Tag Archives: motherhood

Moonlighting (in Spanx)

Every month I contribute to the It Builds Character site, which is a parenting blog.  I know, right?  Don’t worry – I try to tone it down just a little.  Not so many f-bombs, but just as much sarcasm and angst.  For any of the three or four of you who read this are parents, you should bookmark it.  My pseudonym there is Mama Sully.  You know, just to be really clever about hiding my identity.

So anyways, if you have a love-hate relationship with Spanx, this one’s for you:

Spanx A Lot: My courageous battle with America’s #1 frenemy, shapewear

Bee tee dubs – I expected more from my readers on the Pitbull thing. I mean, for or against, people?! I only have enough money to get one of us a brain MRI.

Three’s Company

**I am a regular contributor to the It Builds Character parenting site. (Yeah, I know – they let me write about parenting! Whaa?)  Anyway, this was one of mine originally published there in March 2011.  I thought it might be worthy of share on (Love) Notes because I feel too lazy to write something new today . **

When I had my first baby 6 years ago, everything, including the baby, was perfect. I got pregnant about six seconds after going off birth control, and the baby held off entering this world until I could graduate from business school the day earlier. He slept a lot and ate a lot. I sat around my house watching Oprah and Dr. Phil and everything else on daytime TV wondering, “What is everyone complaining about? Babies are easy!” When he was awake, my kid was always smiling and he was cute too. He didn’t have any health issues, allergy issues, sleep issues – nothing. My husband I brought him out to dinner with friends, baseball games, the grocery store, and he just sat there content the whole time. He was so good, there was an uneasy part of me that thought maybe he was the second coming of Christ, which would mean my husband wasn’t his biological father, and that could make things awkward if anyone ever found out. I eventually decided that since no wise men came to the hospital when he was born, I probably wasn’t the mother of God, but then again, maybe they just got lost – that place was really confusing.

The point is, having a baby didn’t really change our lives at all. We were well rested and had no reason to fight because our baby was perfect and so were our lives.

So when my son was 18 months old, I was all about having Number Two because kids were so easy and all those other parents were kind of whiners. Maybe they just weren’t doing everything right like I was – even though what I was doing I just made up everyday and my kid turned out totally perfect and above-average, which kind of proved that I just have a really natural penchant for child-rearing and really great genes. Man, was my son lucky I was so full of Awesome.

But when it was time for Number Two, things didn’t go exactly like Number One. Getting pregnant? Not so easy this time. And I don’t tolerate failure well, so I was naturally a joy to live with from the time I didn’t get pregnant immediately to the almost year later it took to conceive. I am kind of surprised my husband ever consented to sex after that again, because I regularly screeched things like, “We need to have sex precisely between 8:03pm and 8:11pm today or else I won’t get pregnant for yet another month!” and “I hope you have been following Section 3.1.2 of the Conception Rule Book I authored which states no alcohol, loose underwear and no masturbation. Be showered, shaved and ready to perform when I beckon. Failure is not an option.” So, needless to say, our sex life was truly awe-inspiring – not in a good way.

Eventually he finally did it right and I finally got pregnant with Number Two, who would surely turn out to be as perfect as Number One. Because after all, past performance is the best predictor of future performance, right? Number Two was born two days after Number One’s third birthday. I didn’t really prepare all that much because babies were easy and he could wear all his brother’s old clothes and he would like all the same stuff as Number One and this would be even simpler than Number One, so what was the point? My in-laws came into town a couple of weeks after the baby was born and we decided now would be a great time for my father-in-law and husband to renovate the family room by themselves. Because kids were easy, so I wouldn’t really need much help and who needs a family room in tact anyway?

Weeell, so Number Two wasn’t a clone of Number One. He cried a little more. He was gassy. After a few weeks, he began to projectile vomit. And then suddenly Perfect Number One was whiny and withdrawn and seemed to want constant attention as if that was what he was used to before this baby was born. Oh wait….right. And then on top of that, I was the lucky winner of a little bout of postpartum depression, so one of my favorite activities was sitting in my room crying for no reason. Nice. Within no time at all our perfect family of three became a sad, dysfunctional family of four. It turned out Number Two had a rare condition that required surgery to fix and without going into all the gory details, Year One of having two kids sucked. Really sucked hard.

And, I had to deal with the realization that I actually wasn’t the best parent ever, because Number One and Number Two were hard to deal with individually, and collectively. They drove my husband and I insane more than a few times and Wally and the Beav never did that to June and Ward. Perhaps we all weren’t as perfect as I had imagined. We had all we could handle with two kids and two full-time jobs and keeping our marriage out of the Alec Baldwin/Kim Basinger range, so we decided we were all finished with kids. After surviving that first year, it looked like there might be a light at the end of the tunnel. Our sons were healthy and happy and we were sleeping again. We were done. Thank God.

That was until about 15 months ago when I miraculously got pregnant again. Maybe I was to be the virgin mother of God after all. I mean, the odds of me getting pregnant were about equal to the odds of Oprah and Gayle breaking up – which has miracle written all over it. I’m still confused how you can try for a year and have no luck and then when you are doing your best not to, you get pregnant. I guess stuff happens. Well, to us at least.

I wasn’t thrilled. I was scared. We just barely made it through two – how on earth was I going to make it through another? This time my depression started immediately upon the discovery of pregnancy of Number Three. We had to move from the city to the suburbs. We had to get rid of the sedan and find a car that could fit three car seats. We had to become just like “real” parents and real adults that shuttle a bunch of kids around all weekend long. We had to change everything. And I wasn’t happy about it. I had gone from The Best Mother of All Time just six short years before to The Worst Mother of All Time Because I’m Really Super Not Excited About Another Baby.

And then we found out Number Three was a girl. Everyone delighted in exclaiming “You got your girl!” like I was going to keep having kids until I had a girl. I knew boys. I like boys. What on earth was I going to do with a girl? I spent most of the pregnancy disturbed and in denial as we sold our house, moved to the suburbs and turned into the nuclear family cliché. I thought I outsmarted the suburban gods by saying no to the minivan, but then I realized my gas guzzling, insanely huge SUV I had to buy to fit my entire litter was about as original as any Nickelback song you can think of. I would have saved some face buying the minivan.

But then a funny thing happened. Number Three was born and the world didn’t crumble. My life didn’t end. In fact, it got richer. I was in love with my daughter the second I held her. I can’t believe I spent so much time pissed off I was pregnant when I look at those three kids playing together. Having three kids is actually better than having two. Number One and Number Two keep each other busy and they are turning out to be insanely great big brothers and Number Three is not only the cutest kid in the universe, but she started sleeping through the night at three weeks. It makes me think – “Hey, this is easy!! What is everyone complaining about? Maybe we should have a couple more!?”

I think I just heard my husband smash his head into the counter and then chug his glass of wine.

Is that a no?

Love’s PhD Trilogy: Judges

Okay, so I decide to get a PhD from a top program and then I get accepted to said program, even though I was about to have a kid and getting a PhD with kids is like climbing Everest with kids. I’m not sure anybody has ever done it.  Everest with kids, that is.  But that isn’t a totally fair metaphor. Because people have earned PhDs with kids – it just that they are mostly the men that didn’t give birth to those kids and it didn’t come without cost.  This became kind of apparent, kind of early on.  But I’m not making excuses, because people do it. It gets done. And it was my plan to be one of them.

As I looked around on my orientation day at the 6 people who were to be my cohort I was kind of comforted. First, they looked normal.  Second, no douchebags. Finally, I could understand all but one of them when they spoke.  Plus, there were five women and two men. The feminist in me had my hands in the air just like Miley – noddin’ my head like yeah, movin’ my hips like yeah. (Please let the record reflect I had this move WAY before Miley’s song and I do not condone references to Miley Cyrus songs. Ever. Except when you were already doing that shit when she was nine and you I want credit because I deserve it, dammit.). But I think all that movement freaked some of them out because my very large, protruding pregnant belly wasn’t making it cool. It kind of looked like maybe I had gas or I might go into labor.  I eventually stopped so the men wouldn’t pass out.  But there was one thing that stood out — I was the only person married and the only one who was going to have a kid when we started.

Two of the women just graduated from undergrad, so they were like 22.  And then there were four of us who tried the whole working for a living thing and decided to go back to school and then there was another woman from China. She didn’t speak English all that well, so I don’t know what her story was.  All I know is that she moved here from China for the program and she had this Chinese boyfriend that followed her around everywhere. And when I say everywhere, I mean he actually would follow her into our seminars. You know, where the 7 of us were learning how to be smart and he would just come along and sit down like he was in the class. It got so weird because at some point he was volunteering to present papers to the class and it was like, “Dude!? You aren’t even in the program. And you don’t speak English. The fuck?” but Google translator doesn’t really do a good job putting that into Mandarin.  So he kind of just hung around and while his girlfriend slept through the seminars, and he took notes and we all looked at him like “WTF?”. I don’t think the look needed to be translated. I’m guessing it was the same in China as it is here.

The least he could have done was solved the Rubik’s cube for us, but he never did.  Probably our fault for not bringing one.  But he eventually was told to get a life by the faculty and she eventually wound up getting kicked out because unfortunately she wrote English worse than she spoke it, and then there was that little problem she had with narcolepsy. When you’re in a class with 7 people and one prof who holds your future in his hands, you don’t fucking sleep through it.

I digress –  I need to stop talking about my cohort, who I  love to death because they did humor me and talk about US Weekly with me and Oprah and they are way cooler and way smarter than me, which is the kind of company I like to keep. And now they are all PhDs and professors and prestigious universities across the country and abroad, so I don’t want give their students any fodder for ridicule. No – lets just talk about fodder you can use to ridicule me.

I wanted Professor Bourbon to be my advisor.  I took some of his courses as an MBA and most of my peers found his class super strange and abstract and not applicable to being an investment banker, so they didn’t like it. But I thought he and his work rocked. He was really an anthropologist by training and the stuff he did research on was fascinating.  He was kind of a hippie at heart, but still he dressed in tweed sports coats with little corduroy patches, so we had a shared sense of fashion.  And his office was like this really dark, cozy lair because all of the walls and windows were covered floor to ceiling with books.  He told us once he read 10 books a week – and that was just fun stuff. Not the stuff for work. Oh yeah, and he was so nice about me getting preggers and all.  So see? He was pure awesomeness.

So the program requires you to take two years of seminars on marketing research and stats and math and psychology and sociology and all kinds of fun stuff, but at the same time you’re also supposed to figure out what kind of research you are drawn to so you can have a dissertation topic at the end of the two years, that you will spend the next 3 to 4 writing.  In the meantime, you have to write papers for faculty review to start your big career as an academic researcher.  Unfortunately for me, I’m the type of person who likes to be a user of knowledge, not a creator of it.  And unfortunately, it turns out that in order for professors to keep their jobs, they have to create knowledge in the form of research that gets published in journals that only about 40 people read, and those are the 40 that publish in that journal and they don’t really want anybody else to publish in their little journal.  So when you submit a paper, they read it and tell you in very academic language that you suck and hope you fail miserably in life and reject your paper.  And then you cry and get over it and try to kiss their ass until one of them will let you write a paper and put their name on it and then they’ll let you in their journal.  Apparently teaching and facilitating panels of CEOs is just what they do on the side and counts for nothing as far as their career goes.  Yep. Didn’t really know that before I signed up.

But no matter – Professor Bourbon inspired me. Compared to other academics, he was like the man version of Mother Teresa.  He didn’t seem to get the same glee that his peers did in humiliating his students and working them to the brink of a mental breakdown. At the same time, he didn’t coddle. He just told you that you sucked in a really nice way, without using the terms “suck”, “ludicrous”, “trivial”, “excrement”, or “fuck you” and then encouraged you to do it all over with some helpful suggestions, but you left feeling like you still wanted to live instead of hanging yourself, which is about the best feeling you can hope for as a PhD student.  Other professors would be more likely to yell at you for wasting their time even reading the drivel you spent that last three months on.  Then they would set it on fire in front of you and spit in your face.  Okay, no. They didn’t do that, but you could tell they would if they had a lighter and if their desks weren’t so wide.

So after my first year I was going to declare Professor Bourbon as my advisor when, quite out of nowhere and suddenly, he resigned. He got an offer at his alma mater to be chair of the department and he probably was sick of the assholes he had to be around at my school and he left.  And the school he went to didn’t have a PhD program. And he couldn’t be my advisor. And my blissful PhD world came to a screeching halt.  He was leaving me? Noooooooooooo! It’s not FAIR!! I kind of had a mental breakdown about it, but it didn’t change anything. I was S.O.L. Nothing I could do.

So I had to find another advisor.  I surveyed that landscape and there was one other Professor I had as an MBA that seemed to like me alright and I liked her when she taught me back then.  Lets call her Professor Dragon.  She did completely different research than Professor Bourbon and she was very, very good and well-respected for her contributions, but none of it really interested me.  But beggars can’t be choosers.  And I knew if I could work with her, I’d be learning from the best in her field and I’d get stuff published. Plus, she said she’d work with me. So.

But after my first couple of months as her advisee, I began losing my grip on my will to live. I started working 70+ hours because no matter what I did, it was never good enough.  Professor Dragon was born and raised in Hong Kong.  She came from a culture where if you like someone, you tell them that you hate them, because that will make them stronger.  So on a daily basis I would walk into work and she would ask how my son was, and then she’d ask what I had done lately and then she said it wasn’t enough and my ideas were lame and maybe I wasn’t serious and that she was disappointed and maybe I needed to try harder or maybe this wasn’t for me and I was embarrassing her and she didn’t want my loser ass dragging her down. This is actually how she showed her love — the students she didn’t like, she just ignored completely. But her love kind of felt like hate to me most days.

It got to the point that for the Saturdays when I was physically at home, my thoughts were still at work and I would feel guilty for bringing my son to the park because I had so much work to do. BD was doing all of the cooking and cleaning and childcare when he wasn’t at work.  I never thought I’d win a Mom award, but I suddenly realized at some point that I was probably in contention for Worst Mom and Wife Award.  But I wasn’t going to quit. I wasn’t going to break because I could do this. Plus, my husband wasn’t going to let me because of all we’d sacrificed for this and plus, it was only going to be three or four more years of torture. I could probably endure it, right? I mean, I bet Dr. Phil had to pay his dues before Oprah gave him his own show.  I just had to be Dr. Phil and suck it up and get through it.  It’s not like everybody else in my cohort was on easy street. Then again, it wasn’t like anyone else in my cohort was married with a kid either.

One thing I noticed almost immediately when I started was that every single one of the tenured professors in my department were on their second or third marriages. They’d all lost their first spouses early in their career when they were working like dogs to get tenure.  It wasn’t long before I could feel myself getting on exactly the same track.  Somehow this fun “game” of mine – to get the PhD — had higher stakes than I’d ever imagined.  With this new lifestyle, more kids were out of the question for us.  We always wanted a bunch, but I had no time and no money and the situation wasn’t just temporary — there was no logical time that having other kids would make sense until after I got tenure, which would put me about about 40 – best case scenario.  So here I was in Year 2 of my bright, shiny dream to be a bonafide intellectual with papers to prove it and my advisor apparently thought I was a fucking moron and I was convinced she was right about that.

Wow! So my big, beautiful dream had turned into a nightmare and I wasn’t sure I could find a way to earn three new little letters at the end of my name without losing those three little cherished letters at the beginning of it, namely MRS.

For spring break of my second year in the PhD program, BD and I left the baby with my parents and we escaped to Napa Valley for a weekend.  Just to get away and to spend some meaningful time together  getting drunk having fun, which happened very seldomly at that point.

The life changing plane ride that happened next was kind of a small miracle and will be revealed in Love’s PhD Trilogy*: Exodus.

*Yeah, I know this is the third installment and I’m telling you there will be a fourth and it’s only supposed to be a trilogy, but they don’t have a word for a four part series, so what am I supposed to do? Blame the person responsible for making up words like “irregardless” and “moist” instead of a more valuable term like “quadlogy”.

If you were to tell me that I’m a mother of two, I wouldn’t believe you

I wouldn’t. And yet, the facts show that I am indeed a mother of two. I even have a muffin top that I swear at every day to remind me of this fact, and yet…

Moms are supposed to be responsible, mature and organized.  I am none of these.

Moms are supposed to know how to cook, make scrapbook thingies and keep their kids’ faces clean. Umm…no on all three counts at my house.

Moms don’t let their kids watch too much TV, listen to inappropriate music or play outside by themselves. My kids have seen every episode of Scooby-Doo ever created, can sing every word to both Kanye’s and The Killers latest albums and I’ve had my 2 year old returned to me no less than three times by a mother who does supervise her children.  (I should note that I wouldn’t have let the two year old out by himself on purpose, but he escapes a lot while I’m checking Facebook or watching Oprah. It’s a conundrum.)

Moms with careers are always talking about feeling guilty that their kids are at daycare. I rejoice because I know I am doing them a favor by working. Their daycare is 100% more safe, fun and educational than their time at home with me.

Moms aren’t supposed to bring their kids to McDonalds more than 4 times a year. They are supposed to feed them homemade, organic foods and shop for earth conscious toys.  The bulk of my children’s toys came out of Happy Meals, which I purchase an average of twice a week for them. I am madly in love with the McDonalds #2 meal and whatever addictive drug they put in the Diet Coke, so I feel a compulsion to go there whenever I’m feeling elated or anxious or happy or sad or lazy. Which covers most days. So the fact we only go twice a week kind of makes me a martyr for my children’s health.

Moms know which way they are supposed to go in the school parking lot and whether their kids are legally required to get vision tests before kindergarten and they dress their kids cutely and/or appropriately for school.  Can I just tell you – my five year old picks out his own clothes, which I buy in bulk from eBay because stores confuse me, so nothing generally matches and there are always a few things in there that I wouldn’t have paid for any day of the week, like the oversized dork dark purple T-shirt with this sci-fi D&D dragon on it in neon colors. Its something Napoleon Dynamite would have salivated over, and would get my son justifiably jacked by a posse of 8 year olds for wearing if he were eight, but at five he adores it and insists on wearing it with red and black wind pants. Which don’t match. At all.

I try not to photograph my children when they look like this to save them a little money in future therapy sessions and so I can look back when I’m old and make up stories about what a good mother I was, but I’m sure the other mothers at school are thinking “WTH is the matter with that kid’s mother?” (not WTF, because I’m convinced I’m the only mother whose thought bubbles must always include an F-bomb).  I know I would be thinking that about me if I were them.  But as you know, I’m a lover, not a fighter.  So as long as he has clothes on of any kind and we’re out the door on time to give me the extra 20 minutes I require to navigate the school’s fucking traffic pattern and catch my train, I’m not going to complain.

Moms are also supposed to edit their thoughts around their children. If a four year old asks, “Mom, what is a terrorist?” because he is listening a little too closely to NPR, a good mom says “Oh, honey. Don’t worry about that. Lets go to the farmers market and get some delicious organic beets!”  I go into a 20 minute lecture about who terrorists are, which depending on your religion and politics, could be just about anybody and cite examples from September 11, which of course, he wasn’t even alive for.  I’m sure my 5 year old knows more about war, prisons, and the criminal justice system than any kid his age. If he asks an intelligent question, I give him a totally age inappropriate, (hopefully) intelligent answer, like we’re in a masters political science program together. The other day while he and the neighbor kids were playing cops and robbers, I hear my son protest as he’s being brought to the jail in the backyard:  “COPS don’t decide if robbers go to jail! The JUDGE decides that! And probably the robber’s lawyer will say hes not guilty so it could take forever to figure out if he is going to jail!  I can get out on bail you know!” That almost got him beaten up, but it made my day. Someone in my house listens to me.

I’m just nothing like a person who fits my description of an appropriate mom.  I’m not like my mom and I get the feeling I’m very little like the other moms I regularly crash into every morning in the school parking lot.  Even blogging moms – they have mouths as dirty as mine – but I get lost in all the talk over prescription drug abuse. I have no idea what Xanax or Vicodin or Percocet are — but I hear about them all the time.  From what I gather, they must be sweet. But I’m a weird mom, so I don’t even have an prescription drug addiction worth noting.

So I come up short a lot. And I find myself gasping sometimes when I tell myself, “Love, these kids have only one mother. And that is you. That’s pretty wack.” To which I answer, “I know, RIGHT?” to which I then reply, “Poor kids”.  And then I say a prayer for them and start writing a new blog to try and forget the sorrow I feel for them that they didn’t get one of the totally normal moms.

On the other hand, the kids do have a few things going for them because of the mom they have:

1) If there is ever a b-boy competition in kindergarten, all of the hours my son spends watching ABDC on TiVo and having me rate his performance (pa-fo-mince) with spot-on impressions of Mario Lopez, Lil’ Mama, Shane Sparks and J.C. Chasez, will pay off and he will totally win. (“YO! That was so DOPE! Can I get a slow mo on dat?!”)

2) When the plague comes around again, my kids will survive — and thrive– because there isn’t a germ they haven’t picked up in daycare, or school,  or from a 4 day old discarded half-eaten cheeseburger that they finished off after finding it on the ground in the park.  Seriously, bubonic plague — bring it on.

3) I posted an excruciatingly long video on YouTube for my family blog of my toddler son “playing” the guitar and singing his own made up songs which inexplicably has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, and which advertisers now want to pay us for.  So I know how to pimp out my kids so that they can go to college.

4) Each of my sons will be happily married. I find it hard to believe that they could marry anybody who, when compared to their mom,  will not blow them away with her mad skills in any culinary, cleaning, or child care domain. I think I’ve set the bar low enough that if she knows how to make any meal from ingredients that do not come directly from a box, they’ll commit the rest of their lives to worship her.  And the best marriages are those wherein the men are easily satisfied and worship their wives.

5) They’ll never doubt how much they are loved.  One thing I do excel at is telling them how much I adore them, how incredibly special they are and showering them with hugs and kisses.  I do that well. Because I can’t help it. And because they’re awesome  — even if they are single-handedly responsible for this goddamn muffin top.