my ‘mommy problem’ problem

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You probably saw it in one of your social media feeds in the last week– a New York Times opinion piece by Heather Havrilesky called Our ‘Mommy’ Problem. Most of the piece was stuff I head-bobbingly agree with. One of the things I most feared prior to motherhood, and one of the things that most annoys me about it now that I actually have children, is the way women with children are reduced to “mommies” and mommies alone, not allowed or not able to have an identity outside of their relationship to their children.

I also kind of always hated the word “mommy” in general. It sounded infantilizing to me. I was determined that my children would always call me “mama” or “mom,” never “mommy.” But the entire world refers to me to and in front of my children as “mommy,” and so they have started calling me “mommy,” too. Sometimes I’m “mama.” Sometimes I’m “mommy.” Sometimes lately, I’m “Sawah,” as they’ve noticed that their dad and I call each other names other than “mama” and “daddy” and they’re trying to figure out how we can be people with names and also their parents. (One day, when they’re grown ups, they’ll realize we’re people, full stop.) And in my children’s sweet, small voices, just about anything they call me sounds sweet and lovely, at least the first 5 times in a row that they say it. This, I loved:

Why does this word irritate me when the wrong person says it? When my kids call me “Mommy,” I feel a surge of pride and happiness. “Mommy” is also my mother’s name, thanks to the fact that my older sister shamed me when I tried to switch to “Mom” in my teens. But the “Mommy” I say to my mother or hear from my children is a private word, a word that defines the relationship between me and my mother, or me and my kids. It’s like the word “sweetheart” or “lover,” but arguably even more intimate.

But the essay lost me when it started blaming social media, our filtered window into each other’s home lives, for making mothers into something they don’t want to be:

We are besieged by Facebook images of sun-kissed children canning homegrown peaches and building tiny replicas of the Eiffel Tower out of toothpicks and being home-schooled on organic dairy farms in Wisconsin. We know far too much about other people’s lives these days, and the more we know, the clearer it becomes that we are doomed to lag behind the pack in this increasingly high-stakes game.

I know I’ve been one to defend the filtered world of Instagram, but I immediately thought of a quote widely attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt:

Image via Etsy, click to go buy this seller’s lovely print.

I mean, what do the homeschooling dairy farmers really have to do with you, you know?

I have lofty aspirations of being a Crafty Mom. But I have 2.5 year olds, two of them, actually, and I have realized that doing crafts with them is just not worth it, to me, at this time, most of the time. Because it takes me an hour of internet surfing to get the idea, and then I have to gather supplies, and then the actual project requires me to first get them occupied with something else for 20 minutes while I set it up, and then they spend 5 minutes on it and make a massive mess, and then I have to bathe them and then occupy them so I can clean up the mess, and then I need a nap. Maybe we’ll do crafts one day when it’s easier. Maybe I’ll just get over my urge to be That Kind of Mom. But in the meantime, it’s not like the moms out there with toddlers, crafting, are actively crafting to make me, way over here in Arkansas, feel bad. They’re just dancing to the beat of their own drummer. (And I mean, maybe they are trying to make me feel inferior, in which case, they’re assholes, and who cares what assholes think about anything?)

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I get that Slacker Mom is a really popular internet genre. There are like, two kinds of moms online and they are either the ones writing super detailed Pinterest tutorials or the ones writing hilarious f-bomb laden tell-offs to the Pinterest moms:

My sister-in-law told me about a mom at her kid’s elementary school who took the basic school T-shirt that everyone got and painstakingly created a beaded fringe at the bottom, replete with cinched waist and perfectly cuffed sleeves. All of the other little girls gathered around, screeching variations of “I want the same thing!” Incredibly enough, instead of laughing in their unrealistic faces the way our parents might have, all the adults started mumbling, “Yes, O.K., we can do that, sure, I’ll learn a challenging new craft, no problem. Tonight, of course. We’ll do it tonight.” This made my sister-in-law, who was already late for work, want to teach a few people the artisanal craft of rearranging someone’s face using only your bare hands. We are outclassed at every turn. We are outspent and out-helicoptered and outnumbered. It used to be good enough just to keep your house from being coated in a thin layer of dog hair and human feces. No longer.

I mean, for sure, no one can make you bedazzle a tee shirt without your consent. You seriously, really, for real do not have to do it. Sure, on some vulnerable day, you may see some lovely Anthropologie-model of a mom post a picture of her doing some insanely enriching and hippie-tastic nature-related gross-motor-skill-developing spiritually-affirming whatever in her backyard, all with perfect hair and kids who have on like, matching clothes, and you may like, actively hate her for all the ways she’s making you feel. And on those days, maybe close Instagram and walk away and have a cookie and hug your kid and watch some cartoons and tell both of you that things are all gonna be OK.

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Just being my best impersonation of one of those Anthropologie moms being all educational-nature-tastic while also basking in the ray of sunshine that follows me wherever I go. You can’t see my kids, but they are impeccably dressed, wherever they are, off camera, I assure you.

But on a good day? On a good day there is just no reason for you to take that shit personally. Because she’s not backyard Montessori fine motor skill meditating TO YOU. She’s just doing her thing. You see your dance space? It’s over there, and it’s got nothing to do with hers, so just go on with your bad self over to your dance space and you do you. And maybe unfollow people who bring you down. And maybe talk nicely to yourself and let yourself know that you are the mother your children need, and they don’t need you to be anyone else but you.

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And then maybe if we can stop constantly seeing other mothers as the problem, we’ll all have some energy left over to pursue our own self-care and interests and hobbies and careers and righteously tell off the strangers in public who insist on calling us “Mommy” instead of…oh…anything else.

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I don’t actually talk to my kids about healthy eating

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Geez, mom, how will I ever learn about eating healthy foods if we don’t talk about it?

Healthy eating is really important to me. I have written a lot about food, I have thought a lot about how a less-meatarian, largely-local diet is best for me and the planet, and I love to cook. I think a lot about what my kids eat too. But, I realized when asked about it recently, I don’t actually talk to my kids about healthy eating, and I rarely label food as “healthy” or “unhealthy,” either. When we talk about food, we mostly talk about how it tastes, or that it’s crunchy, or that it’s yummy, or what color it is, or how many pieces of it there are, since we’re learning words and colors and numbers and stuff right now.

Instead, right now, I’m mostly counting on the message sent by our family eating habits to teach my kids that a healthy diet, one based largely around veggies and whole grains, with little processed food and not a lot of sugar, is a normal one.

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little people, big feelings

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Storytime at the library was a little bit rough for Etta this morning. There were glue sticks out on the craft table, and all she wanted to do was glue glue glue. I was letting her sit over there instead of with the group, since she was being quiet, but when I noticed her gluing a paper bat to the table, I had to step in and take away the glue stick. That’s when she got angry. Since other kids were still trying to sing songs and hear the story, I carried her out into the hallway.

I sat down on her level. “Are you mad?” “Etta mad!” “I know you’re mad. It makes you mad when Mama says you can’t play with something that you want to play with, but I can’t let you glue things to the table. We can take a break out here for a little bit, or we can go back inside and sing songs with our friends. You can decide.”

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we all fall down sometimes, and yet…

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This Spina Bifida awareness month, I’ve been super focused on highlighting the utter ordinaryness of most of our life, even with SB in the middle of it. Because that’s the truth. Most of the time, most of our life feels very very normal. Toddlers be toddlers, which means that I spend my time reading books to both of my girls, feeding both of them meals, carting them both around town, doing up seatbelts, putting up ponytails, snuggling and reading stories and kissing booboos.

And then we go to the park with our friends for a picnic. All the kids swing. All the kids slide. All the kids run and play. But only one of them is constantly falling down, and, it turns out, she’s starting to notice it too. Continue reading

it’s not that hard, and i’m not that special

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Guess what? It’s still October, and it’s still Spina Bifida Awareness Month. Inspired by this post my friend Mary Evelyn wrote last year addressing reader questions about SB, I thought I’d cover a biggie that I’ve never answered before: How hard is this SB/special needs parenting thing day to day?

Like Mary Evelyn, I have to say: it isn’t.  Continue reading

sisterly love

A small, huge thing happened yesterday when I dropped Claire off for preschool.

I was taking her out of her car seat as usual, and she turned to her sister and waved and said, “Bye bye, sissy!” as usual. And she blew a kiss, as usual. And then… she told Etta, “I love you!”

Mark it down in the baby book blog: it’s the first time I have ever heard either one of them say “I love you” to the other one. Sure, they show it– they like to hug and kiss and hold hands, and I sometimes find one in the other’s bed, but this was the first instance of verbal love between the two of them. It exploded my heart.

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wood, smugness, and duct tape

wheelies

Have you seen this hilarious Craigslist post for those “Little Wheelybug” scooters? It cracked me up.

It read:

Do you dream of your perfect European child scooting across your hardwood floors, waving “hullo mama!” as you relax in your Pøang chair?

Then this is the bullshit European baby scooter made of wood and smugness for you.

Our child, a failure in our eyes, did not like it. She looked great posing on it though. So it’s perfect for posting #Instabrags to Fritter™.

It was hilarious to me because it hit awfully close to home. Continue reading