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May 20 2014

Is Anyone Else Sick and Tired of Parenting?

By at 2:00 pm

perils

My children are watching TV and I am huddled on the kitchen floor. Let’s be honest, I am hiding. I don’t want to get them another drink. I don’t want to get them something else to eat. I don’t want to get them something yummy.

Who knew the job that would prepare me the most for my future as a mother was being a waitress?

To tell you the truth, I have no more patience for my two children. I love them tremendously–of course I do! I am just exhausted. I am tired of giving so much of myself for their every need. And I’ve been doing it for six years. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 18 2014

My Daughter Wants To Know Who Her Father Is

By at 3:58 pm

mother-daughter

I knew this day would come. Huddled under the covers with her favorite pink teddy bear, while in-between stories about faraway lands and enchanted princesses, she turns her whole self away from me and asks: “Mommy, who’s my daddy?”

Oh God, not that. Anything but that.

I think about the perfect portrayal of Prince Charming in the book we just read and I wish I had my own fairy godmother here right now to wave her magic wand and poof–give me all the right answers.

How do you tell a little girl who hasn’t seen her father in over three years that the man she wouldn’t recognize if she met him on the street lives only 15 minutes away? How do you describe the guy who locked his own child out of his home, changed the locks and never looked back?

You don’t. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 16 2013

Interview + Giveaway: The Israeli-American Photographer Who Captured Motherhood in a Book

By at 12:11 pm

elinor carucci mother photograph book giveaway

Israeli-American photographer Elinor Carucci’s third photography book, released this past Setpember, is titled “Mother.” It’s an extremely beautiful, raw, and inspiring collection of photographs exploring Elinor’s pregnancy, birth, and the early childhood of her twins, Emmanuelle and Eden.

We got a chance to chat with the talented photographer on her inspiration for the book, what it was like to constantly photograph her children, and reconciling her career and her role as a parent. Want to get your hands on this beautiful book? Enter our giveaway at the bottom of this post.

What was your original inspiration for a book of photography about motherhood? 

The inspiration was motherhood. It’s as simple as that. The surprising thing for me was how little was actually portrayed about motherhood in the arts and photography. I feel that we’ve seen a lot of perfect celebrity photographs, and even in the history of art, a lot of Madonna and child images that, in a way, show a certain aspect of motherhood but definitely don’t go deep into the complexity of what it is to be a mother, to be a father, to be a parent. The inspiration was the intensity and the richness of the emotions and feelings, the complexity of the relationships that I experienced as a mother, and how much they were intertwined with one another and happening almost side by side, how intense of an experience it is. It is beautiful and joyful and magical and difficult and scary and full of failures and successes. It’s really a microcosm of everything we experience and feel, all of the emotions we have at once. The inspiration was to try to depict it the way I felt it, which was very rich and complex. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 20 2012

Friday Night: Stepping Back

By at 4:16 pm

The story of parenting is one of stepping back and stepping away.

The baby leaves your womb, then your breast, and eventually your bed.

Instead of running into your arms, your daughter runs into the world.

Instead of babbling constantly to you, she prefers chatting with her friends.

Going off to school, first she cries and clings, then walks slowly away with a quick turn to wave, and later–a “goodbye, Mommy” and a sprint to the kids at the other end of the schoolyard. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 24 2012

Friday Night: A Sabbath Birthday

By at 3:10 pm

birthday candles in a challahTwo years ago today, I became a mother. I could get all mushy and nostalgic about how my baby is no longer a baby, how time flies, and that I should have treasured the moments more–and perhaps all of those things are true. Except I did treasure them.  I absolutely savored each moment and I wallowed in the gore and glory of new motherhood. I wrote, cried, celebrated, and talked about being a mother to anyone willing to listen. I love being a mother, I relish in being a full-time stay at home Mama and you can go ahead and slap me for being one of “those people”; I have my complaints but the rewards are far greater. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 12 2012

Loving Your Kids & Loving Motherhood Are Not the Same Thing

By at 10:06 am

Right after my daughter was born, someone told me that what’s best for the mama is what’s best for the baby.

Alas, at the time I was too wrapped up in the dangerous idea that dark under-eye circles,  scraggly hair, and spit and shit stained sweats made me a Good Mother. Sleep deprivation meant I was tending to my child’s every need. The two tell-tale wet spots on my shirt meant I was too busy breastfeeding to care about personal hygiene. Matted hair? Awesome. Pit stains? Bring it on. Oh, and do me a favor, bring over a large pot because I’m too busy shushing and swaying my colicky child to use the bathroom. Thanks.

“Go out with a friend for coffee!” my mother-in-law said.

“When can we see you?” my friends asked. “We miss you!”

I missed me, too.

But I thought that women who waltzed off for a night out with a friend or–God forbid–their husbands, were selfish bitches.

Really.

And in between obsessing about germs and aspiration pneumonia, in between counting M’s poops with religious fervor, in between pouring boiling water on one of the organic wooden toys made by magical elves in Scandanavia, I realized this: Would I die for my child?  You bet. Would I kill for her? Touch her before washing your hands with antibacterial soap, and you’d find out.

But, I hated being a mother.

When I found out I was pregnant again when my daughter was 8-months-old (um, you guys? Breastfeeding is not birth control, just saying) I started writing as a means of survival. I couldn’t live the way I had been living any longer and bring another baby into the world, so I took a (very) deep breath and started writing. And wearing a push-up bra.

Maybe it was also a hormonal thing. Maybe growing a teeny tiny penis in my uterus gave me the balls to take myself less seriously. Or more seriously.

Regardless, I started to enjoy my kid. And the idea of having another kid.

But it still wasn’t enough.

And when we moved to Israel–when I left the community I loved in Los Angeles for a place that confused me, while we dealt with a barrage of illnesses strange and new, while the idea of sleep seeped down the drain and I tumbled headfirst after it into a world of manic exhaustion, I lost it.

Take a break, take a break, take a break my friends back home told me on Facebook and g-chat. But I couldn’t when it felt like there was no where to go.

This isn’t why my marriage imploded. This isn’t why I’m living 30 minutes away from my children in an apartment in Tel Aviv. But my fragile sense of myself–of what I liked and what made me happy–certainly contributed to the collapse of the family I worked so hard to protect.

So please, mamas who think they can “do it all,” take me as a cautionary tale. Take me as an example of what NOT to do.  And go take a fucking break.

Dec 13 2011

Do Birthdays Matter When You’re a Mom?

By at 1:09 pm

birthday cakeIt was my birthday yesterday. I am 36 now. I don’t much like birthdays, to be honest. Haven’t since the age of 10 or so. I don’t mean to sound like a scrooge, but if you’ve read anything I have written before, you know I sort of am one. A loveable scrooge, but a scrooge just the same.

My lack of overt enthusiasm for birthdays, however, reached a feverish pitch the year I turned 30. Why? Well, the year I turned 30 I had a 2-month-old child; my first-born son, Miles, who is now 6. The first two months of his life were challenging beyond my pregnant hormonal imaginings: he was in the NICU for the first four days of his life, my body’s healing from the birth took a long time, breastfeeding was a huge challenge which I overcame after many months of La Leche League consultations, breast infections, and tears (we nursed for two years, so it all worked out just fine!), and the adjustment to life with a high-needs baby who either wanted to be held or breastfed (or usually both at the same time 24/7) was frustrating and humbling.

I simply didn’t have time to care about my birthday. Sure, we went out to celebrate the momentous occasion. Because we had stayed home the first 40 days of Miles’ life, going out in general was new to us. In addition, I looked like a small hippopotamus at that point. I had no clothing appropriate to even go out in (having spent two months basically in PJs and a robe/muumuu), and I honestly would have preferred to just hang around the house where I could sneak in a nap, catch up on email, eat a cupcake, and hibernate. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 1 2011

Is It Something Only Moms Can Understand?

By at 1:06 pm

football playersI have always loved football. Professional or college; it doesn’t really matter to me.

I love the rules of the game and the complexity. I love the pacing of it and the numerous skills involved by all of the players. I love the offense and I love the defense. I love the dancing, prancing, and outlandish celebrations by the players who score touchdowns; I am upset those celebrations have been tempered by the NFL, because I think they are a part of the immense joy that can only come from scoring an impossibly fantastic touchdown in front of tens of thousands of people. I don’t like the violence and its increasing prevalence, but overall, I really enjoy a good football game.

I was watching highlights of the Giants game the other night, though (yes, I even like watching ESPN football highlights), and a player got sacked. Hard. Normally, this would elicit a wince from me and maybe some utterance like, “Ow, that must’ve hurt.” But this time, I had a different reaction. When sacked and brought to the ground, this player’s body contorted in grotesque ways; joints splayed out in angles not predicted by anatomical geometry. I wondered if I had just witnessed his body and his soul parting ways.  It looked truly horrible and I felt really yucky inside.

Then I realized why I was having such a strong reaction. In that flash of observation, it occurred to me that this man is someone’s son. And that hit me like a ton of bricks. I wondered what his mother felt like watching this occur. I wondered if she was even watching at all, and if not, what would it be like for her to see her son’s body crushed like this on the evening news?

The player rolled over, unfurled his legs, and got up. Miraculously, he was fine. But I wasn’t. I couldn’t stop thinking about this man’s mother. And I realized in that moment that since I became a mom, I view the world differently because I am a mom.

Take the Olympics. Watching the Olympics is a vastly different experience now that I am a mom; I used to be fascinated by someone achieving something so huge and incredible and difficult. Now that I am a mom, I am fascinated by someone’s child achieving something so huge and incredible and difficult. And it seems that everyone I meet for the past 6 years receives this scrutiny and awe from me: doctors, lawyers, check-out clerks, the garbage man, the plumber… Everyone came from a mother and everyone is someone’s child.

I see homeless people on the street and I wonder, who are their mothers? Were their childhoods happy? Did their mother look at them on Day 1 and say, “Oh my God. I can’t believe I made you.” How did they end up homeless? Where did life shift for them so that they are on the off ramp of the freeway asking for change? Couldn’t their mother help them? Maybe not. And that’s sad, too.

Of all of the mixed blessings of parenthood – the joy, the exhaustion, the agony, and the ecstasy – this shift in perception perplexes me the most. Am I grateful to have this awareness? Or is it a hindrance that turns every sad happening into something far sadder and more complicated than it needs to be? For the misogynists who claim women should not hold high-ranking military positions or political office because of their “woman-ness,” is this why!? Have I become a mushy hypersensitive hormonal Mom!?

I may not be able to tease all of that apart, and I don’t know that I need to. Who knew that we would change so much at this stage of life? That we would reach our 20s, 30s and even our 40s and have revelation and humility and tenderness for a football star on a field thousands of miles away simply because we are moms! I wonder if women who never have children (by choice or by circumstance) feel this way about contorted football players. Is this something “only moms” can understand?

Perhaps. But it doesn’t much matter. What matters is that I am connected to every mother and, apparently, every child, more deeply and elaborately than I ever was before. And it’s all because I am someone’s mom.

Jun 23 2011

You Know You’re a New Mother When…

By at 2:13 pm

Time to write the sequel to this childhood classic.

“Are you my mother?” That baby bird’s question is the single most memorable line from my childhood library. As a newly minted mother it strikes me that a sequel to that story is in order. After all, it’s not just babies who need to learn to recognize their mothers. We need to recognize ourselves anew too, as our lives are completely redirected.

So, inspired by Lila and the other babies in our new Mommy and Me class, I present

“You know you’re a new mother when . . .”

1. Ergo. You spend so much time wearing your baby in her favorite Ergo Baby Carrier, it sometimes feels as if your pregnant belly is still with you. She’s there in a pouch on your front, sometimes kicking – only this time it’s on the outside of your belly.

2. Swaying. You’ve been known to dance to silent music while wearing your baby and waiting for street lights to change or for the train to start moving again. And then sometimes you realize you’re bouncing when you’re not even holding the baby.

3. Hearing. Remember when you could smell everything? Pregnancy’s Radar Nose has been replaced by Bat Ear. No matter where your baby is, you can hear her cry – if you haven’t simply sensed it already.

4. Phantom baby. There are times you’re semi-awake in bed, on your back, and you’re convinced your baby is laying across you and nursing. You feel her weight. And you’re afraid to move, lest she fall off you, so you wake your husband and ask him to pick her up, only to find there’s no baby on your chest, just your heavy milk-filled breasts.

5. Amnesia. You used to have the memory of an elephant; now you can’t remember anything without writing it down.

6. The future? You’re the newest Master of Focusing on the Here and Now. You can thank your daughter for that. You no longer have the energy or the desire to plan more than a day ahead.

7. All nighters! You’re getting less sleep now than you did in college. Wave to the birds chirping outside your window at 4am!

8. Partying! Your Saturday nights involve drinking too much and throwing up, only now the liquid in question is milk, and the protagonist is your daughter.

9. One hand. After taking typing in high school and perfecting your two-handed typing time over many years of emailing, you have regressed. If anything manages to leave your inbox, it’s brief and authored by the one-handed typist.

10. The gym. The only exercise you can manage is dancing the Bop and Bounce. You simultaneously bop from side to side while bouncing up and down to calm your crying baby. She loves it.

11. News. A news junkie, you used to get all of your news by reading it online. Now you have no time to read; instead you find yourself watching cable news while you, the on-call cow, nurse around the clock.

12. TV. You have become a regular viewer of both Jimmy Fallon and Carson Daly’s late-night shows. You wish NBC had something better to watch at 2am than a bunch of random guys playing poker.

13. Getting dressed. You have given up on wearing all of your nice (read: dry cleanable) clothes. If the baby is going to pee or spit up on you, it might as well be on an old t-shirt.

14. Accessorizing. There are now two accessories you won’t move anywhere without – your nursing bra (for obvious reasons) and your watch, so you can keep your Mommy Cow appointments with your calf. If you leave home, your Bebe au Lait nursing cover becomes must-have accessory number three. Earrings and belts, by contrast, are now superfluous.

15. Luxury. To you, “luxury” now includes: five consecutive hours of sleep, a daily shower, brushing your teeth before 3pm, and the opportunity to eat your dinner without completely snarfing it.

16. Sleeping. A good night is one when the baby lets you both go to sleep at 2:30am, rather than keeping both of you up until 3:30 or 4:00am.

17. Outside. A good day is when the two of you actually manage to make it out the door, even for a walk down the block.

The high points of your day are holding your daughter as she sleeps peacefully, watching her smile and even laugh – typically while sleeping – and wondering what she is dreaming about, and generally being close to this little being who has completely transformed your life.

Motherhood is definitely harder, more physically taxing work than you anticipated, but there’s no going back. And that is a-okay with you, because when you can snatch a moment to reflect, you are totally enchanted by your Baby Girl.

May 11 2011

Fool With No Mama

By at 11:21 am

When I was in high school, our principal used to come on the PA every morning to make the following announcement: “Make sure you’re on time to class. Don’t be a fool with no mama who gets caught in the Tardy Sweep.

(Incidentally, our high school mascot was a unicorn. Because we are special and magical and we all shit rainbows. Fools with no mamas or not, we have Unicorn Pride.)

But I digress.

(Please forgive me – I’m a little more tired and neurotic than usual.)

Anyway, if one more person asks me “Why are your kids getting sick all the time?” I swear to Yoda that I will aim Little Homie at them and hope he’s in the mood for a good old fashioned round of projectile vomiting.

(Usually, I don’t like to see my kids hurl chunks everywhere. It’s messy and sometimes kind of scary, but again, if I hear this asinine question ah-gain, I will make an exception. You’ve been warned.)

Ok, let me qualify this: If the question comes from a place of love and genuine concern, then I might let it slide. In fact, if I’ve had more than an hour of sleep, I might even smile and shrug and say something about how “oh, you know how kids are.”

Because kids get sick. Period. The End.

BUT it seems more often than not, this question is really just a treacly disguise for the real question:

WHAT ARE YOU – YOU, MAMA! YEAH, YOU! — DOING WRONG?

(Because let’s face it, no one ever asks B. why his kids are getting sick all the time.)

When Little Homie throws falafel on the ground, the waitress glares at me. Not B.

When M. has a five alarm meltdown at the petting zoo, and B. tries to sooth her, it doesn’t matter whether he succeeds or fails. All that matters is he’s trying. And everyone smiles.  But, if I can’t calm her down, I look incompetent. Big time Mama Fail.

If B. takes Little Homie out for a walk and forgets to put socks on him, three people — THREE FUCKING PEOPLE, I KID YOU NOT — will ask him “Why didn’t his mother put socks on him?” Because clearly, it’s my fault. Always and forever. My. Fault.

And when the kids get sick, everyone peppers me with questions about their health habits, what they eat, and how many times they poop. No one thinks to ask B.

Even though B. and I are co-parenting–we both work, we both raise our kids, and we both try not kill each other or ourselves in the process–when he’s helping out it’s called “helping out” or “giving me a break.” And the whole fucking world throws a ticker tape parade in his honor.

(I bet some of you know what I’m talking about.)

The grunt work. The scut work. The nails-on-a-chalkboard-grind. The dirty dishes. The lost socks. My fault. All of it.

My. Fault.

And one day, if my kids get caught in a Tardy Sweep, they’ll be fools with no mama. And they probably won’t be wearing socks, either.  Call Child Protective Services and arrest me! Throw me in Bad Mother Jail without a trial because I’m guilty until proven otherwise.

It’s all my fault.

(Anyway, at this point, I was going to turn this post into a mordant commentary about sexism and family dynamics vis-a-vis sick children, but I spent all my energy looking up “vis-a-vis” to make sure I was using it in the correct context. And I’m still not sure. Google Fail. And that sound you hear are my graduate school dreams getting flushed down the toilet.)

Look. I’m tired. I’m scared. I’ve got a sick kid who may or may not have an underlying health problem. After all, two cases of Pneumonia in three months is a bit… weird.

And, on top of all of that, I feel guilty.

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