Serenity Now

Ay dios mio, can’t we just give each other a break? I stumbled across this article last week and vomited in my mouth a little as I read it. It’s one of those mom stories that reads like it makes a non-controversial point, but at its core, is so judgy and mean. In a nutshell (for those of you who don’t want to read, which amen, sistah), the writer is calling out a mom who is sitting on a park bench and looking at her iPhone while her children play nearby. Her poor, poor children, who are desperate for their mother’s attention while they twirl around like a “beauty queen” and coo and wither away from total lack of attention.

But you know what? There are plenty of totally reasonable things that mom could be doing on her phone while her children play. For example, she could be:
1. Researching some awful diagnosis a sick family member just received.
2. Checking work emails on her phone so her kids can play in the park in the middle of the day.
3. Planning an amazing party or trip for her family.
4. Looking at porn.
5. Taking a goddamn break so she doesn’t spontaneously combust from exhaustion and stress.
6. Totally faking interest in her phone so she doesn’t have to talk to you about how beautiful it is to raise children.

Whatever she is doing, here is what I think: who the f cares. Unless her kids are attacking your kids, or hurting themselves, or peeing on the slide, then just calm yourself.

It seems like the god-awful, media-perpetuated “mommy wars” have cooled off a bit but I still hear moms talk smack about each other almost as much as I hear them support each other. Let’s all just be honest: we really have no idea what we are doing at any given moment. Right? We’re all just making our best guesses throughout the day, and are totally unsure about so many of our decisions, and deep down know that there is a massive amount of luck in raising well-adjusted, good kids. Instead of saying that, though, we bash each other’s choices to try to make ourselves comfortable with our own.

I try to be conscious about not judging other moms, but I have been so harsh on myself about my own choices. I tortured myself when I was a working mom, feeling constantly guilty about not spending enough time with my kids and imagining all the beautiful, thoughtful things I would do with them if only I was home. So now that I’m on the other side and have been a SAHM for a few months, I want to assure my working mom friends who feel conflicted: the way you parent probably isn’t going to change just because you stop working. For example, I used to see projects and recipes on Pinterest and other similarly evil websites when I was working, and think that if only I were home more, I would do them all. With a huge smile on my face, while wearing a lovely apron. And also, my kids would listen to me and seek out my wisdom and guidance, and I would suddenly be good at math.

But really, what has changed is that I do more stuff around the house (and I’m talking about the stuff that needs to get done, not optional stuff like baking holiday-themed after school snacks or ironing). I do some fun projects with the kids, but probably not much more than I used to, and I get to pick them up a little earlier from school. Also, I add flax seed to meals because in my head that seems like something a thoughtful SAHM does.

I think my kids are mostly happy to have me around for a few more hours every day, but it really hasn’t been a monumental change for them. For example, my son asked me the other day how my work was going. I asked him what he was talking about, and he said, “You know, your work, at the office I went to that one time, where I played on your computer and wrote FART really big on the screen.” Um. My normally very aware son, who can tell you exactly how many Thin Mints I have stashed in the freezer right now, had forgotten that I haven’t been working for the past seven months.

So my point is: let’s all calm down and give each other a break. The kids are fine and we’re doing OK. Working, not working, leaning in, reclining back, falling over – we’re all just trying our best to do a really hard job that doesn’t have any guidelines or guarantees, and the least the adults can do is be cool to each other.

And if you’re reading this post on your iPhone while your kids are playing nearby, and some woman is giving you the evil eye, it is not me. And you have my permission to totally ignore her and go right back to looking at porn reading about current events.

Insane in the Membrane

My husband and I started an appropriately named workout video called “Insanity” a couple days ago. If you enjoy spending 40 minutes of your day trying really hard not to have a stroke, then I totally recommend it. After only three workouts I am so sore I can hardly function. I asked my husband today how he was feeling: “OK. I only feel pain when I move.”

I decided to do Insanity for the standard reasons: to look better, to feel better, and to jumpstart my next career move as a skripper. But I’ve also been thinking about setting a good example about body image for my daughter. And this mom making the talk show rounds this week has really made me think about it. She very publicly chastised her clinically obese 7-year-old daughter in Vogue magazine, and put her on what sounds like a mean, mean diet. The mom has written a book that, I guess, has a happy ending because the girl lost weight. And now I guess she’ll treat her daughter with a little decency? I hate that the lesson for this poor girl is that she was fat and then learned some self control, when I think the lesson should be that her mom never dealt with her own body issues and her poor daughter paid the price in a really hurtful (and public) way. And now her mom is making money off of it. It all just grosses me out, and makes me want to eat a big snack.

I read a Jezebel article last week that said women’s bodies are “always fodder for public consumption.” (Read it here – scroll down to the Life&Style recap. And yes, those are free, snarky summaries of all the gossip magazines. You are welcome!) That sentence has stuck with me. And I’m realizing now that it starts YOUNG. I’ve noticed that my son gets compliments about what he’s doing, or what he likes – “That was an awesome fart noise you made,” or, “Wow, you really like farts,” or “Did that sound just come from your body?” – but nine times out of ten, the compliments my daughter gets are some form of, “Aww, you/your clothes/your hair is/are so cute.” And all of those things are true (mostly – she did go through a phase of using her hair as a kleenex, and boogery hair is not always “cute”), but she also makes really good fart noises. What if I said that to some random person after they said my daughter was cute? “I’ll have you know she can rip one, too, jackass.”

Exhibit 1: we visited my father-in-law over Thanksgiving and hung out at his restaurant. My kids were so good, sitting quietly and coloring while my husband and I gorged on free, amazing Chinese food and tried not to look like uppity east coasters. And three different times, three very polite midwestern folks walked by my two kids coloring and said to my son, “WOW, look at that drawing, you are a such an artist!” and then said to my daughter, “And aren’t you just the cutest thing?!” For the record, here is what my son was drawing:

StickMan
And here is what my daughter was working on:
Masterpiece
I MEAN, come on.

Scary

So I went to the cah-razy synagogue book signing last night (unfortch, no drunken table dancing), which was really lovely.  The author was inspirational and funny and smart.  While she was reading the introduction to her book, I realized that I kept shoving my work bag around with my feet, and kind of pinned it between my legs for a little while, you know, so some crazy non-fiction chick-lit book lover didn’t gank my work bag (which is filled with about 40 highlighters, an old pacifier, and a wallet with four pounds worth of change in it) and then make her way up the balcony stairs and down through the crowded synagogue, laughing maniacally and leaving a trail of post-it flags and old receipts behind her.

And then I remembered my own mom’s obsession with someone stealing her purse.  As far as I know, no one ever actually stole her purse (maybe because of her vigilance), but for as long as I can remember, she always had a death grip on it when we were out in public.  And now here I am, straddling my work bag at a book reading.

Totally random, but it just got me thinking about fears and how we pass them down to our kids.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because both of my kids are fairly cautious — both were very timid walkers, they aren’t crazy about strangers or new things, and my preschooler still “scooches” on his butt down the stairs (so he doesn’t “bite it,” in his words).  And then I think about my own life, and how I’ve taken a very safe path to get to my boring, I mean, very important lawyer job.  Where my job is to tell people how to minimize their risk.

So I want to encourage my kids to be bold, to do things that challenge them, that surprise them.  And I figure the best way to do that is to do it myself.  Which really goes against just about everything in my nature, but actually feels pretty good.  Writing like this is a risk for me, and I like it.

But I’m still not getting over my fear of opossums.  They can suck it.

Someone call the wahhhmbulance

So for the past 6 nights, my daughter has decided to wake up hollering and shaking the rails of her crib in the middle of the night and will not stop screaming until my husband or I go in and rock her.  As cute as she is, I would really prefer not to see her at 3 am, particularly when she is yelling for no apparent reason.  I took her to the doctor to follow up on her most recent ear infection (sigh) and she’s healthy, so I think she’s yelling just because she can.  And maybe because she’s finally getting her top two teeth.

Anywho, I don’t think I can fully explain how freaking mean and grumpy and generally psychotic lack of sleep makes me.  For example, I could not find a matching sock for my son this morning (laundry tends to reproduce like the Duggars in my house when mama’s tired), and I seriously considered punching the laundry basket.  Because it really had it coming.

Functioning at work while sleep deprived is always a bit of a performance.  It requires a little extra make-up, a lot more working with the door closed, and massive amounts of coffee, combined with telling a few select blabbermouths about my lack of sleep so the word slowly makes its way to the people who need to know that, really, don’t mess with Sarah today.  On a conference call yesterday, someone I’ve never met actually said, “Oh, did you finally get some sleep last night?”  Well done, my co-blabbermouths.

And tonight is my first Girls Night Out in, oh, like a year and a half.  Although it probably doesn’t qualify as a real girls night out because (1) I am wearing frumpy flats and my hair is a wreck; (2) there will be no drunken dancing unless something goes terribly wrong; and (3) we are going to a book signing.  At a synagogue.  Somewhere in the middle of pregnancy #2 I officially became lame.  Whatevs.  The point is that I’m exhausted, feeling sad that I won’t be putting my kids to bed tonight, and not able to appreciate the good things I have going on today.

Some day I’ll make a Costanza-style napping nest under my desk.  If only I had the energy.