Recently, I attended a work training about how to be a mandatory reporter of child/elder abuse. I’m a registered nurse and an employee of the county health department, so I must report any instance of child or elder abuse that I see or have reasonable suspicion of. It’s a duty I don’t take lightly and one I hope I never have to perform.
There’s another reason I don’t spank my children. It’s because one of my character defects is being reactive. I’m afraid that if I let myself spank them, I’d take it too far in anger. Possibly cross the line into child abuse. And THAT terrifies me beyond measure.
My children inspire the most intense emotions in me. It’s like everything is amplified – love, fear, joy, and yes – anger. Nobody can make me see red faster than my sweet darlings. I’d wager most mothers would say something similar!
I think the similarities end in the reaction. Sometimes when my children upset me, my first instinct is to hurt them back. That’s my anger problem jumping in. It’s such a primal, toddler-like response: You hurt me, so I should hurt you back.
Except the problem (one of many) with that way of thinking is their perception. My boys wouldn’t be able to make the connection of, “Oh, I did that thing that made mommy mad, so she spanked me and I shouldn’t do it again.” They’d think, “Mommy just hit me and it really hurt.” They wouldn’t learn any lesson or change the behavior; all they’d know is mama got mad and hit.
It’s taken me awhile to recognize why I wanted to “hurt” my children in retaliation. First I had to get past the insane amount of guilt and shame (WTF is wrong with me for even thinking about hurting him???). And truthfully, I’m not completely past that. Especially because there have been times when I haven’t hurt my children, but I know I haven’t been as gentle as I should – grabbed an arm, picked them up roughly, etc. I still beat myself up about those times (which still happen – I’m definitely not perfect).
I’ve done enough work on myself that I can now notice the urge as it’s happening. Like today in Target, when Jack was throwing a fit and elbowed me in the throat four times (I now understand why people talk about throat-punching people/things they don’t like. That shit hurts). With every blow to the throat, I thought my heart was going to explode in anger. I could feel the urge to give an “eye for an eye” rising. I had to say the words, “Stop. Breathe.” in my head. I had to walk around, wailing toddler in my arms. I had to speak to him in a flat, calm voice (I’ve read that is a technique for helping children calm down, but forcing myself to speak in measured tones helps me calm down too). I told him he needed to calm down – the message was for me, too. And then when he smacked me again, I had to give him to his father and spend a few minutes alone. I was too far gone in the stress response (plus I legit felt like I was going to throw up because of the throat punches).
My “techniques” aren’t anything special. But, I’m proud of them. I’m proud of how far I’ve come. I used to either lash out in anger or hold it in, stewing about it until I eventually exploded. Sometimes I still hold things in for a little bit, but I’m pretty good about talking about them before it blows up into a bigger issue. I’m very much a work in progress.
Mamas, what do you do when your babes test your patience?
Texas summer can suck it. Thanks to temperatures like these:
I now have a serious problem with underboob sweat. Like, serious swampiness under the girls. No chafe yet, thank Jeebus, but with how frickin damp it gets under there it can’t be too far behind.
Having experienced underboob chafe after my first marathon (it STIIIIIINGS), I’m game for avoiding it. So like I do with almost any problem I have, I turned to Amazon. If you can’t find it on Amazon, you didn’t really need it in the first place. Amazon, of course, did not let me down in the boob sweat product department.
Naturally, there was the usual paraphernalia one might expect when typing boob into a search box: bras, boob shapers, bra inserts, chicken cutlet-looking things, clothing with frat boy type boob humor (like Hello Titty), etc. But then, there were a few items that made me go
So if you’ve ever wondered what types of products you’d be offered if you typed ‘boob sweat’ into Amazon, you’re in luck! Here’s a random sampling of the 150 that were returned on my search:
This man-girdle. I can’t decide if it’s PhotoShopped or if the dude is really being compressed that much. Either way – not helpful in my de-boob-sweating campaign.
Ok, um, WHAT? It’s like, yeah, ha ha, the Christmas puddings look like boobs and OMG they are place where boobs usually are. Super LOL. But WHY does it have to come in kid sizes???
I think someone was just trying to make a quick buck. Or just wasn’t paying attention when uploading pictures. Either way, it didn’t impress those 4 customers.
There were several different types of liners or inserts one could shove in their bra to combat mucky mammaries, but I liked this one because it was called the Boob Schmoozie. It kind of looks like a twiddly mustache for your boobs.
Boob cream that turns into a powder. And apparently, if a woman has sweaty boob problems, she helpfully thinks of her man and gets him the matching sweaty balls lotion. The couple who de-funks together, stays together.
What’s not to love about a product with ‘anti-monkey butt’ in the name? Half the reason I chose Boudreaux’s Butt Paste for my kiddos was because of the name. I’ve known for awhile that my sense of humor slides heavily into junior high boy territory, and I’m ok with that. What pissed me off about this product was the description:
Specially blended for women, Lady Anti Monkey Butt Powder is a cornstarch and Calamine based powder you will love for absorbing sweat and staying irritation-free. Satin-smooth and with a pleasant fragrance, this body powder provides long-lasting cooling relief. Apply before spin or exercise class, before long walks or jogs and after showering.
If I may quote my friend Captain Jack Sparrow from above: DAFUQ? Does this company assume women only do these kinds of stereotypically “lady” activities, or is the powder only effective after these particular workouts? Maybe I’ll post that question under the Customer Questions & Answers.
Because I’m super cheap, I decided to come up with my own solution.
The best part? It’s BARELY NOTICEABLE under your shirt. The worst part was my kids bugging me to have the fan back, because apparently the clip-on stroller fan is the most exciting toy ever.
For those days when I can’t pry the fan out of their greedy little hands, I’m going to try sticking some Bamboobies nursing pads under my boobs. They are AMAZING at keeping milk from leaking through a shirt, so I imagine they’d work well for sweat too. I still have a few left over from my leaky days, so I’ll give it a shot and let you know how it works.
When I first started staying home with Jack, the shower became one of our daily activities.
Our morning routine was breakfast, drop off big brother, run, and shower. Jack is an excellent running partner, and has become an agreeable shower buddy. It took awhile, but he doesn’t smack me in the face anymore for putting his back under the shower stream.
Showers weren’t a part of my original Stay-At-Home-Mom plan (because I totally had one of those, right). Using up all that water just to entertain a toddler would be pretty wasteful. But, after running with a stroller for several miles under the Texas summer sun, you kind of require a shower. Like, bad. So that first day after we ran together, I plopped him in the shower with me. I got clean, he had fun, and my house wasn’t destroyed. Win-win-win!
Since running helps me keep my sanity (which can be in short supply when home alone with a toddler), it and the shower became a regular occurrence in our weeks. After awhile, I started to see some real benefits to showering with a toddler.
Enjoy a shower again!
Showers are one of the first things to go when you have small children. The risks of death, destruction, dismemberment, or just general mayhem are not worth the benefits of clean pits. Solution: bring the toddler with you! You’ll never wonder what your little angel is destroying and/or eating, because he’s right there. Throw a few toys in the mix, and you should be able to have a decent shower. Bonus points: if you time it for after a meal, you can clean two people with one shower!
My son is hysterical in the shower. He makes the funniest faces when water sprays his face (I may or may not be involved in this). He has tried to punch the shower stream for getting water on him (true story). Pouring water on Mom induces fits of giggles.
The benefits of skin-to-skin are well-documented for newborns, but I believe older babies/toddlers benefit as well! Jack is always on the go, so I cherish the times he wants to cuddle. In the shower, I’ll hold his chest against mine and let the water fall on his back. He’ll put his head on my shoulder or press his silky-soft cheek against mine. We’ll stand there like that for a minute or two, and it’s so relaxing for both of us.
One drawback to the shower
Any breastfeeding mom will tell you that seeing a boob will remind a nursling that he/she NEEDS to nurse. NOW. And the older the nursling, the more insistent he/she is. There were a few times our shower ended abruptly because Fuss McGuss just could not handle being around a bare boob without nursing. I didn’t want to be stuck in the shower for an undetermined amount of time, so I wouldn’t let him latch. He’d pound my chest, yelling “Nuh!” I’d answer calmly, “We’re not going to nurse right now.” Repeat until I could get all the soap off us and turn the shower off. This usually occurred when the shower was close to naptime, so that may have played a role. But just beware – if you shower with a breastfed toddler, there is a good chance he’ll want to nurse!
Picture this: you’ve been terrorized by a miniature version of yourself all morning (in other words, a normal Friday). The typical pattern is toddler asks for something (Waffle! Bite! Milk!), and when given said item, vehemently denies ever wanting it and punishes you for your insolence with assorted fussy behaviors. This pattern continues until toddler finally, blessedly, falls asleep.
Picture this: house is silent. Toddler is crashed out in the bed. You slip out and quietly fist pump over the specter of Free Time. You never know how long this toddler-free time will last, so you intend to use it wisely (HA). It’s time to recharge the batteries, bring the patience meter up from negative 47, restore calm. You browse Facebook, check your email, and revel in the fact that there aren’t any sticky little fingers trying to turn the laptop off. You decide it’s time to dust off the old blog and start writing again.
Yes. It is definitely You Time.
A subtle change occurs in the atmosphere. You glance down the hall and see a little face quietly peering at you around the corner. The toddler has woken up and silently come to find you. He creeps over with a look of complete joy, like he’s just been given carte blanche to write on all the walls and climb on all the tables.
So much for You Time.
But instead of getting frustrated, you welcome him. He crawls into your lap and asks to nurse. You oblige. He nurses for a few minutes before drifting off to sleep.
You could get up and take him back to bed. You might be able to scrape out a little more You Time, maybe even craft that blog post that’s suddenly percolating.
But instead, you let him sleep in your arms. You smile at his little baby snores and memorize his sleeping face. He must have known you both needed this. The two of you sit silently on the couch, his little body sprawled out over your arm and lap, while you type your thoughts on your phone instead of the laptop.
Sometimes You Time is better with him. Sometimes what you – I – need isn’t time without him; its peaceful time with him. I need the reminder that it won’t always be like this – the good and the bad. He may always drive me nuts in one way or another, but he won’t always be able to snuggle into my lap for a midafternoon nurse ‘n nap. So for today, I welcome him into my You Time.
I’ve been seeing a lot of stuff lately about how breastfeeding advocates shame mothers, mothers shame mothers, businesses shame mothers, healthcare providers shame mothers. It’s frustrating. I see a lot of this:
“That doctor made me feel bad for formula-feeding.”
“The server gave me the dirtiest look when I started breastfeeding in the café; it made me feel I was doing something wrong.”
“That sancti-mommy lectured me about using formula. It made me feel horrible.”
“My sister (who breastfed) said I was weird for breastfeeding my 3-year-old; it made me feel terrible.”
“That chick said I’m not a real mom because I work outside the home; that made me feel like shit.”
“It made me feel so awful when that mom told me bed-sharing was dangerous.”
“My doctor made me feel like a terrible mother when I asked about taking antidepressants while pregnant.”
These are just a few of the infinite number of ways parents could be shamed. Basically any decision we make as parents is probably going to be questioned by someone. When someone objects to what you’re doing, or says you’re doing something wrong, it can often lead to feelings of shame. But it doesn’t have to.
Do you know what I see in the statements above? A whole lot of refusal to take responsibility for how you feel. A whole lot of letting someone else tell you what your success should look like. A whole lot of letting some jackass decide that you should be ashamed of what you’re doing.
Here’s a way to stop the mom-shaming. Instead of pointing the finger outward at that mom, that breastfeeding specialist, that doctor, that other person – how about pointing the finger inward at yourself? In other words:
STOP GIVING OTHERS THE POWER OVER HOW YOU FEEL.
If you own your decisions, know they were the best for you and your family, and have the confidence to stand by them, nobody can make you feel ashamed. Nobody can make you feel anything – you get to choose how the actions of others affect you.
I’m not saying to never feel anything, or just to brush that dirt off your shoulder like it’s nothing. That’s not going to happen. Shit happens; we react. What I am saying is that when you start to feel ashamed of a parenting decision, take a step back and analyze it. Did I make this decision because it was what was best for ME, or MY family, or MY baby? If the answer is yes, then you have absolutely no reason to feel ashamed. Example time!!
Was switching to formula the best decision for you and your family? Then the next time someone says you’re harming your baby, tell them to fuck off – your family, your decision, and no need to justify it.
Does seeing the research on breastfeeding make you feel like a bad mom because you didn’t breastfeed? Don’t let it. Increasing risk of something does not equal harm. Infant feeding decisions are not made in a vacuum. There are so many variables to consider; risk reduction is just one of them and not necessarily the deciding factor for everyone.
Do you enjoy full-term breastfeeding? Then the next time someone says it’s tantamount to child abuse, tell them to fuck off – your family, your decision, and no need to justify it.
Do you feel pressured by medical professionals to wean because [insert reason here]? Tell them you are the child’s mother and you know what’s best for your family.
Does safe bed-sharing allow everyone in your family to get more sleep? Then the next time someone declares you’re going to kill your baby, tell them to fuck off – your family, your decision, and no need to justify it.
See a pattern here? Own your decisions. If someone questions it, tell them to back off in whatever manner you choose (I’ve illustrated a more direct approach; some of you may prefer a more nuanced, less foul-mouthed response).
If I sound harsh, it’s because I’m so frustrated and saddened. I see so many beautiful, strong, amazing women question themselves because of the words of others. I see what amazing mothers they are; I just wish they did, too.
Who cares what other people think about how you care for your family! The only “right” answer in parenting is the one that works for your family.
Don’t let the actions you take as a parent, define you as a parent. You are not a breastfeeding or formula-feeding or bed-sharing or cloth-diapering or [insert label here] mom – you are a mom who loves her children and makes the best decisions she can, based on the information she has at the time.
Taking back power over how you feel isn’t easy. It’s taken me years to recognize that I didn’t have to let anyone make me feel bad and put that into practice. It’s something I struggle with almost every day.
Also, it will be different when the power balance is off. For example, it’s easier to shrug off a stranger’s disdain than it is to speak up against negative comments by someone in a position of “authority” – like a doctor.
If it’s someone you know and care about (such as a family member or close friend), it may be even harder because of the fear of hurting the relationship. But think about this: you can speak your truth gently and with respect; if the person you love reacts negatively, that’s their issue – not yours.
The following are some tips for taking back your power. It’s things I’ve learned through mothering, working as an IBCLC, going through the 12 Steps as an alcoholic, and just life in general.
Grieve your losses. If you wanted to breastfeed more than anything, but formula ended up being a better option for your family, it’s ok to be upset. Grieve the loss of breastfeeding. If you got no support, or really shitty breastfeeding support (like someone saying the latch looks fine even though you’re in pain) – be angry! Do something to work through that anger, though – don’t bottle it up (no pun intended). Take however long you need to grieve, but try to work through it in healthy ways.
Find a mantra. I personally like saying, “Well, that’s just their opinion” if someone says something negative about me. It’s true – it is that person’s opinion – but I don’t have to accept their opinion as my own. Find something that will help you put emotionally charged situations into perspective.
Be confident. This can be really hard. I don’t think I became confident as a mommy until my first son was 3 and I was pregnant with my second. Even so, I still question my abilities. But if I can honestly say that yes, I am doing the best I can, then that is enough for me. If it’s enough for me, it’s damn well enough for the rest of the world.
Be the change. If you catch yourself judging another mom, stop and think. It can be hard to see people doing things differently – after all, I picked my way because I thought it was best. But what’s best for me, may not be best for another mother/family. And that’s OK. Next time you feel yourself start to be a Judgy McJudgyPants, stop and say, “You know, I’ll bet that mom is doing the best she can. It’s different than what I would do, but I’ll bet it works for her.” Change how you think.
Toughen up. You’re going to encounter Assholes – the ones who deliberately try to make people feel bad because it makes them feel better about themselves. Often, you can’t reason with an Asshole. At that point, pull a Jay-Z and brush your shoulders off. Assholes aren’t worth your time or your emotions. BUT…
Don’t assume everyone is an Asshole. Maybe I’m being too Pollyanna, but I really think that most people say stuff out of a desire to help, not to be a jerk. Perhaps they say it the wrong way, with the wrong tone, at the wrong time, or they shouldn’t have said anything at all. Assume that people come from a place of love or concern for welfare, and you might be surprised at the positivity that comes your way.
Last month, my friend Cindy posted a challenge. “Do 1000 burpees in September!” she said. “It’ll be fun!” she said.
If you know anything about Fitness Me, you’ll know I have a deep hatred of burpees. It’s the punishment if you don’t finish an obstacle in the Spartan Races. It makes your whole body hurt. It’s the worst exercise in the world.
So of course, I had to join in the challenge. Face something I hate, head-on? Oh yeah!
I’m happy to report that I DID IT. I did 1,050 burpees in 30 days. WTF. That’s so many burpees. I did these in addition to the workouts I am doing for a fitness competition that started Sept. 15.
And I feel AMAZING! I don’t hate burpees as much as I did prior to the challenge. I don’t fear them as much as I did (because really, that’s where deep hatred stems from – FEAR).
I’m even doing Burpees for Booby Traps! I volunteer for Best for Babes, a breastfeeding advocacy organization that supports all moms in meeting their personal breastfeeding goals. We’re in the middle of the We’ve Got Your Back, Babe! Personal Fitness Challenge, which raises money and awareness of the Booby Traps. Booby Traps are the barriers that all moms face when trying to breastfeed.
If you want to make me do more burpees, donate to the cause!
Awhile ago, I saw a HuffPo piece called “An Apology Letter to My Second Child.” My second child was about a month old, so I was like, ok, I’ll bite. It was one of those funny/cutesy posts where the writer apologizes for all the awful things that happened (brother peed on you, didn’t do your baby book, etc.) but then declares she won’t apologize for loving you less. Slightly Hallmark cliche, but sweet nonetheless. It got me thinking, though…
…and I need to apologize to my first son. So, here goes:
I’m sorry I don’t remember much about your first few months.
Jack will do something adorable, like “shout” at us or make a funny face. I’ll remark, “I don’t remember Colt doing that; did he do that?” And my husband will inevitably reply, “Yes,” with only a hint of an exasperated sigh. I was in such a fog of exhaustion and untreated postpartum depression that I honestly don’t remember most details of his first 3 months. I took a crap ton of photos, so it’s not like it’s a complete blank. But those random moments of looking into his eyes, smiling at his coos, nuzzling my nose into his hair and breathing in his wonderful baby smell? No memory. Makes my heart ache a little.
I’m sorry I was afraid.
I was afraid to bedshare, because I was certain I’d kill him. I was afraid to babywear, because I read one random story about a baby suffocating in a Moby wrap. I was actually afraid to be alone with him at times, because I didn’t know what to do with him! I wish I’d educated myself more. Bedsharing has been a lifesaver with Jack; I get so much more sleep and I know I won’t kill him because I do it safely. I wear him in a wrap often – sometimes, it’s the only thing that calms him down! Again, I educated myself on the safest ways to wear an infant. I can’t help but wonder a bit that if I’d bed-shared (gotten more sleep) and baby-wore (less crying/stress), I might have more memories of Colt’s first few months.
I’m sorry I was so stressed and cried a lot. Most of what I do remember about the first few months is how panicked I felt – especially while home alone. Bryce went back to work 10 days after he was born, he worked 12+ hours a day, I didn’t have a car, and I didn’t have any friends that lived nearby. Basically, I was too isolated while learning this crazy new job of mother. Plus, there was the untreated postpartum depression. I’d gone off my depression meds before trying to get pregnant. During Colt’s pregnancy, I had no symptoms of depression, so I didn’t think after pregnancy would be all that bad. HA. I had several risk factors for PPD, but ignored the signs when they showed up or lied to health care providers. I mentioned to Bryce once or twice that I thought I needed help, but did it kind of casually and never followed up. I should have told him I’d had fleeting thoughts of what life would be like if I was gone (how would Bryce raise a child alone?) and that I was afraid I could possibly hurt the baby.
With Jack, it’s been 180 degrees different. Bryce took a month off before going back to his laidback, 9-hour-a-day job. I have a car and an older son who loves to go do things. I’ve got several local friends I see regularly. I started taking my depression meds at 36 weeks, so it would have time to build up in my system before delivery. No sadness, anxiety, or unworthy feelings (unless I forget to take my meds for a few days!). I feel so much more relaxed. I’m sure part of it is just the fact that I’ve done this before. However, I think a large part of it is different circumstances (Bryce’s job situation) and that I worked hard to reduce my risk of PPD this time around. If things get bad this time, I will ask for help. If you have any of the symptoms of postpartum depression, please don’t be afraid to ask for help!!!
I’m sorry I went back to work because I thought being a SAHM wasn’t enough. I took a full-time job when Colt was 4 months old. Part of the reason was financial; we were barely scraping by on just Bryce’s salary (damn student loans). Another part was me wanting to use my newly earned Master degree. But there was a part of me that felt being “just a mom” wasn’t enough; that I wasn’t fulfilled as a person. In reality, my disease was rearing up. I used to only find my worth in my work and felt like I wasn’t complete without validation from outside sources. This was my disease talking. I’ve since worked through that and I no longer need someone/something to tell me I’m worthy; I’m enough. I’ll be going back to school when Jack is about 5 months, but not because being home with the boys isn’t good enough.
I suppose this is the part where the touching “I’m not sorry I…” comes in. I’m reluctant to add it – mostly because of the Hallmark cheese factor – but also because I don’t want to devalue what I just wrote. I loved Colt then, as I do now. There’s no doubt about that. He made me a mother. I am grateful that I learned from my early motherhood experiences, so that I could make different choices later. Colt is a bright, independent firecracker who tells me he loves me about ten times a day, so I know I didn’t ruin him in those early dark days. I just wish those early days weren’t quite so dark.