of time feeling angsty, or wistful, or mildly depressed (boy, wish I could go back to college knowing what I know now… I would have had a lot more fun!).  I remember one night laying in the dark feeling particularly low, listening to my six disc CD changer rotate between her, Enya, the Indigo Girls and Sting.

When Julia was a newborn and cried all the time, it turned out “Ice Cream” was one of the few songs I knew all the words of that seemed appropriate to sing.  In the dark, in the middle of the night, feeling scared and sad and unsure of my future but for entirely different reasons than I did as a teenager, singing that song to my baby felt like closing a loop.

Parenting seems to surface more loops than any other experience of my life.  There is something about experiencing things with my children that brings me back to some former place in my life.  Much of the time it’s my own childhood – like when the kids play with a toy I remember playing with or I read them a book I was read as a child.  Reading “Goodnight Moon” to Julia always gives me that little shiver, although as an adult I have a lot of questions about the book, which is incredibly odd (and I’m not the only one, there are many hilarious dissections of the book, like this one.  We actually have many books from both of our childhoods that we read to the kids: Ferdinand which we both used to love, Harold & The Purple Crayon, which I don’t remember at all but was apparently a favorite of Brian’s,  and a particularly obscure one that I adored and my mom somehow managed to find: Bendemolena, later renamed “The Cat Who Wore a Pot on Her Head”.

Barbies are one that I’m a bit bummed out by.  I realize that they present a bizarre idea of femininity but I adored them as a child.  I had a huge collection and played with them for far longer than some of my friends likely did.  Perhaps Julia will get into them at some point, but for now she has absolutely no desire to play with the ones we gave her.  I have such fond memories of styling my barbies, swapping out their clothes, setting up dates for them and all the Kens.  Seeing them lay dejected in her toy box makes me feel a bit sad.  That one feels like a loop I can’t quite connect into a circle.

My most recent loop is a particularly sweet one.  At Barnes and Noble last week we found an illustrated copy of “What a Wonderful World”, the Louis Armstrong song.  While that song well pre-dates my childhood, for some reason it was one of my absolute favorite songs as a girl.  It was so significant to me that I chose it as the song for the faughter/daughter dance at my bat-mitzvah and again for the same at my wedding.  I had thought that loop already closed when I danced to it with my dad almost 18 years after the first time, but here it is again.  I have been reading it to Luca at night before bed, and I can’t help but sing it instead of reading the lines.  Every single time it has made me cry.

My co-blogger Cristina wrote a post about time feeling elastic and I wrote one about how the days are long but the years are short, both which are offshoots of the loop concept, I suppose.   But they are more about struggling with living in the moment of parenting.  The loop, to me, is about simultaneously getting to live in the past and the present.  The nicest part of the loop is that they are (usually) pleasant.  Recollection can often drum up painful moments from our past, but the loop is the reverse – an often benign moment from the past that forms into a new and sentimental experience in the present with your kids.  So take the time to live in your loops and form new memories from them.  Maybe one days your kids will create another link in the loop and make it into a chain.