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.

10 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Postpartum Depression

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When I was eight months pregnant, a friend asked me if I was worried at all about postpartum depression. I quickly shot her down. "Oh, that would never happen to me," I said. "I’m so excited to be a mom." As far as I was concerned, I was going to give birth to my son the old-fashioned way, fall deeply in love with him, breastfeed him for months like a champion, transform into the DIY domestic goddess I was always meant to be, and take him with me everywhere I went. Instead, I was in labor for 24 hours, a process that led to two hours of pushing, followed by a C-section. Afterward, I found that I felt nothing toward my healthy new baby boy, became crippled by anxiety, quit breastfeeding after five days, decided I had made a terrible mistake becoming a mom, started taking antidepressants, and barely left the house for six months.

Maybe if I had received more education about postpartum depression, I would have been more aware of what was happening to me, less ashamed, and more prepared to seek help. There are so many things I wish I’d known about postpartum depression before I became a mom, and I want you to know them too.

1. Postpartum depression doesn’t discriminate.

Postpartum depression doesn’t care about your race, ethnicity, how much money or education you have, how excited you are about your baby, or what your support system looks like. I felt like I had lucked out with the ultimate new mom set-up: I have a wonderful husband, a supportive family, and couldn’t wait to be a mom. I even hired a baby nurse to help out the first two months… and I still got postpartum depression.

2. There are real risk factors.

I had so many risk factors and had no idea risk factors for postpartum depression even existed. Some of mine: having 30 family members in town on my due date, moving three months before my due date, an extremely long labor, and having a type-A personality. Although each mom’s risk factors will be different because postpartum depression is not a one-size-fits-all illness, I’d recommend checking out the list.

3. Postpartum depression doesn’t mean you want to harm your baby.

I always thought moms with postpartum depression were the ones I saw on television: the people on the news who hurt their babies and sometimes themselves too. I never had the desire to do either of those things, which left me feeling confused about what was happening to me. Most of those folks are actually suffering from a form of postpartum psychosis, the least common form of postpartum depression. (And although many people with postpartum psychosis have delusions, they’re not always destructive—and those harmful thoughts aren’t exactly brought on because the person wants them, either.)

4. Postpartum depression isn’t like other depressions.

I learned later from my therapist that postpartum depression often presents itself as more of an irritable, anxious depression. At first, I didn’t realize I was depressed because what I really felt was overwhelming anxiety. This also made it more difficult for others to notice that something was wrong. And because women just can’t catch a break (ever, really), postpartum anxiety is its own condition—one that doesn’t get as much attention but is definitely something to watch for.

5. Hundreds of thousands of women get postpartum depression each year.

For a while, I felt like the only one. I didn’t know any moms who had postpartum depression—or if I did, they weren’t talking about it. I just thought I sucked at motherhood and couldn’t understand why everyone else was so much better at it. I also felt ashamed and didn’t want anyone to know about any of the negative thoughts running through my head. If I had known that postpartum depression is the most common complication of childbirth, affecting 1 in 7 new moms, I might have felt less alone.

6. Having postpartum depression doesn’t make you a bad mom.

When postpartum depression hit, I couldn’t understand why everyone else loved being a mom and had such an easy transition into motherhood. I couldn’t understand why everyone on my social media feeds posted pictures with captions like, "The best thing to ever happen to me," or "so in love" or "life is now complete."

I just thought I was a horrible mother because I couldn’t relate to any of that. The truth was I didn’t cause my depression or ask to get sick. I wasn’t a terrible mom. I had a real mental health issue that required treatment.

7. Taking medication isn't the end of the world.

I never thought I would begin motherhood by taking antidepressants, and I questioned what that said about me as a mom. Was I weak because I needed drugs to help me function? Would I be judged for trading breastfeeding for anti-anxiety pills? Taking medication turned out to be the best decision because it helped me get healthy and happy for my family. Looking back, I wish I hadn’t judged myself so harshly.

8. Not everyone in your life will be supportive.

I could barely leave the house, let alone have the will to return phone calls, texts, and emails, or explain what I was going through. I was too exhausted and often too embarrassed, but many of my friends understood and continued to send messages filled with love and support without expecting anything in return. However, some stopped reaching out when they didn’t hear back from me; they couldn’t be bothered to put in the effort. They aren’t my friends today, and I’ve come to accept that that’s OK.

9. Finding the right therapist is everything.

The first therapist I met with spent our first session asking me to list ways I could be a good mom… which was not helpful at all when I was feeling like I didn’t even want to be a mom in the first place. I didn’t see the light until I met with a therapist who specialized in postpartum depression and knew exactly how to talk to me about this issue. I could have saved myself some time and frustration if I knew seeing someone who specializes in maternal mental health is a must.

10. Motherhood is a team sport.

I now know that motherhood isn’t meant to be done in isolation, but when I became a mom, I thought I had to do it all on my own—and with a big smile on my face. I thought that’s what made someone a good mom. So when I got sick and couldn’t do anything without help, I felt like a failure; I didn’t know that all moms struggle and need help. Now, I openly share my struggles and always ask for help when I need it because motherhood becomes easier and more fun when we all do it together.

If you think you might be suffering from postpartum depression, it’s OK to ask for help. Postpartum Support International is a great place to help you find local resources in your area.

This article originally appeared at Greatist

Words That Are Basically A Mom Hug

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Four years ago, when my son was born, and I battled severe postpartum depression, I felt so alone. I wanted—no—I desperately craved meeting another mom like me. Another mom who would put her hand on my arm, look me in the eye, and say, “I’ve been there. I get it.”

I didn’t find these moms until I got better almost a year later when I started sharing my journey from postpartum depression to healthy, happy mommy. And most of them I met virtually. I was amazed by how many moms would respond to my story with those powerful words, “I’ve been there. I get it.” Where were these moms when I was suffering? Most likely, they were also suffering and too ashamed to come forward just like I was.

It was then I realized the power of those two little sentences and their importance and necessity when it comes to the struggles of motherhood. Whether it’s depression, anxiety, body image, relationship issues or something else, we all struggle as moms and we want to know we aren’t the only ones. We don’t always want advice. We want to feel normal. We want to know there are others out there who get it. Who get us. 

These two sentences are so powerful because they are loaded with empathy. They mean, I know what you’re feeling. They mean, I’ve walked in your shoes. They mean, you’re not alone in your fears. They mean, I see you. They mean, you don’t have to pretend anymore.

Six months ago, I met another mom, Brooke, through Instagram. We connected over the shared experience of surviving postpartum depression. She reached out to me after reading something I wrote for Motherlucker about my own postpartum depression journey. I became that mom for her. The one I had been searching for when I was sick. The one who, with her words, could say, "You're not alone."

As we talked more we wondered about how many moms could benefit from hearing those same words. We decided become two moms on a mission to help other moms feel less alone in their struggles and more empowered to be real as they continue on their journey to raise tiny humans.

Motherhood today comes with the pressure to be perfect. Facebook posts that only show the best pictures. Instagram memes that simply joke about the worst and absurd parts of our days. But these images on social media don’t tell the whole story. What’s missing from them are connection, empathy, support and understanding.

I don’t want any mom to ever feel as alone as I did when I battled postpartum depression. I want to help build a tribe of moms that lift each other up and help each other rise. I want to change the dialogue of motherhood to one grounded in empathy and sisterhood. I want to empower moms to be honest about the messy, scary stuff that no one likes to talk about.

And that's what Brooke and I are doing everyday, over at MOTHERHOOD | UNDERSTOOD. Come hang out with us!

Mom Code

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We all know it’s hard AF to be a mom. Sometimes, it’s even harder to tell the truth as one. In a world filled with opinions and judgments, we don’t always want to wear our truth on our spit-up or yogurt-stained sleeves.

I’ve accepted that not everyone will embrace calling her kid an asshole after multiple tantrums over not being allowed to have a second piece of candy. Or wanting every playdate (post-noon of course) to be accompanied by a glass of Pinot. Motherhood isn’t one-size-fits-all.

Over the past five years as a parent, I have learned that telling the truth makes motherhood easier. Pretending takes so much energy, something we moms are always running out of. Ask me anything about surviving postpartum depression and I will tell you. I’m an open book about having to take medication. I won’t lie and tell you I miss my family so much it hurts when I leave for a girl’s weekend. And I’m going to tell you that what I feel for my child doesn’t resemble appreciation or magic when he shows up at the side of my bed at three in the morning to ask me what he was dreaming about. 

But, there are still times when the truth isn’t the first thing to leave my mouth. Many times, it’s directed at my son (if you’re not lying to your kids, are you really a parent?). Others, towards my husband or friends in passing and usually because I’m just too damn tired to say much at all. Moms can’t be unicorns all the time! That’s why mom language is filled with hidden meanings, even when we consider ourselves to be some of the more real and honest ones.

Here are just a few examples. 

I’ll be there in a minute. Or, I’m coming.

I’m going to try to stretch this out for as long as humanly possible, so I don’t have to actually do what you want me to do and pray you forget. 

Because I Said So

I got nothing. I have no legit explanation or reason for why I am telling you what I am telling you to do. And for me to find the reason, I would have to ask around or do some research and I’m just not going to put that kind of effort in today. Mommy is just TOO tired! Welcome to childhood buddy. My parents said the same thing to me and now I’m saying it to you. I’m the adult. You’re the child. SO JUST DO IT! 

Things are great! Busy but great! 

I’m drowning with how much I have going on – growing a business, keeping up with deadlines, blogging, raising a needy, tiny human, and fighting daily exhaustion and what I’ve labeled as situational depression.

I’m too tired honey.

It’s great that you got to spend all day bossing around other people who actually HAVE to listen to you, followed by lunch with people who don’t throw food on the floor, at each other, or yell at you that they don’t eat foods that are green. And while you were in your office, alone, I got elbowed in the boobs, jumped on top of and kneed in the boobs, and pulled by my clothes as if they were a leash, all by a tiny human who also felt the need to climb on top of my head when we sat down on the couch to watch Boss Baby for the eighty second time. The LAST thing I want is to be touched right now. 

 

This article originally appeared at Motherlucker.

Fighting PPD is A Marathon Not A Sprint

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In the hospital, I thought I loved my baby. I thought I wanted to bring him home and be his mother. Then I got home and my thoughts drastically changed. I wanted nothing to do with my new son. I decided I had made a terrible mistake becoming a mother.

With these new, irrational thoughts came a feeling of heaviness on my chest as if an elephant had all of a sudden taken up residence there. I couldn’t breathe. The feeling creeped into my throat. It woke me up at three am every morning. It exhausted me to the point where all I wanted to do was sleep forever yet I could never fall asleep because the anxiety made my heart feel as if it would leap out of my chest.

What was happening to me? Why do I feel this way? Where did this overwhelming anxiety come from? Why won’t the tears stop? Why don’t I want to get out of my bed when there is a healthy, beautiful baby boy in the next room who needs his mother? How do I make it all stop? 

Tell me exactly what to do. I will do it. Drugs? I will take them. Talk to someone? Okay fine. Just promise me, it will all stop. Promise me I will feel better. Promise me I will feel connected to my son. Promise me motherhood will be filled with all the love and magic and excitement, Pinterest crafts and rainbows and unicorns I had pictured when I was pregnant.

If only it could be that simple. As I write this (and if any mom who is suffering is reading this), I wish I could tell you that there is a magical formula. That if you do X, Y, and Z, you will be better. That there is a set amount of time before you will start to feel like your old self again. But I can’t. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to postpartum depression. The treatment and recovery process should be taken one day at a time and no two are alike.

When I was in the throes of my postpartum depression battle I was lucky to find a therapist who specialized in postpartum mood disorders right away, but every week when I sat on that faded red love seat in her office, all I could focus on was when I would feel like myself again. I wanted to know exactly when I would feel happy again and what I had to do to get there.

Every week, my therapist would tell me the feelings were temporary. She had the proof in hundreds of former patients she treated with the same illness I had. Some took three months. Some six months. Others more than a year. I always thought she was lying. I felt like I would stay in that awful hell forever, so if I was going to get better, it needed to happen in the next five minutes.

All I could do was have patience, (which has never been my strength). The phrase I remember my own mom yelling at me most throughout my childhood was, “JENNIFER, BE PATIENT!” As cliché as it to tell someone to “be patient” and “give it time,” it’s also the truth when it comes to fighting postpartum depression and getting through to the other side. Slowly, the right medication started to work and I began having more good days than bad.

Then after several good days, I would relapse back into that helpless girl overcome by tears and anxiety who couldn’t get out of bed and function like a human, like a mother. Even though my therapist warned me this could happen, I would get frustrated and forget about all the good days that came before. I needed to be better NOW.

But that’s the thing about this mental illness that affects hundreds of thousands of new moms each year. It doesn’t stick to any pattern. It doesn’t follow any rules. The only thing you can do is hang in there while following your treatment plan, because postpartum depression is temporary with treatment. I wish I could tell you how temporary, but all I can honestly say is that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. I’m now included in the proof my therapist uses when a new mom comes to see her for the first time. I got better running the marathon and I’m a stronger, more patient, and one-hell of a badass mother for it. 

This post originally appeared at Motherlucker.

Parenting Horror Stories

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Happy Halloween, also known as the day where my four-year old dresses up in an overpriced costume that he doesn't let me choose for him anymore and collects candy from strangers' houses that his mommy and daddy will eat while he is sleeping. Today, I thought I would share some parenting horror stories from real parents because we all have them. And there is nothing more horrifying than explosive poop and projectile vomit! So get those baby wipes ready!

Ozzy, at two-and-a –half, was in the middle of potty-training. I was in the kitchen making dinner and he was happily playing in the living room when all of a sudden the smell wafted in. I turn around to find he had had the presence of mind to pull his pants and underwear down to do his poo. But instead of going in his potty, mere feet away, he shat on the fancy rug (from Harrods no less) in the middle of the living room. Knowing he'd been naughty, he went and found his toy Dyson vacuum and proceeded to "vacuum" up his poo…all over and into the posh rug. Into the toy Dyson. All over his feet. Poo footprints all over my house. I almost passed out with a heady combination of rage and hysterical laughter. Terrible twos indeed! -Jenn, Mom of Ozzy and Maddy

We always hire a college student to pick up my older daughter from school, do homework, and take her to activities. She's basically like her assistant, which is a demanding job in itself. We had just hired a new girl who is SUPER sweet and was just getting her bearings. On day two, my daughter fell asleep after school (which was odd) but it was week one so we chalked it up to exhaustion/excitement. The nanny woke her up to get her in the bath and I was leaving to do a radio show dressed in full makeup, hair, Spanx, etc. All of a sudden, she sprayed vomit ALL over her bedroom. I'm fucking talking all over. The floor, the TV, the dresser. It was like a deleted scene from The Exorcist. The sweet 23-year-old nanny froze in panic and as I moved into action to clean everything I just kept saying to myself, "Please don't quit, please don't quit, please don't quit!" Thankfully she didn't but I'm sure it was the most eventful first week at a job she's ever had. -Rachel, Mom of Ava and Sienna

One night around midnight, when my daughter was eight weeks old she needed a diaper change. I had her on my bed (which is very high) and was changing her. Luckily, my 21-year-old sister who lived with me was coming in from drinking about that same time and walked into my room. As I was taking the baby’s diaper off she proceeded to projectile poop into my face and hair and mouth and all over me. My sister was crying laughing and thankfully grabbed Ande as I ran to the bathroom, threw up and threw away my clothes. Ande is now 10 and thinks it’s the best story ever. -Amy, Mom of Ande, Mike, Nick and Joe

I'm a germ freak. Always have been. My oldest (Cole who Is now 18…OMG) jumped out of his crib and I caught him walking down the stairs chewing on the bottom of a plunger! I can still throw up at the thought! Wait ..I have another one! With my second (Lilly), I used to duck-tape her diaper shut because she dug in to her poop and painted her whole crib and the walls. No matter what I did she found a way to get poop everywhere. -Heidi, Mom of Cole, Lily, Montana and AJ

Judah had explosive diarrhea in my Ergo while I was checking out at Harris Teeter, then someone stole my groceries while I was cleaning him up in the bathroom. -Tamar, mom of Judah and Elijah

I took my four kids to Panera (ages 9,7,5 and 3). I go to order at the counter and the employee asks me if I would please use the "Quick Kiosks" instead. So, there I am attempting to place my order while trying to keep an eye on my kids. My middle two daughters start to get into a throw down about who is playing on the kiosk next to mine, so I grab my 5-year-old by the collar of her coat to keep her from gauging out her sister's eye. Meanwhile, I see my 3-year-old son about 10 feet away from me by the microwave, but didn't think anything of it as my order was almost complete (hallelujah). Next thing I know, two employees run out from behind the counter, one with a fire extinguisher. I see smoke billowing out of the microwave, smell melted plastic and see my son sheepishly stepping slowly away from the microwave. He had put one of those plastic buzzers into the microwave and turned it on!!! When I realized what he did, I went over to apologize to the Panera employee who promptly put her hand up in my face in annoyance. I got my order to go, put my kids in the car and proceeded to cry. I guess we all have those days. -Andrea, mom of Ellie, Lexie, Emma, JJ

My due date with H was January 19th and the stomach flu was going around so leading up to it I was really nervous someone was going to get it. And of course, after I put the kids to bed on my due date, Zach woke up puking all over his bed. Eric was out getting dinner and I was trying to avoid catching it, so I literally stood outside his room telling him it's okay and Daddy would be home soon to help as he sat covered in his own vomit. Anyway, this went on all night and Eric was a trooper and took care of it all. We essentially quarantined him in his room and Eric stayed home from work the next day and stayed with him so I could avoid contact. Of course, fast forward to two nights later and I start feeling crazy nauseous, realize I'm getting the stomach bug and within a half hour my contractions start. We go into the hospital and I am holding a bag in front of me because I know the vomit is coming at any point. We get to triage and they find out that I am definitely in labor, and surprise, he's breached (which we didn't know) so I would be having a C-section 45 minutes later. They start prepping me for the C-section and I start throwing up and it is the worst! Does not stop! Finally, they give me Zofran and wheel me into the OR as soon as I stop puking. They cut me open, baby is all good, and Eric is holding him in the OR while they stitch me up. All of the sudden, Eric screams, "SOMEONE NEEDS TO TAKE THE BABY" and he runs out of the OR because he suddenly gets sick. I am wheeled into recovery, throw up several times on my chest (I can't move my body since it is numb from chest down from surgery), the nurse wipes my chest with those hospital grade antiseptic wipes, and puts the baby on it. We finally go to my room and Eric gets sick all in my bathroom and then passes out on the couch. He sleeps through everything over the next few hours (it's about 2am), and finally wakes up at 6am and feels okay enough to drive home. He walks through the door at home and my mom is standing there with Levi's sheets in her hands because Levi puked all over his crib. They are both incredibly sick all day and my whole family is pretty much banned from visiting me in the hospital. Thank goodness I had a C-section so I stayed as long as I could to avoid my germy house. Seriously, I thought about checking into a hotel with the baby instead of going home. -Lauren, mom of Zack, Levi and Hank

Hayes had explosive diarrhea and was so awesome running to the bathroom and making it to the toilet before letting it fly. This story would have had a happier ending if only the toilet seat would have been up. -Kirstan, mom of Hayes,

I was a 22-year-old new mom with no baby experience. My husband was in the music biz and had to go on the road for a gig when baby T was five days old. His job booked him into the Clift House hotel when baby was five weeks old so I set off for San Francisco to meet him at his swanky digs with baby in tow. We arrive at his gorgeous room and have a blissful, relaxed evening with Daddy on baby duty. That room was worth the five-week wait and the daddy-daughter time was priceless. I wake up in the morning to my sweet hubby holding baby and I'm feeling refreshed for the first time in weeks. He is sitting on the fancy couch, wearing sweats, shirtless, and our babe on his lap. He knew I loved a bubble bath and hadn't taken one since he left, so he encouraged me to go relax in a bath, he's had things covered. I go prepare my bath with the bubbles and oil I brought with me. The bathroom is luxurious and as I step into the bath, before my tush hits the water,  I hear an odd sound from the room and then  "Oh s#*¢!" from my guy. I grab the plush robe and run to the room. My fab husband's chest, sweatpants and part of that fancy couch are covered in exploded, new baby poop. I'm talking our sweet angel went next level on the poop scale. She had on her diaper and footie jammies too. More poop than either of us had ever seen. There weren't enough towels to clean that up so we ended up with him getting in the shower, clothes, baby and all. Only a hose would have worked better. No bath for momma that day. -Lia, mom of Tasia and Jayla

I don't know about all of you, but we have gone through at least 1 million baby wipes since my son was born. Throw up, poop, pee, the kitchen counters, everything gets wiped up with baby wipes!

Do you have a parenting horror story you want to share? Comment below!

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.

21 Questions with Boss Mom Michelle Dempsey, (Like the 50 Cent song, Only More Empowering)

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Meet Michelle Dempsey, my new woman and mompreneur crush. She is the founder of Very-Well Written, where she helps businesses with content and brand marketing. You can also find her wisdom all over the Internet at top sites such as Mind Body Green, Elite Daily, Huffpost, Forbes and Scary Mommy. When she’s not hustling at work, she can be found doing mom things with her adorable two-and-a-half year old daughter, coffee in hand. And during those child-free moments, cardio, binge-watching Netflix, and more coffee keep her sane.

We connected over our shared desire to use our big voices to help women find theirs, to empower them to own their struggles and live their passions, our well-developed ability to say no to people and things that don’t serve us, and the mom struggle that is indeed, very real.

1. Describe yourself in five words.

Dynamic, creative, sincere, inspirational, no holds barred

2. The moment that changed my life was

The moment I learned that my intuition was really onto something, and that it was worth trusting. It was one of those moments where everything came into focus, and finally, everything that came before it made perfect sense.

3. I found my voice when

I realized my words had the power to inspire and influence others, and that sharing my truth meant helping others to heal from theirs.

4. I’m empowered because

I’ve learned to say no and mean it. I’ve learned to walk away from what doesn’t serve me without apologizing for it. I’ve learned the power of my intelligence, my kindness, and my womanhood. I’ve learned that you don’t get what you want in life, you get what you are, so if you want great, be better.

5. I empower others because

I am as authentic as I am transparent. I say what everyone else is thinking. I choose risk over comfort. I go after what I want like it’s the last train of the night. I don’t apologize for being who I am yet I always lead with kindness. 

6. Putting yourself first is

Not selfish. At all. Putting yourself first is the single best thing you can learn to do for yourself in this lifetime yet it’s every woman’s biggest challenge. We’re mothers, we’re daughters, we’re friends, we’re wives, hell, some of us are even ex-wives, and the expectation is that we do for everyone else first, right? And then what? We burn out, lose our sense of self and live with regret and resentment. We get divorced, we hate our jobs, we can’t believe we never told that friend how much she hurt us and now can’t stand the sight of her. It took me 30-plus people-pleasing years to learn that there is no shame in advocating for your own needs before anyone else’s. Even as a mom, a really devoted one at that, I know that I can’t pour from an empty cup, and when Mama’s taken care of, everyone else benefits. We’re not taught to put ourselves on a pedestal and I’m not sure why. But what I do know is, once you get to that place where you value, and I mean really and truly value who you are, putting yourself first becomes a ritual as natural, and necessary as breathing. 

7. I take care of myself by

Taking time for myself at some point, even if it’s just a few moments, every single day. Working out helps me focus and regroup, and in the interest of being authentic, it helps me deal with being a semi-anxious workaholic. I sleep when I need to sleep, and when shit hits the fan I shut off my phone and head for a massage. I surround myself only with people who bring happiness and joy to my life, do my best to keep outside drama to a minimum, and breathe deeply through the moments that aren’t so pretty.

8. Best mom win

When my daughter first started school, at a teeny 18-months old, she came home one day with a bite mark on her arm. Her teacher informed me that another little girl in class had bitten her during a typical toddler battle over some toys. When I asked how my daughter retaliated, thinking she likely resorted to hurting this little girl for biting her, I was told that she hugged and kissed her teeny attacker and gave her the toy she wanted to play with. Sounds simple, maybe, but knowing that my daughter reacted with kindness meant more than I could ever put into words. That was the moment I realized I was doing something right.

9. Worst mom fail

Happens every morning when I lose the battle over what’s for breakfast because someone is running late for work and another someone had to be in school five minutes ago.

10. Motherhood is

The single greatest thing that has ever happened to my life. Sound cliché? Then you must not be a mom.

 11. Moms should

Reread question #6. And then stop what they’re doing, look in the mirror, and repeat after me, “Hello, you gorgeous goddess, you’re slaying this whole mom game. I’m so proud of you and damn that ass looks great.” Then try to be easier on yourself. And maybe have a glass of wine.

12. Before I became a mom, I wish someone told me

All of those little things my Mom did that annoyed and drove me crazy would become exactly my way of mothering. And that your child can and will survive even if they drink formula, and that all the things you swore you wouldn’t do as a mom would become exactly the things you do the most as a mom.

13. Women need each other because

No one knows a woman like a woman. Our needs, our struggles, our emotions and feelings. The support of other women, the powerful feeling of knowing that a group of trusted ladies have your back no matter what – that’s a big part of what I live for. As the co-founder of a professional networking group for women, I am always so intent on opening the doors to amazing women who truly understand what it means to help another woman rise. It’s vital. 

14. My last meal would be

At Il Mulino in Miami and would include calamari with extra lemon, spaghetti carbonara, and a Caesar salad. And a gin and tonic, or two. Oh and dessert, but I don’t discriminate. 

15. Three things I can’t live without are

Love, my laptop, and coffee.

 16. My perfect day is

Spent in the company of those I love, with my laptop, and some coffee.

17. The books I swear by are

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. “Loving ourselves through the process of owning our story is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.” If that doesn’t describe the turn my life has taken, then nothing ever could.

18. When life gives you lemons

Order more calamari.

19. I don’t wait for doors to open, I

Kick them the f*ck down.

20. I want my daughter to know

It is who she is at her core, how she treats others, what her passions are and what drives her, that will truly define her as a woman. Not what she looks like, who she chooses to love, whether or not she’s the most popular girl in her high school class, or if she avoids broccoli in the same way some of us avoid dental visits for the rest of her life.

21. You can find me at

Target, screaming toddler in cart, grande latte in hand, hoping for a BOGO on the Lysol wipes and veggie sticks.

BIO: Michelle Dempsey MS, CPRW is an entrepreneur, internationally published writer and marketing guru, girl gang leader, radio host, and above all things, a mother. Michelle Dempsey turned a passionate hobby into a thriving career. Internationally published and known for her ability to connect with readers on a deeper level, Michelle launched her own business, Michelle Dempsey: Very Well-Written, offering content marketing and consulting services to businesses of all kinds. Michelle partners with all clients in a collaborative process that allows her to write from the point of view of her client, a winning strategy for success. She speaks to female audiences regularly on topics including empowerment, personal development, and business success, and last year, co-founded one of South Florida's fastest growing networking groups for professional women, ProFemmes.

This article originally appeared at Mogul.

The Motherhood Edition of The Jewish Holidays

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By Jen Schwartz (The Medicated Mommy) & Rachel Sobel (Whine & Cheez – its)

Early fall is Jewish holiday season. That means going to temple, eating apples and honey in hopes of a sweet year ahead, family dinners filled with equal parts kvelling & kvetching, and a day of starvation fasting that culminates in the annual carb loading frenzy with bagels, lox, noodle kugel, and cookies. Lots of cookies. You know…a “light” meal.

And if your child attends a Jewish preschool/day school, you are basically screwed and they may as well close for the month of October with the amount of days you have off.

That’s right folks, we are currently living in the space between the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) where we ask forgiveness for our sins and hope to make it into the Book of Life for another year.

Lucky for us, Jews get to make New Years’ resolutions twice. You know, if for some reason you bailed on the ones you made in January for the non-secular New Year, here’s a second chance in October. I don’t know about you, but we’re still eating cake, ice cream and half-consumed bags of goldfish and desperately trying to fit into our skinny jeans because even though we get dressed in workout clothes every day, we don’t actually go work out every day. It’s kind of like our uniform for school drop off and the couple hours following. That is until we can pee and shower without a child opening the door a trillion times asking us to change the channel when the remote control is actually in their little sticky hands.

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Thinking about how you want to live in the Jewish New Year is both a blessing and a curse…because as you start to make promises to yourself about the year ahead, you are also going backwards to relive those times this past year you might not be so proud of. And as moms, there are definitely a few that come to mind. So, rather than focus on personal transgressions this year, we are confessing ours sins of motherhood. Let this be our atonement for:

  • Lying to our children (and maybe even setting the clocks forward) to convince them it’s bedtime so you have enough time to shower and settle in before Bachelor in Paradise.
  • Telling them a store is closed (at 3pm on a Thursday) because you just don’t feel like going to buy another pack of shopkins.
  • Having a salad for dinner but then polishing off the abandoned chicken-nuggets your child left on his or her plate.
  • Forgetting to wash a school uniform and digging a dirty one out of the hamper, spraying it with Febreze and sending them on their way.
  • Being so desperate to finish homework that you may have “led the witness” to arrive at the correct answer.
  • Letting your children watch back-to-back (and by back-to-back we mean 10) episodes of their favorite show just so you could put the finishing touches on your contributed article with the looming deadline.
  • Regifting a target gift card for a birthday party because you spaced and forgot to grab a gift.

In light of these confessions, here are our Jewish New Year’s resolutions– what we hope to do better or more of as moms in the coming year. And if we fail or don’t hit them all, January is right around the corner!

  • Telling the truth, as in when we inform our little ones that ice cream is not a dinner food, we also don’t eat ice cream for dinner or in other words, I will fit into those skinny jeans!
  • Not beating ourselves up when we need just one more hour of sleep so, without making any eye contact, we slip the iPad through the cracked door of our kids’ bedrooms.
  • Losing the guilt when our children watch ten episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in one sitting because binge watching is clearly a skill they will need when they get older.
  • Admitting that our kids are assholes sometimes because when they are lying face down on the floor screaming, kicking their legs, and shouting “NO” on repeat because they’re not ready to go to sleep or do anything you ask them to do, they are being assholes!
  • Not stressing about our kids still sleeping in pullups at night because let’s be real, who wants to start their morning cleaning up shit, changing sheets, and doing even more laundry?
  • Understanding that it’s okay to ask our husbands to do parent things like watch the kids, help with homework, feed them dinner, and handle bath time because they aren’t simply babysitters, they are dads and it’s their job too!
  • Realizing motherhood is effing hard and it’s okay to serve cereal for dinner (hey, it’s good enough for breakfast), put ourselves first, ask for what we want, leave the kids with a babysitter, and drink all the wine…because happy mommy equals happy everyone!

This post originally appeared on Suburban Misfit Mom.

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.

Why Breast Isn't Always Best

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Today wraps up National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. I hope your social media feeds weren't over-flooded with articles and photos about the joy and benefits of breastfeeding. Lactivists telling you why breastmilk is the only way to ensure a healthy, happy baby. Studies claiming that breastmilk will make your baby more intelligent and have less ear infections and allergies. Then there’s my all-time favorite claim: Breastfeeding can reduce a mom’s stress level and risk for postpartum depression. Um, yeah, not so much…have they met me? And let us not forget about the infamous mom-shamers criticizing anyone who chooses the alternative or not to breastfeed for as long as they have ruled acceptable. I mean, can’t we all just get along. I’m here to tell you, breast is not always best. Also, formula is not always best. You know what’s best? What works for you, makes you happy and keeps your baby’s belly full. Moms have all different reasons for how they choose to feed their babies and they are none of your business.

When I had my son, I thought I would be a breastfeeding master. He would latch easily and we would be unbreakably bonded. I would breastfeed at least until the baby weight melted off. (Why shouldn’t I reap the benefits too?) Full disclosure, I had always planned to supplement with formula because I wanted to be able to sleep and let my husband help with feedings, but I never thought I would suck at breastfeeding. And It never occurred to me that I might hate it too.

My son latched like a champ and ate for 45 minutes right after I delivered him. After that, he just couldn’t find the nipple. And when he did, he couldn’t hold on. Latching was just not his thing. Breastfeeding stressed me out very quickly and I didn’t feel anything resembling a bond to this tiny little boy who constantly screamed because he was starving and couldn’t properly get on my boob. I tried to pump, but that just stressed me out even more and it hurt and I was exhausted after an almost 24 hour labor followed by C-section.

I left the hospital determined to win at breastfeeding. What did it say about me as a mother if I couldn’t? Instead, I became a breastfeeding quitter. I only lasted five days. Breastfeeding didn’t reduce this mom’s risk for postpartum depression, which began to make its presence known somewhere in those five days as I lost my sanity and needed someone else to be able to feed my son because I decided I would never be leaving my bed for the rest of my life. I could barely keep my shit together let alone follow a strict pumping and feeding schedule. And in the midst of feeling all those horrible feelings, I still didn’t want to let go of my breastfeeding dream. To this day, I don’t even know why it was so important for me to be a breastfeeding champion.

What became more important than how I fed my son was figuring out how to get healthy and happy for my son. I needed medicine more than he needed breastmilk. I needed sleep. I needed weekly therapy appointments. I needed a village to help take care of my son. I needed to not have to stop every three hours and hook myself up to a milking machine. Spoiler Alert: In my son's four years of life, he knows all his letters, colors, numbers, shapes, Shabbat prayers, has had no allergies and only one ear infection.

Using the phrase “breast is best” robs moms of choice. Moms should be allowed to choose how they feed their little ones without feeling any sort of stigma or judgment when they don’t exclusively breastfeed. They should be able to receive the support they need whether they choose formula or breastmilk. I can’t tell you how many moms I know who were made to feel as if they had to breastfeed by lactation consultants and nurses at the hospitals where they delivered. Professionals who rolled their eyes or dragged their feet when a mom asked for formula. That’s just wrong, insensitive, and does nothing to give a new mom confidence.

Motherhood is not one size fits all. Whoever came up with “breast is best” doesn’t know what’s best for every single mom. Only you know what's best for you. Some moms don’t have the option of breastfeeding. How do you think those moms feel when they hear, “breast is best” and it’s not something they are capable of doing? They are immediately set up to feel guilty from the beginning. And what about the moms who feel the overwhelming pressure of “breast is best” and make themselves crazy trying to breastfeed, only to discover they aren’t producing enough and by then, it’s too late. Yes, these are extreme cases, but even one case is too many, especially when it could have been prevented with some formula.

Breastfeeding is hard. It doesn’t come naturally for all moms. Not all babies latch easily. Nipples get sore and cracked, sometimes even infected. Milk leaks through that new blouse you’re wearing on date night. Date night ends with pumping in the bathroom. Your designer bag has been replaced with a large black canvas one carrying your breast pump, milk bags, and ice packs. A mom who wants to stick with it needs support and to know that it’s normal to struggle. They don’t need your “breast is best” judgments if they decide to stop or supplement.

Social media hasn’t done new moms any favors when it comes to breastfeeding. The reality of breastfeeding is not Gisele holding her naked baby on her boob with one hand while she adorns a white robe, gets her hair blown out, make up done, and free hand manicured. At least Olivia Wilde let us know her baby peed all over her gorgeous sequin gown while staging her breastfeeding photo and Yael Braun keeps it real by showing us her breast pump that accompanies her to The Grammys.

At least Olivia Wilde let us know her baby peed all over her gorgeous sequin gown while staging her breastfeeding photo.

And Yael Braun keeps it real by showing us her breast pump that accompanies her to The Grammys.

 

When a mom sees those Gisele-like images and that’s not her reality, she might wonder, “What’s wrong with me? Why don’t I breastfeed like that? Why don't I have that look of bliss on my face? Why isn’t this easier for me?” The breast is best culture accompanied with these photos contributes to the idea of the perfect mother. And when a mom fails to reach this level of perfect, which doesn’t exist, she will ultimately feel like a failure. 

To all the new moms out there: Do what’s best for you. If you love breastfeeding, more power to you. If you prefer formula, that’s awesome too. Every mom is different and that should be cause for celebration, not shame. Most days it’s about survival, sanity, and sleep (if you’re one of the lucky ones). There is no wrong way to feed your baby. Fed is best. Choice is best. What works for you is best.

And the next time you are about to criticize a mom’s decision, remember what your own mom taught you when you were young. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Or tell her she’s doing an incredible job and let her know you’re there for her if she needs help. Now repeat after me just so I know you got it: “Fed is best.”

My Second Favorite F-Word

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I don’t know about you, but I’m a big fan of the F-word. It’s extremely versatile and can be used in so many different situations. As a writer, I love that it can be a noun, verb, adjective, and more. As a mom, it comes in very handy when I’m frustrated, tired, and overwhelmed or I feel the need to be dramatic about all the above. You step on a Lego and scream, “FUCK!” Your kid wakes up four times in the middle of the night and you quietly pray each time, “Stay the fuck asleep.” You get projectile vomited on and blurt out, “Fuck me!” And when you can’t take it anymore you dramatically declare that if anyone needs you, you can be found hiding in your closet with that pint of Haagen Dazs chocolate-chocolate-chip ice cream because you are frustrated, tired, and overwhelmed “As Fuck” (AF). I’ve even recently heard it used to describe the phase my son just entered: “The Fucking Fours.”

When I gave birth to my son almost four years ago (before I made regular use of the F-word in everyday motherhood), I discovered my second favorite F word. Formula. Yes, you heard me correctly. Formula. Let me say now that this is not an anti-breastfeeding, pro-formula-feeding post, nor am I exclusively in support of one food source over the other. I am exclusively for feeding your baby, however that works best for you. Now back to our regularly scheduled program…

During my pregnancy, I had always believed I would breastfeed my son and supplement with formula if necessary. But really, I would just breastfeed him and be a breastfeeding superstar— because breastfeeding would simply be that easy for me… like it was for all the moms I knew (they must have forgot to mention the struggles they experienced while going on about how much they loved it). And it was easy that first time my son latched right after being evicted from my stomach. Then it wasn’t.

After that first feeding, he repeatedly struggled to latch and would cry out in frustration. I just wanted to give him a bottle because I was exhausted. My mind and body shattered from 24 hours of labor, pushing for two of them, and having a C-section after all that. I wanted him to be fed and I wanted to be sleeping. Also at that time, the beginnings of postpartum depression were beginning to slowly creep into my brain. I just didn’t know it yet.

I refused to admit defeat. I did everything you are supposed to do. I saw lactation consultants in the hospital. They tried to fix our latching issues and helped me pump. I made an appointment to see the one at his pediatrician the week after we got home from the hospital. My son continued to struggle with latching so I continued pumping. I started to hate pumping because it took too much effort and I just wanted to go to sleep and never get out of bed. That was the postpartum depression making its entrance.

Even as the postpartum depression symptoms made themselves more visible in those first few days home from the hospital, I still thought I had to breastfeed. Even when I didn’t want to. I remained determined to be that breastfeeding superstar. Yes, I had been supplementing with formula, but what would it say about me as a mother if I couldn’t make breastfeeding in any capacity work? I was already failing at wanting to be a mom and feeling close to my son. At least I could succeed at feeding him the way I believed he needed to be fed.

A few days later at my son’s bris, a group of New York Jewish Grandmothers (mostly friends of my mother-in-law) saw the despair in my eyes when I asked them how their kids chose to feed their babies. And just like Jewish Grandmothers do, they told ordered me to “F**k breastfeeding!” Their kids were formula-fed, and now, most of their grandchildren were too. I needed to do what was best for me and that would be the best way to take care of my new baby. It was then I discovered my second favorite F-word, which also sounded pretty awesome used in conjunction with my other favorite F-word.

The next morning at my appointment with the lactation consultant, I immediately informed her, “I’m not doing this anymore. Tell me how to make the milk go away.” And so, after a week of being a mom, I quit breastfeeding and began exclusively formula feeding my son. My son and I were not destined to share the experience of breastfeeding together and I came to accept that. Today if you ask me if I breastfed my son when he was a baby, I would tell you without any guilt, “I sucked at breastfeeding. I quit after a week.” The reality is I had to take care of my health so I could get to a place where I could love and take care of my baby. My second favorite F-word, formula, allowed me to do that.

Would I have stuck with breastfeeding if I hadn’t been hit with severe postpartum depression one week into motherhood? I don’t know. What I do know is that choosing formula was the best decision for me and allowed me to hold on to some peace of mind while the rest of it surrendered to what would be a year-long battle with postpartum depression.

My new favorite F-word provided me with a way to feed my son so I could take care of myself. Formula also allowed others to feed my son while I focused on my health and fought my illness until I won. Some might call that selfish, but I would argue that a happy, healthy mommy is the best gift we can give to our babies. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the F-club like me or you rock the breastfeeding thing like I could never do. Some moms don’t ever get the luxury of choosing.

Whatever the reason is behind a mom’s decision for how she feeds her baby, we need to remember, fed is fed and we are all on this rollercoaster ride together. And if someone ever tries to shame you for choosing formula, I give you permission to use my other favorite F-word for some extra emphasis when you tell them you don’t remember asking for- nor do you give a f**k about- their opinion.

This post originally appeared at Motherlucker.

My First Video Interview: Does Balance Really Exist?

Hey mommas! I'm so honored to share my first video interview with you. Please ignore the messy hair and lack of makeup, but I didn't have much time to get ready. Four-year olds don't give a shit about their mom's appointments and mine decided to move at a sloth-like pace that morning before school. At least I was able to shower so that was a win! I think the lesson the here is that it's better to show up as you are and accept yourself as you are. Plus, pretending to always be so put together is just way too much effort. And I don't know about you, but I'm exhausted enough as it is. I just don't have the energy for that. Anyway, on to the interview. I had the honor of talking to mompreneur Bree Whitlock, founder of The Easy Breezy Way, about achieving balance as a mom and entrepreneur.

I'm not sure balance even exists. Are you? How do you achieve balance as a mom? Let me know in the comments!

Why As a Mom, I Don’t Believe In Living a Child-Centric Life

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“The greatest tragedy of the family is the unlived lives of the parents.” –C.G. Jung

I'm putting a different spin on this year's Mother's Day themed post. For Mother's day, I'm discussing what I will NOT be doing for my child, what's NOT my job, and why.

I know many of you are gasping just from reading the title of this article, but if you would put the pitchforks down for just a minute, I can explain.

I love my child. I love him so much it can be overwhelming, even scary at times. So much it keeps me up at night as my mind races with all the “what ifs,” hopes for his happiness, and prayers I’m not screwing him up. So much that I want him to always be successful and have whatever he needs and wants.

But as I reflect on my son turning 4 this past month, I’ve realized he can’t just have everything handed to him, and certainly not by me. That’s not my job as his mother. My job as his mom is to love him unconditionally, make sure he feels safe, that he belongs, and provide him with the coaching and tools he needs to learn to advocate for himself and what he needs so he can create his own path to happiness and success.

I can’t and won’t make my child the center of my world and wrap my entire identity around his accomplishments. Placing the entire responsibility of his happiness and success on my shoulders is an enormous burden for one woman to carry.

It’s not always easy, especially because I more than like to be in control, but there are so many reasons for why I am choosing to live this way.

First, when I give everything I have to my child, over-involve myself in his academics and activities, and obsess about his achievements, I have nothing left for myself or my husband. How can I give my son a happy family where he feels safe and secure when my marriage is hanging by a thread resulting from the stress of over-parenting?

Having two tired, overwhelmed, disconnected parents who fight and are starved for affection benefits nobody and our child will suffer for it. I would rather model what a healthy, balanced, fulfilling relationship looks like. That includes regular date nights and taking trips whether they be romantic getaways with my husband or girls’ weekends while he stays home with a with a family member or babysitter.

I have also learned that I can’t do motherhood by myself. And honestly, I don’t want to. When I struggle with something, I speak up. If I don’t know the answer to something, I ask. If I need help, I admit it.

I want my son to see there is no weakness in asking for help. That advocating for yourself and asking for what you need makes you strong.

One day when my son is older, I will tell him about how I battled postpartum depression during the first year of his life and needed help to take care of him. I will share with him how I fought my way to get better and came out stronger, braver, and happier on the other side. And most importantly, how I learned to ask for what I need, accept my imperfections, share my struggle with others, and not feel ashamed about any of it.

I want to be the adult I’m teaching my son to be. A strong, independent, compassionate, hard-worker who lives life with passion and purpose. An individual who isn’t afraid to be vulnerable, struggle, and fail. He needs to see his parent fail and rise up again so he understands that failures are unavoidable and necessary parts of life that can be overcome with a positive attitude and resilience.

These parts of life where we fall down or suffer tragedy are where we grow and learn. I won’t protect him from everything because I know that I can’t. Doing so would cause him a great disservice because he would miss out on the growing and learning. He needs to know that he will fail and make mistakes and that’s okay because he is human. The accepting of his failures, taking ownership of his mistakes, and finding the lessons in each is where integrity and character are built.

One day my son will be an adult and leave the house to travel down his own path. What will I be left with if my whole identity has been the acting supervisor of every single aspect of his life? How would I hold a conversation with my husband if all we have talked about for the past several years is our son? How would we remain connected when we put our marriage on the back burner to do his homework, write essays for college applications, and obsessively focus on the schools he needed to go to, sports he needed to play, clubs he needed to not only join, but lead and create? And all in preparation for the top tier college we decided he would attend (while forgetting to even ask him is that’s what he wanted in the first place).

On that day, I know I will cry all the tears I have, but I will also feel proud from knowing I raised my son to be a man who can depend on himself. Because when he comes home with a bad grade on a test, we will talk about why that happened, if he feels he deserved that grade, and what he could do differently the next time. I won’t blame the teacher.

If he feels the grade was given unfairly, I will coach him to have his own conversation with the teacher. When he decides he needs to drop a class, I will listen to his reasons and let him make his own decision, even if it’s hard to let go of what I believe is best for him. I will let him make that choice. When he leaves his term paper until the night before, I will bring him a snack while he stays awake to finish it, but I won’t write it for him while he goes to bed. When he forgets his science notebook with his homework in it at home, he will have to take the incomplete. I will not immediately stop what I’m doing to bring it to him.

When he gets benched during a sports game and doesn’t know why, we will practice what he will say to his coach to find out why. I will not show up to the field screaming in the coach’s face that my kid doesn’t deserve such treatment. When he has a disagreement with a friend, we will also practice what he can say to resolve it. I won’t call the friend’s parent and fix it for him.

When he decides he wants to quit a sport to make more time for a club, I won’t push my agenda on him. I will listen to him and let him have the final say in what he wants to do. When he decides to study abroad in a foreign country, he will get all the information he needs, fill out all the applications and forms himself and ask me for what he needs. I won’t call and ask about parent orientation because obviously there is no parent orientation.

If I’ve done my job as his mom, he will always know he can tell me anything and ask for my help and support. When he faces any obstacle that might present itself as he gets older, he will have learned the tools to face and overcome them. When he makes the mistakes that he will definitely make as he ages, he will understand that we are not our mistakes, but we learn from them and move on.

Also, I refuse to be that mom who accompanies my son to job interviews, negotiates his first contract, calls his boss to request his cubicle be moved away from the co-worker he doesn’t get along with, and ask if he can take more vacation time because he seems stressed and overworked. I won’t have to. He will be able to do all of that for himself!

This post originally appeared on Huffington Post.

A Letter to My Mom for Mother's Day

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Dear Mom, We’ve come a long way.

Do you remember what I was like when you were holding my new baby boy, your first grandson in this photo? You said it was as if a light suddenly went out in my eyes. That I looked like a ghost of my former self.

You also told me you would never let me stay that way. You said that one day my son would be my little buddy. You answered your phone every morning when I called you as I was walking circles around the neighborhood ugly crying to you that I would never get better. You promised me I would.

For Mother’s Day, I want to say, “Thank You.”

Thank you for holding my hand when I had postpartum depression.

Thank you for staying with me when you could.

Thank you for being my rock.

Thank you for always answering the phone.

Thank you for helping me find the right therapist and get on the right medication.

Thank you for reassuring me that I didn’t have to feel any guilt over quitting breastfeeding and choosing formula.

Thank you for coming with me to the lactation consultant to ask how to stop.

Thank you for being my voice when mine went quiet.

For Mother’s Day, I want to tell you what all moms long to hear. “You were right.”

You didn’t let me stay that way.

I did get better.

My now four-year old son is my little buddy.

Today, on Mother’s Day, I want to let you know, “I think you’re pretty amazing.”

Not only did you help me, but you went on to help other moms also suffering from postpartum depression.

After I got sick, you got trained with and got certified by Karen Kleinman, “postpartum depression guru” and went on to see many patients struggling like I did. You helped these new moms find themselves and their voices again, just like you did for me.

Thank you for taking this gut-wrenching experience we shared as a mother and daughter and use it to help others know they are normal, not alone, can get better, and have nothing to be ashamed of.

I’m proud that we can both do this, you with your counseling, and me with my writing.

For Mother’s Day, I want to tell you, “I love you.”

Love,

Jen (Your Medicated Daughter)

This post originally appeared on Suburban Misfit Mom.

When It Comes To Playing Parenthood As A Team Sport, Why Do Dads Do It Better?

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I’m probably going to get some slack for writing this article, but I want to discuss a parenting phenomenon I’ve observed too often lately. Why is it so much easier for dads to hire help and make their lives easier when watching their children? Why don’t they appear to feel guilty about this? And why do we, as moms judge and criticize them for it? I know lots of moms, that when they make plans with friends for an afternoon or evening, their husbands often call a nanny, babysitter, or family member to come over and help with the kids. And when mom hears this, she responds with anger and frustration, complaining that she doesn’t understand why her husband can’t handle taking care of all the children alone, something she does every single day of the week.

I want to first differentiate between the men who are literally never alone with their children and refuse to be, forcing their wives to never be able to take a trip, attend a special event, or a night off with the girls unless they arrange for their own child care. I’m not talking about these men. That topic deserves its own post. I’m referring to the average hands-on, involved dad who likes an extra set of hand with his kids when mom isn’t home. Why shouldn’t these dads ask for help if they believe it will make their afternoon or evening easier?

Why don’t we ask for help more often (if we can afford it) to make our mornings, afternoons or evenings easier? And when we do, why are we always explaining it to everyone else? We spend so much time justifying our need to have a part-time nanny or ask the babysitter to work extra hours when our partners travel or work long hours rather than just accepting that we don’t need to do everything by ourselves and it’s perfectly okay to have a team to help make the experience of parenting solo less exhausting and overwhelming.

Some moms might want their husbands to experience exactly what they go through every day with their children—the feedings, the diaper-changing, the wiping, the cleaning up of snot and spit up, the neediness, the nagging, the questions, the laundry, the cleaning, the negotiating, the constant entertaining, the nap refusals, the cooking, the being a tiny human’s “snack bitch.” They want them to feel what it’s like to sometimes want to lock yourself in a closet and pretend you can’t hear anyone calling out for you. I get it. There are many times when my husband returns from a business trip and I want him to know about and greatly appreciate everything I have done for and with his child while he was away, but is it right that I want him to feel the miserable parts in addition to the good ones?

Shouldn’t we want our spouse’s lives to be easier if it’s possible? Aren’t we entitled to make our own lives easier if possible? I have a feeling our spouses want to make our lives easier when they can. And don’t we often benefit when they call for help? I bet there is a better chance all that laundry is getting done, folded and put away if the nanny comes over. Perhaps when you get home your children’s lunches will be made for school the next day because the babysitter did it. The house might look a little cleaner and a bit more organized because your mother-in-law was there while you were out. Is any of that really so bad? Does it really deserve that eye-roll you gave when you left?

Moms, are you telling me honestly, that if offered and it can be afforded from time to time, that you wouldn’t say yes to an extra hand to help with the kids in favor of just doing it all by yourself? I know you can do it by yourself. You’re a woman and a mom. You’re amazing. Of course you can, but why should you have to? What do you think you have to prove? Does it bring you joy? Or would you rather be able to achieve a balance on some days that allows you to take care of your own needs, which might include letting someone else tend to the kids and household chores for once.

It really does take a village. Having someone come over to help us and give us a break doesn’t make us terrible mothers or mean we don’t love and want to spend time with our children. It just means that we are tired and are taking some well-deserved time-off, even if it’s only for a few hours. We have nothing to feel guilty about. I can almost guarantee that your partner is not rolling his eyes or complaining to his friends about this.

So why do we, as women struggle so much with this? Why do we think we have to do it all and without any assistance? Why do we care what others think about the team we employ to help us take care of our children? A good friend of mine who works as an executive and life coach once told me that she believes the main thing holding women back in business is permission. It’s almost as if they are waiting for someone else to give them permission to do something. Men don’t generally have that issue. They just go out make it happen, ask for what they need and keep moving forward without too much concern. If they bump into a roadblock, they figure out how to get around whatever has gotten in their way.

The same could possibly be applied to motherhood in many ways, especially with this concept of having a team of some sort that makes our lives just a little more manageable. It’s as if we need permission to have heIp. We need someone else to tell us it’s okay before we ask. And when we get overwhelmed and need it, we would rather do everything by ourselves than figure out how to navigate around our roadblocks like these men in business do, often the same men we are married to who don’t hesitate when making that call to the sitter.

I am a stay at home mom who is fortunate enough and beyond grateful to have a part-time nanny. My husband travels a lot for business and neither of our mothers live close by (I’m still justifying the fact that I have help even as I write this article). When my son was younger and my husband was away for days at a time, I would often ask our nanny to stay later to help me with the bath and bedtime routine. I still ask her to stay later sometimes when he travels for more than a few days at a time, especially when it’s over a weekend.

While I still sometimes find myself explaining and justifying to other people why I have part-time help when I don’t work, I stopped feeling guilty about my choices a long time ago. I don’t need to ask permission. I’m comfortable admitting that parenting is hard and I don’t always want to do it by myself. It doesn’t make me a less capable mother because I hire help or a horrible one because I want to make my life easier. I don’t resent my husband when he wants make his life easier as well. And we both want to make the other’s life easier when possible.

Moms, let’s stop criticizing our husbands for asking for what they want and start imitating their behavior. Let’s put an end to measuring our worth as mothers by how much we do and giving into the belief that we have to do it all by ourselves. If anyone deserves to have the nanny or babysitter come over for a few hours when you’re home alone with all the kids, have endless piles of laundry to sort through, lunches to be made, and dinners to be prepared, it’s you. You absolutely don’t need it, but you have my permission to call and ask for help!

Why I Want You To Know My Son Goes To An Occupational Therapist

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I knew I wanted to write this post immediately after leaving my son’s occupational therapy evaluation, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted anyone to read it. Since I’m a mom who owns her flaws and believes in sharing my mistakes and what I’ve learned from them (thank you postpartum depression), here it goes. Maybe I can save you the time of repeating this one and you can move straight to the lesson learned part. At the end of 2016, I met with my son’s preschool teacher for the mid-year conference. I always go into these things excited. My son loves school. He is so curious. He loves to discover new things. His imagination blows me away. I always want to learn more about what he does all day at preschool and the progress he is making.

I also go in nervous because we live in a world where we have become obsessed about our children’s development. Don’t try to tell me you’ve never obsessed. I’m guilty of it too. Before a parent teacher conference, even at his young age of four, there are always the thoughts of, “What if he isn’t making progress? What if he isn’t hitting the milestones appropriate for his age? What if he isn’t socializing with the other kids? What if he finds certain tasks more difficult than his classmates? And what will I do if his teacher expresses concern about any of these issues?"

During this conference, his teacher informed me that he could successfully say the alphabet, count to ten, and recognize all numbers, letters, and shapes. Additionally, he loved playing with the other kids in his class and had no problem playing independently or joining a group, asking with such good manners, “Can I play with you?”  Then she brought up his focus and struggle to write with a pencil and cut with scissors. His grip was delayed. He had trouble following directions that were more than one step. Certain hand motions that accompanied songs such as criss-crossing his hands over his knees were a challenge for him.

Of course, I forgot about all the growth he had made and the fact that he was barely four and walked out of the meeting feeling upset by this news. Why was this happening? Why can other kids his age do these things with more ease than my child? Does he recognize this? Are we not doing enough at home? Did I fail him in some way? How do I fix this?

I immediately called the one person who calms my crazy: my husband. He reminded me that there were so many amazing things our son could already do and comparing him to other kids his age wouldn’t help anyone. He has always hit milestones on his own schedule. Why should this time be any different? I still decided to explore occupational therapy to see if it would help him catch up. And it never hurts to just see…And because I was still obsessing just a little bit…

We learned after the first session that he did in fact show some fine motor delays linked to some sensory issues. I’m still not sure what the sensory part really means. He could still be successful but might have to work harder than someone who was a natural. The therapist also told us that our son is smart enough to know when something is hard for him, which is why he likes to be silly and make jokes when someone asks him to do something that seems difficult. This broke my heart, because I always just thought he was a comedian. While he has an incredible sense of humor, I now realize that he compensates for what’s hard for him by trying to make others laugh. I felt a bit of mom failure because I didn’t pick up on it. Shouldn’t I have noticed? I left feeling slightly defeated.

I also remember telling my son before his appointment that we were going to see my new friend to play with her toys. I don’t know why I said that. Why didn’t I just tell him we were going to visit an occupational therapist who could help him with some of the tasks he finds hard at school? Maybe I was worried about how he would feel if he knew he needed some extra help. Most likely, I was projecting my own feelings. Perhaps I didn’t want to admit to myself that my child needed that extra help. I am his mom and I don’t want my son to ever struggle with anything (not realistic I know).

On the drive home after telling those feelings of defeat and failure to shut up, I had an epiphany. Why did it matter that my son sees an occupational therapist once a week? In fact, since I’ve written this, he has started seeing a speech therapist too. And why shouldn’t I be upfront with him about what these sessions are about? I’m not ashamed about the early interventions we are doing for him and I would never want him to be either. I want him to be proud of who he is and how hard he works. I want him to know that needing help and accepting it make you strong. And so what if he has to work harder at a particular skill? There is value in hard work and not having everything be handed to you. I can’t hand everything to him. I get that now. Mommy can’t fix everything and I shouldn’t even If I could.

That’s why I’ve decided to tell you my son goes to an occupational therapist and now, a speech therapist too. I have chosen to embrace my son’s differences, celebrate them, and focus on the amazing things he can do, while helping him understand it’s okay to need help doing others. When he expresses frustration that he “can’t cut very fast” with scissors, we talk about how therapy will help him and we can also practice at home together. That sometimes, other people will be better or faster at something than him and that’s okay. There are things he is better and faster at too. I tell him that I still need help in certain areas. I mean, I see a therapist and have a coach—I'm getting help with life!

Somebody important once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” It’s true. My son clapped late, crawled late, walked late, and started speaking in full sentences late. I’ve stopped worrying. He just likes to do everything on his own time frame. He is stubborn like that, just like his mommy and daddy.

Pretending everything is perfect and refusing to acknowledge my son might actually need help in a certain area only does a disservice to him. Rather than thinking the world is going to end because he can’t follow three step directions and hold a pencil between his pointer finger and thumb, getting an evaluation to get to the bottom of the issue certainly can’t hurt. It can only help and give him more confidence once he starts to excel at the things he knows are hard for him. And talking to him honestly about it demonstrates that there is nothing to be embarrassed about from needing a little help or having to work a little harder. While I never want him to feel different or be teased because I’m his mom, it’s also my job as his mom to teach him that our differences make us who we are, and it’s worth it to own them.

I would like to leave you with these words (ones I’m trying to live by) from the wise parenting guru Janet Lansbury:

Trusting a child means having faith in his or her capabilities from the very beginning, and wholeheartedly accepting our child for all she is…and isn’t. And that means allowing our baby to show us what she is learning, rather than the other way around. She doesn’t have to perform to grab our attention or approval. What she chooses to do while she plays is enough. A secure and trusted child is any teacher’s dream. She has the self-confidence to raise her hand and say, “I don’t understand.” She doesn’t crumble when she makes mistakes. She is persistent in her struggle to grasp something challenging. She is her own person – an enthusiastic learner with a unique point of view that she is eager to share. Because she is secure, and likes who she is, she is kind to others. She is never afraid to be herself, a ‘self’ that has been honored and encouraged since she was born. And eventually, she’ll learn to use scissors like the best of them...

This post originally appeared on Suburban Misfit Mom.

6 Reasons Why I Think My Kid’s Birthday Is My Birthday Too

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My son turned four this past weekend. For his first birthday, I went big. As a mom who sucks at crafting, I found my inspiration on Pinterest and paid people on Etsy to execute my vision of Mason’s little man birthday bash complete with bowties, mustaches, musical entertainment, photo booth, and of course, signature cocktails served in mason jars. Everyone knows a child’s first birthday party is actually for the parents to celebrate surviving the first year of parenthood, where they have successfully kept the tiny human they are now responsible for alive. They have figured out how to fit showers into their daily routines, become accustomed to regularly getting spit up on, peed on, shit on, caught throw up with their bare hands, and if they’re lucky, the accomplished the amazing and life-changing task of getting their child to sleep through the night.

I didn’t stop celebrating myself after Mason’s first birthday. Why should I? I never take any attention away from him. I don’t get presents. It’s his birthday. His party. But there are little things I do each year for me too, because his parties always serve as a reminder of the first one, where I can remember stopping to think that “Wow. I’m a mom--Mason’s mom, and I got this whole motherhood thing.”

Here are five reasons why I think my son’s birthday is my birthday too.

  1. The day my son was born was also the day I became a mother. It’s my birth day into the world of motherhood.
  1. I always choose that day as one to break with whatever diet I happen to be on at that time to binge on cake—lots of cake.
  1. It might be the day of his birth, but it’s also the day I labored with him for 24 hours, tried to push him out of my vagina for two of them, and ultimately had my stomach sliced open so he could come into the world. That deserves at least a very large piece of cake.
  1. What I wear is almost just as important as what he wears. Each year I buy myself a brand new outfit, something fabulous that matches the theme of his party if there is one. Thorough research is done and approval is sought from best mom friends who do the same. Last year’s purchase? A Marcus Lupfer sequined Mickey Mouse sweater (on sale thank god) for his Mickey Mouse Clubhouse bash and a tutu.
  1. I serve alcohol at his birthday parties. I sip on a cocktail or wine while his friends and he sip on their organic juice boxes. Parents, you’re welcome for this.
  1. I take a moment to pause, look around at my son with all of our family and friends, and feel grateful for him and that I get to be his mother. That it’s been another year since I got healthy. Another year since I fought to overcome the postpartum depression that convinced me I didn’t even want to be a mother.

Rants From A Boy Mom (a.k.a My House Is A Penis Party!)

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Remember on Friends, when Monica was about to move in with Chandler and she cried to Rachel, "I have to live with a boy!" That's how I feel sometimes. I live with three boys. My husband, four-year old son, and dog Harry Potter. And this week, it's really noticeable because I just got back from a Campowerment weekend with 75 other women, 12 of whom I lived in a bunk with, and the only guys allowed were the hot Ropes men who scream inspiring words at you as you gather up the courage to climb up a really tall, narrow pole, stand up on top of it, and then jump. I get it. Farts are really funny for guys no matter how old they are. My four-year old and my husband love to fart and laugh about it regardless of the 30 year age difference between them. But maybe, just maybe you both could fart somewhere other than in my face or while piling on top me. And while this is going on, Potter just has to come and slobber all over my face. He's probably joined in on the farting for all I know!

Speaking of piling on top of me, why is it that I'm the one that gets to be the human trampoline. My son's favorite extracurricular activity is jumping on mommy while she tries to relax. I'm reading and there is a tiny human climbing on my head. I've been elbowed in the boobs, kneed in the crotch, and head-butted in the face too many times to count while my husband cheers him on in the background. Why can't you both just wrestle with each other and leave me out of it?

I live in a house divided. I'm a New York  Rangers fan and my husband roots for the New Jersey Devils. It's not enough that my son chose to side with his dad on this one. He now knows the "Rangers Suck" (they do not) song and whenever we call daddy on the way to work, the first sentence out of his mouth is "Mommy likes the Devils! Let's sing the song Daddy." I just Amazon Primed a new Rangers jersey, which I will now wear around the house at all times.

I thought I had some major Magnatile skills. I built a house for my son and then we went to the park. When I came home, my house was knocked down and in its place stood a castle. My husband built a freaking castle and just left it there for me so I would feel insecure about my building abilities. Who do you think my son asks to build with him now? Mommy has to sit on the couch and watch because..."boys only." And when I try to help if Daddy isn't home, "That's not how Daddy does it."

Of course my guys love their penises probably even more than their farts, and four-year olds are not quiet about this fact. He loves to inform me he has a "big one." On the flip side, when he asks me questions like "Mommy, why is my penis bigger? How do I make it go down?" I just tell him, "You can ask your Daddy when he gets home." And I should probably get used to going into a bathroom and seeing the seat left up. I've trained my husband on that one. Now it's your turn little one!

I rarely get to pee alone. You would think my child would be much more interested in what his Daddy does in the bathroom, but no. He gets plenty of uninterrupted alone time in the there. This last time my kid came in while I was peeing, he saw a tampon and the conversation went as follows:

M: Mommy, what is that? Mommy: It's something girls use. M: Ummm, I don't know about that...

Later that day when I was in the shower, he shined a large black flashlight inside. Awesome!

Somedays I feel like all I do is wipe bodily fluids off the floors. I swear my son and the dog coordinate when they don't feel like peeing where they are supposed to. I go from wiping up pee off the bathroom floor to cleaning up the pee on the kitchen floor that I almost just stepped in. And then when I finish all that cleaning, Potter leaves me some shit in the family room.

My son tells on me to my husband. Yes, I pick at my nails. It drives my husband crazy. It's my bad habit (okay one of my bad habits). The other night while I was sitting on the couch next to my son watching Paw Patrol and picking at my cuticles, he yelled to the kitchen, "Daddy, Mommy is picking her nails! I can jump on her for you! I get to tickle her now." I wasn't aware they had a private meeting about the consequences for me picking at my nails. No-one likes a snitch buddy!

But while I might have to endure the smell of too many farts, pick at my nails in secret, have awkward talks about penises, and nurse the many bruises from being beat up, jumped, and sat on, I also get lots of cuddles, I love you's, and kisses on the lips from both my guys, even the dog sometimes.

I couldn't picture it any other way!

What boy behavior makes you crazy?

 

 

Written For Suburban Misfit Mom: Maybe I’m Kinda Sorta The Reason My Child Is Often Late To Preschool

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In the years leading up to motherhood (as in my late twenties), I sucked at sleeping late on weekends. I consistently popped up between 6:30 and 7 a.m. every morning because my body was conditioned for the weekday wakeup. And I was a middle school teacher! If that’s not almost as exhausting as motherhood, I don’t know what is. If I was able to sleep past 8:30 on a Saturday or Sunday morning, that was a victory. Then I had a child and my body suddenly thought it was back in college, where it never wanted to get out of bed before ten in the morning, ever. Okay, maybe noon. The one that couldn’t get its ass out of bed for those 8:15 a.m. Italian classes. The one who never picked classes if they met on Fridays.

Too bad preschool doesn’t work like college. Drop-off is at 8:50 every day and there is class on Friday. Thank god there is class on Friday! My almost four-year old has no problem getting out of bed by 7 every morning, even though his mommy could use just a few more minutes in hers. Okay, maybe hours. And even though I don’t pride myself on being a morning person like my son, I hate missing drop-off. It’s my right to be able to stay in the car, unshowered, without a bra, and possibly wearing the clothes I slept in the night before.

Every night I go to bed with the same aspiration—to drop my son off at preschool on time—meaning we pull right up to the carpool line, a teacher unbuckles him from the car seat and takes him out. This requires no effort on my part, except to excitedly wave and blow kisses at him as he climbs out of the car, leaving me to the few hours of me time that go by way too quickly.

And many mornings we fail. Okay maybe I fail. It’s easy to blame showing up late to school on my kid. Three, almost four-year olds can be difficult. They are slow. Sometimes they refuse to do the few jobs they are responsible for before leaving for school: putting clothes on (No, I don’t care which ones. Yes, you know how to get dressed by yourself); eating breakfast (No, goldfish doesn’t count as a breakfast food.); going potty (I know you have to. Of course you have to go potty now that we are about to walk out the door and yes you have to wash your hands); picking one toy to take in the car (I didn’t mean give every toy in your playroom a thorough two minute examination before choosing and I certainly didn’t mean pick the biggest truck you own).

But then I’d be lying. There are mornings when I pop right out of bed at 7ish, throw on some sweat pants, run the brush once through my hair, wash my face, brush my teeth, make a smoothie, pack my kid’s lunch and backpack, make sure he is properly dressed and fed, and leave on time to make it to drop-off.

Most of the time, what actually happens on the mornings before school goes as follows: My son wakes up before me and if my husband hasn’t left for work yet, he gets him set up on the couch for a Paw Patrol mini marathon and leaves him with some milk and a meal I like to call pre-breakfast. It’s at this point I should get up, but my son is so quiet and well-cared for so why not just snooze for 10 more minutes. Okay maybe 20 minutes. Shit, I fell back to sleep for almost 45 minutes! I now have 15 minutes to get dressed, get my kid dressed, pack his stuff up for school, and convince him to eat a proper breakfast in the car because he barely touched pre-breakfast due to being completely engrossed in today’s Paw Patrol mission.

And so we arrive at school close to 15 minutes late. I have to walk him into his classroom and take his lunch box to the kitchen. He is late for circle time. The other kids lose focus. I swear his teachers are silently cursing me and I start to feel intimidated so I quickly say good bye, put my sunglasses back on, and walk back to my car, hoping no one else notices we are late again and I’m wearing pajamas.

When I pick him up later, we talk about the importance of getting to school on time. We commit to getting to school on time tomorrow. The next morning we both wake up at 7:30. I get him breakfast and he continues his Paw Patrol marathon so I can get myself ready and pack his bag. I have an hour to get all of us ready which is plenty of time. Drop-off here we come.

Since we have so much time, I decide why not get today’s shower out of the way. Before I do that, I of course read all the emails and text messages from while I was asleep. Then I turn on the computer to set my social media posts for the day and see what everyone else is up to on Facebook and Instagram. Fuck! It’s almost 8 AM. How did that happen? I shower anyway. I get dressed and even dry my hair. I choose leggings over sweatpants, but I still decide against the bra because what’s the point. I’m just going right back home to work.

Then I remember I’m the only one who is dressed to leave the house and rather than leaving on time like planned, I enter into heated negotiations with my kid so he can be dressed and ready to leave too. We finally get in the car at the same time we should be arriving at school because I just had to take that shower and indulge my iPhone and social media addictions.

Yes, once in a while my son’s refusal to do anything in the morning causes us to be late but if I’m being completely honest, it’s mostly me who can’t get her shit together in a timely fashion. And every morning I walk him into school and interrupt circle time, I swear to do better the next day. Also, his teachers intimidate me a bit. They don’t mess around, which I love about them. It reassures me they are teaching my son to be a good human who is kind, compassionate, smart, respectful, and prompt! It’s so rude when people are repeatedly late. Don’t you think?

This post originally appeared on Suburban Misfit Mom.