Beyond Manicures & Massages: What Self-Care REALLY Means For Moms

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Self-care. It’s a term that’s become part of the mommy zeitgeist to the point where we can’t open our Instagram feeds without being bombarded by memes touting, “Caring for yourself is mandatory” or “Put your oxygen mask on first.” Between us mamas, it’s getting kind of annoying. The first issue is, the current conversation about what self-care means is shallow.

It goes something like this: “Go get a manicure or a quick massage and you’ll come back refreshed and ready to handle motherhood again.” That’s what we’re told. Here’s what we hear: Self-care is as easy as painting my nails and will make me a better mom.

Wait, so, a new coat of nail polish is a mommy miracle that will make us happier about our child having a tantrum in Target? Not buying it.

Issue #2: Making superficial self-care the de-facto norm assumes all moms have access to both the childcare and the cash to spend on it.

They don’t. And now we’ve not only made them feel like they’re bad moms because they don’t do it but we’ve shamed them because they can’t afford it. Not nice.

Third, doing something as superficial as getting her nails done will in no way make a mother suffering from issues like postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression feel better.

It just won’t. Because that kind of self-care doesn’t address or help these moms’ deep emotional needs. In fact, asking some of these mothers to leave their children (or just leave the house in general) in the care of another person, particularly the moms suffering from PPA, can have the opposite effect of self-care; it can actually make their lives worse, not better. No bueno.

Crappy situation all around, right? Pretty much.

Can we make the concept of self-care for moms more personalized and attainable?

We’re not entirely sure but we have some ideas.

For starters, we can stop assuming all moms can use grooming, spa services or gym time as a self-care method. Don’t get us wrong, it’s nice. Doing some cardio or having our feet rubbed feels great and might boost our dopamine levels for a bit. But it isn’t going to solve our bigger issues of maintaining our composure during whining, sibling fighting and making six different meals because none of them are satisfactory to our little food critics. In short, it’s a temporary high.

We need to make self-care more about caring for our souls and less about caring for our appearance.

That means promoting things like venting, empathy and surrounding ourselves with supportive friends, things that will fill up our emotional tanks. We need to position self-care as an internal thing, not just an external thing. And the best news is, we’re primed to do this! Moms were literally MADE for this kind of self-care.

Turns out women are genetically wired to crave community, and we function best when surrounded by those who “get us.” We need a mom tribe to thrive. Encouraging moms to seek other like-minded mamas, either virtually or locally, gives them soul-satisfying, long lasting self-care.

And bonus. It's free!

Lastly, we have to do a better job helping moms identify dangerous mental health issues and provide them with the resources to get better. Self-care for these mamas means getting help, both medically and psychologically, so they can adequately care for their children and not kill themselves. Literally. We know. We’ve actually been there.

Look, we’re not trying to be too critical of today’s self-care narrative. We’re just saying it could use some tweaking.

At its core, self-care is a mommy time out for our insides as much as for our outsides.

We happen to think the former is more effective than the latter. The bottom line is moms today have it rough. And sometimes sloughing off our callouses during a pedicure helps. But for most of us, it’s not really enough.

You feel us? Good. Because we gotta go FaceTime our BFF about our kid smearing poop on his wall. She’ll totally get it.

Written by Brooke Christian and Jen Schwartz for Today's Parenting Team.

7 Simple but Perfect Ways My Friends Helped Me When I Had Postpartum Depression

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The day after I arrived home with my new baby boy, I was hit with severe postpartum depression. I never thought it could happen to me and it came out of nowhere. I went from filling out all 1’s on the happy scale the hosptial gives you before sending you home to being at home thinking I had made a terrible mistake becoming a mother, and trying to figure out ways I could get sick or hurt so I could return to the hospital where everyone would have to take care of me and I never had to take care of a baby. How do you tell your mom friends you feel this way when you have been led to believe the only normal feelings new moms experience after giving birth are magic, bliss, joy, love, and an intense attachment to your baby? How could I tell them the only thing I felt was paralyzing anxiety that made it difficult to do anything but cry ugly tears and lie in bed pleading for it to all go away so I could love my new baby boy and be a good mother too. How could I tell them I resented them for being so much better at motherhood than me? So much better at breastfeeding. So much better at simply wanting to spend time with their babies and leaving the house with them, something I was terrified to do.

I didn’t have any friends who had postpartum depression before me. I didn’t even know postpartum depression was what I had until I found the right therapist who diagnosed me. Now I didn’t only have postpartum depression. I had to go on antidepressants and anti-anxiety medicine to cope with motherhood. Again, what would my friends think? From what I knew of other moms (close friends and the ones on social media I didn’t know personally), motherhood was easy and came naturally. I thought of myself as a horrible mom and a failure. I failed at breastfeeding. I failed at Pinterest. I failed at wanting to be a mother. Would my friends judge me as harshly as I judged myself?

Of course, the answer is no. Even though none of my close friends had experienced postpartum depression and coudn’t fully understand what I was going through, they never abandoned me or made me feel ashamed about my feelings.

Here are 7 ways my friends helped while I battled postpartum depression.

1. They didn’t push.

None of my closest friends experienced postpartum depression, which made it very difficult to understand what I was going through. I was often too consumed by anxiety, tears and exhaustion to have to explain it–the therapy sessions, the procsss of finding the right medications, the not wanting anything to do with my son, the desire to never leave my bed ever again, the overwhelming guilt and so much more. My friends never pushed me. They never forced me to answer questions or explain what postpartum depression was like for me. They let me know they would always be there to talk if I needed to and when I was ready. They took the pressure away of having to explain myself, a huge relief for me.

2. They didn’t judge.

Even though my friends didn’t personally suffer from postpartum depression, they never judged me for having it. They educated themselves about what I was going through and always kept an open mind. If I felt like telling them something shocking such as wanting to run away and never come back or that I wasn’t sure I had any feelings for my new baby, they never made me feel bad about it (I did that enough to myself). Not once, did any of my friends try to insert their opinions or views about formula feeding or medication into my experience. They never pretended to know better. They never made me feel guilty. They supported all my choices and tried to help me understand I was sick with a real illness and not just a horrible mother.

3. They reached out without expecting anything in return. 

During the long months of my postpartum depression battle, my friends regularly called, emailed, and sent text messages. Their messages were filled with encourgement and love. “I love you.” “I’m thinkink about you.” “You got this.” “You’re strong.” “I’m proud of you.” “I’m always here for you.” “Your baby is taken care of and lucky to have you as his mom.” And not once, did any friend expect a response. They all knew that it was dififcult for me to be social and they selflessly kept in touch anyway.

4. They talked behind my back.

After I got better, I found out that my friends would text and email about me behind my back. If anyone had spoken to me, they told the group. If I made progress, they told the group. One friend who usually came over to check on me and take me for walks, regulary updated the others. When I got better, I felt extremely grateful, loved, and flattered to know that I had my own personal cheerleading squad rooting for me to get healthy and happy.

5. They kept me fed.

While the anxiety and sadness made it difficult to eat, my friends always made sure there were meals sent to my house. Not having to worry about who was cooking or where meals were coming from gave me more time to focus on my health and recovery. It also took that responsibility away from my husband who had to take on so much extra with me being sick. And you know my friends are the real deal because they never forgot to include chocolate.

6. They checked in on my husband.

My husband needed support too. With me incapable of taking care of our son, he had to step up and parent for both of us, often after a long day of work and on less sleep. He needed people to vent to. He needed an outlet. He needed breaks. My friends checking in on him allowed him to express his feelings about a situation that was frustrating and difficult because it was unexpected for him too and he felt helpless because he couldn’t snap his fingers, give me extra hugs or buy me a present and make me better. It was important that he wasn’t forgotton about on my postpartum depression journey.

7. The celebrated my recovery.

When I started to turn the corner and finally felt like myself again, an email went out from one mom friend to the rest of the group with the subject heading: “She’s baaaaaaaaaaaaaaacaaaack!” The sent email was a result of this mom watching me engage with and love on my baby boy who was now six months old. She could immediately see the change in me and wanted to celebrate it by letting my other friends know too. I still get emotional when I think about all the support, empathy and messages that told me how strong I was, how proud they were of me and how happy they were to have their Jen back. My friends were there every step of the way and it meant everything for them to celebrate with me at the end.

1 in 7 new moms will suffer from postpartum depression. That means, if you know 7 women, you will know one of these moms. She could be you. In addition to the above tips, you can download a free copy of my guide: WTF Are Postpartum Depression and Anxiety? and learn more valuable adivce and tips for how to help, what to do and what to never say

This article originally appeared on Red Tricycle.

Five Ways To Talk To a Mom Friend You Think Has Postpartum Depression

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After battling and surviving postpartum depression, I have received the following question repeatedly: “Jen, I think my friend might be going through something like what you went through. I want to say something to her about it, but I don’t want to upset her. How do I bring up that she isn’t acting like herself lately?” I wish I had a simple answer to this question, but it’s never simple when it comes to postpartum depression, which is not a one size fits all illness. Every mom’s experience with PPD is unique to her. Her risk factors, symptoms, feelings, and length of illness won’t look like that of any other mom suffering. Just like PPD, every mom is different and motherhood is also not one size fits all.

Before you confront a mom and suggest she might be suffering from PPD, here are some factors I think you should consider: How will she react? How receptive would she be to the idea of needing and asking for help? I think you should also ask yourself, “Am I the best person for this conversation or is there someone else that should be having this conversation?”

While you consider all the above, here are my five suggestions for approaching a friend you believe might be showing signs of postpartum depression.

1. Research and prepare a list of local resources.

Before you do anything else, get informed. Educate yourself about everything postpartum depression. Postpartum Support International is a great place to start. If you are going to tell a mom you think she might have PPD, you better go in prepared. Arm yourself with the facts about how common postpartum depression is and how temporary it can be with proper treatment. Make a list of local resources for your friend such as therapists, hospitals, and women’s centers that specialize in postpartum mood disorders so she immediately knows there are places to go to help her figure out what’s going on. Offer to go with her if you think that would help. Make sure she knows she’s not alone.

2. Consider how close you are to this mom.

Are you someone who has had difficult conversations with this mom before? Is your friendship one where you confide in each other about everything? If the answer is yes, you probably already have the comfort level needed to approach mom. Start with a question. “Mom, are you doing okay? You don’t seem like yourself. I know you just had a baby, but it’s more than that. What’s going on with you?”

3. Think about mom’s personality and how she reacts to difficult situations.

It’s important to think about mom’s reaction before you suggest she could be suffering from PPD. Does she like to do everything by herself? Does she struggle admitting when something is hard? Would she rather fake a smile than admit something is wrong? Ask yourself these questions and craft your approach based on how you predict she will respond. Or based on your answers, maybe you know someone better suited to talk to her.

4. Talk to mom’s partner first.

Mom’s partner is a direct link to how she is behaving. Her partner might have noticed some red flags too but has no idea what they mean or what to do about them. First ask yourself the questions above to determine the best way for clueing mom in to the fact that something isn’t right and she might need help. Her partner is a good place to start.

5. There is strength in numbers.

If you don’t think mom will listen to only one person, will she respond to her tribe? Ask your group of mom’s friends and family if they’ve witnessed anything similar. If you’re going to go with the group approach, make sure each person involved is extremely close with mom and not of the judgmental, opinionated kind because you want her to be able to feel like she can talk freely and honestly.

No matter what you decide when it comes to approaching your mom friend, the most important thing to remember is to always come from a place of empathy and acceptance, never one of judgment. Mom is most likely feeling tremendous confusion, guilt, and shame about feeling anything other than connected to her new baby and overwhelmed with the joy of becoming a mother. You want her to feel supported and understood so she feels comfortable and safe admitting to any struggles and symptoms relating to postpartum depression. If she’s not responsive to your conversation, just let her know you’re here to hold space for her. Be patient and check in regularly with mom, her partner, and other members of her tribe.

At some point, all of us will know a new mom suffering from some form of postpartum depression. It’s up to all of us to educate ourselves so no new mom suffers in silence. Click here to receive your free copy of my WTF are Postpartum Depression and Anxiety: The Friends and Family Guide For How to Help, What to Do and What Not to Say.

Dating For Mom Friends

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Making new mom friends isn’t always easy. Actually, it’s a lot like dating. You fear rejection. You want to have chemistry with that new mom you meet at mommy and me class. You want her to like you. Will her friends like you? What if she’s not looking for something serious? What if she’s not currently on the market for a new friend?  What if she judges you for feeling bored at mommy and me class?

You might fumble over your words when introducing yourself to a new mom at the at the park for the first time. You hope she looks through Instagram on her iPhone while her kids play, just like you do. You spend hours getting ready for your first playdate. You want everything to be perfect so there will be a second playdate. 

You question and doubt yourself. What will she think of me if the cookies I serve contain gluten? Does she know I sometimes feed my kid too many afternoon snacks when I’m just too exhausted to argue? How soon is too soon to share I had postpartum depression when my son was born? Will she conveniently lose my number if I call my kid an asshole behind his back for not sharing?

You wonder if it will be a match. What if I’m not so crazy about her? What if she’s a card-carrying member of the perfect parents’ parade? Please don’t let her be one of those moms that always smiles. I really can’t handle another afternoon of listening to how magical motherhood is all the time. No more liars. I don’t believe that your child has never bit someone in his three-year existence. Can we please talk about something other than our kids? Can you leave the kids alone so we can talk about adult things that have nothing to do with parenting? They will figure out who gets to play with the firetruck by themselves.    

When dating meeting new moms, I’m not looking for perfect. Perfect is boring. Perfect is exhausting. Perfect doesn’t exist. I don’t care if you have one child or five, how you delivered them, how you chose to feed them, if you work or stay home, or spend hours making Pinterest Valentine’s Day cards for everyone in your child’s class. I just want to meet someone real, who isn’t afraid to be imperfect and admit that being a mom is the hardest job they have ever signed up for—where there are days they feel like mom of the year and others where they think they should be fired. And that while they wouldn’t trade it in for anything, there are days where they have strongly considered it. 

Maybe the best solution would be to walk around with dating profiles stuffed in our diaper bags, attached to our backs, or our kids’ food-stained t-shirts.

Here’s an excerpt from what mine would say:

Perfectly imperfect mom of an adorable, funny, compassionate four-year old boy who thinks he’s the boss of everyone and everything. Postpartum depression survivor, happily medicated, professional TV binge watcher, and definitely not a morning person. While I will never win Pinterest’s mom of the year award, I bake incredible brownies that I sometimes eat for dinner after having told my son, “We don’t eat brownies for dinner.” I believe in self-care, gluten, sugar, drinking responsibly at playdates, hair blow-outs, and hiring babysitters so I can spend time with other adults who don’t want to talk about their children all day long. I can often be found negotiating how many pieces of broccoli my little one has to eat at mealtime or begging him to watch Paw Patrol because I have no more patience to play airport or carwash.

I’m looking for other moms who are also madly in love with their children but aren’t afraid to be real about the rollercoaster of motherhood. If you’re looking for someone who will tell you the truth, make you laugh (and bring the martinis) when you feel like you’re failing or just because you need a martini, always reassure you, you’re not alone, and never judge, I think we could become besties. If you’re a mom-shamer or refuse to admit motherhood is anything but amazing 100 percent of the time, it will never work between us.      

I’m not the only mom who feels the isolation that often accompanies motherhood and the frustration that exists when looking to meet other moms who are your people. Recently, mom and entrepreneur Michelle Kennedy meshed motherhood and dating with the creation of her new app, Peanut, a sort of “Tinder for Moms,” which launched in New York City and is now available nationally. 

Peanut’s mission is one I can easily get behind: We’re on a mission to build a community of women, who happen to be mamas. Because let’s face it, the more women in your life, the better it becomes.

I couldn’t agree more. Women need each other. Moms need other moms. I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in doing motherhood by myself. It’s a lot more manageable and fun when you have a tribe of women who have your back and will join you in your closet while you hide from your kids with that martini.

Women need each other. Moms need other moms. I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in doing motherhood by myself. It’s a lot more manageable and fun when you have a tribe of women who have your back and will join you in your closet while you hide from your kids with that martini.

This post originally appeared on Motherlucker.

Stop Feeling Guilty About Girls' Weekends. You NEED Them!

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Every year, my college best friends and I get together for a girls' weekend. We kiss our kids and husbands goodbye, some of us leave written schedules and directions, and spend at least one night together away in a hotel, usually in New York City. New York City is the most convenient location for the four of us moms who all have young kids and are spread out among the East Coast. One night is usually more realistic for all parties involved because you know--husbands--motherhood--kids--life. I look forward to this weekend every year. As it approaches, I start counting the minutes. The excitement builds. The number of group texts increases. What are we wearing? How many Soul Cycle classes are we taking? Who is booking the spa treatments? Where are we going for dinner? Definitely somewhere we can dress up in the clothes we own but never have any place to wear them to.

I can't wait for the reminiscing, the laughter, the catching up, the deep conversations, the getting ready all together in the same room like it was during college, and the staying up late and sleeping in (if you count 8:30 am as sleeping in). While we're on the subject of sleeping, I can't wait to not have to wake up to anyone asking me for anything. To not have to fight with anyone about what's for lunch. To not have to enter into any negotiations or diffuse any meltdowns. To not have to share my ice cream! And to enjoy a glass of wine without interruption! Go to the bathroom alone! And most importantly, to not feel guilty about any of it!

This year the four of us somehow managed to pull off a full weekend in Boston, the city where we all met back in 1999! We coordinated schedules with our husbands', prayed none of our kids got sick, travelled from three different cities, and got ourselves there in time for the 7pm showing of Fifty Shades Darker to kick off the weekend...because who else would you want to watch a soft-core porn love story with? We crowded into our hotel room with two beds and two cots and ordered too much room service. We sweat it out at Soul Cycle, visited Tufts University and the sorority house that brought us all together. We hired a glam squad to do our hair and makeup before Saturday night dinner, dressed up for dinner in the stuff moms never get to wear, and had grand visions of drinking too much and staying out too late before brunching and saying our goodbyes on Sunday morning.

And then what really happened is this: while drinking our two drinks each at dinner, we realized we spent more time getting ready for dinner than we actually spent at dinner, which culminated in us heading back to our hotel, changing into pajamas, and having ice cream delivered so we could eat it in bed, and keep laughing and telling the stories we could remember from "the good old days." Of course it was magical!

There are a few reasons why I think we were finally able to pull off a true weekend away together. Our kids are getting older and therefore, easier. Our husbands are all hands on and wonderful, but that probably makes them more willing and excited about 48 hours alone with the kids. The kids don't need as much. They are more self-sufficient. They have activities, birthday parties, and weekend schedules that keep them busy and tire them out for bedtime. Also, perhaps each of us feel less guilty leaving our babies for a longer period of time because they aren't really babies anymore. Finally, we are all exhausted, need a break, and crave some care-free girl time that lasts longer than a few hours and reminds us of who are in addition to "being mommy."

I stopped feeling guilty about leaving my husband and son for a weekend away a long time ago. Maybe it was going through postpartum depression, but I learned the importance of self-care and taking time for myself very early on. For me, taking time away with the girls and without guilt, like I did this past weekend allows me to recharge and just be me. I'm not responsible for anything or anyone except my own relaxation. Maybe some parents would label this behavior as selfish, but I would argue the opposite.

Every mom needs to get away once in a while with their girlfriends. Time to relax. Time to catch up on sleep. Time to pee alone. Time to play. Time to laugh. Time to dress up and go out to a meal where you can actually eat your food. Time to commiserate about the stresses of motherhood. Time to forget about the stresses of motherhood. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking this time for yourself. You need it. You should never have to apologize for it. It's important for your kids to see you caring for yourself and making your happiness and sanity a priority. Wanting to escape for a little while doesn't make you a bad mom.

I can't even begin to describe how this past weekend made me feel. It wasn't guilt about leaving my family. It was happiness and gratitude to be able to spend time with some of the people who know me best. They knew I was going to do something before I did it. They joked about the "not-so fitted" clothing I always pack. They made fun of the things I still do that I did almost twenty years ago when we went to school together. They reminded me that while some things change, some things never do and there is something so comforting about that. That when being a mom, wife, sister, daughter, and all the other roles I'm responsible for feel like too much, I'm still also that girl from years ago who just likes to have dance parties and drink wine with her girlfriends, tell stories, be silly, and laugh.

I've had these friends for almost twenty years. We lived together. We've been with each other through some tough shit. We knew each other before motherhood. They stuck with me through postpartum depression. They know my insides and love me anyway. They are never afraid to tell me the truth. They are strong women and amazing mothers and my best friends. And we need our best friends. They are our lifelines in a different way than our partners, which is why sometimes we need a friendly reminder that it's more than okay to tell them they will be in charge of the kids for a few days while you go recharge and have fun with the girls.

Written For Suburban Misfit Mom: Five Moms That Just Aren’t My Type

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All moms are different. We find what works for us. We do what we have to do. We parent in our own unique ways, but the stuff of motherhood makes us all part of the same tribe. We all carry life. We all bring that life into the world by destroying our vaginas or cutting open our stomachs. We sacrifice our tits to be food sources. We give up the privilege of full nights of sleep, daily showers, and the right to pee or poop in privacy. We rock our scars and battle wounds with pride. We sport our children’s leftovers, spit up, vomit, even poop that somehow made it on to our clothing without us noticing. We love and give and teach. We juggle and schlep and sacrifice, fight for, and would die for our children. We should all be able to admit that some days we represent the picture of perfect parenthood while other days we epically fail. I’m not here to tell you what kind of mom to be, but some of you ruin it for the rest of us when you refuse to admit the clusterfuck of contradicting emotions and daily ups and downs you experience as mothers, just like the rest of us. So if you fall into one of these categories, we probably won’t end up becoming best mom friends. And that’s okay.

  1. The Martyr

Why make yourself extra miserable when there is so much built in misery that comes with this job —shitty sleepers, picky eaters, the tantrums, the nagging, and the obsessive neediness. Stop breastfeeding if it makes you seriously unhappy. Don’t refuse to ask for help if you need it. Quit ignoring the fact that you’re miserable in the first place. If you want to stay stuck like that, that’s your choice, but don’t make me feel like I need to join you. Don’t act like you’re better than me because you’re sticking it out. You don’t get a medal for being a martyr. I stopped breastfeeding after five days because it made me miserable and I chose to take care of my health so I could take care of my baby. I’m not interested in hanging out with any mom who would try to make me feel guilty for any of my parenting choices. And I’m definitely not interested in being the company to your misery.  

  1. The Doer

You know those moms who literally do it all, smile, and look like they love every minute of it? (I’m sure they are dying a little inside). They volunteer on the PTA, attend every meeting, sign up to be classroom mom, go on every field trip, never bring store bought anything, go to the playground every day and make you feel bad about yourself if you don’t? Well I don’t really like to spend most of my free time volunteering or monitoring my son on the playground. I won’t be the first mom signing up to be class parent or field trip chaperone. It’s MY time! I want to be friends with the mom who wants to come over and sit her child in front of the TV next to mine for a Mickey Mouse binge-watching session while sipping on some Sauvignon Blanc.

  1. The Every-mom

The every-mom is friends with every mom. When she hosts a party, she invites every mom she knows–close friends, acquaintances, moms she doesn’t even like that much. Why? Why don’t you just invite the people you actually want be with? And how can you invite someone to a party when you were badmouthing them yesterday? How do I know you weren’t gossiping about me before I got the invite to your party this weekend? No one expects you to be friends with everyone. I get being inclusive when it comes to children and parties, but when it’s just the adults? I favor small groups activities. I despise small talk. I prefer intimate conversations. Keep it small. Keep it real!

  1. The Pretender 

I do not believe in pretending when it comes to motherhood. Moms who pretend everything is perfect all the time make the rest of us who don’t, think there is something wrong with us. If you are a mom who repeatedly uses the word amazing, then I say you’re most likely full of shit. Be honest. You’re having sex at least three times a week? You cook a homemade, organic meal every night for your kids? Your child would never hit someone? You don’t believe in iPads, ever? You don’t imagine running away even just for a few hours? You’ve never hidden in your closet, crying, eating chocolate ice cream in secret? I don’t buy any of it. No one has it all together all the time. Fall apart. Cry. Yell. Confess that you fed your kid cereal for dinner last night or that he hasn’t had a proper bath in almost a week. Admit that it took you much longer than you expected to bond with your child. I want to be around other moms who aren’t afraid to embrace these common feelings. Moms who have no issues calling their children assholes when they are in fact, being assholes.

  1. The Helicopter 

I want to sit back and let my kid be. Let him figure out how to take turns, work out his own disagreements. Tell him to shake it off when he falls down. Not run to him or give him what he wants immediately when he wants it and screams for it. Most importantly, I want to have adult time and conversation, but how can we when all you do is hover over and tend to every single one of your child’s needs. How can we go out for a drink after the kids go to sleep when you won’t let anyone else watch them? How can we take a girls’ trip when you refuse to leave your little ones for even a few hours? How dare you try to make me feel like a bad mom because I do all those things. I will never agree with you that your kids should have been invited to that wedding. It’s an adult party and you probably need to dance your face off more than you realize. Get a friggin’ babysitter. Drop the kids off at Grandma’s. Teach your kids to be independent. Train them to be less dependent on you. I promise you will thank me for it later when you finally agree to meet me for that drink.

This post originally appeared on Suburban Misfit Mom.

Postpartum Depression and Your Friends

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Friends don't always know what to do when one of their own is suffering from postpartum depression. What should they say? Should they visit often? Should they pull back until they hear otherwise? These situations are different for every mom, but what should remain constant is letting your friend know you are just there for support whatever that looks like... a visit, a meal, a phone call, or even just a text to say "thinking about you." Knowing my friends were just there in the background, thinking about me and wanting me to get better helped tremendously. Most of my closest friends still live up North. These are friends who have seen me at the best of times and the worst of times...women who I have known for over 15 years...before they became moms. I never placed any expectations upon my friends during this time. I was way too messed up to worry about others, but whenever my friends reached out, they always made me feel slightly better. They just seemed to know when to give space and when to check in. And I knew they all talked about me to each other behind my back. Sometimes they even checked in with my husband. It's true that real friends say good things behind your back and bad things to your face. At least mine do. I always took comfort in this.

My family lives up North as well. That meant my mom and sister, my biggest supporters and cheerleaders during this time, couldn't always be by my side. I was lucky enough to have a mom friend where I live who really became my person during these days of postpartum depression. I can't even begin to describe how amazing, caring, compassionate, and selfless this friend was during my struggle. She was one of my life lines.

I really didn't want to see anyone or be around lots of people back then. Socializing and going out were not my activities of choice. So having that one constant person who came to see me and called to check in frequently ended up being extremely helpful.

I never got overwhelmed. She never overwhelmed me. Since I had a difficult time leaving the house and showing my face in public, my friend always came to me. Sometimes she would just sit with my son and me. Other times, she would force me out of bed to go for a walk. Even though I fought her every time, this always kept the anxiety and depression in check for a bit. We walked to the park nearby or to Starbucks to get coffee, then turn around and walk back home.

When it was raining, she would come early and take me to the mall to walk before it opened. The first time she did this I thought she was the crazy one. "Walk the mall?" I asked her. "What do you mean, walk the mall?" Apparently, walking the mall is a thing, especially when the weather is bad. Tons of people were walking the mall for exercise when we got there...senior citizens with their socks pulled up to their knees...power moms power walking with their babies in strollers. I learned something new that morning. In the future, when I got better, I would even tell other mom friends suffering from postpartum depression to go walk the mall if they felt up to it.

One particular morning stands out in my mind. My husband and I had just re-hired the nanny we had been using for the past month. I was going to try being with my baby on my own, but I clearly wasn't ready, so we asked her back. There was a lapse of a day between when she left and when she started again. My wonderful friend brought her mother with her that morning to watch my son. While she babysat, my friend dragged me out of bed, helped me get dressed, and took me to walk the mall again. We walked for two hours until my anxiety became to much to handle.

When we returned home, she put me in bed and rubbed lotion on my feet and legs until I fell asleep. There are no words to describe her compassion and the way she took care of me that day. Not to mention, I probably hadn't shaved my legs in weeks. I told her over and over that she did not have to do that, but she insisted. Her and her mother watched my son until my husband got home from work.

I know it sounds like I was an invalid during this time. I'm sure there are some who would judge the detachment I had from my son, my husband and others...my failure as a mom who couldn't properly love and take care of her new son. But this is postpartum depression, it's very real, and it's paralyzing. I struggled to get out of bed and get dressed each morning. I was a shell of my normal self. At almost 5 months, she strapped the baby bjorn on me, placed my son in it, and made me walk around the house. There is a photo of this and I'm smiling. It's one of the first moments captured of me with my son and truly smiling.

This friend never judged, never pushed to hard, and never made me feel like a failure. She only supported and was there for all of it...the worst days, the better days, and the great days as I started to get better, bond with my son, and become myself again. She was my rock, still is, and I couldn't have survived without her. Lucky is an understatement.

Mom Friends vs. Friends

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Is there a difference between having friends who are moms and friends who are not moms? I use the term mom friend a lot when I write. I think it’s me subconsciously needing to specify the difference between a friend who has children and one who doesn’t. I don’t even know why I do this because I don’t care if you have zero, one, or five children. It’s not part of my friendship criteria. I like my friends with a sense of humor, a little bit of crazy, and edgy with a side of brutal honesty. If you don’t fit those credentials, we might not end up getting along. Or you might not like me that much and we might just say hi and make small talk on the playground. That’s okay. I don’t feel like I need to be liked and accepted by everyone. You can’t win them all!

I’ll admit, sometimes it’s easier to hang out with other moms. Maybe that’s why I’m always making the distinction. We all have our issues, children or not, but moms get each other’s particular type and level of crazy. They usually don’t care if you’re late because your child swore fifty times that he didn’t have to go potty and then the minute you got out the door, he decided he needed to go potty. They don’t get offended if you forget to call. They would much rather text than talk anyway because most days that just takes way too much effort. They always apologize for their house being messy when it looks way more put together than yours. And real mom friends let you come over to hang out and don’t get angry when you decide to take a nap on their couch because…no child for a few hours.

I also really enjoy hanging out with friends who don’t have kids. Because the honest truth is that sometimes I don’t really want to be a mom.  When I hang out with these friends, I get to be more than Mason’s mom. I get to be the care-free, fun, still too honest girl I was before motherhood. I don’t spend the entire time talking about my kid or the color and texture of his latest poop. I don’t vent about how exhausted I am or how alone I sometimes feel. It’s almost like escaping from reality sometimes. Not that we don’t talk about my son at all or these friends don’t ask how he’s doing, but it’s also really nice to have some drinks, eat some nachos, play some trivia and talk about things that have nothing to do with motherhood, like how we can possibly wait a whole year until season 7 of Game of Thrones.

When I went to Campowerment last March, I met so many women who chose not to have children, women I now consider to be close friends. Sometimes women who don’t have any kids are constantly bombarded by the same questions and statements as women with only one child. When are you going to have a (another) baby? Are you sure you don’t want any (another) one? I’m sure you will change your mind. What do you parents think about that? And our responses are always the same too. “No, no, no I won’t, and I don’t give a fuck what other people think. It’s my decision.”  All these women who I met never felt the need to apologize for their choices and I found that so empowering and refreshing. I was able to be myself and more than just Mason’s mom with them.

I have both types of friends, but my inner circle of close girlfriends all just happen to be moms. These are moms who I knew before they were moms—who I went to college with and have seen at their best and worst moments. We all knew each other before motherhood jacked our lives and daily sanity and gave us this new normal where sometimes we go weeks or months without seeing each other. It’s also amazing to be embark on the journey of motherhood together, watch our children grow up, continue to be there for each other’s best and worst, and celebrate each other’s milestones during this stage of life.

I’m definitely not the girl who has millions of friends. I’m not so sure big group activities are even my scene. Intimate gatherings seem to be more my thing these days. And who really cares if someone has a child or not. I just want to be around women who support and celebrate one another and build each other up. I want my friends to “get me.” My close friends, moms or not, love me for me, that girl who “only just said out loud what you know you were thinking in your head at that moment.” That girl who isn’t afraid to put all her shit out there for everyone to read and see. I mean, duh! I have a blog, don’t I? I’m their medicated mommy friend who is imperfectly perfect, deeply flawed, gives zero fucks, and not ashamed to admit any of it.

I’m always looking for new members to add to my tribe. And it’s not always so easy to find your people. Or you find them and then they move away (which leaves me with conflicting emotions of “I totally understand why you left,” and “I’m so jealous you got to leave and go to a better place.”). So if you come with a kickass sense of humor, possess a pretty sharp edge, aren’t afraid to show your cray or tell me the awful truth, I think we might be destined to best friends (mom or non-mom, it doesn’t matter). And if we happen to meet on the playground, I’ll most likely be that mom sitting on the bench with the resting bitch face texting another mom friend how much I don’t enjoy the playground.   Yep, that’s me—silently cursing my child for only wanting to play in the nasty-ass, germ-infested sandbox (when there are 8 different kinds of slides), while I count the minutes until I can go home, pour a glass of wine, and convince my child that watching Doc McStuffins is so much more fun than playing airplane with mommy…because It’s been a long day and mommy is exhausted from sitting on the bench.

Q & A With Elizabeth Isadora Gold, Author of The Mommy Group (Cont...)

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I'm back with Elizabeth Isadora Gold, author of The Mommy Group: Freaking Out, Finding Friends, and Surviving the Happiest Times of Our Lives Today she talks  more about motherhood, why we as moms need to advocate for ourselves, and the best ways to find your mommy group. The Mom Of An Only Child

I’m an only child, and I didn’t think I would have just the one. But here we are. It is what it is. I’m a writer, we live in New York City, I’m turning 42, and I had postpartum mental illness. We are not financially, emotionally, or physically prepared to have another child. Sometimes I feel quite sad about that, and sometimes I’m good with it. The main thing is to make Clara feel that she has friends-as-family, both in terms of her kid friends and with other grownups. My mommy group has continued to be such a wonderful source of support and love for our family.

Advocating For Yourself As A Mother

Well, no one’s gonna do it for you, at least not yet. It’s feminism, it’s politics, it’s life. If we don't organize as women and as mothers, nothing will change. The United States has (say it with me) the worst parental leave and benefits for parents in the developed world. This is a shame in all sense of the word. Advocate. Vote. Fight.

The Best Time To Find A Mommy Group

I was very happy that we started as a pregnancy group. It meant that we got to know each other before our worlds exploded.

The Best Places To Find Your Mommy Group

Wherever there are mothers, there are mommy groups. For initial organization, social media and neighborhood listservs are great. But really: just walk up to the lady who has a baby or a pregnant stomach, introduce yourself, and make a plan to meet up. And when you do, talk. Not just about cloth versus disposable diapers, but about how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking. It’s the only way to get real – you have to be brave enough to go first.

Keeping Up With The Mommy Group

Yes. We don’t all meet all together, but everyone in the group still knows each other, and several of the members are still in close touch. The fact that I wrote a book about us has affected the dynamic for sure (in that I keep everyone in touch with each other, at least somewhat).

Joining New Mommy Groups

I haven’t joined any other mommy group, but I’ve made good friends at her preschool and kindergarten. I do have a writing group which happens to be all moms, so I guess that ends up being a de facto mommy group. But our kids don’t come.

Worst Parenting Moment

Having postpartum anxiety and wondering if I’d be able to care for my child.

Best Parenting Moment

Last night I took Clara to a friend’s novel reading at a bookstore. She actually sat on my lap and was quiet and respectful, and sort of heard the story. She also learned the word “filibuster” last night and wants to write to Obama about gun control. If you’d asked me a week or a month or year ago, I probably would have told you what had happened in the last twenty-four hours. There’s always a best moment.

Keeping The Spark Alive In Your Relationship 

Just be friends and be nice to each other. And make each other laugh. My husband and I went to the movies twice last week (we were done teaching and decided to treat ourselves to movies during the day). That was great.

Reading List

I just finished my friend Emily Barton’s wonderful novel, The Book of Esther. I’m also reading Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me. I’m perpetually attempting to catch up on my pile of New Yorker magazines. I’m reading a lot of political blogs and sites these days as well.

More Writing

I’ll be publishing an interview with Emily Barton (the novelist mentioned above) in Salon this month. I’m still in a bit of book PR mode, but the summer will bring (I hope) a few essays and some more imaginative writing. It’s just started so I’m not sure yet. More books to come, I hope.

I want to thank Elizabeth for taking the time out of her busy schedule to chat with me so openly and honestly. For more information about Elizabeth and her writing, go here. And don't forget to pick up a copy of The Mommy Group: Freaking Out, Finding Friends, and Surviving the Happiest Times of Our Lives

Q & A With Elizabeth Isadora Gold, Author of The Mommy Group

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Meet my new mom friend, Elizabeth Isadora Gold, author of the new nonfiction book, The Mommy Group: Freaking Out, Finding Friends, and Surviving the Happiest Times of Our LivesToday, Elizabeth chats very openly and honestly with me about how she juggles motherhood and her booming writing career. She also gives incredible advice for dealing with sanctimommies and how to recognize the signs of postpartum anxiety, something she suffered from soon after her daughter Clara (now five) was born. A Typical Day As A Working Mom

Because I’m a freelancer, typical isn’t really a thing in my house. My husband Danny and I both have three or four jobs at any given moment, in addition to our “real” work of writing and composing. Our schedule in terms of childcare is pretty split. Danny takes the morning shift with our five year old daughter, Clara. He wakes up with her somewhere between 6:30-8, cooks her breakfast(s), and makes her lunch. I wake around 8 and get her dressed; he takes her to school. This year I was teaching Writing at Juilliard and Marymount Manhattan College, so I was out early most mornings. Now that it’s summer, I stay in my bathrobe and drink coffee, read the Internet, and return emails until I feel so guilty that I actually start getting work done. Clara’s pickup is anywhere from 3:30-5:30, depending on activities. Usually I’m the one on that shift, because Danny’s work (he’s a composer and teacher) often extends through the early evening. We don’t cook as much as we’d like to (Clara would eat takeout guacamole and chicken tacos every night if she could), and we all stay up late and watch too much TV.

Most Challenging Thing About Motherhood

Everything that is not the fun parts. Now that Clara is five, life with her is really different than when she was a baby. She’s a relatively calm and agreeable child – we lucked out. It is still impossible, however, to make her put on her own socks or go into a room by herself when she declares there are “monster shadows in there.” The most challenging thing – and I think this is true for most parents – is how tired I am at the end of the day, and how little of my energy is left over for, say, housework or date nights or reading Russian literature.

When a child is a baby, women get the bulk of the physical burden, which translates into the hormonal burden, which leads to the emotional burden. That’s truly difficult and almost completely unsupported systemically in this country. It could be a lot better.

What We Should Celebrate Most About Motherhood

The balancing act that all parents must perform to work and love and be patient.

Motherhood Now Vs. Being a New Mom

It is completely different. First of all, I’m well medicated. When I was a new mom, I was very sick with postpartum anxiety. Second of all, I prefer to hang out with people who can talk, and babies can’t. Third of all, having a kid as opposed to a baby is just more fun.

On Mom-Shamers and Sanctimommies

I don’t believe in them. As in: I really don’t believe they exist. Okay, when Clara was a baby there were people in my life who passive aggressively criticized me for giving her formula or not wearing her on my body. But those people are nuts. At the time, I obsessed over such small remarks, and they made me feel terrible. Now I sort of take the fact that if you pretend they’re not there, you’ll feel less crazy.

I guess one more thing on this issue: telling people bluntly that I’d had two miscarriages, a tough pregnancy, and postpartum anxiety really went a long way to shutting them the f—k up when they decided to tell me what to do. Honesty works.

For Women With Signs Of Postpartum Anxiety and How To Recognize Them

I was just telling a soon-to-be-dad this advice last night. Do not assume that any doctor will recognize that you or your partner is struggling. As women, we think we need to mask our anxiety, because it indicates we’re being neurotic or high strung, and we don’t want to be criticized or stereotyped. If you don’t feel right or if your partner, mother, doula, friends, whoever notice that you seem off, do not hesitate. Get yourself to a good therapist and psychiatrist as soon as you can. Postpartum Progress is an excellent web site with very smart and detailed checklists. You will have to be your own best advocate. If you are sick, don’t balk at medication. This is life and death, for both you and your child; you have to do whatever it takes to get yourself well. Ask for support, money, time, and help from whomever you can.

For me, the signs were immediate: I didn’t sleep for 48 hours and then began having back to back panic attacks. However, I now think I was having more moderate – yet diagnosable – anxiety throughout my pregnancy. My wonderful OB was totally unaware of this. Or if she noticed, it didn’t red flag. I should have been in therapy from day one after my first miscarriage; it was a crime that I was not referred immediately to a social worker, because the level of hormonal fluctuations and grief I experienced should have alerted one of the many health workers who saw me.

This is a fight for awareness. Again, Postpartum Progress is a great resource if you want to learn how to advocate, fundraise, etc. on this issue.

Join me on Friday for Part Two of my Q & A with Elizabeth, where she talks more about motherhood, the importance of advocating for yourself as a mom, why every mom needs her own mommy group, and the best places to find them. And if you haven't already, pick up a copy of The Mommy Group: Freaking Out, Finding Friends, and Surviving the Happiest Times of Our Lives. It's a must read!  

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Written For Suburban Misfit Mom - Two Moms, Polar Opposites, Best Friends—How Does That Work?

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My introduction to motherhood was through my best friend, the first friend I made when I moved South almost nine years ago. She and I were set up in true Jewish match-making fashion—by our parents. I walked away from dinner that night taking comfort in her recognizable brand of jeans and cute black top. Maybe I would be okay in the South after all. It wasn’t until later that I realized she saved the Lilly Pulitzer for more special occasions, like Saturdays and birthday parties. She was my first friend to become a mother, long before I ever decided I wanted to get pregnant and pop a tiny human out of my vagina, or in my case, evict him from my belly with major surgery. Although both boys, her first baby has four years on mine and she had her second before my husband even knocked me up. Clearly I took the slower, more scenic route to motherhood. And the differences don’t stop there.

She breastfed her first born for 17 months. I breastfed (if you can even call it that) mine for five days. I chose formula, something her son will never know the taste of. I had a night nurse for two months, and basically never woke up in the middle of the night with my son, who was sleep trained by two months. She did it all that by herself. She crafted every decoration and baked every dessert herself for her son’s first birthday. I paid someone on Etsy to do it for me. She would labor as long as possible without the epidural and avoid a C-section at all costs. I would scream “DRUGS” the minute I got to the hospital and schedule my C-section if I were to have another baby. She went on to have two more children, making her a mom of three. I’m still a mom of one and plan to stay that way forever. She would never call her child an asshole. I dedicate entire blog posts to calling mine that. She cooks. I make reservations. She is up early in the morning to feel productive. I’m lucky if I can get out of bed and my child to preschool on time. Sometimes I go back to sleep after drop-off.

The real truth is, none of this matters when it comes to our friendship, the love we have for each other, and the respect and support we give to each other as women and moms. We are there for each other no matter what. My best friend took to motherhood right away. It took me almost a year because of postpartum depression. And she was there for me every step of the way. She always accepted me for who I was, especially in motherhood, which was the complete opposite of her. We celebrate each other’s professional and personal accomplishments, and milestones of our children. We grieve together at the loss of loved ones. We text each other all day everyday. We constantly laugh at ourselves and each other.

I always joke with this friend that she’s the reason for my failure at breastfeeding, my unnecessary long labor, and basically motherhood for the first six months of my son’s life. This is obviously not the truth, but everything I thought I wanted and knew, I learned from watching her and her uncanny abilities as both a superhero Pinterest mom and champion breastfeeder. As a result, I thought I would have my baby the old-fashioned way and miraculously fall in love with motherhood while transforming into supermom, professional crafter, breastfeeding enthusiast, and all around domestic goddess.

What I failed to realize before having my son, is that no woman has any clue about the mother they will be until they actually become one. I didn’t become any of those things and it started it with laboring for 24 hours, pushing for two of those, and then having a C-section. My friend probably didn’t even know what kind of mother she would be. And even though I like to think that she always has it together, I know my friend has experienced sleepless nights, feeding struggles, toddler tantrums and other stresses of motherhood. She just happens to be an incredibly strong woman who somehow always seems to handle it with grace. It’s one of the qualities I admire most about her. And having a type-A personality doesn’t hurt either. That’s another difference we share as I consider myself to be more type B+.

What I love most about my friend is her honesty and willingness to help out other moms. She is always happy to share what works for her but gives zero fucks if you don’t take her advice. There is no guilting, no shaming, no judging. She understands that motherhood is not one size fits all. What works for her might not work for you. I ask her for advice all the time, and even though I don’t always follow it, she is the best human and friend I know, and again, we couldn’t be more different as parents.

At the end of the day, moms are moms, no matter what their choices and parenting styles might be. And motherhood is incredible and rewarding, scary and hard, and a shit show 90 percent of the time. We all have that universal experience of motherhood in common. It binds and bonds us all together and we need each other to survive it. We need to rely on each other to survive it. My best friend is part of my tribe, the village it takes to allow me to be a happy mom raising a happy child. We are two women who couldn’t be more different when it comes to motherhood, but we love each other, learn from each other, support each other, and build one another up everyday.

This article was originally published at Suburban Misfit Mom. on June 16, 2016.