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.

Hey Ladies

There are too many lady-related topics in the news these days and I am overwhelmed with all of the things to discuss, probably because I am a lady and my brain is not equipped to handle more than one thing at a time (unless it is shoes or nagging, obvs). So I have made a quick list – read this, and you will be up to speed on all lady-related current events.

1. So you know Seth MacFarlane? Turns out, it’s not just his cartoon characters who are kind of obnoxious. Yes, he has a sweet little baby face and cleans up nice, but he managed to spend four hours hosting the Oscars repeatedly making jokes about everyone, but especially women. For example, how women can’t let something go (I know, it’s SO annoying how the lady character in Zero Dark Thirty really wanted to find Osama Bin Laden, WTF is her problem?!), how ladies show their BOOBIES in movies (often award-winning, critically acclaimed movies, but whatever, BOOBIES!), and women are most desirable when they’re super young and skinny. It made for an entertaining and kind of uncomfortable show, but I prefer Seth’s misogynistic and racist comedy better when it’s coming out of a cartoon character’s mouth – it feels a little less consequential.
SethMacFarlane

2. Sheryl Sandberg wants ladies to “lean in” to the workplace and then meet with each other weekly to talk about how awesome it is to “lean in” (read a discussion of her new book here). It’s a fine point, except that women have been freaking leaning in for decades now and there’s still a lot of bullshit in the workplace, and I don’t know a single working woman who wants to get together weekly with other ladies to talk about how awesome it is to work harder. And earn less than their male counterparts. How about while we’re all leaning in, she can “lean in” herself and stop using her platform to tell women how to sit and talk in the office, and instead, support meaningful legislation to level the playing field? I haven’t read her book yet, so I should probably calm down. Must be my hypersensitive lady emotions at work!
Cathy1

3. Marissa Mayer got rid of telecommuting at Yahoo!. This feels like a lady-related issue to me, maybe just because a lady (and brand new mom) made the decision, but also because telecommuting was a lifesaver when I was a working mom. I didn’t have to write off the whole day when my kids got sick, I could be connected while also digging out from a huge pile of laundry, and could avoid counterproductive face time with annoying managers (not that I ever had any, natch). And in the wake of this policy change, I’ve read tons of headlines studies about how telecommuting actually boosts employee productivity and satisfaction (this article discusses some studies). What is Marissa thinking with this move? Probably about shoes, that’s what. Ladies!

4. Sonia Sotomayor and her remarkable teeth shut down a racist federal prosecutor in a well-articulated and very public fashion, just because she could. As my mom would say, you go, girl.

5. Closer to home, my own little lady has taken to leaving me status updates around the house. I applaud her hard work and direct communication style, something that all future working women need. We did have a talk about potty words, however. And ways to use them more often, and in brighter colors.
IPoop

Yay

There is an ad on TV where a woman is constantly saying “NO!” to her family’s shenanigans. Her husband walks out of a dressing room with skinny jeans on and she says, “NO!” Her son tries to bring some slimy creature in a shoebox into the house and she says, “NO!” Her husband asks to quit his job and start a blog and, obviously, she says, “NO!” Because that’s just crazy.

Well, for some unknown reason, my husband did not say “NO!” when I asked to quit my job and start a blog.

I mean, the discussion didn’t go exactly like that. I don’t just want to start a blog, and it wasn’t like I said out of the blue that I wanted to stop working and just see what happened. Well, maybe it was a little bit like that. Anywho, long story short, I quit my job and am taking an “investment interval,” as Anne-Marie Slaughter would call it. I’m still technically a lawyer but I am not currently practicing, and I can’t even explain how good that feels.

This break has been a long time coming. I got sworn in to the Maryland bar in 2004, about six months after I’d graduated. I had already been working for a few months as a lawyer at that big-law-firm-that-shall-remain-nameless, and was beginning to really grasp what I had gotten myself in to. For my swearing in, I put on my best suit. My husband and I drove to a courthouse in Annapolis feeling celebratory and excited, and he snapped pictures while I stood up and took my oath. After the swearing in, I stood in line to get my official certificate that I was now a bar-certified lawyer. And I waited there, in that line of other newly minted lawyers in their nicest suits, and shook my head and cried. These were not happy tears. It was that kind of snorting, pathetic cry, where you’re surprised and embarrassed to be crying, which just makes it harder to stop.

I felt like I had just bought a pair of really expensive shoes that everyone said were beautiful, and I had just finally put them on and discovered they hurt my feet. And even though they hurt, I knew I was going to have to walk in them for a long, long time.

Turned out it was about 8 years.

But today I’m wearing flip flops.

Guilt shmilt

My husband travels for work, and he was gone all week last week. After a week of dinners, baths, and putting the kids to bed by myself, I couldn’t wait for the hubs to get home and give me the night off. So he comes home, I kiss the kids good night and shuffle them upstairs with their dad – and instead of relaxing, I immediately felt SO SAD. Like the kids were going to miss me or have trouble getting to sleep without me there. I thought, “WHAT IS THAT?!!!” I will tell you: guilt. Soul sucking GUILT.

It’s apparently everywhere. I read this article about the regrets of a stay-at-home mom last week, and it’s been bugging me since I read it. Instead of some thoughtful advice for new moms, this feels like yet another example of a mom feeling guilty for her seemingly reasonable decisions. Some women’s decisions to stay at home are fairly cut and dry: if you make about the same amount as it costs for child care, and you want to stay home, then stay home; if you can’t survive without your paycheck, then get to work. But the author of this article had what seems to be one of those legitimately close calls. She admits she had little to no work life balance, she was emotionally strung out after the death of her father, she missed her babies, and she was able to do some freelance work while hanging with her kids. All of those seem like totally legit reasons to stay home. And 14 years later, she’s in a tough financial position and telling the world not to stay home with your kids?! Come on! (Also, it seems to me like the advice here should be “do some long term financial planning,” but nobody asked me.)

And then I see this “study” and think two things: one, how long till that kid scribbles with that sharpie on the computer?, and two, goddammit! When does it end?! I am over it, just so done with wasting time thinking that I should be doing something different or better or more thoughtfully or with more shamrock sprinkles (yes, I may have felt guilty earlier today for not making green cake pops with shamrock sprinkles for my son’s preschool party – again, WHAT IS THAT?!). So I’m not going to think about the laundry or the workout I should be doing, or the intellectual activity I should be pursuing (OH I just giggled typing that).

Instead, I will watch The Bachelor, and make snarky comments in my head about the women’s outfits and the ridiculous things Brad says. Wheee!