The Sneaky Moments of Motherhood

Motherhood is full of moments. Moments that are new, moments that are scary, moments that are frustrating, moments that are full of emotions. Motherhood is this string of moments that sometimes just seem like one long, everlasting moment.

Sometimes you wish for these moments to disappear forever. You wish some away so desperately, because they’re fucking hard. Sometimes you wish you could remember what you felt like in certain moments because things happen so quickly. Time is so accelerated within motherhood. Sometimes you wish you could relive the moments over and over and over because they’re so full of love.

Tonight, I had a moment.

It was a moment with a familiar emotion…but it’s an emotion I have a difficult time describing. It was a moment that I have a difficult time explaining. But it’s worth noting because I know every mom feels this. I know we all have these moments.

It’s this moment of realizing that your child is yours. That your child is growing. That your child is maturing. That your child isn’t little anymore. They’re these moments you realize…it’s happening. They’re becoming…them.

It’s this moment that I can only describe as those “sneaky moments”, because, for me, it’s an emotion that totally sneaks up on me and surprises me from time to time. It overwhelms me.

These moments aren’t to be confused with those of “firsts”. Not like their first word, first step, or first day of school. They aren’t to be confused with moments we’re flooded with pride because of good grades, or a good game, or where their kind heart shows. It isn’t that feeling of simply feeling how much you love them or appreciate their existence.

No. None of those are the same.

Tonight, as I was watching my daughter get ready for bed, she put on some music. This song Capsize that she loves. She sang every word, words that I couldn’t quite make out, but she knew them. She sang these words with such passion and confidence. She was brushing her hair and singing as she looked in the mirror.

She didn’t know I was watching. I was just observing her. All 4’5″ of her 8 year old self. All 74lbs of her.

It wasn’t anything new or out of the ordinary. But I had that sneaky moment. That moment where her life kind of flashed before me.

That moment where I realized she is the same human that was once 7lbs2oz in my arms. The one I didn’t know what to do with as a newborn. The toddler that that loved the word “uh-oh” and that hated sleep. The one that loved her purple baby and her green hospital pacifiers. The one that hated P.E. in kindergarten and didn’t want to learn how to ride a bike until she was almost 7. This is that same little, tiny human that grew inside of me. None of this felt possible in this moment, it didn’t feel real.

These moments take my breath away because it’s kind of too much to take in. It’s too much to reconcile in my mind that this is happening, this tiny human is growing up and becoming a bigger human. In these moments, it’s when I’m blindly reminded that I’m responsible for who she’s becoming and that she’s who she is because of me- the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s these moments where I catch a glimmer of me in her actions, or her body language, or her mannerisms.

It’s in these moments that I feel cheated because I let too many moments go by without noticing.

You know these moments?

I’ve had these moments before, like the time she told me she was embarrassed when I kissed her outside her classroom this past year. And like the time she told me I didn’t need to walk her to class anymore. Or, even in less obvious moments, like the one tonight, and sometimes it’s happened when she simply says something like, “Bye, mom. I’m headed out to play. I have my watch-phone on if you need me”.

Some days, these moments pass me by without evoking that feeling of sneakiness. They’re just another moment of motherhood. But, these sneaky moments. They’re real. They’re powerful. They’re beautiful, magical, scary, and almost frustrating all at the same time. Frustrating only because you know one thing is for sure: you can’t rewind, there is no replay. This is it. It’s happening.

I’m certain some moms have these moments more than others. I’m sure maybe these moments don’t even feel sneaky to other moms like they do to me. But I know we all know these moments. These moments, they’re different. They’re defining. They’re earth shattering, to some degree. They’re sobering because you’re reminded of the tremendous job we have as moms. The enormous and wonderful responsibilities we have to these little humans.

These moments are teaching us. Sit with these moments and listen. Absorb these moments. These moments are telling us ever so subtly to slow down. And they’re also telling us we are doing one hell of a job.

Don’t blink, mamas. The moments are all around us.

 

 

Be My Friend So I Can Beg You To Stay My Friend

I’ve always had a problem with fitting in. Not exactly the proverbial “I hated high school because I was an outcast” type of not fitting in. My problem always has been wanting everyone to like me. And I mean everyone.

I moved to Florida from the suburbs of Chicago when I was 10. It was the perfect age of late elementary school, early hormonal issues, to be transplanted in a new environment. It was just enough of a wake-up call to realize that the world is much bigger than it had previously appeared.

I noticed from the first day in my new place that I didn’t fit in like I did back in Chicago. My friends had been my friends since toddlerhood back in my comfort zone but now? Now I had to make new friends with different personalities, being the dreaded “new kid”.

It wasn’t easy for me.

I’m an introvert by nature, which some have a hard time believing about me, but it’s true. I come off as standoffish in new environments, around new people, because I’m not very confident. I’ve always been this way. So, in fifth grade, in my new school, I was bullied for being a “bitch”, which was really just me being…a quiet and scared introvert.

I didn’t make friends easily and what that taught me back then was that I needed to try harder, only I didn’t know how to try the correct way by just being myself and attracting others most similar to me.

I ended up joining “team bully”, trying it on for size, throughout 6th and 7th grade so people would like me. It didn’t feel right, but I did it. It momentarily felt good to be a part of something, of a group, instead of the outsider. I tended to become the people I wanted to be around, even if those people weren’t good people. I wanted to be liked. I would chameleon myself to fit in, I would say and do things to fit in, I would gossip just to be the person “in the know”, to get attention.

By 8th grade, the bullies started to fade away, for the most part, and I found my people, I found my tribe, a healthy tribe. I was popular in high school, but only because it was way too high on the priority list for me. I tried too hard. I wasn’t always myself to achieve that popularity. I tended to be who others wanted me to be or expected me to be.

I wanted to be perfect for everyone.

Clearly, none of this is drastically uncommon for these teenage, school years.

Only, it didn’t really change in high school, or college, or beyond that for me. Well, some of it changed just by merely maturing and getting to know myself, but underneath the surface, I always really want people to like me.

There’s my confession:

Hi. I’m Vanessa, I’m 40, and I still really want people to like me.

Ridiculous, right? I know. But it’s who I am.

Many of you reading might say, “Oh, I stopped caring what others think a long time ago!”, and if that’s 100% true, good for you. I want to be you when I grow up, but if you think back, I’m guessing there have at least been a couple of interactions or situations in which you were maybe the smallest bit concerned with how you were perceived. Maybe you bit your tongue when the other soccer mom was yelling on the field, maybe you changed your shirt because you felt like you looked pregnant, maybe you lied about the reason you canceled plans… Dig deep.

So, that phrase we hear all.of.the.time. of, “Who cares what other people think of you? You shouldn’t care and just be yourself!”.

Yes. True. That’s very true. But it’s not so easy. I care too much how others perceive me.

Therefore, when I lose someone, a friend, a relationship, I have a really, really difficult time letting go. Or even when I argue with someone I care about, I need to fix it right.away. I need to work through it, over-talk it, over analyze it, until its the deadest of the dead horses.

I’ve been ghosted by quite a few friends within recent years and my marriage failed within those years, too. Literally, friends that I had for years that I’ve never heard from again without any kind of falling out. No response to texts, phone calls, etc. I think this is a bizarre way to end any kind of relationship but I’ve done a lot of work trying to figure out why it’s happened.

What did I do wrong?
How could I have done things differently?
What can I learn from these losses?

All healthy questions to ask myself, all normal responses to try to validate the loss, but where it becomes toxic for someone like myself is when I believe this is solely on me as an individual, that there is something inherently unlikable about me, or maybe many things, that must be changed. That if I change- I change my ideals, my beliefs, pieces of my personality, as much as I possibly can, I will then be loved. That maybe, if we don’t say what I want to say out loud, I keep our feelings to myself, I just blend into the wallpaper, that I will at least have the security of people liking me.

But here’s the thing: that’s not how it works. This thought pattern is unhealthy and exhausting. 

There’s a fine balance between introspection, (working on my flaws, acknowledging downfalls, realizing where work can be done), and flat out changing who I am for others. It’s a tight rope and it’s tricky.

We all know that begging people to be, or stay, in our lives doesn’t make sense. If you have to beg with incessant one-sided communication, it isn’t worth it. If you have the perception of being the one putting in all of the effort to a relationship, it isn’t worth it.

Neither is changing yourself for others’ comfort or attention.

Some things just aren’t worth trying to figure out or fix. But when you’re a fixer, when you’re a control freak, and when you truly care about someone, this is the toughest part: letting go.

Let it go. Let.it.go. LET.IT.GO.

So, I’ve come to realize that this might just be my biggest character flaw. This need for people to like me, even when it’s clear that I’m the one driving the relationship. I’ve realized this probably too late in life, but at least I’ve realized it.

I’m working on it. Working on liking who I am, always, and learning to turn the obsessiveness off when others don’t like who I am, what I say, and what I stand for. Working on realizing that not everything can be fixed or mended. Working on realizing that sometimes…it’s them, it’s not me.

And that’s ok for them not to change who they are, too. We can’t expect that from others just as we can’t expect that from ourselves. We all are who we are.

The quote “People come in your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime” is one to live by.

Not everyone is meant to stay forever. We are ever evolving, always learning, always growing, so it cannot be possible that all people can stay in our lives forever. You can’t always stay on the same path, you can’t always grow together, and ultimately, dynamics shift and if your relationship stands that test, wonderful, cherish that with every ounce of your being, but it might not always be the same and it might even fall apart completely. And that’s ok.

Self accept. Self love. Be who you are and say what you need to say. It will work out how it’s supposed to.

The Function in Dysfunction

I talk a lot. Sometimes too much. I’m an over-sharer and sometimes I feel the need to word vomit in the most simple of conversations. It’s just who I am. Too transparent. But it’s certainly led to some interesting conversation.

I was talking to someone affiliated with my work world, someone I had just met, and she was asking me about life, in general: kids, vacations, etc. Just small talk. She asked if I was married and I said my usual, “No, but her dad and I are still in a relationship. We’re together but don’t live together”.

She gave me the same perplexed look that everyone else does. People don’t understand this type of unconventional situation. I get it. She is quite a bit older than me so she seemed more concerned than most do about my answer.

And then she said this: “Well…that’s an interesting set up. So much dysfunction for kids these days. I guess broken homes are the norm with all of the divorces. No one stays together anymore.”.

Dysfunction. I loathe that word in relation to describing a family.

Broken. I loathe that word in relation to a home.

It got me thinking- why, and how, on earth did we ever start describing families of divorce as “dysfunctional”?

Totally rhetorical but my annoyance remains.

This idea that divorce is synonymous with dysfunction and brokenness should not be perpetuated. Those are temporary states, or emotions, within divorce at times, but not adjectives that should describe families.

What a horrible label. It’s something that I have heard less and less of since divorces are so common, but these ugly words we use to describe families that aren’t the fairytale version of marriage and family- “dysfunctional”, “broken”? Let’s stop that.

My family is not dysfunctional. My family is not broken. And my child does not need to think otherwise. If her father and I would have stayed in a marriage, a relationship, which, at the time of separation was completely unhealthy- arguments, tension, unhappiness, amongst other things- wouldn’t that have been broken? Wouldn’t that have been dysfunctional?

The difference is now, yes, she has two houses. She spends the night at one house twice a week and the other house the rest of the week. There are challenges that go along with this. There is navigation involved. There were certainly concerns for my child when this drastic change was made, but at the end of the day, she has two parents that love her. She has a family that functions despite the title of “divorce”. We all still function. No one is broken.

Hearts might have been broken, sure, but they’re in some phase of repair and they certainly won’t stay broken, so let’s not call anything broken. We were living in more dysfunction before, prior to divorce. So let’s not call our new normal dysfunctional. Let’s get rid of that ideal, of that perfection, in relation to what families look like and how they function. Perfection does not exist. Anywhere. We all know this. Let’s stop with the stigmas.

Everyone functions because they have to. They navigate their new normal- all of us do that have been through a separation and a divorce. None of it is easy, most of it is not pretty. And it can certainly get downright ugly. But it was most likely ugly as the textbook definition of marriage, too.

It’s redefining. Not dysfunctional. Not broken.

We know our children do not go unscathed by divorce. We, as parents, we know this. We do not need ugly labels to reinforce this, however. We do not need this global idea that we simply gave up on marriage, that it was that easy. That we didn’t try. No one lives behind our closed doors. Only we know our reasons, only we know what we had to do to function and thrive the best way we know how.

This obviously also goes for divorced families that now have new marriages, maybe step-children. They’re beautiful, extended, blended families. At least most of them are. Not all of them are the families pictured together at the kids’ soccer games, or at Disney together, as one big happy family, donning the shirts labeled with their specific role in the family, (this just isn’t realistic for every family of divorce), but they all function to the very best of their abilities. They all love.

Once again, love wins. Love for our kids, it wins. Always. We, as parents, make every decision with our children at the forefront of our minds. That’s what we do. And the last thing we want is for them to be labeled as “broken” or “dysfunctional”.

Can we do better, collectively? Can we look at a divorce situation objectively and just silently acknowledge that this family did the best the could then and they’re doing the best they can now. I did not grow up as a child of divorce but so many of my friends that did are badass, full-functioning, successful, functional people. No worse for wear and definitely not broken.

All families are beautiful. They are all unique. They are all functional in some way, shape, or form. They do not need perfection. They just need love.

 

 

 

 

My 9 Reasons Why I’m Not Sure “13 Reasons Why” Should Be Glorified

(Warning: SPOILERS. Stop reading if you haven’t watched this series and intend to.)

Seriously.

Spoilers.

Lots of them.

13 Reasons Why.

Everyone had been buzzing about this show and I admit, I was immediately sucked in and finished the series in just three nights. At first, I praised the show, thinking I gained something from it as a mom, some understanding about how the teenage years work these days.

But the truth is, after I allowed the show to haunt me for two days after completing it, and after I’ve sat with it for over a week now, I now realize that I’m not particularly fond of some of it, and yet, some of it I feel is so necessary to discuss. I’m very torn which means it must be worth discussing. I don’t know that it’s at all helpful for parents or teens to watch… but it does bring up so many fantastic talking points that are so necessary to unpack.

And here are my 9 Reasons Why I think it might, or might not, be a bad idea to watch Hannah Baker’s version of suicide. Here’s what’s right and what’s wrong about it from a novice perspective:

1.) The theme of revenge.

Listen, I am not a suicide expert. I have never been suicidal, thankfully, but I have known a few people that had taken their lives at a very young age; I have been close to suicide professionally as well. And not one of them seemingly did it for revenge alone. They did it because there was so much darkness and hopelessness in their soul. They wanted their pain to end. They felt there was no place in this world for them. But. There was no specific, direct blame implicated.

Based on Hannah’s tapes left for her 13 reasons why she carried out her suicide, she was directly blaming specific incidents, and further more, the individuals behind the incidents, for taking her own life as opposed to the incidents adding to her darkness of depression. I believe those are two very different things. This idea that these 13 people (well, 12 since Justin had 2 tapes) were to blame does not make sense in the grand scheme of an actual act of suicide. It’s about being unable to bear the pain of life any longer for those that commit suicide. Their feelings surrounding certain life shattering events certainly may play into suicidal tendencies, I’m certain, but this message of blame feel dangerous in this series.

A dark, yet somehow cute, endearing way to get a message from beyond the grave using a cassette tape project seems somehow glorifying and intriguing (obviously, to get us to watch), not accurate or preventative. I do not believe a suicidal person would revengefully leave a message of blame, per se.

Suicide is about inner turmoil, it’s about mental health, not revenge alone.

2.) The darkness of depression.

Although I’ve never had suicidal thoughts, I have experienced depression. And it’s so very dark and hallow and isolated. Hannah’s feelings were constantly hurt by her peer interactions, which can certainly contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety, but the series seemed to lack that depth and complexity into her soul. It focused far too much on the behaviors of others.

I get it. They were trying to send a message of self-awareness and being kind, but if you want to talk about suicide, you have a responsibility to talk about the dark depression, isolation, and hopelessness that goes hand in hand. It lacked this content. I wanted to see deeper into her. It was left too surface, too shallow.

3.) The graphic nature.

It’s my belief that many suicidal teens watched this show and will now copycat Hannah’s death. The whole scene: the tapes, the razors, the bath…

Suicide does not own a ton of logic because the depression speaks and carries out the act, so suicidal kids might see this as a vehicle, and not exactly as a tool for learning compassion or as a preventative to their own suicide.

It’s my hope that some got the message to be more kind but my fear is that more will use this as a way to send a message within their own execution. Teens just work like that. They’re egocentric. Their mindset is on the now. They don’t see much past tomorrow. And they’re dramatic. I do not think, for one solid second, that it was necessary to see her carry out the act of slicing her wrists and bleeding out.

Why, Netflix, was this at all necessary? If this was to raise suicide awareness, couldn’t it have been assumed? The raw effect had very little bearing on the impact of the message.

4.) Rape culture.

This was a huge theme throughout the series and one of the most crucial talking points for kids and teens. 1 out of 6 women will be raped, or attempted to be raped, in their lifetime. We must talk about it. It’s not getting any better and we actually are getting more desensitized to it. It certainly starts in these tender teenage years.

I believe this series got it mostly right in this realm. I believe the graphic rape scenes were necessary. Rape looks different in many situations. I believe both date rapes in the series show how it’s not as easy as simply saying “no” or fighting back aggressively.

It’s not about the victim, it’s about the rapist. It’s about power. It’s about control. And I believe that was accurately portrayed. The way victims of rape are treated was also accurate. Society loves to immediately victim blame when it comes to rape and we all felt like Hannah lost so much of her soul being in that room during Jessica’s rape and then being raped herself.

I am certain that many that watched this said such things as, “Why did Hannah go to Bryce’s that night if she knew he was a rapist?”, “Why didn’t Hannah fight more during her rape?”, these are important talking points for our kids, important for the directed conversation to be on the rapist, not the victim.

For me, the series could have been based on this rape culture effect alone, without the suicide, and it would have been fabulous. We need to talk about it. We need to talk to our young men about it. We need to make changes, big changes, in this space.

5.) Glorification of the Jocks.

I could write an entire post on my qualms with organized sports, especially male sports, and the adverse effect that it has on our children. So many people praise the positives that come from being “coachable”, and yes, there are some wonderful things that stem from being a part of a team, but one hugely ignored disadvantage is how we glorify these athletes and send them the message from such a young age that if they’re good at this one specific thing, this sport, that their worth immediately increases exponentially. More so than academia, more so than any other activity known to man. They’re paid the most in the professional sector, they’re idolized the most. They can do no wrong, shy of actually being convicted of murder. And it becomes so desirable at such a young age.

Teachers and coaches tend to give athletes special privileges, which is where it begins, where these athletes then don’t have to be as accountable for their actions. Bad grade on a test? Ah, it’s because there was a big game last night. Let’s look past it. Skipped class? Oh, that’s because you have to do some extra batting practice, no worries. All excusable.

This isn’t new. This has been a thing probably since the beginning of time. But does our society see the danger? Do we recognize how it’s contributing to rape culture and violence? We give these boys power when they’re the star of the team, we’re defining their worth by this. When this is the only message they hear, when this is where the importance is focused, this power becomes confusing in a young mind. It becomes too much. That power then tends to be abused by so many. I felt the series did a pretty good job recognizing this but I’m not quite sure that many see this correlation and the danger here.

6.) Bullying.

Bullying is clearly such a hot topic, especially with the horrors of social media’s contribution. The online community has made it brutal to be a teen, more so than it already was. I do not envy our children growing up in a society where they’re constantly looking for a reward when they open their smart phone. How many likes? How many comments? How many followers? So.very.dangerous. to one’s psyche.

It was clear that this was the underlying message of the series. Bullying is bad and terrible and hurtful and damaging.

But I thought they could have done better.

Hannah was well liked, all in all. Even after unfortunate pictures would circulate, Hannah still managed to be in with the “popular” crowd, have boys fawning after her, and had friendships. Many of Hannah’s “reasons” revolved around her sexual reputation, her sexual interactions, her sexual encounters and relationships.

Those that committed suicide when I was young might have been liked by some…but they weren’t noticed by many. They were invisible. Hannah wasn’t invisible. She didn’t shrink down. She never went unnoticed.

Bullying is isolating. Bullying is usually relentless. And bullying doesn’t always have to do with sex. I had a hard time believing Hannah was bullied in the specific sense of the word. She was sexually assaulted and treated unkindly at times, but I don’t know that this series should claim to target bullying. I felt conflicted by the messages.

7.) Hannah.

Hannah’s lack of self awareness bothered me the entire time. She was a victim of a lot of unfortunate circumstances, yes, but she also failed to recognize how she could have owned some responsibility, even within her own suicide. The series gave the ideation that reputation supersedes everything for every single teen in high school. I don’t believe that to be true. And Hannah’s character wanted to fit in, yes, I see that, but she was unapologetic about also being who she was…which was confusing as to how it led her to suicide.

It isn’t lost on me that this might be the aspect of suicide that I just don’t understand, however, Hannah never once mentioned herself in her own demise. She did not seem to be self loathing and I believe that’s an important component of a suicidal person. She seemed to fall more into the stereotype that suicide is a selfish act and that’s definitely problematic if we’re talking about awareness.

8.) Peer pressure.

Peer pressure is still very alive and well, probably more so than ever. Social influences are pressing our kids to grow up much too fast and kids are feeling that pressure to keep up. It’s not just alcohol and drugs anymore. It’s looking a certain way with plump lips, a tiny waist and big boobs at a very young age. It’s having the latest technology and the right hairstyle. It’s so much more than the generation before.

I believe that bullying and peer pressure are easily confused at times and have to be differentiated. However, they are certainly also intertwined at times.

Alex shot himself at the end, which was a bit of a surprise to me and it left me to assume that it was the peer pressure that maxed him out and caused his stress and depression. I believe he was actually the character we should focus on. He was more of the silent bystander of sorts. He was the one that just wanted to fit in, all while being picked on and pressured. I believe he sent the more accurate message of awareness.

9.) Netflix.

I wish you would have done better, Netflix. At the end of the day, I know this was supposed to be entertainment and you had a lot of great components here worthy of some awesome discussions, but where you lacked was the appropriate content to actually bring awareness to suicide and suicide prevention. I think you missed the mark. You did a fabulous job of scaring parents, for sure, and for that, perhaps the goal was achieved. We are aware that teens are scarier than ever before, so thank you. But all in all, I think you failed our teens with an overall conflicting message.

***********

For a far, far better watch with your teens, check out Audrie and Daisy. Real life stories of sexual assault and suicide.

Educate yourself here on suicide statistics.

And for parents, I found this link helpful.

 

 

 

 

Please Don’t Thank Me for Being A Working Mom.

I read this wonderfully sweet post today, thanking us working moms for basically holding down the fort, if you will, in the work force. It was endearing and not at all condescending like some pieces similar to this have been. I felt the author was genuine and all of her words came from a beautiful place. Calling us “true feminist heroes” felt amazing. It really did. I admit, I puffed out my ego for one second. ‘Yeah. Hell yeah. We are feminist heroes. Damn right”.

But listen.

Don’t thank me.

I needed work more than feminism and work needed me.

I am unapologetic for wanting- no, needing- my career.

Yes, I need to work to pay bills, especially as a single mom, but I also need to work to stay sane. I never aspired to be a stay-at-home-mom. I never even aspired to be a mom, if I’m being honest. Not to be confused with not wanting to be a mom at all. I did want a child. It happened, it’s wonderful, and I’m thankful but it wasn’t my sole goal in life. It wasn’t my end all, be all. It wasn’t what would define me. I knew it would probably be a part of my life but I also knew it wouldn’t be my whole life.

And quite frankly, I don’t understand why we shame moms who aren’t fulfilled by motherhood alone. Why we still, in 2017, make moms feel like they should be fulfilled by motherhood alone. Why do we pity working moms?

I cannot tell you how many times I heard, “Ohhhh, you have to work? That must be so hard!”, when my daughter was little. I remember blatantly lying and saying, “yes, yes it is so difficult”. She’s 8 now and I still hear this pity from time to time, especially when I travel for work. I don’t lie anymore.

No. It’s not hard. I mean, yes, motherhood is hard in all of it’s forms, but working is not the hardest part of it. As a matter of a fact, working might be the easiest part of being a mom for me. At least there’s a job description and a manual for my day job. And at times, my job is far easier than being a mom, (especially in the “threenager” years. AmIrite?) It gives me time to myself in some ways. It gives me a break. It gives me my own idenity. It gives my life an additional purpose. It gives me something my child cannot. And, when I travel for work? Hello? Hotels! Alone!

No, It’s not difficult for me to be away from my child while I work. I don’t ache for her during the day, I don’t feel guilt that I’m not with her 24/7. I’m not sad that I’m missing moments. I returned to work at 7 weeks postpartum and I was happy to do so. I was looking forward to having that piece of my life back.

And I don’t feel bad about admitting these things. We, as moms, are sometimes shamed into feeling that we should solely be a mom once we have a child.

Think about this: do we shame and judge fathers this way? Do we hold dads to the same expectations? No. Never have and never will.

Although women have emerged as “bread winners” of families over the last few decades, it’s still far less common and it’s still widely scrutinized. And it’s unfair. The feminist movement fought for equality (and yes, we’re still fighting in so.many.ways.) and I am a proud female business owner, I work my ass off, and I am a mom.

And for those that do choose the path of staying home – wonderful. That is equally as amazing. If some moms are fulfilled by the very, very difficult job of staying at home with their children, kudos. Big fat kudos to them because I wasn’t built for that life. And I’m ok with that. My response when moms say they stay at home is, “Ooohhh, I’m sorry. That must be so hard!”. I am not envious. At all.

I’m certainly not writing this to take sides in any sort “mommy war” of who has the harder position. We are all in the trenches of some tough, tough shit. And that common denominator is simply motherhood. We are all warriors of that same battle, of that same beauty.

The true “thank you” goes out to those feminists who paved the way for women to join the work force, those that gave us a choice in the matter. I am eternally grateful for the pioneers that got us here. I am also grateful for all moms raising amazing, kind-hearted humans, no matter what else they do with their time.

Carry on, warrior mamas. We are all fighting the good fight of raising children the best we know how.

 

In Support of Unconventional Relationships

If I had to guess, I would say that those who know me at all would describe me as “unconventional”. It’s definitely been said about me. I’m not sure if that’s a nice way of calling me bat-shit crazy but it’s an adjective that I’ve learned to embrace.

I’ve never liked conventionalism or rules of any kind, really. I remember my dance team coach from high school particularly hated that about me. She would have a certain dances choreographed, coached us in a very methodical way, and if I saw room for improvement or an opportunity to interject an opinion, I wouldn’t let that moment pass. I wanted to do everything different. I’d speak up with my unsolicited opinion and it was usually met with an eye roll and a reprimand. She called me “un-coachable”. I called it “thinking outside of the box”.

And that’s the way I’ve lived my life: outside of the box. Relationships included.

After leaving my first marriage and falling in love with a man who was almost 8 years my junior, (who would later become my second husband), a friend said to me, “You always just do whatever it is you want and things just seem to work out for you”. Well, yes. Things do work out. Because they have to. But I think what she meant was, I don’t play by the relationship rules.

But everyone has their opinions on others’ romantic relationships. Imagine if we didn’t have such opinions. Where would our entertainment and conversations come from? Reality television was solely founded on the premise that we must know, and have intimate details, of others’ romantic relationships. The popularity of soap operas, movies, sitcoms, celebrity gossip shows… you name it, most forms of entertainment are centered around who’s fucking who. Period. We are a species with gross curiosity of how others manage their romantic lives. And it clearly  must be discussed amongst the masses.

I’ve recently noted quite a few headlining relationship changes, and not just because someone of notoriety got divorced from some humdrum marriage. Nope. Unconventional relationships are becoming more the thing these days.

Best selling author, Glennon Doyle-Melton shocked us all after revealing she left her husband and soon entered a romantic relationship with another woman who she will now- gasp- marry! Good for her. I think this is amazing news. Love wins.

More recent news revealed that the founder of Scary Mommy, Jill Smokler, stayed in a marriage after learning of her husband’s homosexuality for more than a decade.  Jaw.Drop. But, guess what? I get it. He was her person. There was love. Love won.

Talk about unconventional.

I mean, I don’t know if I can top these stories but I’ll try, only because it’s all the rage: I’m currently dating my {second} ex-husband and father of my child.

The background: We started dating in late 2002. He was just 18, I was 25. You read that correctly. May-September at it’s finest. Mrs. Robinson. Cougar. Robbing the cradle. Yes. That. Whatever you’d like to call it. It was chemistry and it was tangible and it was real.

We moved in together in 2003, got engaged in 2007, got married in 2008, had a baby in 2009.

I publicly bared my soul in writing about our split in 2014. They were very dark days. We divorced in early 2015.

After I started to rebuild my life and the pain subsided, I still felt as though I was missing a limb. This feeling went deeper than just that of divorce grief. He somehow felt…inevitable to me. The divorce felt more like a hiatus and a time to take a breath, as odd as that sounds. That portion of our relationship needed a finale, an ending point. I had to let go of what it was.

I really searched my soul for my stake in our relationship failures, learned so much about myself, and dug deep for what it was I wanted from someone else, from a partner. The answer was: I wanted him. He is my person. I didn’t want another person. I was fine being alone but also wanted this person. Flaws and all. I wanted all of him. And I didn’t want to change him like I previously thought I did.

It took me awhile to process what this looked like and to make sense out of loving someone, still, who might not have made the best choices in the past. I’ve previously written about being addicted to him, so perhaps some of it is that piece, but it also really comes down to plain, old-fashioned love. It can be difficult to delineate the two, but I digress.

If I’m being honest, it’s very much a work in progress. Old issues don’t die easily. I’m not simplifying it or dismissing our past. None of this happened without thinking and over-thinking and discussing and over-discussing. We are two imperfect people who love each other.

So, we currently date. We do family days at the beach. We take vacations together. We even own a house together in a foreign country with intentions of someday living there. Together.

No, we don’t currently live together, we’re not married, and we really don’t discuss these components of our relationship or what our future looks like. I don’t know that we have a label, which seems to be what outsiders looking in want to make them comfortable and cure their curiosity.

But. We just…are.

We love each other. We raise a child together. We enjoy each other. And when we don’t, we have our own spaces to retreat to. We came back to each other in an unconventional way and had to learn a new path because love persisted for us. It was never lost. We just had to redefine it for ourselves. And it just works for us this way. It might not work forever. But it might.

It’s weird. It’s different. It doesn’t make sense to almost anyone else and, listen- it doesn’t have to.

Everyone’s relationship journey is different but you know what’s the same universal truth? No one likes being judged or ridiculed for their relationship choices. And…everyone loves to be loved.

That love looks different for everyone.

And no love goes without trials and tribulations. Not one person reading these words can say they have a perfect relationship. It doesn’t exist. We all recognize that judging, commenting and ridiculing others’ love does not make sense. Love is not one dimensional. It’s multifaceted and certainly complex. Unless you live it, breathe it, sit with it everyday, you cannot say you know what’s best. You aren’t allowed that opinion, no matter how right you might be as an outsider looking in. It’s not yours to have. We complain to our friends and family about our relationships because we’re looking for support, commonality, an ear, a shoulder, an ally at times. We are not looking for definitive answers because there aren’t any.

Love persists. It ebbs and it flows. It gets messy. Sometimes you can clean up the mess… but it will look different when its put back together. And that’s ok because it might still work. It might get lost but it could be found again. It might have some road blocks but it might create a new path. You just never know.

So, the next time I hear a news story with someone else’s relationship truths or a friend comes to me with relationship woes, I will try to find the amazing in the story. I try to find the why for them; what was- what is– the why of their love? I try to find the love in their story. I will support that love when they want me to and I will hate that love if that’s what they need. No matter what the story is, it isn’t my story to tell so it won’t look the way mine would.

But love is an amazing thing that has a way of working itself out sometimes.

And we should all hope for that for one another.

Love wins. No matter what it looks like to everyone else.

 

 

Being On Both Sides of Infidelity

I hear and read debates on why people cheat so often. How a woman’s reasons for cheating are different from a man’s. How women seek attention and to fill voids and how men look for the physical. The truth is, everyone’s reasons for cheating are different. Everyone’s path to cheating is different. Some couples’ willingness to work through cheating and stay together are all different.

There’s no formula to cheating. No matter how many articles are written to analyze or predict it, no matter how many red flags there are in a relationship, no matter how many lists we read about the signs of cheating, no matter how much justifying is done, it happens and it will continue to happen. It’s terrible but it happens.

I believe the simplified answer as to why it happens is universal: we are selfish beings that want and crave attention. Period. It’s an act of selfishness that begs to be judged, (and trust me, I do still judge when I hear stories of cheating spouses), but few realize, or will admit, that it could be any one of us on either side of infidelity. We want to believe it would never be us or happen to us, yet it is and it does.

I’ve been married twice. I’m now twice divorced. I choke on typing that in solid print. It’s embarrassing to me that I failed at marriage twice.

Many people in my life might not even know about my first marriage. I even tend to forget. I was 24 and was in a rush to be in love, to be loved, to be married, to do what all of my friends were doing.

I met a wonderful man that I was set up on a blind date with. He was kind-hearted, funny, and he adored me. Our relationship moved much too fast. We moved in together after only 4 weeks of dating and we were engaged within months.

If I’m being totally honest, I never loved him. I knew that from the start and I ignored it. I wanted the wedding, I wanted the adoration. I was really good at pretending. We had very little in common but in retrospect, I didn’t even know myself well enough to know what my needs and wants were at the time. He was a good person and he deserved more. I was on a rebound from a long-term love when I met him and he paid the price. It’s unfair and it was shitty but it was the reality.

I made a conscience decision to cheat on him only 3 months into our marriage. Clearly, not to be confused with a premeditated plan to cheat. I don’t know that anyone actually does that. Not many look to outwardly and blatantly lie and live a double life. How many times have you heard, “It just…happened”? And it does, just happen. This is not a dismissive or excusable fact but it is the truth.

I met a guy at work, a much younger guy, that I had a ridiculous amount of chemistry with. Because he was so much younger, I didn’t notice the chemistry immediately but when I finally acknowledged it, it was over. I was involved. I was emotionally cheating from that moment on and physical cheating wasn’t far behind.

Once the physical relationship began, I became a different person, one I didn’t recognize and one I absolutely hated facing in the mirror. I hated myself but not enough to stop the affair. I knew I was in love with the person I chose to cheat with. I knew I had to leave my husband, and I did, after only 5 months of marriage, 2 months into the affair.

It was awful, being on that side of infidelity. It wasn’t fun, it wasn’t an adventure, and it didn’t feel good. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, and the lies felt like razors punishing my lips each and every time I had to tell a lie. It wasn’t in my DNA to pull this off, nor did I want to. I was too consumed with how people viewed me to be honest with myself, and with him about not being in love, about not wanting to get married, and about what I needed from a relationship.

Love stole all logic from me. That’s not an excuse but it’s what happened. I allowed that to happen. I should have stopped the affair, been honest with my husband, left him, knowing I wasn’t in love, and stayed on my own until I gained complete clarity. But, I didn’t. I was too afraid to lose love.

I left my husband for another man.

I’ve never outwardly admitted this to anyone before. Not to my then husband, not to my friends or family, and not to myself. But that’s the truth. I live with guilt about this every single day, still. I never forgave myself completely. I broke someone’s heart in the worst imaginable way and it was unforgivable.

I married the man in this story. And infidelity came full circle 5 years into our marriage, 12 years into our relationship. Only this time, it was me on the receiving end.

I’ve never been quite sure about the concept of karma. We all speak about it as though it’s real but I’ve, more often than not, thought of it as a coping mechanism. However, my second husband’s infidelity sure did feel like karma. It completely broke me as a person. I allowed it to completely break me and it felt awful. I hated myself. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. My self esteem wouldn’t let me. And I felt like I totally and completely deserved it.

It felt eerily familiar. As much as I wanted to play the victim, and at times I truly did, it was undeniable that this happened for a reason.

My darkest moments lie within both sides of these infidelities. And within dark moments lie truth and learning. I learned what I am capable of. I learned what rock bottom looks like. I learned what complete loneliness feels like.  I learned what self hatred is. On both sides, all of these same lessons took place and looked very similar.

Oddly, this all brought me to a path of self acceptance. It was all within the learning. I just needed to pay attention. Cheating is simply a symptom of much deeper issues and if it happens to you, no matter which side you’re on, you just need to try to pay attention to the message. It won’t be easy, it won’t be pretty, but you.must.listen.

I forgive myself. I forgive him. It was all part of a much bigger process.