Wednesday, February 26, 2014

8 things I wish they'd told me

One of my dearest, oldest friends has a 6 week old, and she's having a bit of a hard time, so I thought it was time to 'fess up to her about my blog.  Welcome to my crazy, K.  We're all hot messes here.

So for K, and for all of us, here are 8 things I wish they'd told me about motherhood when I was starting.

1.  Babies cry. It's not you.  It's their brains.  Sometimes there is no logical explanation and therefore nothing you can do.  I want to tell you not to blame yourself or take it personally, but it will only help so much.  It's almost impossible not to take things personally when they come from your children.  For more on this, see anything I've written, ever.  And while we're on the topic?  Babies cry. And toddlers throw tantrums.  And preschoolers have power struggles.  And teenagers rebel.  And mothers doubt themselves

It's not your fault.  We're all just doing what we're supposed to do.

2.  It is possible to feel two completely contradictory emotions at the same time.  In fact, I've become convinced that for moms this is the norm.  You will feel both bored and overwhelmed.  You will want both to never be touched again and to never put your sweet baby down. You will likely both love and hate every single stage. There's absolutely no reason to feel guilty about this.  It's part and parcel of being a mom.  And because you don't have the emotional capacity of a teacup, you will be just fine.  I promise.

3.  Sometimes, you just need to get out of the house.  Target is excellent for this.  To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever found a definitive scientific reason for this, but wandering the aisles of Target with your pre-verbal baby feels like absolute magic.  You may want to avoid this step if you are on a budget though because of the distinct possibility of buying all the things.

4.  Whatever you do is enriching your baby, so do what you want to do.  Strap him in a sling and check out a museum.  Go sit at a coffee house.  Go to story time at the library even though he's way too young to care, not because you are doing anything for his language development but because it's free and there are books and other grown ups there.

5.  Making new mom friends is worse than dating.  Unfortunately, having kids the same age as yours is not sufficient to forming real and meaningful bonds.  If you don't click with someone, it's always them.  Never you.

6.  Read.  Always have a book nearby when you are feeding your baby.  Fill your beautiful brain.

7.  This is hard.  Enjoying every minute isn't mandatory.  You still get to say you love being a mom.  It's in the contract.

8.  You are not alone.  Ever ever.  Reach out.  Tell the truth.  Don't let shame take hold.  We are all in this together.  I double promise.

What advice do you have for my sweet friend?

Monday, February 24, 2014

On discomfort

At 3:30 last night, my husband nudged me.  "She's been crying for a while.  You probably need to go get her."

I stumbled out of bed, collected my 14 month old and bundled her back to my bed.  She tugged at my shirt, and I lifted it.

An hour later, she was still latched on and neither of us was more than half asleep. She paused for a second and looked me in the face.  I pulled my shirt down and tried to snuggle her close.

And then she started screaming in my face.


This morning at 7, my big girl started whining.  "I waaaaaant breakfast.   Moooooommmmmmy, can I please have cereal?  MOOOOMMMMMY?"

If I don't answer her within 5 seconds, she assumes I'm not listening and starts to get peevish.  (To be fair I know some grown ups who get like this too, cough DH cough.)

"Okay.  I'm getting it.  Wait.  Ask nicely.  For the love of God, be patient."

I pour the cereal.

And she sits down on the floor wailing, "CEREAL?! BUT I DON'T WANT CEREAL." And proceeds to cry for ten minutes.

I. can't.

Here's how my internal monologue runs when my kids cry.

Oh my God.  Stop.  They need to stop.  How can they do this to me?  I am trying so hard.  Don't I do enough?  After everything I did, they still cry?  Why can't I make them happy?  Why am I so bad at meeting their needs?  Why do I suck so much?  I can't even make my kids happy.  I can't believe they're doing this to me.


Here's the problem with pinning your worth, value, self image on the happiness, fulfillment, and success of the small people in your care.

Sometimes?  They're freaking cray cray.

I want my kids to be happy because I love them..  I want them to be successful.  I want them to make good choices, have good manners, be kind and respectful.  I want them to know what they are supposed to know.  I want to stop them from ever being uncomfortable, from ever struggling.

It's okay to want those things.  It's normal to want those things.  It's admirable to want those things.

But that's not my job.

This is the hardest thing for me.  Remembering that no matter what I do, no matter how hard I work, the feelings, fulfillment, and personhood of other humans is never in my control.  Even if those people are my spawn.


Sometimes my kids are going to be mad.  They are going to be disappointed.  They are going to experience discomfort.  It's not a reflection on me or how I am doing at parenting.  It's life.  

It's healthy.

But it sucks.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Let's write, shall we?

The other day, Susan asked me what she should write about and I told, her just start writing.  Like I've told so many people before.  Like they teach at the National Writing Project.

Let's write, shall we?

If only it were that easy.

(It is.)

I like to get in my own way.  I like to give advice I don't know how to follow myself.

The other night, I told a dear friend that her writing was amazing and she should pitch, audition, find a home for it because her voice deserved to be heard.

When am I going to believe that my voice deserves to be heard?

Voice of the year submissions close soon.  I have the tab open in my browser.  Because that's what I do with things I'm avoiding, I open them in new tabs in my browser.

I'm waiting for something.  I'm always waiting for something.  Waiting for permission, waiting for validation and approval, waiting for someone else to tell me I'm good enough.

Only, that happened once.  I had a post syndicated on BlogHer.  Someone saw something I wrote and said "Hey, this is good."

And it didn't change anything.

I don't know what I was expecting it to change.

I don't know what I'm looking for, what I'm waiting for, what I want.  I don't know when I'm going to feel like I'm doing it, like I've arrived, like I'm worthy.  When I'm going to feel like I'm not just preparing.

NaBloPoMo made me get out of my own way.  Made me publish things before I was always ready.  Made me just write.  And then I fell off the wagon.

And when I stopped doing the work it stopped working.  Of course.

But I still wonder, what's the point?  What am I doing here?

Maybe it doesn't matter.  Maybe there is no big picture, no macro sense in which this all works out.  Maybe I just show up every day and do the work, do what I must.  Maybe that's all I can really control.

Or maybe not.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Some tea for my vulnerability hangover

Dear Self,

I see you.  Curled up under the desk in the fetal position.  And it's okay.

Yesterday, you listened to the universe (and Glennon) telling you that it was time to be brave.  That it was time to show up.

You didn't just do it because someone told you to.  You know this in your heart.  You've been showing up when you didn't want to for years.

You are brave.  You truly are.  You aren't just pretending.  Hiding under your desk today doesn't mean you aren't brave.

It's okay to want to be safe.  It's okay to want to keep yourself from getting hurt, to want to protect yourself from judgment, shame and blame.  It's something humans do.

But you are here, you are doing the work, every day.  You are messy and you are beautiful.

The work you do, the words you say, they matter.  And they don't just matter when other people tell you they do.  They don't just matter when you get the response you were looking for.

Yesterday, you wanted to show up and be messy and vulnerable and tell the truth, let the words pour out.  But then you wanted those words to be met with nothing but approval, you wanted to impress people, you wanted people to say "Man, she's PERFECT at being imperfect."

Even though you said you weren't going to do that.

And that's okay.

Everyone gets the vulnerability hangover.  It doesn't mean that you did anything wrong.  It doesn't mean that you made a mistake.  It doesn't mean that you're weak.  It doesn't mean that you should stop.

You want to be seen as wise and self aware and together, as talented, as evolved.

And you are those things.  You know you are.  You don't need to wait for someone else to think that about you.  You're allowed to believe in yourself and your own words.  You're allowed to be proud of them.

And you're allowed to feel raw and be hurting today.  You're allowed to catch your breath.

And you can show up anyway.  You just did.

I'm pouring you some tea, and giving you a big hug.

You're so much braver than you think you are.


Your nurturer.  Because you're damn good at nurturing

P.S.  You just got this out of your head, so I'm gonna put it back in.  You're welcome.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Right now, I am sitting at my kitchen table with my laptop.   I am rolling out my neck and trying to ignore or fix the headache that it creeping from the back of my skull to behind my left eye.  I am passing crackers off to my 14 month old in her high chair to keep her quiet while I wait for the frozen pizza to cook.  I am watching my three year old out of the corner of my eye as she examines the stickers she got in the favor bag from her friend's birthday party.

I am okay.

And I'm a mess.

Sometimes I wait for permission to take care of myself.  I wait for someone to tell me that it's okay to get a massage, that it's okay to take a nap, that it's okay to ignore my kids and read a book.  And then I resent them when they tell me such things because obviously, those things aren't true.

But really, I think sometimes what I'm waiting for is permission to not be okay.

I worry that feeling depressed, that wanting more out of my life, that having an existential crisis, that looking for meaning, that feeling like I have a deeper purpose, that wanting to feel fulfilled and being disappointed when I'm not, that these are first world problems.  These are signs of privilege.  They mean that I'm ungrateful.  They are shameful.

I believe that I should just stop complaining.

When I went to the doctor and she put me on meds, she asked me how I was doing, and she really listened.  I told her I feel overwhelmed sometimes and that I wasn't sure if it was just normal.  She said I didn't have to feel that way.

Before I had kids, when I was successful, when I was getting straight A's and winning teacher of the year, no one ever asked me if I was depressed.

But I was.

I was so afraid of letting anyone down.   I was so close to the edge, all the time.  I had to keep succeeding, to keep helping, to keep giving, to keep being good at everything and good for everyone or I might disappoint someone.

I didn't love myself.  I never have, really.

But it wasn't until I became a mom, until I couldn't just ignore the parts of my life I wasn't good at, couldn't just redirect everyone's attention to my successes that suddenly the world thought I was allowed to be depressed.

And they told me that what I need is a break, told me again and again, get a sitter, join a gym, go out with girl friends.  Stop being a martyr and take care of yourself more.

And I get so mad because that's NOT the POINT.  I just want to win again.  If I could just get back to winning, I could keep that hateful voice quiet again like I used to.

Maybe I shouldn't.  Maybe I don't want to.  Maybe I'm grateful to my kids and my life for breaking me.

Maybe it's the only way I can have permission to become whole.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

From your crazy internet aunt

Dear sweet G and KC,

Let me tell you about your mom.

She's the kind of lady who always asks about your day first, even when she's having the worst day of her life.  And not because she is a martyr, but because she really cares.

She will go out of her way to help if she can see any way to.  She will stay up all night to make someone flowers or cupcakes.  She shows up to help people move.

Being your mom's friend is kind of the best gig ever.

Except maybe the one you have.

Because the only thing in the world your mom loves more than her friends is you and your brother.

Oh and your dad.  But we can talk about how lucky they are too have each other another time.

Your mom, she was born to be a mom.  The love in her heart is probably the most powerful force in the universe.  And even though right now she's scared, there is nothing that makes her more complete than knowing you are all her family.

So do me a favor and look out for her.  Remind her that she's doing just fine, that she's exactly what you need.

We'll be here if you need us.  We love you all so much.

Your crazy internet aunt,


Monday, February 10, 2014

On worth

My deepest fear is that I will become irrelevant.  Unnecessary.  My deepest fear is that no one will really need me. My deepest fear is that I don't matter.

If it's okay for me to leave my kids with someone else, if it's okay to ignore them while they watch TV or do something meaningless, then what is the point of me?

If my friends are okay without me, if they aren't leaning heavily on me, if they aren't pouring all of their problems and their worries and sometimes, yes, their happiness onto me, then how can I be their friend?

If I'm not being wise and taking care of someone, if I'm not doing just the right thing and having all the right words, if I'm not always there when I'm needed, before anyone even knows they need me (but they do), then how can I possibly have any worth?

What is worth?

People say to me that I shouldn't (SHOT) pin my worth on my helpfulness to others.  They tell me I have inherent worth, right now, for who I am, even when I'm not doing anything for anyone else.

I don't even know what the hell that means.

I am ashamed of being a martyr.  I am ashamed of hustling for worthiness.  I am ashamed of not being confident enough, not believing that I have inherent worth.

I don't want to be ashamed anymore.  That's the way of the spiral.  I know this.

I should know this.

I should know better.

(Double shot!)

How can I have worth that is separate from what I do for other people?  People say they don't just love me for my wisdom, for my teacher's heart, for my nurturing.  But that strikes me as a little bit of BS really.

Because what else am I?

When people don't need me, I am overcome with this feeling of anxiety.  I don't know what to do with myself.  I don't know who I am.  I feel so alone.

But the thing is, when I do say something helpful and wise, when I do have the right words, the other shame voice follows.  There's that brief moment of feeling whole, feeling like myself, feeling like I've been and done exactly what I was made for.

And then there's the "Who do you think you are?"

"Do you think this matters?  Do you think this is real?  You are a hypocrite.  You are a phony.  You aren't a therapist, and therefore you aren't qualified for this.  You aren't really wise, you are just pretending.  Everyone is going to find you out.  They're going to realize that this isn't real.   Do you really think this gives you worth?  HA."

I'm not supposed to hustle.  I'm not supposed to think my worth springs from my actions.  I fail because my assumptions are faulty.  There will never be enough to make me feel complete until I start from a place of completeness.

But what is worth?  What is worthiness?  Where does it come from?  How does one have it?

I just don't understand.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Here's what I know to be true

My dear, sweet girls,

Here's what I know to be  true.  With all my heart and all my mind.  With my body, I know it to be  true.

You are perfect.  Already, right now, just the way you are.

And I'm afraid that the things I do, the ways I act, they don't always show that.  Especially with you, BG.  The truth is, you scare the crap out of me.  (But don't say crap, please.  Especially not in front of Grammy.  Again.)

You are brave.  You are strong. You are social. You know what you want.  You hold true to what's important to you.

And mommy is so afraid of those things.

The truth is, there is a big part of mommy's heart that just wants to keep you safe.  Wants to protect you from any and all possible judgment, hurt, and rejection.  When you walk up to strangers at the playground and tell them you want to play with them, my heart is in my throat for you.  Every time.  I want to tell you to be cool, man, be cool.  Don't try so hard.  Don't let them know you care.

But I swallow it.  Thank God I swallow it, every time.  Because I don't want you to ever stop trying and caring.

And I want to protect you from ever failing, too.  You know how sometimes when little sister wants to play with your blocks and you scream and cry and knock them over yourself so you don't give her the chance to ruin them?  I get that.  I totally do.

Sometimes I find myself looking up what to do with a spirited, sensitive child.  I want to find ways to tone you down a little, to redirect you, to calm you.  Maybe just a little more sensory input of some kind, a little more exercise, a little more something would make you ... would make you what?

I love you, and I love your big feelings, and I love your frustrations, and I love your bossiness.  And I don't want you to ever think that I want to fix you, that I want you to be someone different from who you are.  Because what a loss that would be.

And little sister.  Oh, my heart. I worry about you disappearing.  I worry about you not getting enough.  I worry about you getting your feeling hurt by your sister's - let's call it what it is sometimes - reign of terror.  I want to protect you too.

But you aren't at all fragile.  You aren't breakable.  You are subtle.  You are calm.  But you get what you want.  And you usually do it without complaining or crying.  You have a let up on the rest of us on that one.

And as much as I want to keep you little and innocent and pure, as much as I want to protect you, it isn't my job to keep either of you completely safe from the world.  To paraphrase Brene Brown, it's only my job to remind you that you are loved and worthy and safe, even when you fail, even when you get rejected.  To show you that it's okay to try.

So let me tell you what I know to be true about mommy.

I am imperfect.  I make a lot of mistakes.  I doubt myself.  I overanalyze things.  I veer to the negative.  I criticize myself.

And that's okay.  Because I love myself that way.  I don't need to change, I don't need to be fixed.

I need to write.  I need to put my writing out there even if I'm afraid of failure and rejection.  I need to be willing to try and fail.  I need to be willing to care.  And it is okay that those things scare me.  I don't need to wait until they don't scare me before I do these things.  I need to do them right now, even when they scare me.

Thank you for teaching me those things, my sweet girls.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What if this is as good as it gets?

So, last night, I was googling "How do I know what I want?"

You know, like people do.

What I found was a lot of career advice, a lot of quizzes to help you figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life.

That's not really what I was looking for.

I don't need a new career.  I don't need a new project, or a new hobby.  I don't need to ask myself what I would do if I had a million dollars, if I could do whatever I wanted.

I'd be here.  And, no, I probably wouldn't be any more or less happy.

What I was looking for wasn't advice on how to know what to do with the rest of my life.  What I wanted was to know what I wanted right now.  What I want to do with the next five minutes.  The things for which I want to ask and with which I want help.

I know that I'm uncomfortable.  That my gut says there has to be something else.

What if that's a lie?

What if this is as good as it gets?  What if I don't know what I want to be working towards because there's nothing to work towards?  What if I'm already doing all the things I need to do?  What if my life is already fine and uncomfortable is just normal?

I can't decide if that thought is comforting or terrifying.