Category Archives: As a Woman…

The argument for SAHMs, and against Amy Glass

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This week, the blogging world exploded when Amy Glass blatantly put down stay at home moms (SAHMs) when she wrote a blog titled “I Look Down On Young Women With Husbands And Kids And I’m Not Sorry“.

Here are a few token quotes:

“Do people really think that a stay at home mom is really on equal footing with a woman who works and takes care of herself? There’s no way those two things are the same. It’s hard for me to believe it’s not just verbally placating these people so they don’t get in trouble with the mommy bloggers.”

“You will never have the time, energy, freedom or mobility to be exceptional if you have a husband and kids.”

What can I say about Amy Glass?

Well, first, what can I say about my own experience?

I am one of the lucky moms who have experienced both SAHM-dom and being a working mom. Both have their perks. Both also have their downfalls. As a working mom, I look with envy at SAHMs. I’m envious that they have time to make their kids lunches every day before school, and are home to help them with homework when the kids get home. I’m jealous that they get to join the PTA, or volunteer in the classroom, or have the time to really investigate what’s going on when Johnny’s grades start slipping. Some of the SAHMs I know are the ones whose kids look the most put together, and have socks that actually match, while you can see my kid’s socks peeking through his holey sneakers because I haven’t actually found the time to take him shoe shopping.

I feel like I’d have so much more time as a SAHM. But then I remember what the reality was.

I did the stay-at-home mom thing in the first year of my daughter’s life, and in the first several months of my son’s. We moved to a new city and I had no friends. I spent my whole day being mom, talking to babies, cleaning up messes, keeping the kids entertained…. I was jealous of my husband who got to go out and make a living and talk to other adults while I stayed home in sweats and smelling of spit-up. I had dreams, too. But those got put on the back burner while my husband became the breadwinner, and I kept the home straight. My expertise became vested in keeping the household running and the kids thriving. But my self-worth? It mistakenly plummeted. I felt like I a big fat nobody. I mean, how do you incorporate your homemaker skills onto a resume? How do you keep up with the world when the majority of your news media exists on PBS, Disney, and Nickelodeon? How do you not feel jealous when you see attractive women exiting their cars to walk towards their big office jobs, wearing pencil skirts and carrying briefcases, when I’m juggling a baby on my hip and breakfast remnants in my hair?

It was our meager finances that finally dictated my need for a job. But honestly, I was relieved to get back to the work force and take a break from the littles. My new job became my vacation from my real job. And whenever I get a little jealous over a few of my friends who are lucky to be able to stay home with their kids, I remember how much I suck at keeping a stay-at-home schedule, and how hard it was to get time off from a job that was pretty much around the clock.

Mom kidsAs I reflect on this opinion that Ms. Glass has, I can’t help but feel like she wrote it simply to attract a ton of attention to her blog, and nothing else. I mean, if you look now, there are more than 10,000 comments both applauding her stance and blasting her words. However, I feel sorry for her too, because it’s apparent she feels the need to bring herself attention by slamming a whole group of people for a significant choice in their life – a choice that means the world to their family.

And I can also only guess that she doesn’t have children. If she did, she’d understand the miracle that exists in their very first breath, and the way it feels to see the world through their eyes, and the Jekyll and Hyde emotions of wanting to strangle said kid when they’re being total buttheads while simultaneously willing to give them her very last breath if it meant they could keep on living. She’d understand the sacrifice that goes into being a SAHM, of sometimes feeling like the world is on one realm while she’s stuck in the land of tikes, even while understanding that this is where it is most important for her to be. She’d understand what it’s like to give up a career and a paycheck, throwing herself into her child’s future instead. She’d understand that fine balance of devoting time to the family while keeping her self-worth, and the daily struggle of not putting her whole entire identity into being the mom of her child.

I guess I can’t be mad at her, either, though I do feel a little judgey about her writing such an obvious ploy piece to gather hits for her blog. I can’t fault her. I clicked. I read. I’m responding.

Truthfully, no person – mom, or not – should be looked down upon for their life choice if that is what their calling is meant to be. If you are meant to backpack Asia, awesome! If you’re meant to work full time while also raising a family, good job! And if you devote your time to your kids as a stay at home mom, fantastic!

We all would do better to pull each other up instead of putting each other down.

Note: I became aware of this post by Amy Glass when my cousin posted her own rebuttal. She is much more eloquent than I am, and definitely more forgiving. Read what she has to say HERE.

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The one where I’m unable to accept HELP.

My husband and I take part in a cooking team that makes meals for the Sunday service at our church. We only do it once a month, and it’s admittedly a lot of fun. But it’s also 4+ hours of hard work prepping, cooking, cleaning, setting up, serving, tearing down, cleaning more… You get the picture.

Our team consists of four members with random help on the side. But mostly, our group of four is responsible for seeing things through. We each took on a job to get the meal – nachos – done. I decided to take on the cheese sauce. And since I would be at the stove anyway, I’d take on browning the turkey too.

More than once, I was asked if I needed help. And every time I insisted I was fine. I was determined to get it done, to prove I could do it all.

I set about the kitchen, running back and forth to get the meat into the pan while the butter melted for the cheese sauce. I got the rue going, and then began adding milk. Then I rushed back to the meat to make sure it wasn’t burning. I finished adding the milk to the rue and stirred it.

And then I smelled it. Burnt.

Thing is, if I had asked for help, none of that would have happened. I had to bite back my pride and admit that the sauce was ruined. There was no more butter, so one of the guys had to go to the store to get some more. And when he came back, I asked him if he could be in charge of the sauce while I focused on the meat.

The story would be fine ending there. But it doesn’t.

After handing off the cheese sauce, my only job was to stir the two pans of meat in front of me. I could handle this, I got this. My pride was terribly wounded from the cheese sauce fiasco, but I was determined to get the meat cooking right. So when one of the girls came up to see if I could use some help, I told her NO. She started stirring one of the pans anyway.

“But this is my job,” I protested, as if I were a 5 year old guarding my mountain of blocks.

“But my job is done,” she cheerfully replied. So we stood together, all three of us surrounding this stove to finish cooking everything up.  At first I was terribly bothered. It was too crowded. And she was probably stepping in so I couldn’t screw this up too. I felt tied up in knots inside. But then, I decided to let it go. I took a deep breath and let it out. And then we all chatted the rest of the time. It was actually fun.

The meal was done, and we set it out to serve it. I stayed with the turkey while my husband poured the cheese sauce. The other guy offered to take over for me so I could eat, but I told him I was fine. When the line dispersed, I got my own plate. Then I served the stragglers in between bites.

Once everyone had eaten, it was time to start bagging things up. We all started putting things away. The cheese sauce had a ton leftover, so I started pouring it in bags so people could take some home. It was a messy job, and by the fifth bag I was beginning to wonder if it would ever be over.

“Here, I’ll hold this for you,” the girl said to me.

“I got it,” I said.

This time she didn’t fight me. And I saw myself in her eyes as she gave up and walked away.

grumpy girlI was selfish. I was unfriendly. I was a snob. I couldn’t find it in me to step down off my pedestal and accept that I NEEDED HELP.

What is wrong with me? I hate that I do this! The truth is, I can always use some help! I can’t do it on my own! And there’s nothing wrong with working together to get things done.

It might just be my single-mother syndrome. I spent all those years actually doing things on my own, and taking pride in that. Before that, I hadn’t been able to do anything on my own at all. I depended on everyone. But when I got on my feet and was able to provide for my kids without a husband, without my parents, without state money…it just felt good.

But now? Now I’ve got this chip in my shoulder that has me believing that accepting help is a sign of weakness, when it’s totally the opposite of that. There are strength in numbers. And we are here on this planet to build each other up.

I didn’t like that person I was on Sunday. I’m embarrassed at the way I acted. But maybe it needed to happen to drive the lesson home that it’s okay to receive help. We can all use help. It gets things done faster, and it builds connections.

I think this is going to be a hard lesson to forget.

Want more? Download “Golf Balls, Eight Year Olds & Dual Paned Windows” – our Wine Country Mom stories about our former single-parent family life.

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What I bring to the table.

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“Your writing is so amazing,” Shawn told me, coming downstairs after spending an hour with the rough draft of my novel he’s been proofreading for the past several days. “I can see that you’ve taken some of the suggestions I’ve given you and grown as a writer.”

He meant it as a compliment. And I swear I heard it in there. But what I also heard was, “I’m glad I happened to come along and save you from a doomed life of writing badly. How would you have every survived if I weren’t here to hold you up?”

“I haven’t even read the revisions from the last novel,” I told him. Well, that was only partially true. Admittedly, this was at the same time I was revising a novel I wrote last year, reading over the notes he had made in the margin on parts that needed a little more help. While I hadn’t taken the time to pore over the suggestions he had left me, I had skimmed through it and appreciated the honest remarks he had left, both exclaiming over the parts he loved and suggesting places that needed a little more fleshing out. And now as I went through the physical act of revising, his notes gave me clear-cut clues on what a reader would be wondering as well.

But still, my pride wouldn’t let him take credit for all I had pored into it.

“What do you mean?” he asked. I could already feel the half-eaten foot in my mouth swelling to try and prevent me from speaking. But I only pushed it aside and continued.

“I mean, I’ve grown as a writer because of continued practice, not because you’ve taught me how to do it,” I said, trying to sound light but feeling backed into a corner.

“I’m not trying to take credit for your writing,” he told me. The smile on his face had long since disappeared, leaving behind a look of bewilderment at a reaction he hadn’t been expecting.

“I know, I’m sorry. It’s just, what if I were to say ‘Great job on selling search engine optimization at your new job. Thank goodness you have me to teach you all about the internet so you can do your job properly’.”

“I’m not saying that, though,” he stammered. “I’m trying to pay you a compliment! Maybe I should just stop reading your novel.”

“If you don’t want to read it, then don’t!” I yelled at him.

And just like that, things went from dumb to completely idiotic.

I didn’t know why I was reacting so strongly. Of course he wasn’t taking credit for my writing. I knew that deep down. But for some reason his statement was pecking at me, taking away from my accomplishment even when that wasn’t Shawn’s intention at all.

When we had cooled down some, we gave each other a wounded offering of apology. I’m not sure either of us meant it completely, both still smarting from the earlier argument. But it was the only way to move past the surface and dig deep into what was really going on.

“What is going on?” he asked me.

“I don’t know,” I told him.  But it was starting to come to me, a series of past hurdles I’d overcome that decided I wasn’t done running from them yet.

“I once dated a man who told me to my face that he had saved me from being a white trash nobody, how he had single-handedly raised my standard of living just by his presence alone,” I admitted to him, detailing how even then that statement hadn’t sat well with me, yet my meek little self had accepted it in the moment. I described how my ex-husband had also placed himself in this pedestal position – or rather, I had placed him there on my own. I had spent so many years building him up and letting him shine that I had forgotten to work on my own being. And somehow I was able to explain something I hadn’t even realized was haunting me, how important it was for me now to stand on my own two feet in recognition of my accomplishments.

“You’re organized and responsible,” I told him. It was in reference to a statement he had made earlier last week, stating that he must be rubbing off on me as I encouraged the kids to clean up their mess. “But I have some of those traits as well, and I had them before I even met you.” I was firm in my insistence of this, but we both could hear the question that lingered within it.

“Are you unsure of what you bring to the table in this marriage, how you help ME to be a better person?” he asked me. I paused, suddenly realizing I didn’t know the answer to this question, at least not in this moment. I had spent so much energy fighting against another pedestal that  I couldn’t think of any of the strengths I possessed that helped bring Shawn up.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I guess I help you with patience, and how to parent a teenage daughter.” The answer was weak, I knew it.

Unfortunately time was not on our side. We were minutes away from needing to get in the car and drive to my parents’ house for dinner. We made peace with the conclusion of our discussion, deciding that even if the conversation wasn’t finished, we could still end it with a hug and a mutual unspoken agreement that it was over.

We spent a really good evening at my parents’ house, visiting with my family over dinner and dessert before saying goodbye and driving back home. On the way, Frizz turned on the radio and let it scan through the stations. Every time it landed on a song we knew, the kids and I would break into song and fill the car with mostly on-key versions, belting out the words we knew and stumbling over the ones we didn’t. Even Frizz joined in, the act of singing in the privacy of our car still cool in his 17-year-old mind.

Once home, I began to decorate the Christmas tree, a task we had been putting off for days. Little by little, everyone joined in, placing their favorite ornament on the tree as we remembered where each one came from. It was done in no time, slightly lopsided in the areas that were decorated more than others, but beautiful just the same.

DQ and I then set to filling out December’s activities on the dry erase calendar that hung on the wall. We took turns giggling as we noted the End of the World with a zombie apocalypse on December 21st, adorning it with pictures of hungry zombies that invaded the day’s space. We continued our giggles as I noted the San Francisco trip we were taking the very next day when we ultimately survived the day of doom. I finished up the calendar with various doodles depicting a month of activities in a colorful display.

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Shawn leaned over me in my dedication to the calendar, kissing me lightly on the neck. “Do you know what you bring to this marriage, and to the family?” he asked me. “Fun.  You help me to be more fun, and you make things more fun in this family.  I never would do stuff like this.  But you do, and we all appreciate it.

The whole family was in the living room, enjoying a few last moments of silliness before bedtime.  The evening had been spent with mostly smiles.   The calendar had become a monthly point of anticipation as everyone wondered how I would decorate it at the turn of the month.

And I believed in what Shawn said.

I know I have improved in every facet of my life by the steps I have taken to get to where I am today. This is true in the quality of my life, just as it is true in the skills I possess in my writing. But these accomplishments didn’t just manifest entirely of their own accord. They were inspired partially by those that influenced me along the way. Each novel I have written in the past few years has proven to be better than the last, proof that practice makes perfect. But admittedly, this last novel improved leaps and bounds as I (ok, I admit it) took the suggestions Shawn had made and kept them in mind as I extended my description and prose. It’s ok to be inspired by others. In fact, it would be a lie to believe otherwise.

And it doesn’t make my accomplishments any less great than they are. 🙂

7 tips for busy moms

This article publishes in the Press Democrat on July 13.

One of the favorite phrases of kids is, “I’m bored.” You know, as in they have nothing to do, would like to be entertained, have finished all the play they had on their list of things to do and literally don’t know what to do with themselves.

I do not understand the concept of boredom.

Seems like once you have children, being bored becomes a luxury. If I’m not carpooling kids, making something to eat for a hungry child, signing paperwork for school/camp/sports, attending a dance recital or soccer tournament, cleaning up in front of the adolescent tornado following me around, or entertaining said-bored children, I’m mulling over all these things on a constant rotation in my head. And if I ever get on the verge of this so-called “bored” feeling, it’s usually overcome by guilt over all the things I think I should be doing.

Moms are busy creatures. There isn’t much time outside day-to-day family life that allows for us to have down time or an opportunity to reconnect with friends. However, time away from the “have-to-do” stuff is just as vital as checking off every item from that to-do list.

Here are a few tricks I’ve learned along the way in balancing the seesaw between my personal self and my job as mom:

1. Have a list, but keep it short. I know you have a lot you need to do, but weigh out those things that need to be done now, and those that can be done later. When you are making out the list of tasks you hope to accomplish that day, ensure that it allows for a finishing point rather than a competition in getting the most things done in a short amount of time.

And on that note …

2. Don’t procrastinate. This is why a short list is important. Turn off the TV and avoid anything that might be distracting (besides the kids). Then, get the big things out of the way first before focusing on the easier tasks. The longer you avoid your must-dos, the longer they take up residence in your head. And seriously, there’s got to be better things to think about than your to-do list, right?

3. Keep things clean. Have a set day each week for deep cleaning, and a set time each day for a quick tidy up. Get the other family members in the habit of picking up after themselves. Make sure the dishes are washed after every meal, and clean as you go while cooking dinner. It might take some effort at first, but after a bit of repetition, it will become second nature. If your house stays fairly neat on a regular basis, you won’t be stuck constantly cleaning it — or embarrassed when people drop by unexpectedly.

4. Learn how to say no. I know, the world needs your help. The classroom might fall apart if you don’t volunteer as snack mom. The soccer team will cease to exist if you aren’t the one making the banner. And how will all the neighborhood kids get to school if you’re not the one driving them? Trust me, everything will go smoothly even if you’re not the one getting it done. Take back some of your free time by practicing an assertive NO now and again, from signing your daughter up for another dance class to being the family taking care of Sniffles the Hamster for the summertime.

5. Rediscover your ME time. Let Dad take over the kids while you rediscover your love of painting. Grab a book and head to a secluded grassy knoll. Take yourself out to coffee. Do what you love all by yourself without kids hanging off your legs. But careful, this newfound freedom is intoxicating!

6. For all you married gals, date your husband. You know, that guy who lives with you? The one who signed up for this crazy mess with you and is still around? Leave the kids with Grandma (or set up an after-bedtime candlelit dinner) and remind yourself exactly why you keep making kids with this sexy guy you’ve married.

7. Find your friends. Before you had kids, you were going out all the time. So what happened? Well, you had to trade in your beer goggles for diaper genies, that’s what. But even after kids it’s important to have interests outside of Elmo and sippy cups. If going out is difficult, invite your friend to hang with you at the park, or to just enjoy a cup of coffee at your kitchen table. Catch up over a morning walk around the neighborhood. When you start raising a family, it’s especially vital to have friends around to support and love you.

Seven ways to escape the SAHM rut


When you’re a stay-at-home mom, there’s a tendency to feel like every day is the same. Unlike 9-5ers, your job is never quite finished. You don’t get to leave at the end of the day. And let’s face it – some days are just BORING. To beat the rut, here are SEVEN tips to change things up and add a bit more excitement to your week.

1. Schedule in your fun
If you save all your fun for the weekend, there really isn’t much to look forward to during the week. Instead, schedule something you’d normally reserve for Saturday and Sunday for a mid-week day. Attend Museum Mondays for little ones at the Charles Schulz museum. Pack a picnic and visit Spring Lake. Grab your coats and head out to the coast. You can even plan a late night watching movies or playing board games with the kids. It will give everyone something to look forward to during the week instead of waiting till the weekend to have fun.

2. Leave the house
When the kids are small, it can sometimes feel overwhelming to take them out of the house. Trust me, it’s vital for your sanity! Whether your little one is only a few weeks old or in his final months before kindergarten, leaving the house is an absolute must. Put the baby in the stroller and take a walk around the block. Bundle up your toddler and race to the park. Schedule a play date with a friend or join a gym with free daycare. Just do something so that you’re not imprisoned within the same four walls 24/7.

3. Split the chores
We all have chores we don’t love. At the same time, we have partners and/or kids who don’t seem to mind the tasks we hate. For me, I’m not especially keen on putting dishes away. But washing them? I’ll gladly do it. For Mr. W, he hates folding laundry but has no problem putting them in the washer and putting them away once I’m done folding them. Together we divide and conquer the things that must be done to keep the house running smoothly. If you’re overwhelmed by a certain task, consider asking your spouse to take it over.

4. Limit unnecessary timesucks
That iPhone that’s constantly under your thumbs? The computer with Facebook as its home page? The TV with shows incessantly screaming at you? It’s all distracting you from what you’re really supposed to be doing. And because of that, it’s adding stress, restlessness, boredom, and guilt to your already hectic schedule. But you don’t need to give it up completely. Instead of spending unlimited amounts of time on the computer or playing on your phone, consider scheduling your tech time. Tell yourself you can use your favored device for 15 minutes after you finish folding all the laundry. Or schedule a limited amount of time once the kids go down for a nap.

5. Don’t procrastinate
If you’re waking up each morning already dreading the day, I’m willing to bet there are some pretty big tasks on your plate you’re just not looking forward to. My advice? Get it all done right away. By procrastinating, you’re allowing that heavy burden to take up space in your mind much longer than it needs to. By tackling it first thing in the morning you leave the rest of the day free for something more fun. On that note, don’t make it impossible to get it all done. Schedule just enough so that you can cross that final errand off the list and be done for the day.

6. Find a hobby
Show of hands – who here introduces themselves as their child’s mom? “Hi, I’m Taz’ mom.” That’s what I thought. You might be getting burnt out because you’ve placed your whole identity into being your child’s mother, and have lost yourself in the interim. Break free from the one-title introduction and rediscover something you love. Take an art class. Break out that SLR camera and click away. Resurrect your inner novelist. Enjoy something you used to love pre-kids, and schedule the time to do it.

7. Take a break
9-5ers are entitled to vacation days, a lunch break, even 20 minutes to twiddle their thumbs before getting back to their job. You deserve a break too. In fact, it’s required if you want to be the best mom you can be. Swap childcare with another SAHM to have a day of alone time, catch a movie, or treat yourself to a massage. Allow the grandparents an overnight to spoil their grandkids while you and the hubby enjoy a mini staycation honeymoon. Just make sure that your free time does NOT include chores, errands, or any other “have-to-dos”.

What do you do to escape the SAHM rut?

When the sad becomes too big


I met my friend “Lisa” about 6 years ago when she was a new mother, and a single one at that. My sister introduced us, seeing how her friend felt incredibly alone in the process and needed someone who could relate. I was a little more seasoned in the single mom arena, and we hit it off immediately. It’s not often I find friendships like this, where we go from being perfect strangers to friends who confide in each other about everything. But when I do, those are the friendships that generally hold the most meaning.

My friendship with Lisa was just like that.

Over the years we became allies. At the time, neither one of us had the other parent helping out with our kids. But we did have each other. We created a babysitting swap between the two of us, watching each other’s children to create moments of sanity and reprieve from motherhood, and a chance to maybe find love in the dating world.

Being writers, we’d share our daily life stories through long-winded emails that only the two of us could appreciate. We both blogged, and were consistent in commenting in each other’s blogs. She might have been my only reader, but her hilarious blogs garnered tons of comments from all her friends and fans appreciating the laugh.

Lisa was the kind of person who said what she was thinking, even when it’s not something that should be said out loud. She pushed the envelope when she felt like it needed pushing. She never failed to shock me, or to leave me in awe of her bravery at being unapologetically herself.

I was there when she struggled in a one-bedroom apartment with a toddler. She was there for every dating disaster I subjected myself to. We overlooked each other’s messy homes and low-income living. I celebrated with her when she found Mr. Right, got engaged, and held a beautiful wedding. She was there when I found my prince among a trove of frogs and settled into a relationship that finally made sense.

And when a series of circumstances attacked her out of left field, I watched helplessly as depression overtook my beautiful friend, leaving her a shell of the women she once was.

I’ve suffered my own bout with depression. A decade ago I lived in a large house that didn’t seem to garner any light at all. We had just lost a baby to stillbirth. My marriage was failing. And our money situation was incredibly bleak. I lived in the darkness, every day excruciatingly the same. I stopped talking to my friends or leaving the house. In return, most of my friends forgot about me. I was afraid of the dark feelings inside me, as if they were an infectious disease. Caring for my kids became exhausting. Just getting up and walking in the other room to make them something to eat made me feel so tired. So I spent most of the day lying on the couch with the curtains drawn, and I silently hoped to fall asleep and just never wake up.

When someone is going through depression, they are the last ones to admit it – at least out loud. I knew I was depressed, but I was afraid to tell anyone. Of course, it’s not like depression is easily hidden. My mom, seeing that I wasn’t capable of helping myself, pulled me aside and insisted I needed serious help. I finally made an appointment with my doctor, a wonderful woman who recognized the devastation growing like cancer inside me. And as I sat and cried on her exam table, she gently handed me a prescription for medication.

However, even after suffering and surviving depression, I feel totally incapable watching Lisa suffer through her own battle with this debilitating disease. It’s hard to know what to do as my friend falls deeper and deeper into her grief, going from a normal sadness to something that is much bigger than she is. I miss my friend, and it’s been a struggle to sidestep my personal feelings of abandonment while my friend withdraws.

After several failed attempts to contact her, I finally made a decision to consciously step back from our friendship. I didn’t know how to be there for her, and was starting to feel like she didn’t want me there anyway. And this devastated me. But our lapse in friendship only lasted a short time. Her name showed up on my phone a few days later, and I listened to her sob for a full 40 minutes – giving her no advice except to tell her “I know”, and “I’m so sorry you’re going through this”.

And then I just listened.

When I lost my baby 10 years ago, I sat in the hospital room feeling more alone than ever. My husband was gone with the kids. The nurse had left the room. But another friend of mine showed up.

“I don’t know what to say,” she told me. “I have no advice at all. But I’m just going to sit here. And I’ll be here if you need me, even if you just need to cry.” And she sat there for over an hour while I slipped in and out of sleep and tried to escape my grief. And her presence meant more to me than almost anything anyone has ever done for me.

Being a friend doesn’t require knowing all the answers, or trying to fix what’s broken. That can be the hardest thing to remember, or even to accept. But sometimes, being a friend requires nothing more than just being there – and listening.

My Flabby Friends

Mr. W and I decided to tackle our first building project together. We had been at Cost Plus World Market, my favorite candy store for home décor I covet, when we came across a shelving system that doubled as a full length mirror. It was gorgeous, made of dark wood, and swiveled so you could use the shelves on one side to store all your miscellaneous crap and then turn it around to hide it all while you checked out your appearance on the mirror side. For a clutter monger like me, this was a brilliant way to make my mess look chic. So we bought it and brought it home, and successfully tackled the project together without even bickering once (mostly).

I already have a full-length mirror in our bedroom. I bought it years ago for my own apartment, hanging it on my bedroom door. I used it all the time to check every side of my outfit. But since it’s a hanging mirror, it nearly fell down every single time I closed the door. So when I moved in with Mr. W I decided to just lean it against the wall rather than hang it for my daily outfit checks. And since it leaned at an upward angle, it had the magical feature of being incredibly slimming. Naturally, this became my very favorite mirror to check my outfit in. I lost about 10 pounds every single time I did the obligatory butt-check in front of it. But when we bought our new swivel mirror, I passed my cheap version of a full-length mirror on to my daughter and anxiously anticipated the completion of our beautiful dark wood mirror.

When our building project was done, we placed the mirror in the corner of the room right near the sink where we had 3 other mirrors on the wall. This was so I could see every single side of me at once while getting ready – a 4-way mirror if you will. And then we swiveled it towards the room and stood in front of it, Mr. W behind me. Except I couldn’t even see Mr. W. He was hidden behind my hips and thighs that seemed to have gained quite a bit of girth since switching mirrors.

Oh my jeez, where did those come from???

Over the weekend I had felt like the belle of the ball. On Saturday I had attended a 1950’s themed Anniversary Party wearing a dress my grandmother had made and worn in the 50’s. It was cinched at the waist and flared out like a bell at the hips. On Sunday was my sister’s bridal shower and I wore another slimming dress that was white with flowers, loosening at the exact place my pooch began to disguise my figure into something way thinner than reality. But in those two dresses, I felt like I was my teenage self again, pretending my butt was dainty and my body lithe. But here in front of the mirror wearing old sweat pants, a shapeless shirt, and nothing to hold up the droopiness of my mom bags, I was suddenly a very distinct pear. It was like I was seeing my body for the first time ever. And it was worse having my boyfriend totally lost behind the fullness of my hips.

Wanda Sykes went on tour sometime after she and her partner adopted a set of adorable twin babies (The “I’mma Be Me” tour). Becoming a parent, Wanda’s material has become that much funnier as she described the antics of her baby boy and girl, and the words we parents would love to say to our own children before they’re old enough to know what “Go the EFF to Sleep” means (sidenote: Have you seen this book?  Totally brilliant. I think I might buy it for my teenage daughter who has forgotten sleep happens at night, even in the summertime). But I nearly died when she started describing her stomach pooch – giving it the identity of “Esther”. Esther loved bread and alcohol, The Cheesecake Factory, and hated Spanx.

Here’s a clip (caution: a tidbit of bad language):

And in her book Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott described “Butt Mind”,  when she goes on vacation and then obsesses about everyone’s butt in relation to hers. On good vacations she’d see a wide variety of butts where hers fit in somewhere in the middle. But on tropical vacations, there were generally a lot of younger and smaller butts, making her butt feel especially wide. And then there were her dimply, jiggly thighs. Thing is, Anne had grown accustomed to the ol’ gals, tenderly referring to them as “The Aunties”, regarding them like faithful friends. She squeezed the Aunties into her favorite swimsuit and made her way down to the beach without even a cover-up. And she felt beautiful and womanly…until she happened upon a group of slender teenage girls. Worse, they looked at her. Worse than that, they turned to each other and gave a look – the same amused look Anne confessed to giving her own friends once upon a time when they’d happen upon a middle-aged flabby woman in her swimsuit.

But then Anne saw something else – a secret. These young girls in their perfect bodies and sunkissed skin, with butts that were tiny and no thighs to speak of whatsoever – they didn’t view themselves as perfect. And in the look they gave each other as they regarded Anne and the Aunties, there was also an unsurety about their own appearance and what they felt they were lacking.

And Anne was suddenly ok in her body once again, and apologized over and over to the poor Aunties – the very same Aunties who had been regarded as beautiful before the teenagers appeared on the beach.

This morning I stood in front of my 4-way mirror as I got ready. While I put on my make-up, I watched how I looked from the side. When I brushed my teeth, I regarded how parts of me moved even after the toothbrush was placed back in its holder. When I secured my hair in a ponytail, I studied the shape of my arms against my sleeves. And while part of me made promises to firm up the parts of my body that were no longer firm, the other part of me remembered the acceptance I had gained over the years for my body. In my youth I had picked apart every single aspect of a figure that needed no changing. My skin was too pale. Fat existed in invisible pockets. My nose was too big. I had too many freckles. What I hadn’t realized was that I would wish for that body more than anything in my later years. What I gained now, however, was the comfort that still existed in my image even when I sometimes wished it were more perfect. I didn’t mind that my skin wasn’t tan. In fact, it was better that way to help prevent lines in my face, or even the somehow more real danger of skin cancer. My nose no longer feels too long. My face may have grown into it, but it’s more likely that I just got used to it. And the freckles I once hated are now one of my most favorite features of my face.

We all have insecurities. It doesn’t matter if you’re a size 2 or size 22, there are parts of ourselves we wish were different. And at the same time, there are parts of our bodies and features that are stunning. An even bigger truth – all of our parts together equal something totally unique and exotic – different from everyone else in this whole entire world. When we compare our bodies with those of other who are younger, fitter, lighter than we are, we are betraying ourselves. We are putting ourselves up against something we will never live up to. I will never be Heidi Klum, no matter how much I exercise or diet. I won’t even be my gorgeous sister or my fit and toned friend. They are not me. And I am not them. All I can be is me. And I am beautiful, as are YOU.

We owe it to ourselves to celebrate in that.

As for the thighs, butt, and mom pooch? I’m not going to lie, I’m still working on that. It’s not an overnight process. But I think I’ve found the answer. I just need to name them something cute and think of them like friends – dimply, flabby friends – but friends nonetheless.

Working vs. stay-at-home mom

If you read my blog post yesterday, you read about how I have a hard time letting go of the reins when I can’t be in two places at once and need help from someone else. If you read further than the words on the page, you may have gathered that sometimes I struggle with being a working woman and a mom to my kids all at the same time. This is magnified in the summertime when I am in an office and my kids are stuck at home to entertain themselves. I can’t even begin to tell you how guilty I feel that I’m not there to take them to the beach, or let them have friends over, keep them off the video games or away from the TV, or even just be there to supervise so they can leave the house to play.

But the truth is, I like working. When I take time off work for a simple stay-cation, I am bored out of my mind. And more often than not, I go back to work feeling like I accomplished nothing – as if there wasn’t enough time to relax, create family time, or do all those things I fantasize about doing whenever the weekend seems just too far away. Knowing that I am a poor manager of my time, I am well aware that being a stay-at-home mom would not be a good choice for me. A job gives me a reason to get up earlier than I would on my own, and forces me to do all the things I’d procrastinate on if I didn’t have something eating up 8 hours out of my day. I make it a point to spend time talking with the kids instead of taking them for granted. I have no problem getting my household responsibilities done since I only have a limited time to do them in. Plus, the whole money thing works out pretty well.

However, that choice is not without its consequences. There are parts of my mothering that have suffered because I am not home all the time. By the time I come home from work around 6pm, make dinner, and then clean up the kitchen, it nears bedtime and all we have time for is a quick homework check (“Did you do it?” “Yup.”). However, sometimes the report card tells a story all on its own, and any grades that were less than exemplary were symbolically tacked on my back as well.

A friend of mine is battling the opposite problem. At home, her husband has taken it upon himself to let her know she’s “just a stay-at-home mom”. He goes to work every single day and makes the money to cover their house payment, the bills, the food, and everything else it takes to run a family. She stays home with their boys, keeps the house in order, makes the meals, does the grocery shopping, entertains the kids, handles their doctor and dentist appointments, manages the bills, carts the kids to and from school, makes the meals….all without any pay. She’s stayed home with the boys for many years, making it a bleak reality that a job would be really hard to come by among other applicants who’ve had a career while she chose to stay home. Therefore, she must rely on her husband’s paycheck. And this makes her “just a stay-at-home mom”. And yet, her kids are happy and healthy, and are secure with their mother at their side to teach them the ins and outs of life before they become more independent.

Lisa Belkin, the parenting blogger for the NY Times, is starting a new book club. The book she is kicking off with is called “Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood”. It’s a collection of stories from moms from all different sides of motherhood, gathered by Samantha Parent Walravens. I’m not necessarily promoting the book, as I’ve never read it. But I found the concept intriguing enough to want to read it, as it covers the feelings moms go through when they make the choice to work outside of the home or stay home with the kids, and the sacrifices they go through when that choice is made. 

And it also makes me wonder about all of you who have made this choice, and who grapple with it from time to time.

Did you give up your career to stay home with the kids? Or do you work out of the house while the kids stay home of go to daycare? Have you ever been judged or ridiculed by others for your working or stay-at-home role? Do you ever feel guilt or negative feelings – from twinges to full-blown resentment – about the choice you made? Or are you totally confident in your choice and have never looked back since?  Share your thoughts in the comments. As always, anonymous comments are welcome.

Motherhood Busyness

Ever forget how to just...relax?

At the end of my work day yesterday, I picked my kids up from their grandmother’s house where they stay after school. I dropped my son off at baseball practice, and my daughter off at the bookstore to kill some time while he practiced. While she read, I took a half hour out for a run, something I’ve recently taken up in my efforts to be more fit. I then picked my daughter back up, then my son, then off to home where I folded laundry in between coordinating my son setting the table while Mr. W made dinner. Afterwards, dishes were washed, more laundry was gathered, and finally a sit on the couch where I checked my email and Facebook while Dancing with the Stars was on (seriously, does anyone watch this anymore? It seems like no one can dance, and it was only worsened by the cheesy America theme). Then it was off to put the kids to bed where I discovered that my son’s room had exploded on itself, and his bed was rat’s nest. I taught him for the 300th time how to properly make a bed so that it was more comfy to sleep in and then kissed the kids goodnight. And without starting any new projects or sitting for a time or doing anything that didn’t require thinking, I went to bed so that I could do it all again the next day.

Kate Winslet was recently quoted in the UK’s Hello Magazine as saying “Any mother knows the last person you think about is yourself. I’ve been a mother for 10 years and I’m still trying to figure out how to give time to myself without feeling guilty about it. Sometimes I’ll sit down and I’ll go, ‘Oh it’s just nice to sit down,’ because truly, I’ve forgotten how to do that.”

I wouldn’t say that I don’t know how to sit, or even that I’m overburdened with all this busyness. I’m known for packing my day full of activities to take me from one moment to the next. And there are definitely times when I feel stressed out from too many obligations being scheduled too tightly together. But generally, it’s just the way I roll. Going from work, to baseball, to exercising, to shopping, to dinner, to laundry, to dishes, to clean up, to school projects, to….. And much of this busyness is on purpose.  It’s like I’m afraid to have a day when nothing is scheduled, when I might actually let the dishes sit for a time, or the laundry to remain unclean, or to not have to leave the house or do kids’ projects or check my phone or all the other things put in place to keep me from relaxing for a bit. And when I do, my mind races to all the things that still need to be done, or that I should be doing. Or worse, I’m just plain bored. And I’ve realized that it’s true – I’ve forgotten the fine art of sitting down. And not sitting down and then opening my laptop, or checking my phone, or flipping channels on the TV. But sitting down in a quiet room with no obligation but to do NOTHING. And it makes me wonder, how scary will life be when the kids are gone and the house stays clean, and there’s more than enough time to just sit and be still?

What does your day look like? Are your days filled with activities and obligations? Have you forgotten how to just sit and be still? Do you feel guilty when you do take time out for yourself?