Love By A Different Name

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Me and Ryan

I really believe that the first born child has it harder than the rest. I guess that doesn’t sound fair to the middle children or the babies — but it’s true.

Oldest babies are the test babies. The ones who have to live through their inept first-time parents’ mistakes. The ones who have to live a life recovering from their parents’ neuroses and anxieties about raising a human being for the first time — a foreign, precious, and terrifying experience. The responsibility of being a parent doesn’t really hit you until you’re holding that helpless creature in your arms and looking into those newborn eyes that encompass endless possibilities.

My boy. My oldest. I made mistakes with him. I had him too young. I wasn’t ready for his amazing, life-altering presence. But I did the best I could.

Now he’s approaching thirteen. He smiles less. He rolls his eyes at me. But he’s still Ryan. Funny. Helpful. Neurotic. Imaginative.

He has a learning disability that makes school a challenge for him. Some nights, his homework is almost unbearable for him. Tears well up in his eyes. “What’s wrong with me?” he says, as he rests his head in his hands in utter defeat.

It breaks my fucking heart. I want him to be happy. To know that my love for him is vaster than a billion universes combined. When I give him hugs, he puts his head on my shoulder — and I know he’s slipping away. Away to that tumultuous, angst-ridden place called teenagerdom. And I don’t want him to leave. Because he’ll see me with new eyes. He’ll see the mistakes I made.

And as he stands on that cusp, I’m about to give birth to my last baby. My last boy. A baby I’m ready for. A baby who’ll have more than Ryan. A baby who (god willing) won’t have to go through some of the difficulties that Ryan went through.

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As I’ve grown older, I’ve become a better parent — more patient and better able to enjoy the moment. I didn’t have that joy and unceasing devotion when I was young. I wasn’t a bad parent; I just wasn’t ready. I was in a perpetual state of impatience, waiting for that next developmental stage, because — god. It sounds awful, but I just wanted Ryan to grow up already. I loved him with ceaseless intensity, but I didn’t know how to enjoy motherhood. And he had to have felt that. I know he felt that.

So now I’m in my thirties. I have a three-year-old and a new little one waiting to make his entrance into this world. And I’m ready and able to give them boundless patience and tenderness. I’m ready to enjoy every moment of their little lives. It’s not fair to Ryan, but as Ryan has grown I’ve become a better mother to him. And that’s something, right?

Damn it. Here I am, not even a week after writing a post on mom guilt, and it’s here staring me in the face. Fucking guilt. But I’m human, and the best I can do is forge forward as a better mother, giving all my children the love they deserve; love by a different name.

I Let A Third Grade Snob Get To Me

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Kiera being her fabulous Kiera self.

My nine year old daughter, Kiera, frequently comes home with a host of tales about a particular girl in her class.

I’ll call her Claire.

Claire is, like, uber fashionable. “So in style,” gushes Kiera.

Kiera was enamored with her at first. Claire is new to the school and just exudes coolness. Apparently. “She’s already soooo popular, mom,” says Kiera. To make things even more interesting, Claire gives Kiera all kinds of fashion and style tips.

“Claire says I have to flip my hair behind behind my shoulders because it looks better that way.”

“Oh my god. Claire has soooo many lip glosses. She showed me. She brought them to school in her backpack.”

“Claire is so into make-up and style, mom. She ALWAYS looks fashionable. That’s ALL she talks about.”

“Claire taught me how to walk like a model today. We sway our hips like this. See?”

Oh my sweet nine year old girl. I told her that Claire focuses too much on looks and that perhaps she (Kiera) should redirect the conversation to other interesting topics. Not that fashion and beauty isn’t fun. I loved that stuff when I was nine. But the focus is a bit excessive. In addition, Kiera started asking for particular clothes because “that’s what Claire’s wearing.”

But then Kiera’s stories started changing.

“Claire told me she wouldn’t be my friend anymore if I didn’t wear my hair up.” She said this as tears filled her big blue eyes.

“Claire was telling me that I look funny today. I don’t think she likes me anymore, mom.”

Then the stories started turning into tear-filled tales of Claire’s dictatorship. Kiera couldn’t even draw something in class without Claire telling her she was doing it wrong. Kiera couldn’t play during recess without Claire pointing out Kiera’s failures. Claire would frequently get in Kiera’s face, boss her around, and declare that Kiera was not a good friend if she didn’t wear her shirt just so.

In short, Kiera was beginning to feel pretty damn inadequate. And Kiera feeling inadequate is a HUGE deal. She is the most enthusiastic, positive-thinking, go-getter that I know. She rarely lets anything get her down. She truly is a happy child — one that typically doesn’t care what people think.

I didn’t feel that these Claire episodes were happening often enough that it required me to get involved. Sometimes you have to sit back and let children navigate friendship struggles. I wanted to encourage Kiera to stand-up for herself. So I continued to encourage her:

“If she gets in your face again, tell her to back off. You can tell her she’s being mean and that you don’t want to play with her.”

“But that’s so hard, mom,” Kiera would say, “If I tell her to go away, she says she doesn’t want to be my friend. And then I start crying!”

“Well, you don’t WANT her to be your friend, Kiera! You’re a good person and you don’t need a mean-spirited person making you sad. By crying, you’re giving her all the power.”

Kiera would stand there silently and nod her head. I could tell she was taking my words in but didn’t quite know what to do with them.

And then.

One morning, Kiera came out of her room wearing an eclectic, colorful outfit — mismatched and odd looking but it somehow fit her personality.

Kiera announced:

I’m tired of all this fashion stuff. I’m just gonna be ME. I’m back to my hippy self. I’m gonna dress how I used to dress. This is me, mom.

With Kiera’s change of heart, the tales of Claire began to diminish. Usually a few weeks go by now before Claire is even mentioned. When Claire IS mentioned, however, it’s still not in a nice way.

This morning Kiera told me the following:

“I told Claire that you used to smoke cigarettes and she says that means you’re a bad parent.”

Ok. No. Uh uh. I don’t think so, CLAIRE.

In my extreme annoyance at this Claire tidbit I said, “Tell Claire she’s talking out of her butt.”

Kiera just stared at me wide-eyed.

Shit. I let a third grader get to me.

“You want me to tell her she’s talking out of her butt?”

“Yes, Kiera. You have my permission.”

She shook her head and smiled in disbelief.

What can I say? Sometimes you need a little third grade mentality to tell a third grade snob to back off.

So there, Claire. I said it. You’re talking out of your butt. 

Now go away.

The Moms Are Alright

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I’m a good mom.

I am.

What about you?

It’s so easy to get caught up in the “I’m not doing enough” mentality that seems to plague parents. Mothers especially are hard on themselves due to the deeply ingrained societal expectations that have been embedded into their double X chromosomes. We just think we need to do everything. No matter how independent and strong we are as women — no matter how far we’ve come — we have a deep, irrational fear of not being perfect. Not to say that fathers don’t feel parental guilt too — they do. God knows I’ve seen my husband wracked with guilt over something he “should’ve” done, or “should’ve” done better. As parents this guilt lies in wait — and we usually bend at it’s will.

But as mothers. As mothers — and as women — we have this unachievable expectation that we should have the supermom ability to make things right. And if we don’t make it right the first time, we beat ourselves to a pulp. If we don’t achieve unrealistic levels of excellence, we bend to the guilt — to the voice in the back of our head that says:

You fucked up. You’re fucking everything up.

And I’m tired of it. I’m tired of myself and other women feeling guilty because we don’t feel completely fulfilled as mothers — for not attaining some sort of mystical and spiritual plenitude from raising children. Motherhood is not what defines us, right? So why should motherhood be our sole definition once we have a fertilized egg embedded in our uterine lining?

I came to the conclusion a while back that I wasn’t going to bend to the guilt anymore. I don’t know how or when I came to that conclusion, but over the past few months I have refused to feel guilty over my inability to be a perfect mother.

Because that’s fucking dumb.

Here is what I’ve come to accept:

Motherhood is a part of my identity, but not my identity as a whole. I’m imperfect and I’m totally cool with that shit. I will not feel guilty for my imperfections. I will not feel guilty for putting myself first sometimes. All of this does not mean I love my children any less.

I love them fiercely. 

A good example of how mom guilt pervades motherhood is the #momfail hashtag on twitter. I know the momfail hashtag is an attempt to be self-depracating and humorous. I mean, it’s good to laugh at ourselves and our mistakes. But a depressing thing to note is that there are far less dadfail hashtags than momfail hashtags. Why is that?

Because women are set up to feel guilty from birth — because we not only need to do everything; we need to do everything right.

So here is a list of my so-called failures as a mother. These “failures” are what make me perfectly imperfect. And some of them I wouldn’t even consider failures — they just may be failures in the eyes of others.

  • I yell too much.
  • I’m impatient.
  • I’m okay with my kids not being involved in a shit-ton of activities.
  • I’m okay with them watching a little too much TV.
  • I’ve accepted that their rooms are just going to be messy most of the time.
  • My two oldest children are familiar with a whole slew of swear words due to my inability to keep my mouth shut when I’m driving. Also I have the knack of not censoring myself if I drop something, stub my toe or if I’m talking to my husband about a really shitty day at work. There are just some situations that my children will here me say “shit,” and “fuck.” And I’m okay with that.
  • My house is messy and cluttered.
  • I’m disorganized and an epic procrastinator. I don’t do chore charts and I’m bad at planning meals. I just tell my kids what needs to get done (and they kind of know what is expected of them by now anyway) and I just kind of throw meals together at the last minute (that’s if my husband doesn’t make dinner — which he usually does.)
  • I don’t read to my kids every night.
  • Sometimes I put my three year old in bed without brushing his teeth (scandalous!).
  • My two younger kids will go three or four days between baths. I don’t know — it just seems silly to waste that much water every night. Plus it just makes my life easier. My 12 year old is getting to that point where he HAS to shower at least every other day — he’s starting to get all gross and oily. Because ew. Puberty.
  • I drink two cups of coffee a day and will have an occasional glass of wine. And I’m 27 weeks pregnant. But I refuse to bend to the idea that pregnant women should abstain from all things pleasurable. Pregnancy is pretty fucking miserable anyway. Might as well enjoy my coffee.

I CANNOT be a perfect parent. I CANNOT live up to the unrealistic expectations that are heaped upon mothers from the time, the day, the second, they conceive their first child. I embrace my imperfections as a mother —  and I recognize the areas where I need to improve.

So just as the kids are alright — the moms are alright too.

And isn’t that all that matters?

Now stop your crying and acknowledge the fact that we all fuck up. You’re doing a fabulous job.

Welcome (And Now A Few Words)

I have had a significant increase in traffic to my blog over the past 24 hours, and I just wanted to address a few things.

First of all — Hi! I’m glad you’re stopping by and I hope you find the site interesting enough to continue reading — if it’s not for you — then, well — carry on! If you’re interested in learning more about me and the blog, then click here. I try to keep things simple and just post thoughts, links, things that piss me off, and occasionally things that make me happy. If you like the site enough, please don’t hesitate to like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter!

If you’re here because of the miscarriage post — I truly hope that you didn’t take offense. I’ve had positive responses to the post as well as a few negative — and understandably so. But since this is my blog, I tend to write from my point of view and my own life experiences. I don’t want to dismiss anyone’s struggle to conceive or anyone’s painful experience with miscarriage.

Here are a few additional links to my more popular posts:

An oldie but goodie — To Have And Be Pretty

How To Leave Your Husband: A Quick How-To Guide — For those who want to get out.

How To Know Your Husband Is A Jerk — Because being in a dependent relationship/marriage can blind you

How To Give Up Breastfeeding And Not Feel Guilty About It: Part 1

How To Give Up Breastfeeding And Not Feel Guilty About It: Part 2

My Husband Is Awesome. Is Yours? — Because everyone deserves a good partner

Formula Isn’t Poison: Breastfeeding Propaganda Is — This became a featured post on BlogHer

And then the miscarriage post — The Other Taboo Of Miscarriage

Whatever you find on this blog, I hope you find some enjoyment. I understand some may disagree with my opinions, and if you would like to post a comment — please be respectful! I don’t mind having disagreements as long as they’re civil.

Thanks for stopping by!

Five Links To Feminism

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Being a woman — it ain’t easy. Here are a few Sunday morning (er afternoon) links to feminism.

  1. Burly Dudes Replace Hot Models to Illustrate Double Standards in Advertising
  2. Cool Story Bro
  3. Women — Like men, only cheaper — image on the gender pay gap.
  4. Slutty Lady Detectives
  5. Calling Me A Terrorist Is Not Flirting

Hope you’re having a great weekend!

Why Nameberry Will Eat Your Soul

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My husband and I are expecting a baby boy in February.

We are very excited about having another little cocktail of our DNA to raise. We DO enjoy this parenting thing — even though I dream of the day when the kids have flown the nest, and Ernesto and I can move into DC, and get this super way cool apartment in like — I don’t know — fucking Dupont or something (because we’d be rich — because we wouldn’t have extra mouths to feed. shit, never mind –we’d have college tuition, but whatevs, right?) So yeah, we’d be living the life in Dupont or something and we could walk to some cute little restaurant and catch a movie every night without a fucking care in the world because WE’D HAVE NO KIDS TO WORRY ABOUT.

No, but really. I DO enjoy this parenting thing.

So. The baby. That’s due in February. Totally excited about that.

And of course, one of the many exciting things of adding a new cocktail of DNA to the gaggle of cocktails we already have, is naming the little guy. And before we found out we were having a boy, I had the cutest girl name picked out OF ALL TIME.

Penelope June. (aka Penny June)

Nickname: P.J. or just Penny

I mean, doesn’t that name fucking kill you? Kill you with total twee? But an awesome kind of twee?

But alas.

We were reassured by the sonogram technician that we were having a boy. Which I’m thrilled about, of course. But then we really had to focus on finding a boy name. And nothing seemed to click.

At first we thought we’d go classic — like Henry. Yeah. We totally were digging Henry at first. Henry James was gonna be his name. I mean, it’s such a smooth, classic name. A nice name. Not trying too hard. The name of a true gentleman.

Cool. Okay. Done.

Well… not quite. I woke up one morning and was like — this kid is soooo not gonna be a Henry. I don’t know, it was just a vibe that I got. Not that he wouldn’t be a gentleman or anything. Because he totally will.

So back to square one, we consulted a baby name book that we purchased at a used bookstore.

Let me say one thing about baby name books — they’re fucking awesome. Why? Because all those damn baby-naming websites are so overwhelming. Nameberry was starting to get on my nerves — and it was eating my baby-naming soul.

I was eating, sleeping and peeing baby names. I was getting Nameberry emails daily to notify me of the latest indie, hipster, vintage, twee baby names. It was like a black hole of fucking cuteness. I was obsessed, okay? Obsessed.

As an example, here is the list of boy names that I had saved on Nameberry. You’ll see that I was going slightly insane.

Mateo, Finn, Lucian, Paolo, Blue (yes, Blue), Vittorio, Rowan, Milos, Milo, Beau, Tennyson (fer serious), Luca (love), Soren (my brother’s name), Otis (ultimate hipster), Ives, Otto (love again), Etienne, and Mikko.

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Most of these names (and I say most — not all) I would never bestow upon a child in real life — only in my insane imaginary Nameberry universe would I ever name one of my beloved cocktails Paolo Blue. I came to the conclusion that Nameberry wants to kill your spirit and replace it with manic pixie dream girl-like craziness.

Anyhow. Baby name books. They’re a bit saner. You open it. Browse. Doggy ear a few pages. Underline. Discuss. Put back on shelf. Repeat that a few times and you’re usually set. Ernesto and I found this process so much more pleasant. It was just nice to sit on the cozy couch, next to the warm table lamp, reading off names, smiling, laughing, and taking a serious moment to ponder. You know. It was like sharing a moment and shit.

After a few rounds of this, we came up with a name combination that — well ok — comes straight from my Nameberry list. I know. I KNOW. But the book really helped us relax and narrow it down. Our boy is gonna have an Italian name. Like an INSANELY Italian name. It’s so Italian that when we mention the name to people, their eyes grow big and they take a step back — that’s how fucking Italian it is.

But whatever. My husband’s Italian so it’s a total winner.

So there you have it. In the end Nameberry ate my soul, but ended up giving me a name — in a roundabout sorta way.

A New Twist On The UN Google Autocomplete Campaign

Good morning!

Ready to be pissed off?

Ha. Well PolicyMic has come up with a new twist to the UN Women Google auto complete campaign.

Elizabeth Plank of PolicyMic replaced the word “women” with the word “feminists” — and of course, you guessed it — there’s still a lot of hate toward feminism. Surprised?

Take a look.

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Happy Feminist Friday!

Shy Girl Creates Facebook Page

facebook-like-buttonI finally made a Facebook page for my blog.

It’s about time. I’ve only been blogging since 2010.

This is where you ask, “Well, what took you so long?”

Well, I’ll tell you why — because I hate putting myself out there. 

Oh, why do I blog if I’m such a chicken shit about these things?

I dont KNOW. I just do. I’m an introvert and a fraidy cat. I tend to just cower in the corner and wait for people to notice me.

Yeah, I know. But whatever.

So I’m FORCING myself to put myself out there. I’ve gotten an insane amount of views on my breastfeeding post over at Blogher — and that’s kind of given me a kick in the butt to make a damn Facebook page.

Cowering in the corner ain’t gonna do shit for me, right?

So there you go.

Come like me!

The Christmas Present Pile-Up: How Much Do You Buy?

I have always been of the idea that Christmas should be an over-indulgent, gaudy, extravagant holiday.

What can I say? I love to give.

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And being from a family that had some financial difficulty while growing up — Christmas was always a fond memory. Why? Because my parents went ALL OUT. We didn’t get a lot throughout the year in the way of toys, and I think my parents tried to make up for it at Christmas. We always had presents spilling out from under the tree and climbing up the walls with the stash slowly progressing out into the middle of the living room. Okay, perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but that’s what it looked like to my little girl eyes.

But I’m sure my parents went into debt every Christmas. Looking back, I have no idea how they could have afforded it.

So now I’m an adult with three children — soon to be four — and I STILL have not figured out the best way to do Christmas in terms of gift giving. I just don’t know how to NOT go overboard.

Luckily, we haven’t gone into debt over Christmas — but we definitely spend (and give) too much to our children.

See exhibit A below:

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Above is a picture of Christmas 2011. That picture isn’t even the tip of the iceberg — that’s just one section of the living room. And needless to say, most Christmas’s are like this.

However.

Last Christmas there was hope! I had heard of this brilliant gift-giving philosophy on a parenting forum — and it goes like this:

Something you want. Something you need. Something to wear. Something to read.

I know this gift-giving philosophy is nothing new. But it gave me better gift-giving guidelines to live by during the holidays. Previously, I tried budgeting a certain amount of money per child — but that never worked for me. There was always something else I wanted to purchase — and I would end up going way over-budget.

But this.

These brilliant new guidelines gave me hope.

So last year I tried it.

And I was semi-successful. Did we still buy too much? Yes. Each child definitely got more than four presents a piece. But I feel that we put more thought into what we were purchasing and ended up spending less than previous Christmas’s.

So my question to you is:

How do you reign in your spending for Christmas? Or better yet, how much do you buy per child?

Do you use the guidelines that I mentioned, or do you have a different way of determining what you purchase? I would love to hear your thoughts!

The Other Taboo Of Miscarriage

bleeding_during_early_pregnancyAbout a year and a half ago, I had a miscarriage.

It was an early miscarriage — but a miscarriage nonetheless. There is often a taboo linked to miscarriage — one that shouldn’t be there.  Women don’t want to talk about their miscarriage experience for many reasons. Usually because it’s a personal and painful experience — and there is often self-blame involved (plus other people can be insensitive.) The woman questions what she did wrong. Was it that glass of wine and cigarette she had the day before she found out she was pregnant? Was it that smoked salmon she ate? And then there’s always the question, “What’s wrong with me?” More often than not, there were chromosomal abnormalities that caused the miscarriage.

However, there is another reaction that is even less talked about. It’s the reaction I had to my miscarriage.

It’s the realization that you’re not sad.

It’s the reaction of relief — and yes, I’ll say it — even of gratefulness.

It’s sounds like an awful thing to say — especially when there are so many women who are desperately trying to get pregnant. But I’m not one of those women, so I suppose my outlook and opinion are different. And I can’t deny how I felt.

But maybe I was indifferent about my miscarriage because I didn’t even know I was pregnant. Or at least — I was in denial about it. Or maybe I was indifferent because — well — I had three kids already and I honestly have no clue what infertility is like. Which makes me look like a jerk. (I’m fully aware that if I had no children and desperately wanted a child — a miscarriage would be devastating.)

I was six days late. My boobs hurt. I could see the blue highway of veins appearing on my chest. I felt bloated, tired, and crampy. But I refused to take a pregnancy test. I didn’t want to see those double lines searing into my retinas. I wasn’t ready to see it. I wasn’t ready to deal with having to make a choice I didn’t want to make.

My youngest child was not quite 18 months. I had refused a tubal ligation during my third baby’s c-section. My husband and I wanted to “keep our options open.” We weren’t ready to close the door yet. Beckett (my third child) was Ernesto’s first biological child. My first two kids are his step-children. I wanted to give him (and myself) the possibility of mixing our DNA again and bringing forth another wonderful human being.

But not yet. The thought of it was almost too much.

So instead I waited for my period. And waited.

And waited a few more days.

And then…

I bled.

I bled a lot. My cramps had me doubled over in pain — it was as if two searing hot knives were being jabbed into my uterus. I was passing clots. But mainly it was the pain.

The fucking pain.

I kept thinking, “Huh. This is weird. My periods aren’t usually this bad. Perhaps I should go to the emergency room.”

But for some reason I waited it out.

After two days the bleeding waned and stopped. Throughout the remainder of the week, I had occasional spotting. And that was it.

And I knew.

Having such an early miscarriage (or another term for it would be chemical pregnancy) was probably a major factor in my reaction. Not a tear was shed. Not an ounce of regret was felt. I was relieved. I understand that my feelings may have been different if it were a later pregnancy or if I struggled with infertility.

But the bottom line was this: I didn’t want it.

Not at that time. Not then.

And I was grateful.

This is kind of strange for me to write about. I’m currently 26 weeks pregnant with my fourth baby. A child that we had planned — that we had tried for because the time was right. And I’m happy. I want this now.

And I know I’m not the only one who has felt this way about a miscarriage. I know there are others. But most people don’t talk about it — except for maybe Penelope Trunk who had a severe backlash over her miscarriage tweet. And the other stories I read were of women who were devastated, but dealing with husbands who weren’t so empathic.

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As a matter of fact, when I was googling this whole issue, I kinda felt like a jerk. A jerk for even being relieved and grateful about a miscarriage.

But you know what? It was MY miscarriage — MY experience. And what I feel about it is MINE. And I’m going to own it and embrace it.

I guess I’m putting this out there because I want to reassure some women that there isn’t just one way to feel about a miscarriage. That if you felt relief, indifference or gratefulness — you’re not alone.

And even though I feel like a jerk — I’m not. And you’re not a jerk either.

Update: This is now a featured post on BlogHer! Go check it out!