Conducting These 3 “Mom Audits” Made Me a Better Parent

It’s easy to identify when my children misbehave. One child says “I want that toy” and yanks it from her brother’s hands. I’m not even two steps closer to intervene when I hear him scream his indignation as he plows his big sister over. Now both of my children are locked on the toy, red-faced and sobbing.
Intervention must happen, right? I high-tail it to my snarling children, pry them apart, and address the situation accordingly. Perhaps it’s my motherly instinct to keep them alive for as long as possible, but this element of knowing when it’s time to parent is not hard. The tricky part is implementing a discipline for each incident that will help my children become mature, responsible, considerate, functional adults who can think for themselves and pursue a healthy path in life.
No pressure, right?
Parents are the judge, jury, and executioner for our children’s behavior. That’s a ton of power that can be misused so easily. Many story lines in movies explore this topic of abusing power (e.g. “Captain America: Civil War,” “Spider-Man,” “Mean Girls”).
Some examples of how that can manifest itself in parenting are yelling at a child, verbal or physical abuse, emotional manipulation such as playing the “victim” to guilt a child, and so on.
Children can’t verbalize their emotional needs to us very well. It’s not like a kindergartener is going to say, “Mommy, I would grow up with a much higher self-esteem if you didn’t call me that.” It’s up to us to protect our children, even if it means protecting them from our potential abuse of parental power.

Getting to the heart of the matter

I truly wanted to learn how to discipline my children effectively, lovingly, and wisely. But how? The answers began coming when I read “How to Really Love Your Child” by Dr. Ross Campbell. He said so many parents simply address their child’s behavior. Instead we must explore the root of the issue.
We must seek our child’s heart.
I began asking myself new questions. “What is my child’s motivation for acting this way? Where did this pattern of bad behavior start? How can I speak into that?”
Shortly after, I started conducting what I call “mom audits.” A mom audit is when you analyze your own actions, feelings, motives, etc. in any given parenting situation. I think we audit our children’s behavior all the time. If I see my daughter melt down as she struggles to put on a sock, for example, I check the clock. My quick audit usually shows me it’s near nap or bedtime, hence the meltdown.
If we didn’t audit our children’s behavior, we’d have a difficult time assessing what they need. I believe the same is true for us. When we don’t check in with our own heart and mind, we might also miss the parenting consequences that follow.
For example, one day I noticed my three-year-old acting up more than normal. He’s a placid kid, but for some reason he couldn’t quick picking on his sister. My efforts to correct his behavior didn’t seem to phase him. He’d tease her and land in a timeout or lose a privilege. When I tried to speak with him about his actions, he just pulled away more. He didn’t seem tired, hungry, ill, or lacking activities to stimulate his mind. It was frustrating, and although I was keeping my cool, I began to see why some parents lose it.
That’s when I remembered to stop correcting the behavior and explore my son’s heart instead. What he was doing to his sister was wrong, but what was behind it? I began asking myself some tougher questions. Through my first mom audit, I found powerful answers.

My Three “Mom Audits”

1 | Attention

How much eye contact have I given my son today? Have I tried to meet the needs of his natural love language – quality time? Did my son act up because he wanted attention while I was looking down at my phone? Was this how his three-year-old brain dealt with that rejection?

2 | Understanding

Have I given him a chance to explain his side of the story before I launched into all the reasons why his behavior was unacceptable? How well have I listened?

3 | Affirmation

How often have I praised my son when he made good choices today? Have I provided any positive reinforcement when he made improvements? Have I taken time to kneel down and say how proud I am of him lately?
My audit helped me discover that my son craved more attention. He was going to get it by any means necessary, which meant much of it was negative. I decided to put down my work, got down on the floor with him, and watch as he connected his toy trains in a long line. The moment he saw me sit down, he lit up and began narrating all the important details about his toys.
Then, my son said, “Watch this.” He raced his train across the playroom floor until it crashed into a plastic dump truck on the other side. He turned and met my gaze. “Did you see that, Mom?”
I smiled and said “Yes.”
The smile on my son’s face said it all.
It was in this moment I realized, my son had just audited me. Our children see so much, don’t they? My son desperately craved my attention and when I finally consented, he accepted it with open arms.
My son and I still discussed his defiant behavior from earlier. You’ll never hear me say to stop disciplining your child. I believe it’s an act of love for parents to hold their children accountable, to be consistent, and to help them understand the consequences of their actions.
However, we must also pursue their heart.
All children are different and will crave different things. “The Five Love Languages of Children” is an excellent resource for helping you understand how best to express more love to your child. My daughter so often craves words of praise more than racing toys across the floor together like her brother. When I check myself with her, I ask if I’ve spoken those life-giving words to her soul yet.
Through this auditing process, I’ve become a student of my children’s hearts. My hope is that they’ll grow up knowing, even when their negative actions lead to punishment, they are valued, protected, and always loved.

Paying Someone Else to Clean the Bathroom (And Other Confessions)

There are few things as sacred in motherhood as having a door that locks. In my house that’s the bathroom door, so my bathroom has become the place I retreat to when I need to have a small nervous breakdown or a piece of chocolate I don’t want to share.
Considering that I have a lot of kids and a full-time job and a husband and a big old house and a dog and a body and a laundry pile and a fridge that never seems full, every once in a while I inevitably need to regroup by locking myself in the bathroom and having a good cry in a sad little pile on the bathroom floor.
This last time, as I was curled up having a grand old pity party, I couldn’t help but come face to face with the actual condition of said bathroom floor. I tried to remember the last time I had cleaned it, and couldn’t. It showed. And nervous breakdowns aside, I couldn’t be expected to enjoy my secret candy bars amidst dusty tumbleweeds and soap scum.
This is how we get to me, locked in the bathroom, disinfectant cleaner and a rag in one hand and a tissue in the other, just scrubbing and sobbing away. And lord, if that isn’t a metaphor for motherhood I don’t know what is.
So I said to myself: when you get to the point of having to multitask through your nervous breakdowns, something probably needs to shift. Maybe it’s time to ask for help.
One day not long after I had a headache, the kind that started in the back of my neck and wrapped itself right around my head like an unwelcome scarf, ending deep inside my ears. Lights hurt, sounds hurt, and breathing hurt. Not usually one to take a pharmaceutical remedy, I came up empty handed in my search for pain reliever in my own purse, and had no choice but to enlist the help of a friend. And as she handed me the ibuprofen, she asked me where the pain was, and when I answered, she told me it was probably a stress headache.
A headache caused by stress.
Considering what the last few weeks have looked like, this does not at all come as a surprise. When having a baby meets going back to work meets the regular everyday stuff we all muddle through, apparently the conditions are ripe for the perfect storm to brew. Right at the base of my head. And when the ibuprofen started to kick in and my vision started to clear, I thought of the lesson staring me in the face here:
When the pain became too much, I knew I needed help.
When I asked for help, I got it. And things got better.
So I looked around at my life, and I asked for more help. Yes, I am now having my house professionally cleaned. I am lining up some neighborhood girls to help me out with the baby on the evenings when my husband is working his second job. I’m allowing myself to buy pre-made meals from the deli without any guilt or judgement, and I’m forgiving myself the last five pounds of baby weight that won’t come off right now, no more questions asked. I’m waving my mama white flag.
Because I can’t do it all. I certainly can’t do it all well, and I probably can’t even half-ass it all. What I know I can do, because I have been doing it for a while, is try really really hard to do it all, fail, and then lament my own failure right into a pile of snot and self pity on my dirty bathroom floor.
So instead of scrubbing my floors tonight after work, I am going to hold my baby. And next week, while my husband is at work, I will pay a sweet neighborhood girl to do the same thing so I can nourish my older babies with pre-made food that I heated up with love and a side helping of attention that isn’t feigned.
It’s actually kind of exciting, once I got past the initial shame of having to admit I was kind of drowning and found myself able to take a deep breath. The headache is gone. I can breathe. The bathroom floor is spotless. And now I kind of want to shout what I’ve learned from the rooftops: I need help and that’s okay! And it’s okay if you need help too!
Life is hard, y’all. It’s winter and it’s subzero and it physically hurts to run from the car to the house. The Christmas lights are packed away and so is everyone else. This season is naturally quiet and reflective, and it’s so easy to feel alone and stressed and overwhelmed. We talk a lot about the body’s response to stress: that whole “fight or flight” phenomenon that we all know so much about. Eons ago, maybe that stress was being chased by a saber tooth tiger, but today, I think that stress is more often than not just trying to do more than we are physically – or emotionally – capable of.
For me that includes raising a lot of children and working a full time job, but that’s just who I am right now. For someone else that could be staying at home and raising children, or it could be trying to adjust to an empty nest, or it could be working a demanding job and trying to find time to sleep and eat. It could just be trying to find the strength to get out of bed in the morning and face another day.
For all of us, it’s trying to remember to carve out a little time for ourselves, on the bathroom floor or otherwise. Our bodies are pumping out the stress hormones in full force and thanks, mother nature, for equipping me to outrun a bobcat, but that’s not what I need right now.
What I need – what we need – right now is the courage to wave the flagged ask for help.
And maybe a chocolate bar.
I’ll be in the (clean) bathroom if you need me.
This article was originally published on LizPetrone.com.

Posted on Categories _Adulthood

My Magnificent Mom Body

I feel like I’m going to vomit. My friend who runs marathons told me, “When you feel like you’re going to throw up, keep pushing for three or four more minutes. It will increase your stamina,” so I’ve been running through that pukey feeling. I’m slower than most of the girls in my group, but I’m getting faster. See, I remember that pukey feeling from those ten, twelve, fifteen hours of labor. I got this.

For the first time in nine years I’m not pregnant or nursing a baby, but out with my friends. I stop at one glass of Malbec and, instead of staying out to dance, I head home. I drag my ass out of bed at five o’clock to work out.

“But why?” my friend asks. Here’s my answer:

I don’t do it because my four-year-old said, ”Your butt looks like it got poked all over.” (Yeah, that’s cellulite). She’s also said, “You’re the strongest, Mommy,” and, “You look so beautiful, I love how you look,” and, “Do the dance again, Mommy!” Not one of my kids care about a couple dimples on my booty, especially when we’re shaking them.

I don’t do it so my body is beach ready. My body is beach ready when I put on my bathing suit and sunblock.

When I was pregnant with my third the doctor came in (with a cute intern) and pointed at my belly. “What’s this?” he asked. Um, a stretch mark Mr O.B., perhaps you’ve seen them before? Yes, it’s unusually large, but surely you’re aware. More like S.O.B.

Anyway, if I can be humiliated by the doctor and be okay about my bod, I think I can handle anyone at the beach.

I don’t do it because my stomach is mush. I think my stomach will always be squashy, no matter how many planks I do. I remember when planking wasn’t a thing, and I liked it better. All my babies have slept on that belly, snuggled up, their little heads on my heart. It’s a comfy tummy.

I don’t do it to decrease stress. I use naps, orgasms, and wine for that. Also, my kids sometimes set up a “spa” for me in the bathroom. I lie on the damp, dirty bathroom rug while the four of them rub my back with hot washcloths and sweet-smelling bottles of hotel lotion. Paradise.

I don’t do it for my husband. He likes big butts and he cannot lie. He has seen me make and subsequently give him four human beings. I mean, after that, running a couple miles kind of fast is pretty inconsequential.

I don’t do it because my friend posts motivational memes all over her Facebook page. Enough already. If I see one more perfect ass with something about squats on it, I might unfriend you. At least unfollow. See, it feels like all I do all day is squat to pick up a lego off the floor, squat to kiss a bloody knee, squat to sweep the broken glass into the dustpan. I got you’re squats right here, buddy.

Yes, I’m setting a good example for my kids. Yes, I feel better. And yes, I’m becoming that person who is a little grumpy when I don’t work out. Damn it, I hate that person.

None of these things are really why either.

I’m training for a triathlon, my first. Pre-kids, I used to think, “Wow! Those people are amazing, I could never do that.” But I’m doing it. I’m doing it now because, after pushing out four babies, nourishing them with only my body, lifting them to the branch so they could climb, pushing, pulling, and dragging them screaming out of countless grocery stores, carrying their sleeping bodies from the car and up a thousand stairs to bed, catching them whenever they were going to fall, all that and raising them up, I finally know the strength of my body.

Please don’t tell me how to get my body back. My body has been here all along, growing human beings. I never knew how capable I was until those four tiny people gave me this extraordinary gift: they gave me my mom body.

Finding Yourself Through Mom Friends

My only chance at surviving these childhood years would come in the form of a cross-body-bag-wearing, sleep deprived, carrier of small humans: another mom.

Palms sweating. Fingers tightly wrapped around my tray containing the daily special: broccoli and cheese dippers, a carton of slightly souring milk, a fruit cup, and my English notebook. The knot in my stomach tightening as I enter the cafeteria. Will there be a spot at an empty table? Will I strike up a conversation and sit with someone today?
High school. Freshman year. Life sucked.
Pimples. Puberty. Hormones. As a teen girl, I was a mess. I wasn’t overly good at sports. I was tall, so I was picked for teams, but easily fell over my own two feet which made it hard to hang with the jocks. I was book smart and made good grades, but not enough to be cool among the geeks. I was afraid of authority, I didn’t take many risks, and doing anything illegal upset me more than I cared to admit, so I didn’t fit into the alternative crowd. I slowly compiled a small group of friends, whom I grew to love dearly, as they loved me for who I was, whoever that was.
As I aged my group of friends grew slightly, but I learned that I always seemed better at keeping mainly to myself. My introverted nature thrived and I found myself most at ease when working on building my family. My relationship with my now-husband strengthened as we grew together, and the stress of maintaining outside relationships dwindled my group of girlfriends significantly. I was a working woman with a large family life to juggle – some great friends I made regular visits with, and the acquaintances I often caught up with for drinks, began to fade. Some friends were having children, which I found hard to relate to. Others, waiting like me, became more involved in their careers. We all became busy, and our friendships slowly became  less intense. In my late 20s I admittedly became the most introverted in my life – and I was happy.
Then I had my first child. (Holy hell, how do people do this alone?! I give some serious props to you single parents out there.) Somehow, in the blur that had then become reality, I added a second babe, as if that was what I was supposed to do. Two kids in 17 months lead to a lot of staring in the mirror wondering what had become of me. Having my husband along for the ride kept me floating above water, but I was in desperate need of those friends I had let slip away.
The problem was, once you get your life to where you want it to be – totally comfortable in your reclusive reality of home life with your career on hold to raise your babes – there was just quiet. A deafening silence, only interrupted by the milk-driven screams of your new best friends.
Gone were the girls’ nights, the collective complaining as the wine poured. I needed someone with milk (hopefully) on their shirt, toys in their pockets, and bags under their eyes who would understand why I put my cold coffee in the microwave three times before ultimately forgetting where I put it. Where was the person in my life that could sing the Paw Patrol theme song and who knew Rubble and Rocky were not terrain terms? Why could no one else understand the bargaining power of some Goldfish crackers?
One thing became abundantly clear: my introverted lifestyle needed to be seriously made over, and my only chance at surviving these childhood years would come in the form of a cross-body-bag-wearing, sleep deprived, carrier of small humans: another mom.
Making new friends is not easy. It’s flashbacks of high school. It’s bringing your lunch to the table and hoping someone is willing to chat with you. A positive note is that most moms will chat to any adult that comes within earshot. However, commonalities often end after the small talk. You usually discuss kids, feeding styles, and sleep patterns … maybe toss in a question about the hubster or two, and then it’s the silence that sneaks back in. You struggle to remember the part of you that isn’t a mom or a wife, and you forget that there is more to you to discuss.
The attempts are difficult at first. Connecting with a woman like you is nearly impossible, especially since you aren’t sure who you is anymore. Does she wear yoga pants in public? Does she raise her voice too often, and feed her guilty feelings with candy bars? Will there be a woman at story-time today who also stepped on a Lego while getting her toddler wrangled and lost her mind waiting for him to dress himself for the fifth time … or will you see a gal with makeup on and her hair done and long to know how she does it? Could she be the one to help you find the you hiding inside?
The park days become auditions where you try to size up the other ladies to see who just might be a good fit. At play dates you overdress and pretend to have your shit together to see if she might be the one. As if struggling with your tiny humans wasn’t enough, now you need to slut yourself out to find the gal who’s going to make it somehow all seem okay.
You keep looking though. She’s out there. Just like that one true friend you had in high school. Just like a unicorn riding on a rainbow. That elusive four-leaf clover. If you kiss enough frogs you will be rewarded. And when it happens, it’s like fireworks on the Fourth of July. Time stops and a theme song begins to play in the background of your life. That’s when the wooing begins.
Ultimately, with a little pushing and a little convincing yourself that it’s worth it – that you are worth it – you will find that lady who will welcome you in and your whole life will be different. You won’t worry so much about the makeup you didn’t put on, or the beds that aren’t made, or the snot you can’t seem to keep off the sleeve of their shirts. No longer will you sit and cry in the bathroom quietly (well, maybe you still will when someone eats your last hidden cookie), but you’ll have a gal to call, and she’ll drown your mommy woes in a box of wine.
You’ll have a gaggle that will be knee-deep in crap with you, and if they aren’t suffering as you are at that moment in time, they have been or will be, and they know it. She will be an ear to listen, and a heart to heal. If for nothing else a true mom friend will tell you when to take the sweats off and paint the town red with your hubster – she’ll even throw in babysitting so you can.
It’s simple to get lost in the person you were and the dreams you had. To watch the worlds of others and wish you could just get yourself together. You can easily feel hostage to the tiny manipulators that slowly suck away parts of you. As a mom, I was forgetting that I was a wife, a sister, a friend. As a mom, I was at a loss to be anything else. And, that’s why a mom friend is critical. She is the woman who reminds you that there is someone inside that frazzled exterior who is so much more than what she sees.
If I am honest, I still prefer my nights quietly sitting on the couch, binge-watching TV or nose deep in a good fiction. Putting pants that button on to go out, even for a glass of wine with my friends, sometimes feels like too much. Ignoring invites and staying in our jammies is optimal. But then I remember how much better I feel as soon as I see her.
In High School, when I stood with my tray in hand scanning the cafeteria, there was always a feeling of comfort that would settle in when I spied my group of closest friends. The ones I didn’t need to pretend to feel a part of. The ones who loved me and encouraged me to be me – and when I wasn’t, they would remind me of who that was.
Although the road back to this same feeling can be long and bumpy, there is no greater comfort than that found in a mom friend. Making friends in any facet of life is a trialing experience. Putting yourself out there is  terrifying. But for the sake of my sanity and for the pure enjoyment of learning that the woman in the mirror is more than what she has become, it is essential.
You can do it.

Posted on Categories _Adulthood

Are Divorce Rates Really Higher for Families With Special Needs Kids?

The Wisconsin Longitudinal Study offers excellent insight into whether or not the divorce rate is higher for families with Special Needs children.

Your child has just been diagnosed with a life-threatening or life-changing diagnosis. You are dealing with all the emotions, grief, and stress that come with your new normal. As you begin sharing this news with others, one of the first things you’re told is that the rate of divorce is much higher with families like yours.
This is really the last thing you want to hear. Your child has just been diagnosed with a major issue, with which you’re trying to come to terms. This in and of itself is life-altering. Now, you have to worry about whether you’ll beat the odds of the marriage category you’ve just been placed in, statistically speaking? This feels like a slap in the face.
Sometime ago, I decided to look this up and see what the current stats are. I found plenty of articles to back up this opinion, like this one in the Huffington Post and this one on Families.com.
What drew me in, however, was a research study published by the National Institute of Health. And what I found surprised me.
Previous studies have shown that there was an increased risk of divorce, but one of the problems with these studies is that they only look at snapshots of time – studying school-aged kids, for example, or adult children. They didn’t consider the lifetime of the marriage.
The Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, which the NIH published, offers excellent insight into whether or not the divorce rate is higher for families with Special Needs children. The results of the 50-year study were published in 2015.
“…we found that divorce rates were not elevated, on average, in families with a child with developmental disabilities. However, in small families, there was a significantly higher risk of divorce relative to a normative comparison group. ”
The results found that there was about a two percent higher risk. When you figure in a statistical margin of error of three percent, the difference is negligible. They did, however, find an interesting result about family size.
Among families without special needs, the more children they had, the more likely they were to divorce. The opposite is true of families with Special Needs children. If they had more children they were less likely to divorce.
The study hypothesized that perhaps it was due to the care of the child with Special Needs being distributed amongst more people, making it easier to manage and also providing extra support as the parents age.
I should note a few limitations of the study: There were not many minority populations represented within the study, and it was conducted with a cohort of people who tended to get married younger and have more children than today’s couples. Future studies are warranted to see if the findings can be replicated.
It has been found in other studies that marriage later in life generally makes for a more stable marriage, so it is unlikely that that would change the result. Due to the longitudinal nature of the study and the rigorous methods used, I feel this is a good snapshot of what things look like within many of our families.
What we can take away from this study is that there is hope. You aren’t doomed to divorce your spouse. Your marriage will take work and care, like any other person’s marriage, but you have just as much of a chance to make it work as anyone else.
So ignore this statistic that gets thrown at you and go spend time with your spouse and child.

Posted on Categories _Adulthood

To the Mom Who Is Barely Hanging On

Your face told me you’re clinging to some sort of freedom you refuse to lay down, but your world is putting up such a fight you’re not sure it’s worth it.

I drove past you in the dusky light of a fading day. You were hanging onto your life – the life you long to live – but your face told me you’d reached the end of your rope.

An infant strapped to your chest, the handle of a stroller in your left hand, and the leash of your small and energetic dog nearly yanking your right shoulder out of its socket, your face said it all. Your face told me that you’re clinging to some sort of freedom you refuse to lay down, but your world is putting up such a fight that you’re not sure it’s worth it.

I’m sure you were stuck in the house all day. I’m sure the walls had started closing in and you grew weary of cleaning up the same 15 toys a dozen times. You probably started to wonder if all this mothering of little ones was making a difference or not, and you might have started to feel that you’d lost yourself.

You gave up your career, or at least the satisfaction of doing it well. You let friendships slip to the back-burner, and you can’t remember the last time you had a girls’ night out or ate with both hands in your very own kitchen. For that matter, you can’t recall the last time you actually sat down to enjoy your own meal.   

You sometimes wonder if you and your husband live on two entirely different planets. The most pressing household needs – hungry children, sticky fingers, toys strewn under the dining room table three minutes before dinner is served, poopy diapers – seem to complete elude his attention.

In addition to living in different worlds, he still holds onto pieces of his life that you lost years ago. He has time for Saturday morning golf, Friday afternoon happy hour, and career development seminars. He has time for football games, haircuts, and morning workouts at the gym.

Meanwhile, you’d like to know just where your individuality up and ran off to. You’ve laid down every hobby and every personal passion for this. You gave up your gym membership for baby yoga in the living room, and you now cut your own hair every six months using a complicated system of tilted mirrors. You’re not sure what you’d even want to do if you had three hours to yourself; most likely, you’d crash into a long and uninterrupted slumber.

I know these things, woman with two children and a yanking dog, because I’ve been where you are. I was there, and I lost myself 1000 times, but I’ve made it to the other side, and the woman I’ve found there is a woman I’d like to spend a day with. She’s a woman who I happen to like more than the single woman who had a thriving career, passion for travel, strict workout routine, and full social schedule.

When a woman learns to let go of the rope to which she’s ferociously clinging, she’s forced to jump into a new kind of life and, sometimes, letting go of the rope is the greatest gift. 

Letting go made me a bit gentler. It taught me that I don’t have all the answers and that, the longer I live, the fewer answers I seem to have.

Letting go softened me. It slowed me down. It invited me into a life that’s less about me and what I want in any given moment, and more about others and how I can invest in a way that brings joy to the lives of others.

Letting go taught me that I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to keep it all together or put on a mask. I simply need to show up.

So, lady with the kids and the yanking dog, I applaud you. I applaud you for trying, and I applaud you for showing up. I see it on your face that you’re barely hanging on, and I’m here to encourage you that letting go isn’t as terrifying as you thought it might be. Let go of all that’s draining you dry, and keep putting one tired foot in front of the other in all your human imperfection.

This season won’t last nearly as long as you expect, and when you emerge on the other side, the woman you’ve become will look back on the journey with a tender smile.

Brazilian Waxing Is Hot?

This is a submission in our monthly contest. January’s theme is “Wild.” Enter your own here!
After spending almost half of my life with my “high school sweetheart,” it ended, and I was sprung from my domesticated apron strings out into the world with no experience or handbook, a disaster waiting to happen. (I did, however, stumble across “He’s Just Not That Into You” a few months later).
Things change in 15 years, especially considering that I was 19 when I settled down. Just as fashion trends come and go (bell bottoms in in the 70s and out in the 80s), so do certain aspects of dating. Imagine my surprise to learn that Brazilian waxing is hot.
What is that about??
Can you imagine the shock and fright on my 10-year-old daughter’s face if she caught me naked coming from the shower, bald? (Yes, that actually did happen.)
I conformed. I will try most things once, and I have to admit, I prefer it this way. The maintenance is so much easier. Before you judge me, try to imagine the difference of maintaining hardwood floors verses carpet. Need I say more?
It can be scary becoming single in your 30s with three kids under your belt (literally…just look below my belt line, all the evidence is there, no matter how many crunches I do or miles I run). There are so many elements of dating that I am learning about. For example, “marketability.”
When people ask “Why do you go to the gym?” or “Why do you worry about what you are eating?”, I explain that I have five marketable years left, and I intend to use them to my advantage. I don’t want to be like my grade 10 art teacher, living alone in my 50s with three cats, not getting any.
Good for her, if she was happy. I’m not saying her lifestyle was wrong; I am saying it’s not for me.
Comments like, “If he doesn’t love you for who you are, you don’t want him,” are made by people who already have a signed legal agreement by their partner that requires them to come home every night. I don’t have that.
So I spend time at the gym each week and have taken up running, and it’s one of the best things I have added to my life. I also attend therapy bimonthly to work on my “inner self,” so the guy who gets me will get the best of both.
All that said, I am a realist. I recognize some facts I just can’t fight: I am not 21 with a pre-pregnancy body (there’s a whole chapter missing from my prenatal book about that). I have learned ways to compensate, or shall I say “aid” in my confidence when baring all.
Until I have that signed legal agreement, I do what works right now: I wear my level 4 push-up bra and tank top whenever I’m on top. Kidding. Well…sort of, but that’s another topic on its own. The fact is, I work with what I have and take care of it the best I can.
So, I continue on this journey. And, yes, having three kids, a full time job, a house to care for, and a circle of friends and family can be tricky to manage at times. Who plans to be a single mom in her 30s?
I may not be that tight little 20-something girl anymore. But I am proud of the woman I am – and the woman I am becoming. No regrets. There’s a lesson in everything, and I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone else’s.
I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

Yes, It Was a 16th Birthday Party, But "Sweet" Isn't How You'd Describe It

This is a submission in our monthly contest. January’s theme is “Wild.” Enter your own here!
Wild at heart, wild animals, Wild Thang, walk on the wild side … holy moly COW, you ain’t seen “wild” until you host your 16-year-old’s surprise party.
I was approached by one of my son’s female friends with the request to throw a surprise birthday party for him. She (let’s call her “Stacy”) was a nice, quiet neighbor of ours, one of his homework buddies, and I was touched by her thoughtfulness. “Of course,” I said. “Yes, by all means: what can I do to help?” And she assured me that she and another young lady would handle all the details. I was simply to keep it secret.
The afternoon arrived, as did the two sweeties, to decorate the house. This was to be a rather large affair and my husband and I were going to grill hot dogs and hamburgers for the crowd. Stacy mentioned that her Uncle knew a girl who danced and thought it would be great fun to have her drop by. How cute, I thought, imagining someone dressed for the ballroom, teaching my son how to salsa. Or perhaps she would lead everyone in the Funky Chicken, like on a cruise ship. Whatever. Fun, fun, fun.
The crowd arrived and soon, so did my son. “SURPRISE!!” The desired effect was achieved, everyone blew those paper blowers and I bustled around in the kitchen, making munchies.
There was a knock on the door. There stood a scantily dressed female, and behind her was a short, heavy-set gentleman in a suit and tie, and behind him was Frankenstein, some sort of huge bodybuilder type. Stacy came running up, hugged the Suit and introduced him as her uncle. Frankenstein was the strong, silent type and just grunted. They followed me into the kitchen where, me, Ms. Naïve Suburbanite, attempted to make small talk and discovered that the very sexy girl was “in law school.” The other two seemed extremely ill at ease, even when I offered them a plate of my famous snickerdoodles.
Stacy soon fetched the budding lawyer to come with her into the living room and I attempted to follow. Stacy suggested that it would be better if I remained in the kitchen. Frank(enstein) followed behind them. I looked quizzically at her uncle, shrugged my shoulders, and busied myself at the sink. I heard a roar from the crowd and whistling and hooting and I froze. What in the name of all that is Good was going on?! My mouth fell open as I realized what kind of dancer I had invited into my home. And who was entertaining my now officially 16-year-old and his friends at that very moment! The Uncle looked at his watch, said “Time to go,” and fetched his entourage to leave. I thanked them for coming, wished her well in law school, and wondered why I was so fixated on being polite to these undesirable people! Some habits are just too ingrained to control. I’m a Mid-Westerner.
It wasn’t until years later that I came upon a photograph of the dancer and my son and blushed! Don’t worry: she was fully clothed after all – no one wanted to have gotten arrested that day, but I felt so hoodwinked by that sweet, “innocent” little neighbor of mine. It was truly a wild party for the ages, and my son assured me that my reputation as “Coolest Mom” was cemented that day. Whoop, whoop.

Why I'm Tired of the Unsolicited "Just Wait Until" Parenting Tips

What ever happened to the old adage that if you don’t have anything good to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all?

I’m pregnant. Let the “just wait until” statements begin.

Let me preface this with a few things: I understand that for the most part, people mean well. So usually these “let me warn you” statements are intended to either commiserate slightly over the difficulties that all parents go through, or to give you a friendly bit of advice over what you can come to expect.

Also, while I am an experienced aunt, I’ve only been a mother to a wonderful baby boy for 10 months (my second is scheduled to join us in just three more months) so I understand that I’m no veteran and that perhaps all the things to come in motherhood will sour me a little more. Perhaps, a few years from now, I’ll be more prone to making such statements myself (but if you knew me, you’d agree: that’s not a likely scenario).

Now let me say this, none of those things are enough to convince me that the overwhelming presence of negative rather than positive feedback should be the norm. What ever happened to the old adage that if you don’t have anything good to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all? Why is it that almost everyone’s go-to reaction is one with a negative tone?

Examples of the statements that I’m talking about:

You’re pregnant? Oh, just wait until the mood swings really kick in and you can’t keep it together. Just wait until you’re so big that you have to waddle. Just wait until the very end of your pregnancy when you’re uncomfortable all the time.

You can’t sleep because you’re so pregnant? Oh, just wait until the baby comes and then you’ll see what real lack of sleep is. (This one makes another appearance in round two because, apparently, you don’t know what sleep deprivation is until you have two kids).

You just had a baby? Oh, just wait until he is over the newborn phase and doesn’t sleep all the time. Just wait until she’s teething. Just wait until he’s crawling. Just wait until she’s walking. Just wait until he’s talking. Just wait until the terrible twos. Just wait until it’s impossible to feed her because she refuses everything you give her. Just wait until he’s in school and bringing home all kinds of germs and you’re all miserable from being sick. Just wait until she’s seven or eight and has an attitude already. Just wait until the dreaded teenage years.

Now, let’s agree that parenting is not for the faint of heart. It’s hard. You may be a postpartum mom whose hormones have turned you into some crazy version of the person you used to be and you barely recognize yourself while you’re supposed to be overjoyed at the presence of your new little angel. Meanwhile, you’re just impressed with yourself if you got through an entire day without crying.

You worry about this tiny little person from their first cold to the first bump on their head, skinned knee, bite from another child at the park, broken bone, broken heart, the list goes on and on. If I spent all my time dreading the “wait untils” or worrying about the next difficult thing around the corner, when would I have time to enjoy all the wonderful, amazing, incredible things that a child brings to a parent’s life?

That being said, I am under no illusions. I fully understand that no matter how much I love them, my children will test me endlessly and will, on numerous occasions, push me to the brink of my sanity. However, isn’t that part of the process? Often the most worthwhile and rewarding things in life are the most difficult. Life isn’t always easy, so it should come as no surprise that parenting isn’t either.

To those few people who’ve talked pregnancy or parenting with me, and said things such as, “How wonderful for you,” “That’s great,” “Enjoy every moment of it, it’s a really special time,” “My favourite age is x, they’re so fun at that time,” and simply left it at that – thank you. Thank you for the positivity. Thank you for leaving it at that.

These sentiments seem so few and far between that, while people generally give off statements of “I’m happy for you,” it’s typically followed with that incessant “But just wait until” that makes me cringe on the inside. Can’t we just be happy for people and leave it that? No? Maybe? Let’s just try it and see what happens.

You’re pregnant? That’s awesome! What an exciting time, I’m happy for you.

You’re nearing the end of your pregnancy? Great! Best of luck with labor and delivery. I truly hope all goes smoothly for you and I’m excited that your new little bundle will be in your arms shortly.

You just had a baby? Wow! How wonderful! I hope that the whole family is doing well. I am so happy for you during this special time with a new little person to help fill your home with love.

Your little one is now walking? Aww, I love when they reach special new milestones. It’s great to see the little ones walking (or running) around discovering things at their own pace.

You’re pregnant with your second baby? Woohoo! A sibling for your son (or daughter) and another beautiful little person to add to a home just bursting with love! (Third, fourth, or fifth pregnancy? The sentiment carries on, as well as: Good on you, not everyone is brave enough for a big family!)

Personally, I’ve found that those who leave you with a purely positive comment are few and far between, so much so that I’ve truly come to cherish those interactions. I also believe that most don’t even realize the negative tone that they give off in their comments.

We can endeavor to change that. Let’s be more mindful of the things that we say to parents who can (and should) be reveling in the joys that child-rearing brings. For the undeniably tough moments that come with it, hang in there. I can guarantee that you’re not the only one to feel that struggle. Worry not, you can get through it.

What so often works for me when I need to reset is to look into the beautiful, innocent eyes of that tiny little person and let the love just wash over me for a moment. He has so much life yet to come and his possibilities are endless. It’s a wonderful thing to be in the presence of. Life often pushes us to forget that – just don’t let it.

When Your Car’s Fuel Gauge Isn’t the Only Thing on “E”

I realized the empty fuel gauge was indicative of most facets of my life. Essentially, everything is on “E.”

While driving home from work the other day, I heard a familiar sound: the “ding.” It’s a dreaded sound with weighty implications – an unmistakable reminder that the tank is nearly empty. I knew I was low on fuel, but the “ding” confirmed it. That needle was on the precipice of no return. If it had gone much farther to the left, I’m just not sure. It’s definitely reminiscent of that “Seinfeld” episode where Kramer tried to determine just how far he could drive Jerry’s car for free. Why not test the limits of the red slash, right? Well, I’m not Kramer. I didn’t want to cut it too close. It seemed like I just refueled, though – how could it be time again?
Once the initial frustration subsided, I realized the empty fuel gauge was indicative of most facets of my life. Essentially, everything is on “E.” And if it’s not completely empty, it sure is close.
Allow me to illustrate.
I open the fridge, and we’re low on milk. “Didn’t I just buy milk?” I think to myself. Then I actually say it aloud. “Didn’t I just buy milk?” Time to ration it. Next, I head to the linen closet as part of my pre-shower routine and oops – we’re out of clean towels. I thought there were still a few recently-laundered gems in there – the big fluffy kind. No. Only washcloths and dish towels remain. Bummer.
It seems as though the same phrases, or slight variations of, are applicable to each item and/or situation within our home. A few include: “running low,” “short on,” “almost out of,” and the unspeakable “out of.” They’re like phrase stems where you can insert any noun of your choosing. Here’s how it works: we’re low on bread, short on cash, almost out of diapers, and now I’m out of ideas.
Those are all disappointing scenarios but certainly manageable. For parents with young children, though, running out of diapers is probably the worst. There’s always that moment when you think you’re completely out of diapers and then realize there’s a slight chance that one or two are nestled deep within the cavernous abyss that is the diaper bag. My wife’s bag is roomy and boasts a decorative floral pattern. Aesthetically it’s great, but you can never find anything in there. It’s worth a peek, though. Yes! I found one! You break into celebratory song and dance, but the thrill is fleeting. The sad realization is that even if you do find a single diaper tucked away, you’re still out of diapers. You need it now, and it will be filled shortly. A trip to the store is inevitable.
Today, though, as I take inventory of all the shortages, deficiencies, and empty containers, I’m reminded of where we’re full. There is nothing quite like the peals of laughter from children as you chase them through the house. You load them into the tub and smile at the sight of their little heads all lathered up with shampoo. It’s adorable how they shield their little eyes as you douse them with water. There is nothing quite like those little smiles when you deliver on your promise of chocolate chip cookies after dinner, assuming they actually ate their broccoli. There is just something about the way those little ones curl up next to you during story time and wait with bated breath for the next page. Those little moments are full of what we cherish most.
We smile, tuck them in, say goodnight, and retire to the sofa for some down time. Gently, my wife leans her head against my shoulder. “Honey,” she says, “Our show didn’t record. The DVR is full – we’re out of space.”

Posted on Categories _Adulthood