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Dec 15 2010

How’s This For Authentic, Carla?

By at 9:09 am

Carla, Carla, Carla.

I appreciate your compliments and I respect that you can like me even if you don’t agree with me. I see that you want more of me. Can do.

I want to address your issues one by one. I know that you don’t desire the list of the last time I cried in frustration at my inability to be a good mom (this past Sunday), the last time my bathroom truly smelled like none of the three males in the house have ever succeeded in having their urine hit the inside of the toilet bowl (yesterday), or the last time I wanted Fred to take his sweet cupid’s bow lips OFF OF MY BREAST because I am overstimulated and want to scream until I have no more voice (that would have been at 4:30 a.m. this morning). But would you be unsatisfied with hearing a whole list of these things? Probably not.

People who know me well would describe me as probably one of the most authentic people they know; I don’t believe in lying, I abhor gossip, I sacrifice (too much of) myself for others, and I am what children would call a goody-two-shoes, and kind adults would call a good soul.

I understand how I may come off as inauthentic. Part of it, I think, is my sort of meticulous and nerdball writing style (and keep in mind I have an editor!), and part of it is that I am in an unusual and sort of difficult position as “celebrity crunchy mama.” If I describe how hard things are in my life, believe you me, I will get so much crap about me having a pity party, about me wanting praise for being such a martyr, and I already get a lot of that as it is: “Why do all this if you’re so exhausted? Are you some kind of martyr!?” My favorite comment I saw recently was, “You get paid millions of dollars a week”–which I don’t!!!–”some of us have to really work! Stop complaining!” Ouch. I really am damned if I do, damned if I don’t here!

I have a strong desire to please everyone, and I thought about laying it all out there for Carla and other readers who might think that I was being inauthentic. But sometimes our struggles need to be private, especially when we are open to public critique; I don’t find this privacy secretive, but protective.

Those of you who saw me on “What Not To Wear” know that on days when I am not under the public eye, I typically wear milk-stained black t-shirts and an elastic waistband grey skirt with a 15 year old punk rock hoodie (with the grim reaper on the back). I am writing a book about our experience with attachment and holistic parenting for Simon & Schuster, but I guarantee they will not use “real” pictures of me; it’s not what the public is ready for. I try and present myself as authentically as I can even when I am “Mayim The Actress,” but I also have to be seen as competitive in my industry if I want to stay employed as an actress.

Mayim on the red carpet

The Mayim you see on the red carpet is in fact excited to be all dressed up, but also quite shy. I am not relaxed when getting lots of attention, standing up straight is something I forget to do on a minute by minute basis, and I miss out on a lot of social events in my industry because of our parenting preferences. I fear that I am seen as anti-social, but for now, my choice is to let that slide so that I can help my husband who often gets no break because I can’t give him one.

As for my general philosophy and parenting decisions, I have learned a lot about how to parent and how to constructively deal with frustrations through La Leche League International. More than just a breastfeeding organization, LLLI supports babywearing, bedsharing, and gentle discipline. This means that when I am struggling, lost, and frustrated, I call my LLLI leader, and I have a network of friends who I get support from. I also joined the Holistic Moms Network when my first son was born (I became their spokesperson a year ago), and this has given me even more friends and support to go to for problems. I used Dr. Sears’ The Baby Book to guide me through early parenting issues, both attachment parenting-related and not; and we have a progressive and creative pediatrician who we adore and who supports our family in its decisions, and this is something I know most parents do not have. He is very expensive, but that is something we budget for and can budget for; again, we are grateful.

That being said, parenting this way has never been easy for me. I have special nursing needs, and both of my children’s first months were spent in a tremendous amount of struggle with me in a lot of pain, doubt, and fear. I saw a photo of an attractive actress with her newborn in some celebrity magazine the other day, and I had a pang of sadness and regret: I could never have done those celebrity shoots with my babies on day 3, much less week 3 or even month 3. Not that I cared if I could be in some silly magazine or not; it was more the principle that I was so debilitated and struggling so much that hurt.  I became a lactation educator/counselor last year specifically so that I could help women like me who are in so much pain that they cannot make it to nursing stores for help.

The reason I choose not to get into the gory details about breastfeeding in general (and I guarantee you, if it looked like anyone was NOT supposed to nurse based on the first weeks and months, it was me) is because I do not want to put out there that breastfeeding is painful, leads to weeks of discomfort, and makes you not able to nurse outside of your home for weeks. Everyone’s baby’s mouth is different, everyone’s nipples are different, and everyone will learn for themselves about nursing. For some people it’s a cinch.

Nursing all night kicks my butt. I am constantly operating under not enough sleep; I am sleep-deprived all of the time. Many mornings I half-jokingly wonder if my kids will be in one piece when my husband gets up two hours after I crawl out of bed with them to tend to their various dietary and activity needs. Not using television increases the time I am with them, and I am constantly searching for activities that keep my older son busy so that I can tend to my little guy: snacks that are time-consuming to eat, collage-making (magazine, safe scissors and double sided tape), piano practice, and me reading to him while I nurse his brother are our best bets.

There are mornings when I can’t get up or won’t; my husband steps in maybe two or three times a month in these cases, and I sleep an extra half hour. I am grumpy on these days. When I get a migraine, I am even grumpier.  When Fred nurses every 2 hours and the 5 year old is screaming for a snaaaaack and I have a migraine, I am the grumpiest of all.

Nursing in the day kicks my butt. My clothing revolves around nursing and my whole schedule is based on nursing. I have wet stains down the front of my shirts most days (hence my army of black t-shirts). When I go out to publicity events, I can only wear a dress if I will be gone a short enough amount of time to not have to pump (or leak!). I get touched out, burnt out, and nursed out. But I also know that nursing connects me with my son after filming 12 hours (like today), it nourishes him, and on the nights after he is recovering from being so sick, I know that stroking his soft hair 4-7 times a night while nursing his teething pain, fear, and hunger away is a gift I will cherish forever.

Our kids were both sick last week and it was a cranky sickfest if ever there was one from the 5 year old, and our little guy cries as if his heart has shattered in two if he so much as finds a seed in his tangerine slice or can’t get a drawer to close correctly. I literally said to my husband that I was kind of glad to be leaving to go to work, and it hurt to say it, but I had reached my limit. I reach my limit a LOT. I’ve angrily “shushed” my kids. I’ve whispered through gritted teeth, “Just please GO TO SLEEP already!!!!” I have raised my voice and slammed doors and I have broken three laptops and two cell phones with my inappropriate… authentic expressions of frustration.

Mayim's before and aftera on What Not to Wear.

I am not proud of these moments, and I work hard to make amends for them, to understand the rage that sometimes bubbles up inside, and to actively find other ways to stop it before it explodes. I come from a very fiery house, and as a child, raised voices and slamming did happen. I don’t want my children to feel they are making me nuts, and I have taken two classes to help me with this. The first I took when my older son was weaned and I was pregnant with my second son, and it was a S.T.E.P. class (Systematic Tools for Effective Parenting) More recently, my husband watched both kids while I took a Quality Parenting seminar. This class significantly decreased my yelling and anger, and really upped my compassion for myself and my children.

I can’t impress upon you what it’s like for my dear patient husband to live with me. I am very sensitive, a little bit weepy, very hard on myself ­and quick to interfere with his parenting. I constantly feel I work “harder” with the boys than he does; and I remind him of it more than I would like to admit. I am also patient in my own way, I am a morning person, and I constantly find ways to reinvent myself even when I feel there is nothing left for me to reinvent.

I love my children, I love attachment parenting, and I love this life, even when it’s got me down. Because for me, there is no other way to be than authentic: authentic to what my instincts tell me, authentic to what the women I admire have done before me, and authentic to myself and to you, dear Carla.

I address a lot of my authentic self–topic by topic– in the book I wrote, specifically detailing the challenges of birth, nursing, time management, balancing relationships, and everything in between, so you’ll have to stay tuned for that in the spring of 2012. For now, I will leave you with this: When Fred was a newborn and Miles was 3, I had just brought our cat home from the vet with a cone on his head from a major surgery. As we walked in the door, the cat’s stitches tore open, blood started spurting, Fred needed to nurse and started shrieking as only a newborn can, Miles was flipped out and started crying from the blood and Fred’s screaming, and I started to cry, too. We were all of us crying: the newborn, the toddler, the Mama, and even the cat.

And oh yeah: I proudly wear Hello Kitty footed pajamas to sleep in the winter. Authentic enough?


Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on Kveller are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

24 Responses to How’s This For Authentic, Carla?

  1. tami says:

    mayim – rock on! its so hard to be a mom. i love that you are telling it like it is and enjoying your time with your family. its hard, but so worth it, and its a struggle that women have been experiencing the world over since the beginning of time. i am glad that you are here to remind people how hard and how wonderful it all is. that what life is with or without kids, anyway, right? and i love your authenticity. i really identify with you and your experience (oh, and apparently people think we look alike – we kind of do:)).

  2. Krista says:

    Mayim, you’re going into my list of breastfeeding heroes and go-to resources on parenting, right next to Ina May and Dr. Sears. While reading, I was reminded of what an awful first 6 weeks I had with my first, trying to get started on BFing, trying to soothe her constant crying, trying to overcome the fact that she would freak out every time I approached her with my breast out. It was so traumatic that I’ve pretty much blocked out the first 6 weeks. I have very little memory of them, except that they were horrendous.
    We’ve been nursing for 15 months now, still going strong.
    Write faster, I can’t wait to read that book!

  3. Leah says:

    I don’t know what it is like to be in the national lime light.

    I do know that as the cantor of a synagogue, nursing my children at Oneg changed a culture, and opened acceptance of young families with all parenting styles into our pews. I respect you deeply for unapologetically using ‘your powers for good.’ Don’t you dare start apologizing for the way you live your life now.

    I am home with my children (my full time job), and I work outside the home, part time. I have the financial resources to purchase a pump, so that I can pump if I need to when I’m away from my children for too long. I say children because I was tandem nursing until my 3 1/2 year old weaned a few months back. My youngest is 13 months, teething up a storm, and nursing 4-5 times a night. My kingdom for 4 hrs of consecutive sleep.

    So, I do not have the same factors as yours when making choices for my children and my family. However, this is true of all of us. No other mother can be inside any other woman’s body, brain or bed when she’s making her choices. We just have to assume we’re all doing the best with what we’ve got, making the best choices for our own families.

    My personal nursing choices are based on what I see as best for my children versus what will make the random stranger next to me (or my mother in law) more comfortable. Neither of your articles left me feeling judged by a random ‘ingenuous celebrity Mom’. But, that’s because I’ve lived what you’re going through as a parent and I understand what you’re going through as a mom, even if I have a hard time comprehending the whole of the world that you live in (ex. I have never, nor will I ever, have the opportunity to tell my fake TV mom over Skype that I am having sexual intercourse with Sheldon).

    As you said, knowing that there are other mothers are out there going through the same struggles make me feel not so alone. Thanks for owning up to being one of them.

  4. Noelle says:

    Seriously? So because she’s a celebrity, she has to divulge every personal and private detail of her life? Please.

  5. Jessica says:

    Been there! Well said.

  6. Melissa Cline says:

    I read and loved the post in question. I guess I still don’t understand Carla’s complaint. Why should one have to be negative to be deemed authentic? (And besides, Mayim complained about exhaustion several times. Was that not sufficient?) I wonder if this is a case of “don’t speak positively about choices that are different from mine because then I feel defensive.”

  7. Erin says:

    Thank you for being your authentic self!! I have felt it from you even when you were on Blossom. You have such a beautiful, down to earth sense about you that I enjoy. I am a 31 yr old mother of 2 kids and I can relate to what you have written SO much and it makes me feel so much better to know I am not alone! I am was a massage therapist before my 2nd kid and I never thought I could feel over-touched by my own children! No one ever tells you that when you have kids that you will cry with them out of frustration, exhaustion, love, joy and pain. Even as a celebrity you understand the nitty-gritty of being a parent. Thanks for sharing & I can’t wait to read your book!

  8. Linda says:

    The problem is not with a person telling whatever part of her story she feels will be valuable to tell, it’s with people who expect the output of speakers and writers to be exactly what they personally have the ability to understand and want to hear. Egocentrism is a bit of an epidemic in our culture, yeah?

  9. Alexis says:

    Wow, why are you two above me so harsh? What, because she’s a celebrity her life is less “authentic” than ours? Makes no sense to me. A mom is a mom regardless of what she does for a living. So what if she has more money than we do? I have to say it’s pretty awesome that she is an attachment parent. That more than us crazy hippies are using this parenting style. Anyway, that part about your cat reminded me of my life. I had a baby in August and live with and care for my 8 year old autistic brother and overly rambunctious 6 year old sister. On top of that I’m a single mom and when my daughter was 3 weeks old, my kitten broke his femur due to develping hypoparathyroidism. I didn’t have the 2000 bucks it was going to cost me, so 3 weeks post c-section I held a massive fundraiser and ran around like a ferret on crack trying to find the $ to save him. I felt like I was going to crash and burn. At the same time I was fairly certain my nipples were going to fall off and my daughter was experiencing really bad infant reflux. Thanks for sharing, Mayim. You crack me up on Big Bang Theory!

  10. Yocheved says:

    Wow Amanda…that’s a bit harsh..don’t ya think? Everyone has a right to some sort of privacy…whether the chose to WORK in a position of celebrity or not.
    I think Mayim is probably one of the most honest and down to earth celebrities out there. Hatzlacha!!

  11. Denise says:

    Amanda- how could you come away from this entry with that attitude? Celebrities use their TALENT to earn a living. Why shouldn’t Mayim use her connections to further her other interests? And why exactly is she not entitled to have areas of her life that’s off-limits to the public at large?

  12. Rebecca says:

    Everyone in this country is entitled to privacy, regardless of their level of celebrity. There are plenty of public figures who choose to keep portions of their lives concealed from public view. This doesn’t make them any less authentic.

    When Joe Ordinary has a bad week & gets a DUI/fights with his wife/etc. he probably doesn’t call all of his friends. Does that mean he’s lying to them? I posit you this, can anyone divulge all aspects of their life to every person in said life?

    I, too, had issues nursing in the beginning. I’m not quick to lead with that, because nursing is a tough choice to begin with. In today’s society, the easy way is the norm & any parenting decision that is based on the child (as opposed to making the parents’ lives easier) should be applauded. Sometimes minimization is necessary to ensure parents attempt & make an educated decision NOT to do it, rather than automatically excluding it as a possibility.

  13. Elaine says:

    Really, Amanda? B/c I’m fairly certain that no matter WHAT their occupation, EVERY mother has the right to privacy and to choose what they do and do not want public.

    We, as people, do NOT have the right to know every single part of someone else’s life… celebrity or not. Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure “Right to Privacy” isn’t exclusive to only those who live their lives w/o ever seeing a camera.

  14. Joshua Herzig-Marx says:

    Mayim –

    Thank you for this article, and for the previous one. I think that Kveller is opening up a great dialog and I’ve appreciated most of the comments on your articles and on Carla’s (full disclosure: she’s my awesome wife!).

    The thing I appreciated most about this piece is the how deeply and genuinely you acknowledge and respect the sacrifices you’ve made to parent in the way you believe best and your how special life circumstances (read: celebrity) enabled you to make choices that not all parents feel that they can make. Working parents my need sleep and therefore sleep training; their kids need daycare and therefore earlier weaning. Right or wrong, this is the way our society works today.

    It’s hard to imagine a more thoughtful, committed, hardworking mom – your kids are very lucky. And, there are lots of ways to raise healthy, happy, smart, resilient kids and it sounds like yours are well on their way.

    Thanks again!

    • Joshua Herzig-Marx says:

      On re-read – I didn’t mean to imply that you aren’t a working mom – you definitely are. I guess I was thinking about the parent who might not have any scheduling flexibility, sick time, or ability to find or pay for flexible childcare. I’m sorry for mis-speaking.

  15. Stacey van der Vlag says:

    Mayim, I totally understand how you live and what you’re talking about. I nursed my kids until 2, live the attachment lifestyle and my 3 year old still sleeps with us at night. I don’t think you’re being inauthentic. You summed it up just about right, to me. Keep up the good work. :)

  16. Marc says:

    It seems to me that people tend to give far too much credibility to someone just because they happen to have a TV credit. I mean, I would absolutely trust Mayim more than Carla if I were looking for advice on the TV/movie business. But that’s not a reason to assume that Mayim is smarter or more talented than Carla in general, or in matters of parenting specifically. (I might even give a little more credibility to Carla to give advice on family issues based on her social work credentials, but you both seem like seem like smart, talented people in general.)

    What I don’t know how to do is convince my female peers that they don’t need to compare themselves to so-called “celebrity moms.” The only moms I can think of who became celebrities for their actual parenting skills are Kate Gosselin and Michelle Duggar. All the moms I know are doing better than Kate. I am impressed with how Michelle is raising a respectful, hard-working, morally-minded family, but her situation is so unique I don’t think the moms I know are worrying about emulating her every detail.

    (Full disclosure: I live on the same block as Carla.)

  17. Usha says:

    Thanks for this. I think you’ve described very well how most of us alternative/attachment parents feel about discussing our choices. When we make choices outside of the mainstream we almost give up our right to complain or vent. If you complain about the challenges of nursing a pre-schooler people just tell you to wean, why are you doing that anyway? But that’s not the point. We need to vent frustration without being told to compromise our values and choices, but there aren’t many places to do that. Thank you for representing this publicly.
    @Amanda – really? The rest of us get to have public and private lives – celebs just have the public part exaggerated. Yes, she’s an actress and as a public figure needs fame/celebrity to keep her working. But she’s still a person with a family and doesn’t need to show us EVERYTHING to be good enough in your book. People can have both.

  18. Michelle says:

    I love you, Mayim. Can’t get into details now because my 2 yr old is napping/nursing and I am in an awkward position laying/creaking my neck to type this, but I just love you and you are amazing. You do not need to defend yourself, just like I will not need to defend myself when I come across the in-laws on Christmas eve. :) We all do what we think is best for our children. You are very similar to me in that you get frustrated and try so darn hard to change those tihngs so to be a better person. That is all we can do as mothers…strive to do better everyday.

  19. Carla says:

    Mayim,
    I have so much I want to say in response to your post, and I won’t get to all of it, so I’ll just start with this: Thank you.

    Your response is EXACTLY what I was hoping for. When I read your first post about breast-feeding your toddler, all I could think was, “get real, lady”. And you did. You totally did.

    One thing you said really struck me. Although I’m not a celebrity (In fact, the closest I have come to celebrity is having this exchange with you! Whoohoo! Go me!), I can appreciate the way in which you probably feel as though you can’t complain because you will get called out for being a martyr. As I said in my post, and I truly believe it, life is hard, and parenting is damn hard (assuming you are actively engaged in the work of raising your children), regardless of whatever else is going on in your life.

    And yes, I believe that sometimes we parents make choices for our children because we believe that it is the best option for our kiddos, even if it makes our lives harder. Because that’s what parenting is about.

    Anyway, there is more I could say, but mostly, I just want to say, good luck with everything, and thanks. I had a lot of respect for you before, but now I feel like I can actually relate to you! And I think you and I have more in common with regards to our parenting styles than I had previously thought, even if the thought of nursing my 2 year old makes me want to run away. Fast.

    Oh, and for the record – I thought you were awesome from the first time I saw you on MacGyver. (My grandmother loved you in Beaches, but I cried so damn hard the first time I saw it around the time it came it out that I haven’t seen it since, and Blossom was awesome, but MacGyver has been my all-time favorite show since it first came out, and I remember being insanely jealous of you. Sorry for the gawking moment there, but I just had to get it out!)

    I hope our virtual paths cross again!
    Carla
    PS I hope those boys give you some sleep soon!

  20. Mthousemama says:

    Parenting is hard. Some things come easier to me than others. I find it hard to entertain my kids, but BFing was easy for me compared to some of the stories I’ve heard. It takes a desire to do it cause FF would be easier at first. When people talk of babies they sugar coat a lot of it. BFing is hard cause you have to release some control over your body, being calm is hard cause you haven’t slept in months and you don’t know always know what the right thing to do is.
    I wish moms would give other moms a break. It’s hard on all of us. And every now and then talking about it helps us to feel as if we are not alone, get better clarity that comes from putting things into words and allows us to get a pep talk from others. When we feel we have to stay silent it hurts us and our children.
    Celeb or not I think you last post would have gotten nasty comments, from my experience on pregnancy forums people are defensive when it comes to how they parent. Even when all you are doing is defending your ideal as a parent.
    Anyone that wants to leave nasty comments does so only to make themselves feel better. I don’t follow celebs, I find them boring, they are just people who are doing a job which allows me to know their names, I don’t know who they are. I only wish them the same happiness the rest of us seek. As I do my fellow man, cause life is to short to be upset by others that don’t know me.

  21. Amanda says:

    and therefore completely inconvenient.

    I meant completely inauthentic.

  22. Amanda says:

    I love when celebs use their celeb status to make money and fame, but then they claim that they want to be “private.” Don’t see that as hypocritical? I bet you love that your celeb status gets you book deals with Simon and Schuster, but “sometimes our struggles need to be private, especially when we are open to public critique; I don’t find this privacy secretive, but protective.” Personally I find it convenient, and therefore completely inconvenient. But I guess we see things in the way that work best for us.

    • CLove says:

      I wouldn’t say that “celebs use their celeb status to make money and fame”, I’d say they are “celebs” because of the work they do to make money, which brings them fame. It isn’t a “celebs” fault that their notoriety makes some things easier – like getting a book deal or paying the bills, it comes with the territory, as does not having a lot of privacy. For me, it’s the opposite – a lot of privacy, not a lot of money. Would I trade, probably.

      The rest of your posts I just don’t get – “and therefore completely inconvenient. I meant completely inauthentic.” and “Personally I find it convenient, and therefore completely inconvenient.”

      It sounds like you’re a hater.

      Note to Mayim – I really enjoyed Blossom and I’m glad you’re back on the small screen! It was refreshing to hear of your parenting style given what we know of “celeb” parenting.

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