Thursday, August 4, 2011

a big thank you to the support staff.

recently, some minor staff changes were made at work, and i found myself with a new secretary. and she is lovely, and amazing, and cheerful, and kind. she's the kind of person who asks you about your day and genuinely cares to hear your response. it's really nice. but this post is not about her, even though she makes my days that much more pleasant. it's really about some other supporting players in the theatre of the absurd (a.k.a my life) and how grateful i am to have them in my cast of characters.

but as they say, you have to experience the rain to get to the rainbow, so let's dissect the not-so-nice, so i can wrap this up with a proper shout-out to a few choice people who deserve a big thanks. are you thoroughly confused? i'm reaching the end of what has turned out to be a harrowing work week. too much coffee, not enough sleep... i apologize in advance if none of this makes much sense.

very few people read this blog. which is perfectly fine with me. i rather prefer it, to be perfectly honest. in fact, the only people (i assume) who read this blog are people i've generally shared all of this with anyway, so i don't feel all awkward about anyone reading this. the older i get, the more i realize that i have a terrible memory, so mostly this is a diary of things i want to remember or document. and not that i necessarily want to document what i'm about to type, but i just want to put it out there because i do feel strongly about it.

ok, enough with the suspense. today i'd like to talk about... (DUN DUN DUN) mean mommies. and, before you come to this conclusion anyway, i'd like to issue a full disclaimer: i do believe that the reason the following bothered me is because at the time that each of these comments were made, i was not in a place where i was secure enough or confident enough in my abilities as a mother to brush off what was said. in other words, i was bothered because i was bothered, if that makes any sense at all. it took awhile to get here, but i do feel like i'm in a completely different place with myself as a mother, and if these scenarios were to happen now, i hope my reaction would be different. i hope that if you're feeling the way that i did, that maybe you will know you're not alone. maybe you'll have the courage to stand up for yourself to the mean mommy. either way, here goes....

mom guilt sucks. i wish i could put it more eloquently than that, but the truth is, it's major suckage. as a mom, you've automatically opted into the lifelong worry club. you worry about everything. if it's been a busy day and everyone's exhausted, and you breathe a sigh of relief as you gently tuck that sleeping angel into his crib, you are immediately consumed with guilt over the fact that there wasn't enough time for a bedtime story. damnit it all to hell. will my baby excel if i forget to read him "the very hungry caterpillar" at the end of a tiring day? if we lay around all afternoon on a sunday, watching tv while jack plays on the floor with his blocks, are we bad parents for failing to engage our youngster in interactive activities that stimulate brain development? if i let jack have a few licks of my beecher's praline cream ice cream cone, am i a bad mom?

and then the more emotional questions: if i stop breastfeeding and give my baby formula, have i failed my son as a mother? if i'm out the door before my little peanut awakes, am i prioritizing work over family? if i have to prepare for trial and i don't have time to eat dinner with my son tonight, am i a horrible mom? i mean it, you pick a day, you pick a time, and one of these queries is floating around in my head. i swear.

most days, i am pretty good at applauding myself and commending me and john on being good parents. i mean, jack is alive, happy, learning, growing... we must be doing something right. but then there are the days where i doubt myself. i doubt the choices i'm making, and the routines we've chosen. i feel guilty, horrible all-consuming guilt that threatens every part of me. it is on these days that i reach out, that i need a friend to tell me that i'm doing okay, that i'm doing my best, and that perfection isn't possible.

unfortunately a few too many times, i've been met with an absolute wall of... (again, sorry for the lack of eloquency) bullshit.

here are some of the honest-to-god comments i've gotten in response to my (maybe too veiled) "hey, i need some mommy support:"

me: yes, i stopped breastfeeding at 8.5 months. mean mommy: i thought you were actually going to try to make it to a year. i just couldn't imagine quitting like that.

(cue all-consuming vein-popping anger) I DID NOT QUIT BREASTFEEDING. i breastfed my baby, and then i decided to stop when he was 8.5 months old. all things being equal, i would have loved to continue breastfeeding. i went through a rollercoaster of emotions with it that ended on satisfaction and acceptance. i fed my baby exclusively breastmilk til he was six months old (and was introduced to some solids). i continued to feed him breastmilk and solid foods until he was over eight months. i did damn good. and i am now at that place of righteous indignation where i want to slap anyone who makes me feel anything but proud about having breastfed "for only eight months." because i think breastfeeding and PUMPING is completely different than feeding on demand, and anyone who has been where i've been (pumping in abandoned alleyways, pumping in the car, waking up in the middle of the night to pump and keep my supply up, pumping in between clients) knows what i mean. stupid, insensitive comments are so unnecessary. ultimately, we all try to do the best we can. and my best was 8.5 months. at one point, i had something like 800 oz. of stored milk in my freezer. i busted my ass and i gave it my all. i am at peace with having stopped.

mean mommy: wait, you're not dressing jack in organic baby clothes? i mean, we did because it's really the best thing for a baby's skin.

umm, are you out there weaving a tiny shirt made of corn tassles to pair with a grass skirt fashioned from your yard clippings? first of all, a baby is a tiny human. yes, babies have sensitive skin, and i don't want to over-simplify the complex skin conditions that some children have. however, using gentle laundry detergent (or even 1/4 the amount of the regular stuff) is just fine. as long as you're not out there soaking baby clothes in pesticides, he or she is going to be fine. besides, i think it just as important that baby has a roof over his head and food in his belly, and if we were forced to purchase organic-only clothing, we'd be homeless. i guess you pick your battles.

mean mommy: wait, jack isn't in [x class]? you really need to sign him up so he can interact with people and learn things.

here's the thing: i'm not opposed to socializing my child. i think that's super important. and for the record, i do that. i take jack out places, and john and i have taken jack to weddings (3, in fact), restaurants, vacations, stores, etc. jack is happy and good-natured. at some point we may sign him up for swim lessons or maybe see if he'd like to play an instrument or a sport. we also live in iowa, where classes and activity groups and weekly "come look at how awesome my baby is compared to yours" classes are not as frequent, so i'm perfectly okay with not having enrolled jack in anything of the sort. the insinuation that my son will not be as smart as yours, or as socialized because i am not paying $100+ a week so he can sit in a room and listen to music playing loudly with a just-a-little-bit-too-happy instructor shouting and clapping is just OFF BASE.

mean mommy: you shouldn't have your tv on when your jack is in the room. he shouldn't be watching tv when he's under one.

SO TRUE! i totally don't want jack getting addicted to certain tv shows and then trying to cramp my style by insisting that he should watch them when i want to veg and catch up on real housewives! do i think it's appropriate to park an infant in front of a tv and let the television babysit him for hours upon hours? no, but i don't think that's appropriate at any age. do i think i'm a bad mom because i let jack watch 21 minute episodes of "bubbleguppies" on nick onDemand (because he bounces up and down and claps, and i think it's adorable watching him enjoy it)? no. i think it's all about moderation, people.

mean mommy: are you going to let jack play hockey when he's older? me: if he wants to, sure. mean mommy: you think that's smart? we would never let our kids play hockey because it's so violent and dangerous. i mean, you really have to prioritize your child's health... but that's just my opinion.

and thank you for it! by the way, that's bullshit. there, i said it. i have a dad and three brothers who played hockey and have developed wonderful friendships and the kind of strength that comes from conditioning one's body and mind to excel at an athletic undertaking. i suppose hockey can be dangerous. but so are knives. so are electrical outlets. so is getting into a car and walking down stairs. i will support jack if he wants to play hockey... even if it is a touch more dangerous than playing the piano. you can't keep your kids locked in a room all day. afterall, children are not flowers in an attic (yeah, i'm totally in a v.c. andrews phase right now...)

mean mommy: do you walk around naked in front of jack? me: ummmm, no. mean mommy: well, when i first had kids, i didn't either.... but you realize over time that you have to introduce kids to the naturalness of the human body. you really need to make an effort to be around a child and show them that being naked is normal and not wrong.

thank so much for sharing your superior mom knowledge with me! first of all, let's talk about the message that using a towel after one has showered sends. do you assume that people put towels on after showering in an attempt to cover up their sinful bodies? i don't. i generally think that people are using the towel to dry their wet body and not puddle water all over the floor, but maybe i've been wrong all these years. i am not trying to teach jack any "lessons" when i wear a robe. i'm simply comfortable wearing a robe after i shower and as i get ready for work. i suppose i could strut around naked and teach jack about having a crazy, nakey mom, but that's just not me. and i do believe that being naked is wrong... in certain settings. for example, being naked outside of a bar at 2 a.m. will get you an indecent exposure charge and, depending on your proximity to a school, maybe the obligation to register on the sex offender registry. while i don't think the human body is anything to be ashamed of, i do think that it is important to teach my son: no shirt, no shoes, no service. if that makes me a horrible mommy, so be it.

mean mommy: why aren't you buying jack dolls? by limiting the toys you buy him, you're asking him to assume a gender role... and that's so old-fashioned especially in this day and age.

to be quite honest, i don't really buy jack many toys. he receives his fair share of blocks and other things that are scattered about our living room from generous family and friends. regardless, he seems altogether fascinated by spatulas, laundry baskets, empty boxes and water bottles, so i don't see the need to spend a fortune on things he couldn't care less about. however, when i do decide to purchase a toy for him, i am not making a social statement for the world to see. i'm buying an over-priced piece of brightly colored plastic. and please, people, let me do this in peace.

the thing is: i already worry about lots of shit! i don't need you to add your two cents to the pile of loose change i have floating around in my brain. i'm already there. maybe this post demonstrates that i am super sensitive or super insecure or super hormonal. and i wouldn't disagree that i've been all of those things at various points since jack was born. but i will say that i have gained confidence as a mom and i like to think that i'm more in control of my reactions to other people's opinions of me as a mother.

i try to learn something from every experience that i have, and in these instances, i've made sure to commit to memory the way these comments made me feel. because i never want to do that to someone. i never want to come across as judgy mc judgerson. one of the hardest parts of being a mom is learning to trust yourself and your instincts. if i can help a fellow mom feel better about herself, i absolutely commit myself to that task. because (cue the ben lee!) we're all in this together!

and now for the good stuff. i was actually prompted to write this post because i got the sweetest e-mail from a friend, who also happens to be a mom, so full of support and love that i cried (what else is new?). regardless of the crappy moments i've experienced during a few (thankfully isolated) encounters with some meanies, i am blessed to have some wonderfully supportive mommies and soon-to-be mommies in my life. and to them, i dedicate this post. thanks for sitting with me and allowing me to "let it all hang out" (quite literally) with you. thank you for sending those text messages at the appropriate moments. thanks for accepting my tearful phone calls and meeting my desperation with advice, empathy and understanding. you have helped me to be a better mom, and i can never convey my gratitude for that.

and, on a final note, to the mean mommies: my hope for you is that you are afforded a little break today, perhaps ten minutes or more, to stop, look in the mirror and honestly tell yourself: you're doing just fine! you're a good mom! i believe, more than anything, that these comments were borne of insecurities, maybe mixed with a little guilt or frustration, too. i think the inadequacies swirling around in a mean mommy's head surface as criticism of others. and i mean this from the bottom of my heart: i don't want that for anyone. i wish all mothers and soon-to-be mothers of any age all my best.  when we worry too much about what we're doing, we miss all the magic being made by the little ones.... and life is too damn short for that.  


  1. Oh sister, fabulous post. I loved everything about it!!!

  2. thanks for all the support, melissa! i so appreciate it! can't wait to see you next month!

  3. You hit the nail on the head. Whenever I talk to my friends who are new mommies-to-be I tell them the only advice I have for them is to not listen to all the stupid (aka, mean) moms out there. Judgment comes with motherhood, and the best thing you can do for yourself is to just ignore it and try your best not to do it yourself.

  4. I can't believe people would actually say those things! I would be very interested to see how their organic play-group danger-free kids end up in 20 years while Jack is being a well-adjusted intelligent realistic popular dude. You guys are fantastic parents!

  5. Thanks, Rach! You are most definitely a treasured member of my support "staff!" Miss you lots! xoxo