Category Archives: Motherhood

A Father’s Guide to Mother’s Day

Today’s post is a win-win for everyone: Moms & Dads. Declaring myself the official spokeswoman for mothers the world over, Dads, I offer you this much-needed insight and guide for Mother’s Day.

What is Mother’s Day? Is it a day of epic failures and unrealistic expectations? Is it a day of miserable crowded brunches? Is it a day of breakfast in bed and afternoon spa time? Is it a day of unfulfilled dreams and hopes? It could be all or most of those things, depending on who you ask. So let’s cut to the chase.

Funny as it is, we don’t want this, really ever:

We probably wouldn't turn down a date with JT, however

We probably wouldn’t turn down a date with JT, however

Turning to TV icons and brilliant ideas, however, I can pretty much say we all loved this guy and what he had to say – especially the “Here are two tickets to that thing you love…and now those tickets are diamonds”

Let's bring this guy back, shall we, Old Spice?

Let’s bring this guy back, shall we, Old Spice?

So, while I’d discourage you from showing up on a horse on Mother’s Day, I would encourage you to take my guide to heart. It is a low-cost, win-win way to approach Mother’s Day. Best part – it’s a weekend filled with ideas. My advice – get started on this immediately:

  1. Initiative. This is what she wants for Mother’s Day. Are there dirty clothes in the laundry basket? Then go wash them. Then fold them and then put them away. Quietly. Don’t ask questions. Don’t ask for recognition. Oh, and don’t forget to treat the stains on the kid’s clothes. Are there any other unfinished projects around the home? Now is the time to do them, this includes light bulbs that might need to be changed, any batteries swapped out, any kid toys that need repair, outstanding yard work, piles of kid crap on the kitchen counter that needs to be sorted and put somewhere. The same goes for your work shoes on the floor.
  2. Planning. While you are eating breakfast, ask yourself what is for dinner. Wonder this alone in your head. Do you not know? Neither does she but someone has to figure it out and guarantee she’s already started thinking about it. So be the decision maker and take something out of the freezer and commit. How about lunches for the week ahead for the kids. Need to stock up on grocery items for them? Grab the kids and head to the grocery store and stock up, brother. Don’t ask for a list. Take inventory before you go. Are there any upcoming kid birthday parties? Does someone need to purchase a gift for those parties? Maybe knock that one out while you are out getting the groceries…with the kids.
  3. Intervention. Are the children fighting? Does someone need to step in before it escalates? Be bold! Go forth and do that. All weekend long.
  4. Foresight. Are you all heading out the door to go somewhere? Like maybe brunch or dinner with your mom or her mom? What time do you need to leave? Work backwards from that time to assess when you need to start corralling the children: getting them on the potty, getting their shoes on, are you bringing a gift or a bottle of wine, do you need to bring coloring books or crayons or anything to keep the kids occupied in the restaurant? Snacks for the car ride? You’ve got this covered. Quietly. These things are just getting done while she is getting ready for said departure.

Guess what? Now you really are this guy:

Wasn't that easy?

Wasn’t that easy?

It goes without saying that flowers, a card, home-made cards from the children and really any other gift recognizing her is pretty much welcome, as well. But in the meantime, you’ve got this amazing low-cost guide that will guarantee you measurable results: a very happy wife.  What did I forget, Moms? Speak up…and be sure to “Like” and weigh in on the WM Facebook page.

 

 

Is Mother’s Day a Farce?

There are 365 days in the year. When you are a young kid, they all blur together. The seasons change. Whether you wear boots and a hat or flip-flops and a swimsuit changes. But the day or the month or the year is largely immaterial. It’s lovely.

Then as you get older, you assign meaning to days and months. Anniversaries matter. Days of mourning matter. Rites of passage – marriage, birth of a child, getting engaged, graduating from college. These all matter. They have hype. They have build up. You anticipate them. You imagine what they will be like, what you will wear, if the day will meet your expectations.

Then there is Mother’s Day. The MOTHER of all hyped up days.

I ask you this:  If you had to decide which day ultimately #fails more – could you decide between Mother’s Day or Daylight Savings, when you don’t get an extra hour of sleep, instead your day begins at 5am instead of 6am?

They’re kind of neck’n’neck for moi. At least one of those days you are supposed to get a card or two – so if you don’t even get a card – then you’re probably even more pissed off than you are on Daylight Savings when the day feels 100 years long because it starts so damn early.

Though we try to ignore it and pretend it isn’t so – Mother’s day is any given Sunday for young kids. They don’t care that you have earned a moment. That of all the days of the year this is supposed to be your day. Along with millions of other women across the country, of course.  Why should they care? Just like they don’t sleep in on weekends. Or on daylight savings Sunday. A few years ago, my eldest asked me this, on Mother’s Day:

“Mommy, what day is dedicated to just kids?”

Umm….EVERY damn day, kiddo.

So instead  on Mother’s Day, you have this glaring reminder in your face, filled with cards and miserable crying over-crowded brunches, that this is the day your children are SUPPOSED to cherish you.

But each time they act out, you ask yourself WHY – WHY can’t they just give you this ONE DAY – is it really so much to ask? And what have you done wrong as a parent that they can’t respect you enough to give you peace and quiet on ONE DAY?

And your husband falls into one of two camps- he indulges you with a gift or flowers because you are the mother of his children OR he points out that you are not, in fact, his mother, and it’s the kid’s job to give you something (that don’t fly chez WM, FYI).

Either way – you’ve got something nagging at you that reminds you that somehow, somewhere along the way, this day just doesn’t seem to be about YOU and you angrily wash a dish or make some lunch wondering who the hell is enjoying Mother’s Day.

Is Mother’s Day a farce? Would we all be better off without it? Just as I firmly believe we’d all be better off without the torture that is daylight savings?

Me & my mom - at Disney World last year over Mother's Day weekend - with the most appropriate character of all from the Incredibles.

Me & my mom – at Disney World last year over Mother’s Day weekend – with the most appropriate character of all from the Incredibles.

Setting aside the sarcasm and snark, I think it’s important to acknowledge what is awesome about us Moms. Frank Bruni, in an op-ed in the Sunday New York Times two years ago, tied it up neatly with a bow in his oped “Muddling Through Mother’s Day” when he wrote about his own mother:

“I was – I am – one of the four luckiest children I know, my siblings being the other three. We had a mother who held us in esteem and held us to account; told us we were magnificent and told us we were miserable; exhorted us to please her but found ways to forgive when, all too frequently, we didn’t; and made certain that we knew she was there for us until, unimaginably, she wasn’t.”

In two sentences he said everything I hope my children will think of me when they are adults. So on future Mother’s Day, in say 2050, when my children are adults, I hope it is a day that gives them pause to think not so much about themselves, if they are mothers, but about what kind of mother I was to them. Because my own mom successfully did for me and my three sisters exactly what Frank Bruni’s mom did for him.

Until that point, I just head to the hotel bar at the Ritz or the 4 Seasons, where you should join moi, we can order some champagne and talk about how freaking awesome we are as mothers.  And maybe even draft up some model legislation banning Daylight Savings Time in honor of Mothers everywhere.

Until next year….Photo Credit: Someecards

For more on what I’ll say outloud that you just might be thinking, like WM on Facebook

The Case for Average

“What’s average? Happiness first” tweeted Washington Post reporter Brigid Schulte, back to me. I had asked her “Who said average can’t also be awesome” in a previous tweet.

Schulte_Average_TweetsI love social media (but I have no idea why her tweet is showing up so blurry in the image, #sorry).

I love the instant gratification from chatting with a reporter about the remarkable, insightful and important piece they have in the paper. In this case, I’m talking about Schulte’s piece “Pushing for a Course Correction” on the front page of today’s WaPo Style section. If you haven’t yet read it, I insist you do.

In case you have no intention of reading it, here’s why it matters. Because she’s talking about pretty much all of us. She features the McLean (VA) High School PTSA president Wilma Bowers who is doing something important, something brave and something I fear is falling on deaf ears – pushing for parents to ease up on the hyper-competitive parenting environment. She is asking us all to look at authentic success instead. And she’s doing this from a place where a quality college like James Madison University is considered a college you “settle” for instead of the Ivy Leagues.

Here’s the thing people, this is a line of thinking that doesn’t happen overnight, it starts from a very early age. You see it in kids who are over-scheduled, who have no time to play, who are expected to perform, achieve and deliver, sometimes from the time they are in preschool.

And if you’re anything like me, a part of you is smugly thinking that this won’t be you or that it isn’t you;  you aren’t this kind of parent, you love your child for who they are and what their natural born abilities are.

But the truth is, be honest with yourself, are you lying to yourself just a little bit?

Example – the constant testing of early elementary school aged kids feeds into heart of our our need to tell ourselves our kids are better than average. Right now my oldest is nearing the end of second grade, which in Montgomery County means they are being tested for the gifted and talented program that begins in third grade.

She’ll come home and tell me they were tested that day and I’ll find myself asking her multiple questions about how she think she did, did she find it hard, what sorts of questions were on the test. These questions aren’t just innocent curiosity. I am trying to get a read on her performance. I would be totally lying to you if I didn’t want to hear she excelled and is a brilliant mind.

And then I kick myself.

Me around age 9 - rocking the awesome, right?

Me around age 9 – rocking the awesome, right?

She is EIGHT YEARS OLD. What the hell was I doing when I was 8 years old? Obviously because I declared 2012 the year of being Awesome, I’m pretty sure I was busy being awesome when I was 8 years old – but beyond that – was I doing anything remarkable? Here’s what I can tell you I was busy doing when I was 8:  Counting my tummy rolls next to my sister at the pool in the summer (she was always so much thinner than me), kicking around the soccer ball, maybe a little uncoordinated roller skating and avoiding helping my mom take care of my little sisters at all costs.

Yep – destined for greatness, was I, at 8-years-old.

A hand-made Halloween card I sent my Grandma, probably around age 9. Clearly I was a true prodigy. Also, the fact that my mom has all of these saved is probably a discussion for another day. #Hoarding?

A hand-made Halloween card I sent my Grandma, probably around age 9. Clearly I was a true prodigy. Also, the fact that my mom has all of these saved is probably a discussion for another day. #Hoarding?

So really – I need to ease up on the questioning of my daughter and just let her be. How about instead ignoring the questions about the tests and instead ask what she did at recess, the reasonable voice inside my head tells my crazy self.

Which is exactly why Schulte’s feature is important; she’s getting to the heart of the hyper-competitive parenting and pressure cooker it creates for high school aged kids. But it’s too late for them – she mentions kids who are asking their parents for Ritalin. Umm…hello?!?!?!?! Red flags, anyone?!??!

If we parents of younger kids don’t read this and take a long, hard, look at ourselves in the mirror and then start correcting our course to stop the madness, then there is definitely something very very wrong with us. In fact, I’m done writing about and talking about whether women can “have it all” and our quest for balance – forget it – what I want to know is what kind of behavior we are modeling for our kids. Are we letting them have it all? Are we letting them just be kids? And how about that average question.

Are we letting them just be who they are? I have never forgotten an interview I did with Meghan Leahy, local parenting coach, back in 2012 when she noted there’s a bell curve for a reason and most of us have average kids. Most of us are average. To Schulte’s point in her tweet, “what’s average, happiness first.”

I dug up that old interview with Leahy and was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon some irony, the interview was spurred by my negative reaction to a Brigid Schulte piece about American parenting. Am I destined to always praise or attack Schulte? It seems so. Anyhow, the interview is 2 years old but it still applies perfectly here, so I’m pasting it:

WM: You know that I’ve themed 2012 the year of Moi Loves Moi on my blog because I am just so tired of women beating themselves up. It doesn’t do anyone any good, starting with their own confidence and how that spills over into their  kids. What I did appreciate about Schulte’s piece was her discussion towards the end about our pursuit of happiness and being an achievement-centered culture.
When we last worked together on a post you made a point that really resonated with me – you commented that there is a bell curve for a reason and most of our kids are average – and we should celebrate our kids for who they are. Can you say some more about this because I think it’s
relevant here. Do you agree that we are a culture that pushes perfection on kids to the detriment of the kids as they grow up? And if studies are finding achievement does not lead to happiness, how does this concept that pushing kids to work hard and celebrate their diligence – instead of heaping empty praise – fit in here?
Meghan Leahy Response: Interesting questions here…I am thinking that achievement IS good for our kids, except I would rephrase achievement as “Giving back” or doing something significant.  Something tangible in the world.  You can achieve great and amazing things, but
if as a person, you feel that you have no impact, no human to human contact, no acknowledgement, you often feel empty. So the question for parents is not if achievement leads to happiness (which I prefer to call contentment), rather WHOSE achievement is it…and how do we balance our dreams with our kids own desires, passions, and talents.  We want to inspire INTRINSIC motivation in our kids to achieve, work hard, etc. Threatening, begging, REWARDING, stone-walling can all push our kids down the path of achievement, we see it every day.  But there is a cost.  There is always a cost when the body does what soul does not want.  I don’t know if parents are living out their unfilled dreams, their insecurities, or if they see a talent in their child and, out of pride (dangerous emotion), push and push.  But some, not all, parents make their children into achievement products rather than helping them enter into the world understanding the value of hard work and failure.
WM Question: Excellent insight. I think it’s really important that as parents, we do take the time to acknowledge what our kids want instead of what WE want them to want. Schulte interviewed some experts who noted that we should be parenting for happiness first and then achievement. But it seems to me these things are not mutually exclusive. If American parents are pushing achievement on their kids by over scheduling them with activities – then do you think instead of focusing our energy on seeking the elusive work-life balance for ourselves – what we
instead should be prioritizing is teaching and guiding our kids to find the right kid-balance? How does a parent strike the right balance in activities and free time? This seems to be a common critique of American parenting styles lately.
Meghan Response: Wow, great questions.  So, if you promote balance in your children’s lives, but you yourself are running around like a maniac, never taking care of yourself, martyring yourself at every turn, allowing your mental health and body to suffer…your children see all of that.  So, like the child who is lectured to be honest and good and then sees his parents cheat on each other, lie to others, be dishonest in their business dealings…what lesson remains? Hypocrisy, for sure, and the child will almost always follow the role model, not the lecture.  As I learned at PEP (The Parent Encouragement Program), children are “keen observers and poor interpretors”; meaning they are WATCHING their parents for how to live. Do you kiss your spouse?  Do you see friends?  Do you work in something that brings you joy?  Are you responsible with money?  So, if you want your children to value being quiet in themselves here and there, being creative, NOT constantly being entertained, living stress-free, the PARENT is the only person who can model that and create the home environment.  We cannot inundate our children with activities and then wonder why they are stressed.  The same is true for us.  If we accept every volunteer opportunity, work opportunity, party invite, etc. what are we modeling?  “I say yes. To everyone.  Above my family.  Above my spouse.  Above myself.”  This is a “slow-death” life, pick-pick-picking away at you. So, the balance MUST begin with the parent.  They cannot model what they do not live, they cannot give what they don’t have.  And beyond wanting your child to live according to his or her own values, every parent is a human and deserves to not run around like a wild person.  What is  the point of life?
WM Question: Really excellent perspective, I appreciate it.  Final question: Schulte’s experts say that the cortex of fear for American parents is around achievement. And I admit, I regularly have to check myself with just my kindergartener. She’s reading a grade level above yet I don’t think she is in the most advanced reading group in class – and I often have to have a conversation with myself that I am being ridiculous. Do you see this and what is your advice for parents to keep themselves in check? I can obviously see how this grows deeper as the kids age and the stakes are higher.
Meghan Response: Oh, it’s hard.  Parents are constantly being told to relax or be vigilant.  We are told that kids develop on their own and in their own way, but watch (like a hawk) so the kids can get early interventions (just in case). We are given pre-natal care out the ying-yang, but are dropped like hot-potatoes when we leave the hospital (which the following weeks are some of the most harrowing ever in a woman’s life).
We are successful, career-minded women who gave up “something” to sit on the floor and color and so we watch the child. We watch our new investment, our new project, our new career.  We wanted to be good students, good lawyers, and now good mothers.  But it doesn’t work out that way.  No one gives you grades, there are no job reviews, no raises, and no corner offices.  Hell, the kid throws food in your face when you have puree organic mango.  That’s the thanks you get for putting your life on hold. So, when you have your little reader (who is clearly doing fine), and you worry, you need to ask yourself, “Who am I worried about here?” And “Are my worries grounded in REALITY?”
No, they are not.  Because if they were, that would mean that the definition of being a great mom is that your child MUST BE THE BEST AT EVERYTHING.  Good grief.  Can you imagine?  Who will have the mental breakdown first, you or the kid?
Parents need to understand there are no guarantees.  Yes, of course, you set your family on a path and you should.  That’s your job.  But schools, activities, tutors, beauty, athleticism, money…you can throw it all at your kids physically or genetically and, sorry, still no guarantees.  Life is too complicated and wonderful for that. That would mean kids with little resources would never succeed, and kids who have everything should live out beautiful lives and marriages (cough, cough, that ain’t happening).
As the saying goes “Sh#t happens” and that is wonderfully comforting.  This means that a parent can say “I am going to read this book to you because I love books, and it is good for your brain, and this is wonderful being together.” NOT “We are reading this book so you can get a jump on nursery school and go to Princeton like your father.” Because Princeton is not a guarantee. Your commitment to living an authentic life as human, caring about VALUES like hard-work, diligence, and yes, achievement (not JUST for your kids, for YOU), your willingness to make mistakes and move through them (achievement MUST come with errors, otherwise it is a gimme and then, not an achievement), and above all, LOVE is what keeps a parent in check. The voices in your head will tell you to worry and fear, but if you trust your own judgement, you
will know when concern and action are needed and when you are just wallowing in negative thinking.  REALITY doesn’t lie, so trust what is in front of you, your actual life.  Your life doesn’t need balancing, it is simply happening and needs to you to join in. If every parent took more responsibility for themselves (emotionally) and spent LESS attention worrying about their kids (yes, you read that right), then the balance would naturally occur. At least, that’s my humble opinion.  Because if worrying, hand-wringing, and controlling others worked, I would have a PhD in it, would have written a book and would be teaching seminars about how to worry better.  So far, it hasn’t gone that way…
I think a favorite quote of mine is really applicable here: “Your life is not in your head. Come out and play.” ~Baron Baptiste
WM: Wow. Excellent perspective from Meghan, as we would only expect. Thank you so much, Meghan, for taking the time to answer my questions.  If you want to hear more of Meghan’s thoughts and insights, be sure to “Like” the Meghan Leahy Parenting Coach Facebook page. And as always, if you haven’t “Liked” the Wired Momma Facebook page, you are most definitely not balanced and most definitely missing out.
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Thank you to Brigid Schulte for today’s WashPost piece – and obviously I had to check myself when my daughter was in Kindergarten and I still do now that she’s in second grade. I need to go look into bringing this authentic success movement to our local elementary school.

 

From Cliches…to Kindergarten….to Cribless…

For everyone with a rising Kindergartener, this post, now two years old, is for you. But wait – everyone else – it’s also for you.  Turns out, for me at least, shedding a few tears behind my sunglasses when they board that bus the first day didn’t end after Kindergarten, here we go again as she heads off to 2nd grade.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

“They grow up so fast!” – does it not seem that everyone preaches this to you when you are a bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived, hormonal, chubby, cranky new mom?

What does that mean, I used to wonder. I would stare at my baby wrapped like a burrito and swear with each passing minute that I would never again sleep uninterrupted. I wouldn’t shower with ease. I wouldn’t know what an impromptu night out on the town would mean. I would be trapped by this small cute blob that basically always needed something but didn’t give much back.

“Oh, she’s so adorable. Enjoy it now! It doesn’t last…”

I know, I know, I would snark in my head thinking of cruel things to bark back at this well-intentioned stranger….I  know….they grow up so fast. They all do except  mine, who won’t sleep and really fusses at inconvenient times.

I hated that cliché. I hated it as much as I hated “Sleep when the baby sleeps”

You know why I hated that one? Because I TRIED but she didn’t sleep LONG ENOUGH….where could I get the kid who slept when mommy slept? Why didn’t someone put that one on the menu? Aren’t they supposed to obey and respect their mother’s wishes?

But then came Monday. When my sweet smiling baby went from this:

Will she really ever grow up?

to this:

I never agreed to this happening so fast

In the blink of an eye.

I swear it was like someone pressed the fast-forward button times 5 and there went my sweet girl, proudly wearing the fall 2011 kindergarten accessory, the pinned on name tag identifying her name, her teacher and the color of her bus. With barely a glance back, she boarded that school bus and was off.

I totally cried behind my sunglasses, cursing that stupid cliché for being as right as it is annoying.  And then what did I do? It was like I was out to torture myself on Monday. I should have just gotten out a knife and taken up cutting.

On Saturday, pre-over-hyped (though we did lose our power) Irene, we went out and purchased a full size bed for our 2.5 year-old. I noticed her in the crib last week and realized how ridiculous it was that she was still being imprisoned. So big girl bed delivery was scheduled for Tuesday.  So what made more sense than to head to Babies’R’Us on Monday and purchase a side rail for the big girl bed.

Does that make sense to you? If it does, then you probably haven’t been in that store in a few years, like I hadn’t.

Immediately after crossing the threshold, I was drowned and suffocated by sweet baby smell, small cute baby onesies, little tiny size N diapers, cute little Halloween costumes….and there I was to purchase something to render my  home cribless…..a mere 24 hours after my oldest started Kindergarten…..the extra small baby things were mocking me. They were cooing and giggling and smelling good….

Could I get pregnant just standing there, I wondered? How could I not realize that going from Kindergarten to Cribless in the same week is just too much for a gal to take? What will the nursery look like without the beaver-chewed up sides of the wooden crib anchoring the room?

How did this happen?

(Friends…don’t forget to “Like” Wired Momma on FB to keep up with my rants and raves…I usually am not so emotional!)