Category Archives: Parenting

Almost 4 and Almost 40

When I was 25, I worked with a woman named Donna. She was in her forties, married without children, loved Gilmore Girls, and liked to tell people how she wore a tiara when she cleaned the house. Donna also told all of the young women that being 40 is the best thing to ever happen to her or any woman. “You stop caring what other people think. You do you. It’s glorious.” Older friends have confirmed this to be true, and have added, “50 is even better.”

Of course, I doubted all of them. I loved the idea of shedding my insecurities and just living without crippling anxiety, but being the young woman that I was, I also thought it wasn’t possible to be truly happy and at peace with myself if I’m … elderly. I’ve always felt older than my biological age, but the thought of looking the part was depressing. I longed to be beautiful and successful and exciting and fun. I focused on everything I thought I wasn’t with little regard for who I could be if I channeled my energy on appreciating my gifts. I have gifts? I have gifts! Also, you don’t realize how young 40 is until it’s staring at you in the face. I know you’re right around the corner, 40, and I’ve got my eye cream on. I’m comfortable, but not in a way that suggests that I’ve given up on my appearance or goals or anything else. I am comfortable knowing that every day, I’m more at peace with who I am and more in touch with what I want from this world.

Every year that passes, I see my peers freak out a little about hurtling towards 40, but this landslide seems to have the opposite effect on me. I am looking forward to turning 40 in a year and a half. I feel like I will have earned my confidence. I will own every feature and flaw. Maybe I won’t care anyone thinks of me. I’m getting there.

I spent so many years trying to fit in until I realized I don’t even like all of these people I’m trying to befriend. I can’t call myself a misanthrope, but people were often disappointing. I held out hope that they’d be better. Without too much cynicism, I’ve learned not to expect much from others. They’re not the ones I need to worry about. As soon as I stopped worrying about the people who aren’t worth my time, they seemed to drop off. My friendscape was suddenly illuminated by all of the absolutely wonderful people that I’m lucky to have in my life.

In my early thirties, the shedding of insecurities was beginning. I was unhappy at my job and a stressful period in my marriage had just ended. My husband started working for a great company, but it left me home alone most of the time. I took advantage of our dual income sans children and started going on trips. I went to so many concerts and so many states. I went to cities and restaurants that my husband would never set foot in so I could have what I wanted without compromise. It was a great taste of freedom to do whatever I wanted. Then I had a kid.

Having a baby is life changing, but no one can understand the degree until they’re in the trenches. With husband working many hours of overtime, I was struggling in those first few weeks. I had postpartum depression, job anxiety, and the standard lack of sleep standing in the way of my sanity. Things got better and better (and sometimes harder, but still better) until motherhood was finally the core of my existence. My daughter will always be the most important person in my life. Since hearing Michelle Obama say this about her own daughters, I’ve been telling my girl that she is “the heart of my heart.” That will never change, but I know that the same way our relationship grew stronger with time, her growing independence will create a wedge between us. As much as motherhood is the central part of my being right now, I know in my heart that I need to continue to grow so that I am not completely lost when my sweet chick is ready to fly. This day is far off but it will come too soon. I will be in my mid-fifties when she is done with high school. Young enough to still enjoy life, but perhaps not young enough to *start* loving myself. I’m so glad that I’m learning now, to love myself. Donna would say, “see? You’re close to forty and you don’t care what other people think.” Maybe that is true, but I think for now I’m finally more concerned with what I think about me. If you think “I love me” sounds arrogant or narcissistic, you’re missing the point. It’s a good thing I don’t care what you think. I love me.


My daughter is close to four years old. She wants to be a “doggy doctor and mommy” when she grows up. She also speaks about her future as if I will still live with her when she is an adult. It’s so beautiful that for now it’s unimaginable that we wouldn’t be together forever. I’m everything to her (for now) as she is to me (forever).

As I watch her grow little by little every day, I worry so much about all of the painful bullshit she has to go through to get to where I am now. The petty drama of elementary school. The downright mean girls of middle school. The pressure of grades and friends and boys in high school. Navigating complicated relationships in adulthood. I worry because I’m her mom, but I know she’s going to make it through.

Sweet daughter of mine,
You are bright, funny, and kind. I tell you about these beautiful qualities whenever I see them on display, but you’re going to go through spells when you doubt yourself. Then you will keep going anyway. Women always do. Women get better. Every woman I know is the best ever version of herself. We are always solving problems, learning, and growing. You, my love, are going to be fine. My gorgeous tiny warrior who will fight for the right to wear a corduroy dress in August, who doesn’t let a day go by without giggling about butts, who sings poetic prattle during playtime, you are going to be just fine. I wish you could understand the comfort of 40 when you are struggling through the agony of 12 (and 15 and 19 and…), but no one can, until they’re there. Until then, enjoy your precious childhood as much as you can. I will do everything in my power to make your childhood beautiful. I will do whatever I can to help you see your bravery, wit, compassion, humor, and beauty. You are a marvel. I know it will take time, but I hope you grow up to love yourself as much as I love you.

Happy (early) birthday, darling girl.

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2015 | Mom Stuff

Since 2016 is starting with fevers, sore throats, and the family’s collective need for a good long nap, this portion of my year in review is just going to be a quick free write. Brevity is never a promise.

It’s so awesome to be little M’s mom and it’s an exciting time in her life. In 2015, she shined in gymnastics class, went to her first “real” concert, went to her first MLB game, had her first ever first day of school, enjoyed an end of summer birthday pool party, and was a darling little flower girl in her second cousin’s wedding.

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This little girl is something else. I don’t like to use this space to share too much of her life, but she brings such light and joy to my world every day. She is funny and kind. She loves music, books, princesses, and Star Wars, even though she just saw parts of A New Hope last night. During that viewing, she was barely paying attention. Instead, she pretended to be Princess Leia and she needed to “save” Luke and “Prince Solo.” After watching Leia record her message to Obi Wan, she told me I was R2D2 and she needed to put a DDD (DVD) in my robot body. Finally, she became bored and created a song and dance called, “Wookie Butt.”

Three year olds are funny but they are also nice to have around for over-the-top compliments. Sometimes they are nice and make sense. “Oh Mommy, your necklace is very beautiful and sparkly!” Other times, I take notes of her sincerity and imagine a dash of irony and sarcasm as she repeats the same things in about 10 years. “Those sweatpants look fancy, mom!” It’s so sweet that she means that now.

Whenever I am having a hard time as a parent, I try to take a step back and imagine how hard it must be to be three. It has to be hard to have this intense need to play squashed by rules and rulers. She needs to explore and let her imagination run wild, but sometimes, we have appointments that we need to be on time for. Sometimes, she needs to not get her outfit dirty until we get through the afternoon, so no, she is not allowed to paint in her flower girl dress “like Rapunzel.”

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One brilliant thing about being a mom is learning what I already know. I teach her how to take care of herself, but do I do those things? I always tell her to take a deep breath when calming her down from a meltdown.  Do I take a deep breath and tell myself that things are going to be okay?  I need to start listening to my inner mom voice instead of my inner mean girl voice.

I am glad that I had her when I did because I am old enough to have friends with kids who are in high school. Kids who I remember being squishy little babies are getting ready to fly away and lead their own lives. I feel much more patient knowing that the next fifteen or so years are going to pass before I can ever iron out all of my worries and insecurities as a parent. So, cliches be damned, I need to embrace the moment, even if we seriously need to GO. NOW.

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My only parenting “resolutions” are to continue to love her, to educate myself about the choices that I make for her, and to be kinder to myself when I don’t know the answers. I want her to grow up to be kind, ambitious, and confident. I want her to know what she wants and to go after it. I know that she is going to have to learn some of these things on her own, but I want her to always feel my love and support guiding her along the way.

For The First Time In Forever, I Went Shopping By Myself

If time travel is ever possible, this post will explain to my younger, childless self, why today was such a big deal that I would put it in my top ten (maybe top twenty) best days of my life.

It started when my boss texted me to tell me that the snowy roads were messy and I could stay home today. She knows that I am anxious about driving on icy roads. I admire my friends who work in health care and have no choice but to drive in terrible weather. Since I do not save lives for a living, I don’t see a point in risking my own. I chose to take her word for it that the town where I work was worse than where I live.

I had already dropped my daughter off at my parent’s house for the day. I was already on my way. I posed the following question to a mom’s group on Facebook:

So I was heading to work and my boss texted that roads are messy and I can stay home. I already dropped my girl off at my parent’s. Would you a) just go to work, b) go home and do productive things around the house, c) pick up kiddo for (ANOTHER) snow day, d) go to the movies. 

The ladies did not disappoint with their answers. A chorus of B and D answers encouraged me to enjoy the day to myself. Boy, did I ever. I’m not really a shopper anymore, but for the last few months, I’ve carried a list of things to buy if I happen to see them while I am out. I needed a ticket stub journal, desk organizing things, pot holders. Super sexy stuff.

First, I went to Target. I needed to buy nighttime diapers. Exciting! While there, I discovered so many things that I never see when I am shopping with my two-year old. I have had a couple of Target gift cards for more than a year. This is absurd. I am at Target all.of.the.time. I usually race through the store in hopes of finding what I need, while crossing my fingers that my girl doesn’t notice every crappy toy with a Frozen sticker slapped on it. Today, I took my time. I was so excited to mindlessly shop, that I was *smiling* at strangers. I found my desk organizing things, a new book, a cute new wallet, pot holders, a place to store my ticket stubs, and diapers. But… I forgot to pay for the diapers. As I loaded my car, I noticed the box of diapers on the bottom of my shopping cart that I forgot to mention to the cashier. I put it in my car. I’m not going to lie. I thought about driving away, but I have this annoying habit of always doing the right thing. I walked back in to the store, told the customer service guy what happened, and paid for the diapers. He gave me 20% off for being so honest. What?! They were already on sale. We’re talking a few bucks here, but it felt better to save a few dollars instead of stealing several more.

Lunch time. I live in the suburbs and since I wasn’t sure about the roads, I wanted to stay local. I was about to go to Chipotle for lunch when I realized, I do not have my husband or child with me. For the first time in forever, (damn it, Frozen,) I can go wherever I want! I went to a pho restaurant because I was blissfully alone. I wouldn’t dream of taking my kid to a joint that doesn’t serve crayons as an appetizer, and my husband wouldn’t dream of trying something on this fantastic menu.

What do you think when you see someone dining alone? Are you sad for them? Aw, poor lady has no friends. Or, aw, poor guy is lonely. Dude. Stop. Eating alone is magnificent. I feel the same way about traveling alone. I think it’s because I like myself. I’m also reaping the wonderful reward that comes with aging: not giving a **** what people think. 15 years ago, I would probably just go without lunch before sitting in a restaurant alone. Today? I proudly requested my table for one. I enjoyed consuming pho along with the words of Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken.
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I love my friends and family, but sometimes it is a joy to silently take in the noise of restaurant patrons chattering away without the pressure of having to converse.

My next stop was Macy’s. I had a couple of gift cards to spend there and I have been wanting a new, structured tote to replace the slouchy, impractical bag that I have been carrying for far too long. Without paying a cent of my own money, I left Macy’s with a bag that was on sale for $200 less than the original price. I am not a shopper, but this was kind of thrilling.

New Bag - Macy's Ladybug Wallet - Target Yay, gift cards!

New Bag – Macy’s
Ladybug Wallet – Target
Yay, gift cards!

At this point, I’m looking for the piano that is going to fall on my head.

After leaving the mall, I went to Home Goods, knowing that they carry the kid’s gardening tools that I wanted to buy for my daughter’s Easter gift. I used my remaining Christmas money to purchase that gift and a few fun things for myself. As I paid for my things, another customer told the cashier why her credit card didn’t work. He nodded. She walked away. He told me that she yelled at him and my maternal instincts kicked in. I told him that working retail is really hard and people are unreasonable sometimes. I told him that the only thing he could do was just continue to be kind and hope that kindness spreads. I have a day off filled with consumerism and now I think I’m the Dalai Lama.

My last stop before returning to reality? Home. I unwrapped my purchases and got to work. I organized the junk drawer in the kitchen, organized my desk, and then I assembled my daughter’s Easter basket and hid it in my closet. I kind of listened to the Parks and Rec cast on my DVR’d episode of Late Night With Seth Meyers while chopping veggies for dinner. Finally, I went back to my parent’s house to pick up my girl. I spent my day shopping, organizing, and enjoying an unencumbered existence. I could actually hear my inner voice thanking me for nourishing my own needs.

Thanks to the women who encouraged me to enjoy my break today, I now have the following organized spaces to enjoy:

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The junk drawer becomes the organized drawer of miscellaneous things.

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Ticket stubs and guitar picks. Swoon.

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Everything has a home. My wonderful husband is cool with a framed pic of me and my favorite rock star on my desk.

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A home for three of my favorite people. Hubby, Tori Amos, Baby

 

And my Easter shopping is done! Instead of a basket, I purchased a pretty storage basket that we will keep in her playroom for toys. No waste!

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Gardening tools, watering can, The Velveteen Rabbit, and bubbles.

There you have it, time traveling me. Being a mom is hard. Really hard. It’s so hard that finding time to buy bubbles for your two-year old’s Easter basket is actually tricky. Doing ANYTHING alone is huge when you’re parenting a toddler. Now, show me how to visit 1995, please.

This Mom Went To A Rock Show And Went Weeeeeee All The Way Home.

Last night, I hung up my mom hat and let down my rock and roll hair. I went to the 9:30 Club in DC to see the band The Wild Feathers with my friends Sheila and Melissa. Going to this show was in the stars. Melissa casually brought up the show in a FB message last week, saying that she was thinking of going to this show. I asked if tickets were still available. While she found out about the ticket situation, I found a just-in-case babysitter and Sheila confirmed that she was free. Because the music gods are kind and generous, tickets were available, we were all able to go, and the cherry on top? We discovered that the show was super early. Doors were at 5 o’clock! This meant that we would have time to get to the venue, have drinks in the cavernous basement bar of 9:30 and actually hear each other talk, see a fantastic rock show, and best of all… be home and asleep by 11 o’clock. Yes, I am old and the mother of a toddler. Sleep is everything. (I recently said Dave Grohl is everything. I guess sleeping with Dave Grohl would really be everything? I’m certain he would think so, but enormous ego be damned, I still love him.)

So, this band was really great. Melissa, Sheila and I love to share music with each other. The Wild Feathers album magically appeared in my mail box one day after Melissa discovered them. Sheila was lucky enough to see them a few months back, opening for another band that she loves. Their harmonies are just beautiful on the album, and their performance was lively and tight. I’m a little embarrassed by the tweet that I wrote during the show, enchanted by the new song that they played.

My idiotic tweet: Songwriters make my heart hurt, even in the happiest time of my life. Are you ****ing  kidding me with these new lyrics, @TheWildFeathers?

The Wild Feathers retweeted this, but thankfully, they did not ask me which line gutted me so. I don’t remember. It’s not like I was a waste-face, but my alcohol tolerance is not what it used to be. I told my friend on our way home from the show about the exhilaration of being at a concert. I explained that women are constantly thinking of what needs to be done next. Our minds are never still as we worry about all of the things. For me, going to a rock show is bliss. For a couple of hours, I am completely relaxed while exciting and/or beautiful sounds are screaming and/or delicately whispering  in my ears. For a couple of hours, nothing else exists.

Those words escaped my mouth and I felt the icy glare of the judgmental mom who lives inside my brain. Let’s call her Blaire. She’s a real bitch and I try not to believe anything she says. Last night, Blaire was gossiping to other fictional moms about how “Stephanie forgot about her daughter while she was drunk at a rock show on a weeknight!” Listen up, Blaire. First of all, my daughter is two and I don’t have to be at work until noon so weeknights mean nothing. Secondly, this is a batshit and unnecessary argument that I am having with myself. Finally, it is absurd to think that I can’t have a moment of transcendence just because I am a mother now.

Luckily, I came across this blog post by Liz Gragan, written in response to this NY Times article by Heather Havrilesky, both affirming my case against Blaire’s judgment. Havrilesky writes that “The current culture demands that every mother be all in, all the time.” Later she writes, “Somehow, as we’ve learned to treat children as people with desires and rights of their own, we’ve stopped treating ourselves and one another as such.” Gragan’s response is that it doesn’t have to be this way. That it’s perfectly okay to retain your own identity after having children. Actually, I think that Havrilesky is saying the same thing, but she is just noting that it doesn’t seem acceptable to not let motherhood be an all-encompassing role. For me, Blaire’s voice is our culture’s voice screaming that I would have time to be Super Mom if I wasn’t selfishly seeking booze in nightclubs with bands and girlfriends. But… my voice, which is probably more crass than Havrilesky and Gragan’s, but in complete accord with what I think they are saying, says screw that. Like most parents, I want my daughter to grow up to be happy. If I’ve learned anything in my first two years as a parent, it’s that children learn most from modeling our behavior. I want her to be responsible, to do well at work, and be a good mother if she chooses to be one at all. I think I’m doing okay on those counts. Most of all,  I hope that she sees that I strive for balance and harmony, and that I find those things because I recognize that my happiness and well-being are as crucial to nurture as all of the other things on my neverending to-do list.

Here’s a video of Left My Woman by The Wild Feathers. So, the first line is disturbing. Maybe I just don’t get the metaphor? Creepy opening vibe aside, this is the song that was playing when the band let the audience take over the chorus. It is always chilling and awesome to sing in unison with a bunch of other blissful fans.

Bunnies or Goldfish? My Choice is Not a Criticism of Yours!

This is a fantastic post about motherhood! Sometimes I feel that it’s just easier to not say anything at all about my parenting choices because I don’t want to seem judgmental and I don’t want to be judged. We aren’t all going to make the same choices, but I’m sure that we can agree that most of us are just doing the best that we can. PS. I TOTALLY have goldfish *and* bunnies in my cabinet.

Mom Upside Down

best bunnies

Dear Courtney,

Do you ever feel like motherhood is a competitive blood sport?  Do you ever feel like the other moms are constantly watching you from the corner of their eye, checking out your stroller, your diaper bag, your discipline, your kid’s snacks and clothes and toys and, and, and.

I feel it.  All the time.  And I’m totally, 100%, over it.

Until I realize I’m not.  No, in fact, sometimes I’m an active participant, in an almost subconscious way.

Example:  Not long ago I was on a zoo date with another mom and her two munchkins.  At lunch I pulled out juice boxes for my kids; she pulled out water bottles for hers.  Immediately I felt self conscious.  I began to stumble around and explain, “I probably should make mine drink water too.  We don’t do juice often, but we had these left over from that party… actually my kids almost never…

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