Monday, June 27, 2016

Done and Done

I spent the good part of the day trying to convince a male, 50-something, childless colleague that his assumptions on Life As Mom were incorrect. When a boardroom marketing-to-moms conversation diverted into mom guilt territory, he was almost dismissive, even as the moms in the room leaned into our well-honed patience skills and took time to explain. 

“Why in the world would peer moms have any influence on whether you'd give your son medication?” he said. (I paraphrase.) 

You see, as an illustrative focus-group-of-one example for our conversation and assignment at hand, a fellow mom colleague had shared the hand-wringing experience deciding to medicate her son with ADHD. (While I naturally fist-bumped her across the table. Been there. Done that.) But our older co-worker couldn’t fathom why peer mom judgment would have had any part in the hand-wringing. We patiently explained to our non-parent-yet-self-identified-mom-expert that judgments are heaped upon moms from the moment of conception. (Are you going to find out the gender in advance of birth and if so, what does that say about you? Breast or bottle? Do you have a birth plan? Are you tough enough to go au naturel? To circumcise or not? What is your childcare plan? Oh really? Do you even love your child?) I digress.

So even before my colleague’s son received his diagnosis, she was already aware of the debate around whether parents should medicate their children and the points of view from each side of the aisle. (I wondered silently if male-colleague-who-shall-remain-nameless had ever heard the term vac-cin-A-tions.) Yeah, obviously she researched the options and consulted her doctor. But the inputs for moms aren’t so simple. Every decision we make on behalf of our kids is debatable in the Courtroom of Fellow Moms’ Opinions. Every decision we make is somehow big enough to potentially damage them for life. And whose fault will that be? Dad’s? Ha. How in the world do we survive?

One would think it would be enough to make moms turn away from social media – the major source for the constant barrage of unwarranted opinion and unsolicited advice on the minutia of Everyday Momming. Advice we moms didn’t even know we needed, but our anxiety-ridden brains convince us that we may at some point down the line and so we’ll absorb and file it all away somewhere in the frontal lobe for future reference. How to raise your toddler son so he’ll be a woman-respecting adult. How to avoid pesticides in your kids’ food so you don’t accidentally predispose them to cancer.  Reasons bilingual children are more likely to make more money in their eventual careers. (Aren’t you taking them to regular Mandarin lessons?) I don’t even know if any of this is true, but it’s slewed at me daily and who reads more than a headline anymore? Who pays attention to the validity of every source? What it all adds up to is one aggregate headline: None of us is doing enough.  What a downer. A hand wringer, actually.

Last week, eMarketer reported the findings of a new study (and I do know the source on this one: Edison) showing moms are checking Facebook more often today than ever before – at 10 times per day and mostly via mobile phone. This space that frankly serves as the virtual court of opinion and unsolicited advice is sucking us in more and more. Why?

At the same time, we laugh it off in IRL conversation. We admit to being sucked into a photo gallery of bento boxes that will expand kids’ palettes in more adventurous ways over lunchtime. Is the creative bento box really taking the school cafeteria by storm? Please. We confess that we nailed that GMO-free, certified organic side dish of peas last night, but Johnny only ate the main course – blue box mac ‘n cheese. Meh, best effort. We toast our Type-B mom friends over a glass of wine when we steal a few minutes of happy hour to remind ourselves we’re well-adjusted capable women who, by the way, grew human beings in our bodies. Sometimes we laugh in the face of Mom Anxiety. But the undercurrent is strong, friends.

My colleague, bless his heart, couldn’t fathom that we would get side-trackedly sucked into bento boxes we’ll never construct without proactively having Google searched for ‘creative bento box lunch ideas for kids.’ The hell?

So yeah, dear childless male colleague who shall remain nameless, the next time you are tempted to scoff at the perils of motherhood’s mindset, please remember this: you’ve already been judged in the Courtroom of Fellow Moms’ Opinions and you’re sentenced to time out. And a gag order. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Poking at keys

"What do you write about?"

I've gotten that question a few times today because I'm at the annual BlogHer conference of women who publish online. And, to my surprise, I've met the question with a moment of pause. Not because I (admittedly) haven't written much lately, but because so often what my brain processes and sends to my fingers to poke out on my keyboard is a free flow and not well planned. But at the same time, the reason I go for days,weeks or months without writing is because I'm afraid of the free flow and exposing too much of what my brain is processing.

"I write about life with kids," I said.

And I guess that's what I do here. And I guess that's also what I stop myself from writing about. And it's hard to make that the answer because "life with kids" sounds so trivial and menial... an oscillation between boring and saccharine. But in reality, it's layered and complex and heart bursting... and hard. I overthink. "What do you write about?" is too close to "what do you think about?" and I won't give that away.

See? Not well planned.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Sad Goodbye

If I have learned one thing about motherhood in eight years doing it, it is that nothing should surprise me.

But yet, I am so surprised at how emotional I am about one thing in particular. My sister says it’s the hormones.

For 13 months, I have personally nurtured my baby girl with a gift only her mother can give. And now, that door is about to close. We are both growing and moving on.

When the boys were infants, I worked hard and did what I was supposed to do and went through the motions of nursing them because I had to and at six months, they each were done. They were too busy to sit still and just nurse. They had other things to do and couldn’t be bothered. And truthfully, it felt to me more bothersome than anything else. Finding the time and place to get it done seemed so much more impossible then. It was a chore and I pushed on as far as I could and when that chapter ended, I knew I did my best and gave them what I could and we moved on to formula and on with life. It was matter-of-fact. They needed to be fed and I fed them the way I was supposed to for as long as I could. And then I was free.

But now, feeding my baby isn’t a chore. It’s a bond. In fact, it’s a gift. And it’s ending.

We have survived sinus infections, flu, mastitis, pneumonia, and business trips. I have pumped in cars (parked and moving), in bathrooms, in airports, in offices, and in the Louisiana swamp. I remembered vitamins and counted ounces of water intake and measured and timed alcohol consumption. Whenever we left the house, I would keep an eye on the clock and a part of my brain would constantly be ready to alert me as to when it was time for the next feeding. My nursing cover was always ready to whip out, no matter when or where my baby needed to eat.

We plowed through The Great Incident wherein a certain very important person who shall go unnamed accidentally left an entire month’s worth of frozen pumped milk in a hot car and ruined it. I have never felt so devastated - as if I experienced the death of family member or the loss of a limb. And yet, we powered through and pumped and restocked the supply and soldiered on. Perhaps one of my proudest accomplishments.

Because it was that important. Not just for her consumption, but for our bond. Our thing that only we could have and only I could do for her. I am the only person who could give her the nutrition she has needed to live, to grow and to thrive. I alone have provided her with that, and all from within the cradle of my arms. But now it is coming to an end and so is this unique bond we share. And with it, I say goodbye to this life stage of mothering infants.

And it’s just so surprisingly sad.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


We pulled into the garage and your dad turned off the ignition. Everyone got out and went inside but something made you and I linger a little longer. It was your birthday eve – your favorite subject of the moment. “Can you believe you’re almost eight!?” I said. “This is the last night you’ll ever be seven.”

You crawled from the third row and perched yourself next to me, atop the console between the two front seats. “I can’t believe it,” you proclaimed with a sly smile. “I can’t believe that means I’ve been a mom for eight years,” I pointed out and grabbed you for a hug. “Did you know you made me a mom?” I said. “You gave me that gift.”

You held on tight – you, the kid who is always so pissed that you’re not yet a teenager, that you still have to live with mom and dad rather than on your own as a self-sufficient free spirit who answers to no one – you held on and so I did too, rubbing your back. “What a gift you gave me,” I softly repeated.

You looked at me with tears in your almost-8-year-old eyes. “Now I’m crying tears of happiness,” you said. And so was I.

These are the moments I treasure in the midst of ADHD and defiance and homework hell. In the mess of the daily grind, and anxiety, and hidden triggers that others around us can’t seem to relate to, like when you absolutely must be the last person in the gym after basketball practice, meaning that even the guy who turns off the lights and locks up better get out before you or else you’re gonna lose it.

You have moved on from calling me “Mommy” to “Mom,” from trains to skateboards, from pajamas to athletic shorts. Your feet stink, you leave the door open and you always have a ball in hand. But even behind your tough-guy persona I still catch you, though fleeting, as my first baby.

Your teacher told us this morning that you think differently than everyone else. When the assignment was to make an American flag, you refused to have yours laminated because you wanted it to ripple like the way you notice real flags rippling. When asked to create a city scene, everyone else drew buildings on paper but you had to fabricate yours in 3-D, consenting to not hang it up with everyone else’s so that your constructed buildings could actually stand up.

You are passionate and determined and quirky and individual. Sometimes the way you make everything uniquely yours can drive your dad and I batty. We try to remember it’s not about us. We try to not squash your spirit just because we have agendas and bedtimes to manage. But we’re still growing along with you.

You acknowledged recently that Autumn, whom you’ve said for maybe three years you are going to marry one day, doesn’t really hang out with you. You’re thinking maybe it’ll be Maggie or Brooke now. It’s all of course meaningless but your heart seems so fragile and sensitive. It’s amazing how at 8 you straddle the fence of tough guy and sensitive boy. And how you push and pull us back and forth with you, alternating between moments of sheer let’s-watch-a-move-and-snug-under-blankets joy and those of whatever-mom-wants-is-exactly-the-opposite-that-I-want discord.

You are one of my favorite people on Earth and I couldn’t love you more. You, who made me a mother. Who gave me that gift.


She looks out the window and points suddenly, a surprised expression on her face and an elevated voice: "Dad!" He's mowing the lawn. My heart pings a little. She says "Dad" so much more often than anything else. But she still clutches me as if I might disappear at any moment, she reaches her tiny arms out for me to come get her, hold her, hold on. She collapses her little self on top of me in the bed in the mornings. As if she had been looking for me in her sleep, and upon finding me, right next to her the whole time, she is almost relieved and determined to keep me there. I relish these little moments that make up our life today. The third time around, my sense of what is fleeting is keener than ever before. I know she'll push me away one day, but for now, I am her comfort and her hero and I couldn't have a more important title in my life. How funny that one year ago, we were just getting to know each other.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Short Reflection on a Short Year

I'm sitting up (hooray for at least sitting up) in bed, propped up by pillows, laptop glowing in my face, sleeping baby cradling my hip and breathing rhythmically in and out. I can't remember the last time in my life I was so sick. I am on day five of fever, chills, aches, coughs, and surely death's door - the whole nine yards. What a wonderfully ruined Christmas vacation. This is the kind of sick that isolates you to bed upstairs while you get to listen to the family open their stockings and eat their Christmas dinner downstairs. Yes, next year I will be getting that flu shot.

I am alone on New Year's Eve with just my girl, while the guys have gone to a germ-free friend's celebration. What a wonderfully ruined New Year's Eve. But in the stillness of this house, and having read my book, caught up on my People, and watched the entire season one of Downton Abbey, I'm suddenly struck with the realization that I have no other obligation than to reflect on this year.

We are a blessed family of FIVE.

We survived the Great House Remodel. And I even managed not to maul any of the contractors who spent my entire maternity leave in the house with me.

We are fighting the vicious beast that is ADHD and though it's an exhausting daily battle for all of us, I believe we mark a W on more days than not.

We have cultivated new meaningful friendships in the arms of a community.

We got to introduce our sacred beach and annual family tradition to the newest member.

We celebrated 10 years of marriage. We are high school sweethearts who have grown into teammates.

We have contributed time, talent and treasure to local causes that can benefit from what we have to offer.

We are given a daily gift of watching our boys love our girl, and vice versa.

They say the days are long but the years are short and it feels no more true than at this time of year. How do I have an 8-month-old baby? How am I possibly going to remember all the little moments of this precious, fleeting time that I find myself begging my brain constantly to imprint? It's the catch-22 of a full life: it will not last. So here's to hoping 2014 brings more big and little moments that make me catch my breath and hit the pillow hard at night with the knowledge that I did my best to earn it every day. That I worked hard and played hard and prioritized appropriately. And that one year from right now, I will be cursing time, begging it to slow down while also recognizing that my begging means it was again a year full of so much to be thankful for.

Cheers to you and yours and happy new year!

Monday, December 9, 2013

When Girl-Power Marketing Accidentally Does the Opposite

I have long believed I am a psychologist or sociologist trapped in a PR gal's body. Or perhaps it's just that I was drawn to a career in marketing comms because I am so fascinated by how marketing can make people believe and even do things they may not have believed or done otherwise. Behavioral psychology. And maybe that's also why since college I have had a thing about gender-based targeting.

Check out my latest post at, where I (probably not very popularly) discuss what I see as an big miss (though in fairness I think it was inadvertent) by a toy brand trying to debunk the myth that only boys should like engineering. I just don't like the approach this particular brand *coughGoldieBloxcough* took.

Do you agree? Disagree? Tell me about it.