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.

Control, the story of Ice Cream

It started with a simple decision: cup or cone.  We were at Sesame Place this past weekend (boy, do I need to write a blog about that), in the water park area, and they had just announced a scheduled break of the splash zone we were in.  Perfect time for ice cream, right?  Julia and I headed over to the nearby ice cream stand where there was a blissfully short line.

Julia begged for a cone.  But these weren’t small servings, these were VERY VERY big servings on top of a pretty big cone.  Of soft serve. On a super hot day.  But it was vacation, and I knew it would make her happy and I am usually very strict and I want to be a cool mom and so I said ok.  I can be flexible right?  I ordered a vanilla cone with sprinkles for Julia, a chocolate cup for Brian and a swirl cup for me.  The woman fills the cups first, and then runs out of vanilla ice cream.  So, I am standing there, eating my ice cream before it melts, watching Brian’s ice cream melt (he’s back at at the splash pad with Luca) and watching Julia slowly start to melt down over waiting for the new vanilla to be mixed so she can get her cone.

Finally we get the glorious, giant cone and Julia is happy as a clam.  But it’s about that time that I basically lose my will to live.  I start to worry that the ice cream is going to melt too fast and fall off the cone.  At which point Julia will inevitably freak out, at which point Brian will probably say she can’t have another cone, at which point she’ll freak out more, and even if I can convince him to let her have another cone, we’ll have to go back to the ice cream stand, and the line might be longer, and I am not even sure I have enough cash because I only took a twenty with us to the water park part and the ice creams are over priced …. and…. and…. What was my point here?  That I’m crazy?  Oh yeah, I am crazy.  Did I ever mention that?  That my anxiety comes with a delicious strain of obsessive thought patterns that often focus on future scenarios, most of which are unlikely to happen, and which I HAVE NO CONTROL OVER ANYWAY?

So she’s eating and all I can do is fixate on the fucking cone.  Julia, lick around the bottom.  Julia, eat some off the top.  Faster Julia.  Brian, can you please eat some of her ice cream to help out?  Julia, hold it upright.  Don’t tilt it Julia.  Meanwhile I am eating my cup of ice cream as fast as I can with the plan to dump her cone into the cup when I am finished.  Except I get brain freeze in the middle of this rapid ice cream consumption.  My nose is actually tingling from eating it so fast.  And what’s the god damn point?  Before I know it, the ice cream is gone, likely hundreds of calories worth of deliciousness and I barely tasted it.  And now she won’t put her cone into my empty cup because there is chocolate residue on the bottom of my cup and she doesn’t want it to taint the vanilla.

And you know what happened?  Nothing.  Nothing happened.  She managed to eat the ice cream cone like a human, nobody died, and the world didn’t come to an end.  And then I felt stupid.  For criticizing her, for worrying so much, for not letting myself just let her enjoy the moment.  For not enjoying these moments myself.  I have a feeling it’s not just moms with anxiety or obsessive thoughts or control issues who struggle with moments of this.  The lack of ability to control situations with kids can bring out staggering emotions in parents.  It’s another one of those things that no one tells you about having kids.  That sometimes, there are these moments where you want to be able to have the power, and you don’t.  Not power over them even, but power over yourself.  To be ok.  To remember that they’re ok.  To take each moment as a moment and not as the moment.  To not freak out.  To let yourself freak out.  To be ok with the outcome, whatever it is.

 

Be my (mom) friend

Today at the pool I asked a nice blond woman for her phone number. Wait, that sounds weird.  Let me start again with some context.  Today, while hanging out with my two year old son at the pool, I noticed that the woman sitting next to me also had what looked like a two year old son.  Never one to miss an opportunity to make new mom friends, I started a conversation with her, which ended with us exchanging numbers for a possible future playdate.

Trying to make friends as a mom feels a lot like dating, especially in the years before your kids are old enough to self-select their friends.  Despite being friendly, smart, interesting and having a job in a similar field to me, she’s not my perfect match because she’s pregnant.  Her two year old is her oldest child, whereas Luca is my younger.  I’m not saying we can’t strike up a successful friendship and set our kids up to be friends, but as any mom of two can tell you, the ultimate ultimate is when both kids line up relatively close in age.

That’s not to say that some of my best mom friends have the right line up either.  Because you can’t always choose who you love, and if at least one kid matches and the moms make a love connection, then you make it work.  Two of my favorite mom friends (and two of my newest) are relatively bad match in the kid line up department.  First is a woman who has two boys, and at five, while Julia is still willing to play with boys, she definitely prefers girls.  Her other son is older, so no match for Luca.  And her husband, while being probably one of the coolest guys in the suburbs (a jewelry designer with long hair and hip clothes) works every weekend, so making a love connection between the husbands seems unlikely due to limited opportunities for them to hang out.  But she’s worth it; a woman that I would have been friends if we met before we had kids. She gets my sense of humor, she has great style, she doesn’t shy away from my oversharing and she’s a really interesting person.  We ride the train together home from work whenever our schedules line up, so more of our mom friendship is actually separate from our kids, even though we talk about them a lot.

My other new friend has a son more than nine months younger than Luca and that’s her only child, so no match for Julia.  We knew each other before we had kids on a casual basis at an old job, but I ran into her when she was pregnant and become one of the mom gurus who ushered her into motherhood.  Literally hundreds, if not thousands of dollars of the kids’ old stuff went to her, along with advice on everything from finding affordable childcare to sleep training.  Again, she’s the kind of person I would be friends with even if we didn’t have kids, and even better, our husbands love each other and have shared interests.

I tend to make friends easily because I am extremely outgoing (reader, I doubt you are shocked by this based on my previous blogs). But even I had a lot of trouble making mom friends when Julia was little.  This is largely based on being a working mom, because I couldn’t go to all those activities you might use for “networking”.  I did try a mommy & me class  on the Fridays I worked from home and asked some of the women out on “dates” , but there was no real chemistry.  Weekends weren’t much better, because Julia was born at the end of fall and going to parks, playgrounds and the pool aren’t things you do in the winter. I did have a few early successes.  The babysitter I hired when Julia was six months old had a daughter three months younger, and we ended up becoming friends.  She pulled me through some tough times those early days with my postpartum depression.  But only six months after we met, she and her family moved upstate.  We’re still in touch on Facebook, but it’s not the same as when she lived here and we’d go to yard sales together, put the girls in the same shopping cart at stores, etc.

My most successful and longest running mom friendship to date can be attributed to my bull in a china shop approach to making new friends.  The aforementioned babysitter/friend and I were pushing our strollers over to mommy & me class when we saw a woman down the block from the play place taking a similarly aged girl out of her car.  I went right up and asked if she was on her way to class.  It turns out she actually lived on the block (still does) and I got her number and met her the next week at that mommy & me class.  We’re still friends today more than five years later, and she has a daughter who is just a few months younger than Luca (but she did sandwich one in between, who just turned four).  We’re zoned for the same school district and out of six kindergarten classes, our daughters ended up in the same class.  This summer, I convinced her to enroll her in the same camp as Julia and they are in the same group.  Our friendship is not without bumps – I went through a very unreliable period where I’d screw up plans with her a lot. I’ve peppered her with hundreds of anxious mom questions and cried in front of her more than once, all of which she handles with her calm, non-judgmental tone.  She is a keeper, but we still need to work on getting our husbands to spend more time together.

Long parenting friendships like the one mentioned above are in many ways aided by circumstances.  I find as a parent that keeping up with friendships is more difficult than when you are young and free, although there is considerably less drama within the relationships themselves. I have a friend group made up of the moms of girls from Julia’s old nursery school and for the last two years the girls have also taken dance classes together.  Our group, plus a few other moms, mostly others from that nursery school class have “moms out” nights every month or two at local restaurants.

I love these women, some of whom I consider my closest friends.  But our kids all go to different elementary schools now.  Most of the moms used to belong to the pool but this year many of them skipped it.  A bunch of them belong to the beach but Brian and I can’t join because our zip code isn’t zoned for permits for that beach.  Will our friendships survive our busy lives?

In my teens I had a few friend groups that soured because of jealousy, infighting and back-stabbing.  As an adult, I generally prefer to make individual relationships rather than groups, even though I realize adult women aren’t (most of the time) as catty as your average teenage girl.  This group seems relatively drama free but I am still prone to those old insecurities.  Are they hanging out with me? Yes, probably, as three of them have three year olds that all go to the same pre-school and several of them belong to that beach that we can’t join. But that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me (although there could be…).

What I dream of, what I hope for are the parent friends for life that my parents have.  They somehow managed to find multiple couples they liked who had kids in very close age ranges to us that we liked.  They had friends we went on vacations with, others that came to family holidays. Most are still close to my parents to this day.  I want that for our kids, and for us too.  The parent friends I’ve made to date have made me a better mom and a happier person, and I hope I’ll be the kind of friend for them that they want to keep for life.   In the meantime, I’ll continue to hit on the women I meet that might make a good match.  That’s the main difference between dating moms and dating for a husband –  you don’t have to commit to just one.

The Weight of it

I had my first awareness that I was heavier than my friends when I was in sixth grade.  We had a tire playground at my elementary school (literally, it was made out of tires) and I was following my friends through one of the structures and noticed I was struggling a bit to fit where they had navigated easily.  Judging from childhood pictures of Brian, he was overweight even earlier than me because there are chunky pics of him by about four years old.  By adulthood, both he and I tipped the scales at well over 200 pounds before we finally managed to lose and then maintain healthy (although not skinny) weights  long-term (he lost the weight before I met him, me after we met and partially inspired by his story).

Julia is five and a half and at her five year checkup she was in the 95% percentile for weight but also in the 75% percentile for height.  In other words, she’s not THE fat kid, but she’s not as skinny as most of her friends.  Other than a belly that sticks out (which to be fair, even many skinny kids have) Julia doesn’t look overweight when she stands by herself.  She’s got round cheeks and an adorable booty, but she doesn’t look heavy per se.  Put her next to her friends though – the gazelle-like Laney, the petite Kasey and Karma, the positively model-esque physique of Eva and suddenly Julia starts to look a bit…. bigger.

This causes a tremendous deal of parenting stress for me.  I don’t want her to be bullied for her weight, don’t want her to feel different, don’t want her to have low self-esteem.  Yes, I know she is only five, but I feel like if I screw her up in some way (because all parents screw up their kids somehow), this might be the one I end up causing.  So I worry, even though I don’t think I am doing nearly enough and likely doing ineffective or potentially even harmful things about it.  Here’s a short list of my crimes:

  • Using food as a reward.
  • Using food as a punishment (i.e. not giving her a cookie at the diner if she behaves badly).
  • Refusing to give her something else to eat if she won’t eat what we gave her.
  • Giving in and giving other things to her when she won’t eat what we gave her.
  • Letting her eat meals that mostly involve her favorites of mac and cheese or cheese sandwiches instead of pushing harder for healthy options.
  • Insisting she be served a meal of healthy options that I am fairly certain she won’t actually eat.

How do you get a picky carb loving five year old to eat healthy?  We don’t let her have dessert regularly and we don’t keep juice in the house but we’re not tyrants. She gets ice cream on Wednesdays with Grandma & Papa and that cookie at the diner on Fridays.  She also gets chocolate milk once a week with school lunch and most weekends she gets to have one mini chocolate after lunch.   But she eats the same things for dinner most nights – mac and cheese, cheese sandwiches, chicken nuggets, sometimes with a side of the rare fruit or vegetable she’ll eat. I don’t mind the nuggets (compared to the meals that are strictly carbs and cheese) because it’s one of the only meat things she’ll eat.  She seems to have a textural issue with meat although I’ve seen her eat the occasional cheeseburger.

In case you were wondering why she doesn’t eat what we eat – we aren’t there yet with dinner because she goes to bed so early.  I come home early on Diner Friday so we can eat together but that means that she also goes to bed late that night.  I suppose we could keep her up later Saturday and Sunday too, but an overtired picky eater is less than fun to eat with, so it hardly seems worth it.

So what does she eat? She’ll eat American cheese and occasionally mozzarella but no other cheese.  She’ll eat pancakes and waffles but not french toast.  Bananas, apples and grapes are ok but not strawberries, pineapple or blueberries.  Peppers are fine, and the occasional carrot, but no broccoli, peas or anything else green.  Any food she doesn’t like is “disgusting”.  She’ll occasionally try new things but often either gag on them or spit them out.  There will likely be crying.

We never ever talk to her about her weight or her body.  We talk about eating less carbs, more variety of foods, how important it is to try new things, but never ever in the frame of her size.  But I worry.  That she’ll keep getting bigger. That she’ll realize it.  That we’re the ones making her this way.   Despite being so picky, she’s obsessed with food.  She thinks about it all the time.  At parties where there are less healthy foods out like chips, she’d eat 100 if I didn’t stop her.  Am I making her this way by restricting what she eats?

Brian and I both passionately love food, could eat it to excess if we don’t keep ourselves in check. Neither of us, despite working hard at keeping ourselves in more reasonable shape, will ever be skinny.  I don’t think she’ll ever be skinny either, you can look at her wrists and see just from the size of her bones that she’ll be a bit more sturdy. But that doesn’t mean she is destined to be fat either.  I know the route to keeping her somewhere in between is to give her both healthy foods and a healthy attitude towards food even when the food is not healthy.  But I’m not sure I am able to deliver on that properly at this point based on my confused and complicated path with food and weight in my own past.

I’d love to hear from some of my fellow moms of their ideas and suggestions for how to address this?  Book suggestions are welcome as well, if you know of any good ones.  I know there are tips for picky eaters, but what about picky eaters that are also overweight?  Is she overweight? See, I’m in the dark here.  Many people tend to reach out to me via text, email or in person as opposed to writing comments on this blog (how come guys? I’ll look more popular if you comment on my blog!), so I will collect all the feedback across sources and share it with everyone in a future blog, as I assume I can’t be the only mom who deals with this.  Thanks in advance!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Showing up – the working parent dilemma

I know I haven’t written in a few weeks, and I apologize to the five of you who read this blog. Well, maybe slightly more than five people read it, but it’s not like I have thousands begging for my new content, so I figured I could get away with it.   The main reason I haven’t written is that I started a new job about a month ago and it’s been pretty busy.

I made a move from the agency side to the ad tech side in my field, which is social media.  This may sound like jargon to some of you, but the main point of me calling out this transition is that I just left a thousand person company that’s been in business 25+ years for an established but still relatively small startup that has just under 150 people and has been around for 7 years.  It was founded by college students, so the founders are also a good ten years younger than me.  This could have been a risk as a mom to go to a company that is small and young in both business and median age but so far it has been really great.

The company has a flexible working policy, which includes unlimited vacation days and no mandatory work hours, although a good amount of the people work on a schedule that fairly closely matches standard office hours. The policy is extremely helpful as a mom because to be part of a family with two working parents pretty much requires flexibility.  Although I am extremely busy so far every day and doing some work at night (which is pretty similar to my other jobs) I have been able to work from home already a few times. I’ve also managed to leave most days around 5:15, which means that I actually get home before Julia is asleep (she’s in bed already, but I get to chat with her for a few minutes, which is awesome).

This past Friday I worked from home so we could attend an event at Julia’s Kindergarten. It was an end of the year “Family Appreciation Day” held by her class.  It was adorable, the kids dressed up and performed a few songs and dances for us and I almost cried from cuteness.  But it was at 1:50 pm. It’s hard enough to go in to work late when there are events in the morning, But a 1:50 start time means that at best you’re getting a half day at work.  Let’s not forget that we work in the city and her school is in our home town in the suburbs.  I worked from home in the morning, but Brian had to take a 12:37 train to get back for it.

And this is just one of the events going on at the end of the year.  Thursday they had a field trip, which we didn’t volunteer for to be a chaperone, just like I didn’t volunteer for the last field trip a few weeks ago. Next week is a Flag Day performance (at 9:30 in the morning, which effectively means if I go I won’t be able to get to work until about noon with my commute if I go).  Then I just found out there is Field Day on the same day as Flag Day, if I wanted to go back to the school three hours later to watch that. And if I wanted to send my nanny in my place, too bad, because the school doesn’t allow siblings to attend so she wouldn’t be able to bring Luca. Then there’s the last day of school.  I figured unlike the first day of school, I wouldn’t stay home for it, until I found out that her kindergarten class parents have arranged for a pool party after school.  Unfortunately the last day of school pool party is the same week as Camp Orientation night which I am already leaving work early to attend, so I don’t think I can make both.

Then there’s first day of camp, which starts the Monday after school ends, and which I have to go to because our new nanny has never been there before and I want to make sure she has the process down.  And yes, I have a nanny.  And parents and in-laws who help out once a week each.  We’ve got something approximating a village working to raise our kids and we still can’t do it all.

How is a two parent working family supposed to manage all this?  I think this is a particularly challenging situation for families who commute longer distances like we do.  An event at school becomes not just the 30 or 60 minutes for the actual event, but then at least an hour and half past that – other than morning and evening rush hour, the trains around here only go into/from the city once every 30 minutes.  Then it’s a forty plus minute train ride (no expresses outside of rush hours) and then the subway trip to the office.  If I worked fifteen minutes away like some of the moms do, I’d only miss an hour or two at work at most.  But that’s assuming they have flexible schedules like I do, which is not entirely likely.  There are plenty of people who’d have to use up half or a whole of one of their few precious vacation days to attend these events.  And if they are one of the moms who only has an after school sitter and not a nanny like we do, that also means that the bulk of the rest of their vacation days are used for school breaks.

I know that traditionally women used to stay home, and that certainly there are plenty of stay at home moms still around. But it’s been at least 30-40 years that women have by and large been a major part of the work force, and I don’t understand how businesses (and schools) have not evolved to the needs of working parents (including dads).  There are certainly some great steps forward  – paternity leave policies that didn’t exist in the past, and more work from home flexibility for many workers because of computers and the internet.  But I feel like there is still a fundamentally flawed system yet not one that there feels like there’s an obvious answer to.

I can think of a few things that would help out on both sides.  Free wifi on commuter trains like the metro north where we live could help parents going into work late/leaving early score an extra 30-60 minutes of work while they commute.  More schools could have early drop off programs because if parents are regularly getting into work later than their counterparts, it doesn’t make it so easy to leave early.  Schools could offer affordable paid school vacation alternatives, like rec programs that would make it easier for parents to use days off for special events at school and not just because their kid has a winter break.  Businesses could offer a certain amount of “life event” days.  One of my former companies had these but they were limited to things like moving, bereavement or honeymoons.  Add in the option for 2-3 kid days a year would give a little relief.

I understand that I speak from a place of privilege, and that I have more resources and financials at my disposal than many parents.  So if it’s this hard for me, I can imagine how much harder it is for parents with less flexibility, less financial resources and less family around.   But regardless of the scale of who has it worse, the main point is this – we fundamentally need to figure out ways to make thing easier for working parents to be there for their kids.  Any ideas?

Self(ish)

I love having this blog as an outlet for my thoughts.  I am so glad that my friends and even some strangers are reading it, and that maybe my posts are connecting with them. But today I’m grateful for the fact that I am not a famous blogger, because I want to write about something that I know I’ll be judged for.

Now here’s the thing – my co-blogger Cristina and I started this blog to acknowledge that parenting is hard and we don’t always love it.  Part of that means admitting things that might not be so flattering to us.  But so far, our readers are mostly limited to people who know us, or know someone who does.  As far as those few strangers, my guess is that they are reading because they need to hear this kind of honesty.  My point is that we haven’t gotten any hate comments yet, much to my relief.

If you read any major blog, parenting related or no, there are always the trolls.  People who will write things, heinous things, that they would never ever say to a person’s face.  On the mom blogs, mom shamers come out in force.  And pretty much every mom’s secret fear is that they are shitty moms.  The amount of mom guilt that abounds in our culture is astounding and nobody needs that shit validated, even if the validater (I don’t think that’s a word) is probably a far shittier human being than you.  That’s the point of this blog.  To say hey, I’m afraid sometimes I’m a shitty mom, but you know what? Maybe you’re like me too, and if a lot of us feel like this, maybe it cancels out the shittiness and it turns out this is just the reality of how parenting is today for a lot of people.

Which brings me to my shitty mom admission.  I recently got a new job, which I start Monday (yay).  That’s not the shitty part. The job is awesome and exciting and different and I’m stoked.  My True Mom Confession is that I managed to work it out so that I had two weeks of time off in between jobs … and I didn’t give my nanny a single full day off.

This is not to say I didn’t spend any additional time with my children those two weeks.  I put them to bed every night, something I NEVER get to do when I’m working.  I spent parts of various days with them.  I stopped by Julia’s dance class to check in with the owner on how she was doing.  I arranged multiple playdates and I attended a few. I had some meals with them.

But I also did a lot of stuff for me.  I went to see not one, but two movies in the theater.  I went on a shopping spree….ok, I went on multiple shopping trips (although to be fair, I was shopping for a dress for my niece’s batmitzvah, full spring/summer wardrobes for the kids, summer clothes for my husband and getting clothes for my new job).  I had networking breakfasts in the city and lunches with friends in the ‘burbs.  I took a nap one day.  I read a few books.  I had a couple of manicures and a pedicure.  I got a chair massage.

These are not extraordinary things, but as a working mom of small children, these are luxuries.  These are things that maybe you could do one per month if you’re lucky.  And even if you get to do one, maybe you have to take the abridged version – like on a weekend when I can convince Julia to get a manicure with me. Its fun and cute, but also means I have to bring her snacks and activities, I’m not complaining about that because even that feels like a luxury – getting girl time with my daughter, relaxing, etc.  But my point is that this was truly an extended period of indulging what I wanted to do.  Putting Lisa first.

I’ve always believed that I am capable of being a good mom because I prioritize myself when I am able, but even I wonder, did I take it too far? Couldn’t I have shuttled Julia to gymnastics and sat with Luca in the waiting room?  Or maybe let the nanny go home early every day? And more so, is there something wrong with me that it isn’t what I wanted to do?

I find that piece the most confusing to me in terms of trying to understand my role as a mother.  As a mom, am I supposed to look at a two week vacation and think, I am so excited to spend all the time I can with my kids? Because I don’t, even though I don’t normally get to spend a lot of time with them. When we went to Disney I was super excited to be with them every minute, but that was because we were all doing something wonderful as a family and they were super adorable and well behaved the whole time. But real life in the role of a stay at home mom, even for two weeks, it just doesn’t…. it doesn’t do it for me.  I think you can guess now why I would worry about judgment for this post.  What I’m admitting here is that while I really love and truly adore my children, I don’t want to be with them all the time.

There, I said it.  Let the judging begin.

You take the good, you take the bad….

InstakidsYesterday I posted this photo to Instagram (and syndicated it to Facebook).  It’s one of the first times that Julia has ever held Luca’s hand in public, and it was so cute that I could barely handle it.  My heart filled with joy as a mom, and I wanted to share it with my friends. Within a day of posting it had 50 likes on Facebook and 22 on Instagram.

I crystallized a beautiful and real moment and wanted to share it with my friends.  But that’s the thing about social media – it showcases just a moment. As any parent can tell you, this parenting thing is a twenty four hour grind made up of a multitude of moments, only a few of which are this good each day.  It’s the exact reason you cling to them, the exact reason you want to share them, but it can also create a false sense of what your life is like to those who see your feed.

In the post,  I included my #truthinparenting hashtag, which is how this blog got it’s name.  I started sharing my struggles with parenthood on social using this hashtag a few years ago, and it was those stories that drew other moms to my honesty and eventually convinced me to start blogging to spread the message further.  But I committed to myself a few years ago that I should use the hashtag for good stuff too.  If you lose sight of the good, there is no life boat to cling to on a bad mom day.

So I posted that picture yesterday because it was almost oppressively cute.  But later, I felt guilty (and yes, we should definitely talk to about mom guilt sometime soon).  I felt guilty because of all the things the picture doesn’t say.  This was taken at the spring festival thrown by our school district.  Julia and I went alone last year but I wanted Luca and Brian to join in on the fun this time.  But it wasn’t turning out so fun by the time this pic was taken.  First, Brian and I argued about the parking spot, which was technically not a legit space on the school grounds but which I was 98% confident they wouldn’t ticket us for (for the record, they didn’t).  Julia started crying in the car when it looked like Brian might need to circle the huge lot again to find something legal.  Then once I convinced him and we hopped out, it was raining and I couldn’t get Luca’s stroller to fully open.  The family, cranky and impatient, implored me to leave the stroller in the car.  Which meant that I ended up carrying not just my purse, but also a diaper bag, craft projects, balloon animals and everyone’s jackets, instead of stashing all that in the stroller.  It also meant that instead of Luca just chillin’, he was running around like a tiny wild bronco which took a lot more energy from both of us to reign him in.

I should also mention that returning to the car two hours later, we discovered that the stroller hadn’t been pushed far enough into the back of the SUV when I hastily returned it. So the remote close for the trunk had sprung back up without us knowing and had been open the entire time we’d been at the fair. Thankfully the rain hadn’t soaked the interior and no one had stolen anything from our car or the car itself, so I’ll take that one as a win.  Also, Brian did not lose his will to live immediately upon seeing this, which I will also take as a huge win. As someone who grew up in a rough-ish (at the time) part of a Brooklyn, it took him several years in the suburbs before he stopped using the club on our steering wheel and folding in the side view mirrors.

I’m sharing this with you guys not because it was extraordinarily terrible, or cancels out the bliss I felt seeing my little peanuts rocking the sibling love, but I felt it was important to keep it real with you.  Mom tip: Just remember what you see on social isn’t ever the full story, but it’s still OK to share the moments that keep you sane.

Facing the (ec)topic

A little before Julia turned two I finally got comfortable with the idea of having a second child.  Although having two kids had always been my plan, the PPD and general difficulties adjusting to parenthood had left me with a big question mark on the topic.  Finally I crossed the bridge from fear into acceptance and was ready to try.  I think it had something to do with Julia being slightly more independent – she was walking, talking, understanding the things we were saying, and I was starting to have more fun.   Ready to take the leap, I stopped birth control. With Julia, it took me around a year from when I stopped taking birth control pills to get pregnant, so I wasn’t expecting anything quickly with my second.

A few months after we started trying, I passed out on the subway.  Brian was with me and managed to drag me off the train at the next stop and onto the platform before I collapsed into his arms.  It happened suddenly and dramatically, but after stopping into a cafe and drinking some apple juice, I felt much better and I even went to work that day. I thought I might have had something called vasovagal syncopy , a fainting episode that can happen for a variety of reasons including low blood sugar and is relatively harmless. I chose not to worry about it too much and didn’t got to the doctor.

Then the next week, it happened again, also on the subway (weird, right?).  This time I was alone and felt the same sensation that I was going to lose consciousness. I leaned forward to brace myself and ended up smashing my head into the pole in front of me, which happened to have the benefit of propping me up.  Someone quickly gave me their seat and after I put my head between my legs for a minute or two I felt fine.  But two times in a week seemed odd, so I made an appointment with my primary care physician for a quick check in.  She asked some questions, ran blood work and didn’t find anything out of the norm, so she told me to let her know if it happened again.

That weekend Brian and I were scheduled to go on our first solo trip since Julia was born.  It was just two nights in Philadelphia in October, not exactly a tropical vacation, but we had lined up a bunch of fun stuff to do, including the Mutter Museum, which I’ve always wanted to visit.  It’s a museum of medical oddities, something I am really into (don’t even get me started on conjoined twins). I remember one display there was of a fetus at every week of development during the first trimester.  This was not the most unusual thing (they had giant tumors, casts of medical anomalies and an enormous collection of skulls) but the tiny little fetuses stuck with me as a mom.

Within a day of being in Philly I got terrible heartburn and stomach pains.  We had to stop at a drugstore to pick up Tums and Zantac to try and alleviate my symptoms.  I have celiac disease and although I am vigilant about not eating gluten, I occasionally get cross contaminated or accidentally ingest traces which can lead to symptoms like this.  Not fun, but not worth cancelling a trip over. While we didn’t get much romantic time, we still went sight seeing, ate some great food and generally enjoyed being childless people for a few days.

The day after we returned I was due to get my period but I didn’t.  I thought maybe the heartburn and weird stomach aches while we were away could be early onset symptoms of pregnancy so I took a test which confirmed I was indeed expecting. This was pretty crazy news to process, as we hadn’t been trying for long and I was taking a really exciting work trip the next day.

I would be flying to San Francisco to go to a Facebook conference at their headquarters.  I would also get to drop in on the Twitter headquarters  and it was to be my first trip at both.  I was seriously jazzed about going, in particular because my company sending me was an indication of how seriously they were taking my role in growing our social practice.   The morning of the trip my stomach felt worse than it had before, and more than that, it felt weird.  I’ve had a lot of medical problems in my life, but this was a feeling I hadn’t experienced, both dull and sharp at the same time and in multiple locations.  But I just felt couldn’t very well pass up this super exciting opportunity.

I met up with my coworkers at the airport but we were all split up on the plane.  During the flight, I passed out four times.  I didn’t even know you could lose consciousness when you are sitting down, but apparently you can, because I did.  I’d get this wave really fast of knowing it would be about to happen, my head would drop, and then I would come to a few seconds later, feeling tingly and sweaty.  One of my co-workers stopped by my seat to say hi mid-flight, and I told him what happened, but played it off as if it was a weird, lighthearted thing and not at all a concerning development.  When we got off the plane, I didn’t even mention it to the other two.  I was traveling with all men, and in retrospect I think this affected a lot the way I handled the situation.  I didn’t want to show any signs of weakness, especially since they were all in more senior roles at the company than me.

I struggled to act normal on the way to the hotel  and immediately called Brian crying from my room.  “Something’s wrong, and I’m scared”.  I remember trying to convince myself that I didn’t need to go to the doctor, because then I might miss the dinner scheduled with our Facebook team (um, seriously?).  He insisted I go to the doctor, pointing out that being pregnant made it literally twice as important.

As luck would have it, there was an urgent care literally next door.  When I stopped at the concierge to get walking directions there, I must have looked like a hot mess because the hotel insisted on sending someone to walk me there.  I shot a super casual email to my co-workers. “Hey, I’m going to run over to the urgent care as I have a minor medical issue I just need to check out before dinner!”

At the urgent care, my pain was intensifying.  I thought maybe I had an ulcer, or the world’s worst case of heartburn.  Once I got into the exam room and the nurse realized I was pregnant and checked out my current state and symptoms, she looked at me like I was crazy. She refused to let the doctor see me and insisted I go to the hospital and called me a cab. I really thought she was overreacting (denial is not just a river in Egypt, folks). I called Brian with an update from the cab, and he was getting more worried, but I still figured it would turn out to be something minor.  I am the master of random but not serious medical maladies.

At the hospital, I wasn’t allowed to get out of a wheelchair because I was a “falling risk” due to the fainting.  They took some blood, and while waiting for the results, the decision was made that I needed an ultrasound. They had to give me IV saline to pump me up with enough fluid to take a look which is rough because I am someone that has to pee ALL THE TIME. The IV saline was killing my bladder, plus the pain was making the need to go to the bathroom worse somehow.  I begged them to let me pee, but was told that doing so would likely extend the time until the ultrasound because they’d have to fill me back up.  I held off as long as I could but eventually I just had to go.

Not too long after I peed, an ultrasound tech came over to get me.  I told her that I wasn’t sure if I was ready because I had just peed and she made it clear that they had to do the ultrasound NOW.  Nobody said anything during the exam but they spent more time on one side than another.   I wondered if maybe my appendix had burst or maybe I had a kidney stone.  Quickly after the exam I was brought into a private room and given the news.  I was in a more advanced state of pregnancy than I thought.  I wasn’t just a day or two passed a missed period, apparently I had been pregnant as of the previous month, but because I got a light period and my temps had gone back down I never tested.  But here was the triple whammy: I was eight weeks pregnant, the pregnancy was ectopic and it had ruptured.  I was bleeding internally and likely had been for a few days.  They were amazed that I wasn’t septic already.  They said I required surgery to remove the fetus.

This is how you’ll know I was in shock: My first thought was that I was going to miss the Facebook conference.  Next, I asked them if I could wait until I got home to have the surgery.  As in, fly back across the country.  The doctor looked at me like I had two heads.  “We have to do the surgery RIGHT NOW.  Immediately.  You are lucky that you came in when you did or you could have died.”  I had to call my husband and tell him that we were losing the pregnancy and that I would be having emergency surgery while he was across the country.  There was crying on both sides.  He assured me he’d find a way to get the first flight out there.

Here’s the third piece of proof I was in shock: My Facebook rep and my boss’s boss stopped by to check on me in the hospital on the way to dinner (I had sent them a follow up to my earlier email informing them that I was in the hospital and might be late to dinner) and I decided they should take a picture of me in my hospital gown giving the thumb’s up sign to post on Facebook in order to be meta.

lisa hospital

Let’s examine some layers here.  1) I posted a hospital photo of myself to Facebook.  2) I was giving a thumbs up.  3) I neglected to remember that despite my parents being on vacation in Australia, it was the modern era, which meant that they had internet sporadically and therefore the ability to check Facebook (they hadn’t been notified of my condition like the rest of my family had because we didn’t want to worry them on vacation)  4) I was losing my baby.  To my credit, if there is anything redeeming about this action at all, it’s that I didn’t actually tell Facebook that I was pregnant.  I just said I was bleeding internally and needed surgery. But still, but still, but still.  Have I ever mentioned I’m an oversharer?  Also, as it turns out, even though I am an obsessive thinker and can spend hours turning over a conversation or decision in mind, I literally turned my brain into a blank slate of denial and repression to deal with this situation.

My husband arrived the next morning after the surgery was over.  The surgery went well; they had to remove one of my Fallopian tubes because the damage was too severe, but otherwise everything went smoothly.  I was able to fly home the day after that, on the original flight I had planned to take home.  Amazingly, the seat next to me on the plane was free and we were able to book it without having to deal with it at the airport.  I cried some on the plane when Maxwell’s cover of Kate Bush’s song “A Woman’s Work” popped up on my playlist (it’s a song that was written for the movie “She’s having a Baby” about the scariness of childbirth) until my husband made me stop listening to moody music. Then I mostly slept.

My company was kind and generous in paying for expenses as well as offering as much time off as I needed, but I went back to work quickly from home, because I couldn’t bear to be alone with my thoughts.  Surprisingly, I didn’t mourn the loss of the pregnancy much.  I had only known I was pregnant for 2 days when it happened, and hadn’t begun to attach myself to the idea of a baby in my mind.  In addition, because I knew it was not viable, it helped me feel that it could never have been my baby.  Mom tip: Just because I didn’t struggle much with the loss doesn’t mean that is the experience of other moms who have gone through something similar, or any other kind of pregnancy loss.  It hits every woman differently and there’s no right or wrong way to feel.

But a few months after the ectopic, during the time it began to sink in that I might not be able to have a baby, I struggled pretty hard with something similar to PTSD.  It was as if the realization that I almost died just smacked me in the face one day, and I became terrified.  I withdrew emotionally, I cried a lot, I had way more anxiety than usual.  Everything I had closed in my brain just opened up and started spilling out.  This seems to be a bit of a pattern for me – I handled my postpartum depression the same way, not actually recognizing it until after it had been going on for too long.  One thing that helped was my doctor explaining to me that having one tube doesn’t reduce your chances of pregnancy by half, as women don’t consistently ovulate.  Some women might only ovulate from one tube, some might alternate every month, and some can ovulate on one side for three months and then switch.  He said I should trust my body to do it’s job and that I was still young enough to have a good chance of a happy outcome.

luca bearMy story has a happy ending, as you likely know if you’ve read my blog and remember that I have two kids.  Despite having only one Fallopian tube left to work with, after getting permission to try again after three months, I was able to get pregnant within a year, and that’s our delicious Luca.  And every year I make a donation to the Stanford Hospital in California as a reminder of what I’ve lost and what I’ve gained.  It’s because of them that I’m alive and I have my boy.