Wednesday, April 2, 2014

My Daughter Can Never Know I Think I'm Fat

I knew the only way I'd be able to shop in my closet for an outfit to wear that night would be to involve my three-and-a-half-year-old daughter.  

"A!" I called with conspiratorial glee, "Wanna help Mommy pick out her clothes for tonight?"

Lady A was overjoyed. I was going to see Alvin Ailey perform, and I needed something festive and sassy.  I began pulling tops and pants out of my closet.

"That's pretty! What about that?" Lady A asked, pointing at a flouncy turquoise mid-calf length skirt.  

I pulled it down. I didn't have a sweater or footwear to go with it.  With a scarf, I strapped the skirt on Lady A and let her pretend to wear a ball gown for a while.

"I like this!" Lady A then pointed to a summery pink and white knee length skirt totally inappropriate for the frigid March evening.

"That’s nice, but I'll freeze!" I said. "I can't wear that!"

Then I saw something PERFECT.  A black leather skirt that fell to just about the knee.  I'd wear printed black tights, a ruffled sweater, and my heeled boots.

"I've got it!" I told my daughter.  I reached for the skirt and tried to pull it on. I tugged and tugged but it wouldn't go past my thighs.  My have-always-been-bigger-than-I'd-like thighs.  My daughter watched expectantly.

"Oh dear." I tried to seem unfazed. "I can't get these on.  Guess I've gained some weight."  

"Yeah, Mommy," Lady A giggled.  

We stood before each other, keeping our thoughts to ourselves.  

She might have only been three, but I knew my daughter knew that a woman being too big to fit in her own skirt was not a good thing.  Somehow she was sensitive enough to see that I was unhappy and embarrassed, and didn’t say something like, "Mommy! You have a big boonda!"  

Had I been alone I would have stood before the mirror slapping my haunches and hating on myself.  "Look at this fatty, fat, fat ASS! What happened to me? I used to be so tiny and now I’m like a manatee!  What am I going to doooooooooooo?"

Instead I admitted my faults. "I guess Mommy has been eating too much,” I said.  “Mommy has to eat better foods." 

The pile of clothes on the bed kept growing with potential outfits before I gave up and decided to go with my go-to winter ensemble – an A-line grey sweater dress over a fitted black turtleneck and leggings with mid-calf, black heeled boots.  It wasn't the super cutola ensemble I'd hoped for, but it worked.

As for Lady A, I'm relieved that I never called myself the “f” word and kept my body frustration to myself.  While of course I hope and pray that it never happens, Lady A has plenty of time for the world to instill in her the "desirable" look and measurements of the female body.  

That madness cannot come from me.

I never want my daughter to know that while I don't exactly think I'm fat, that at any given moment I see myself as 5-10 pounds shy of my goal weight. And happiness. 

And I never want her think that a natural part of being a woman is living in a chronic low-grade fever of body dissatisfaction.

Right now Lady A's little body is an enviable blend of my athletic musculature and her dad's long and lean limbs. We don't know if this will be her body type forever, but even if it isn't, Lady A must know that no one, including herself, should love her any less because her body changes into something that the screens and magazines and billboards say is not okay.  

However, I do want her to understand that if maintaining a certain physique is important to her, eating moderately and exercising regularly is the answer, not self-loathing.  

I want my daughter to believe in her beauty and to love herself.  


Given our histories, our beliefs, our education, and all we know about beauty and how the world works, we mothers don't have an easy job modeling positive body image.  

Still, we have to demonstrate confidence in our bodies like it's our job. 

Because it is.  

Monday, March 24, 2014

10 Ways Facebook Is Like the Boyfriend You Can't Quit

For a long time Facebook was it.  It was the way to get my work seen.  

While other sites were for bloggers and businesses and people looking for recipes and hairstyles, Facebook was for everyone.  Everyone was there looking, sharing and commenting, everyone from grandmothers to seventh graders. Posting my writing on Facebook was like putting my work on a billboard on the highway - hundreds of people saw it, and if they liked it, they told their friends. 

This made it easy to up my number of followers, a number that to a blogger like me was like weight or household income. It was a number that I would kill to keep it moving in a certain direction.  A number that was the source of happy dances or considering spending the day with a bottle of vodka and watching Judge Judy.  

And now no one on Facebook sees a blogger's stuff.  

Facebook is now the person who throws a big black sheet over someone using sandwich boards for the purpose of self promotion.     

Facebook is killing blogs.  

They want bloggers to pay, and pay through the nose. 

"Ain't nothin' free in this town no more." Right Domestic Goddess?

Facebook is Facebook.  They can do whatever they want.  And they've been nothing but honest.  They're like the crappy boyfriend who lays his cards on the table -- tells you he can't, make that won't, commit.

And fool that you are, you stay with him.  

Here are 10, yes 10, ways I know I'm in a very unhealthy relationship with you, Facebook.

You blog-killing, crappy boyfriend piece of you-know-what!  

I'm constantly checking in on you to see if you're going to change your ways and show me some love.

Even though I spend tons of time and energy on you, I know I'll get next to nothing in return.  

I keep thinking that if I had a better figure you'd like me more, but I'm starting to see that no one is good enough.  

Even though I know you're a greedy bast--d, I still think about paying you to give me a "boost," but that seems desperate and wrong.

I read and talk to friends about strategies that will make you do right by me.  Things change for a little bit, then go back to normal.

I have so many friends through you and if I break up with you I might lose them!

It makes my day when I put my goods out there for some reason or other, you show me off. 

I wish I could not need you so much, and totally break-up with you, but you are impossible to ignore.

Just when I think we are done, you sucker me back in to staying. 

I am trying to get to know other people, like this guy G+, but he's kinda boring and I just don't get him.  

Seriously, most people get their soft news from Facebook.  Friends of mine have remarked that they haven't been seeing my posts. Some ask if I still write.  

Blogging feels like an uphill battle.  

Big and small sites are feeling the hit.  We write for an audience -- for community -- not to send our work and our words into the ether.

Is the golden age of blogging over?

What are you doing to get your work out there?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Empathy: The Weakest Link Between Parents and Child-frees

I may think I'm doing a miserable job, but my version of the SuperMommy Show is fooling everyone.  Even though I sleep about 5-6 hours a night, I don't look like a zombie. I can still teach and take physically demanding dance classes. The dancers of a Chicago dance troupe where I guest teach company class were shocked to learn that I am a mommy to two young children.  "But she demonstrates everything!" they marveled. 

"See what good training and taking care of yourself can do?" answered their rehearsal director, a friend of mine.


To the outside world I look like someone who's got her act together.  I'm reasonably nice looking, competent and always armed with a sharp wit.  In private, however, I sob over commercials, Disney movies, and random acts of kindness from strangers. And on the flip side, I live one baby step from launching into a profanity laced tirade worthy of a gang fight. 

But by far, my dirtiest secret is how I feel about my kids. Of course I want them around; I cherish them so much my breath catches.  Sometimes we have a lot of fun together.  But a lot of the time I can't hack it. I yell and lose my temper. I can't balance doing things for them like laundry and chauffeuring and meals, versus doing things with them, like reading books and playing. And then there's the pressure of being a good parent in a nation where parenting should be a team sport, but instead feels like shopping on Black Friday.  

I share these doubts and fears with other parents and those childless of mine friends who get it as much as they possibly can.

Unless a child-free person has been carefully vetted to be able to handle parental venting, I usually don't bother. 

But this child-free person asked me how I was, and instead of saying "fine," I got real.

"My kids are driving me crazy," I confessed

"You made them didn't you?" he grinned. "Right?"

I wanted to run my nails down his face. "I guess," I answered, clenching my jaw. 

Made them?

Yes, I, with a little help from science and my husband, not necessarily in that order, "made" them.  But the idea that I am -- that any parent is -- the sole, even primary, cause of why a child is the way s/he is -- spirited/docile, even-tempered/moody, an early reader/late reader -- is in many cases, just wrong.

But his other point was that having kids at all was not only my choice, but my fault.  Apparently, he had had the foresight to realize kids weren't for him and his partner. In his mind, those who bring children into the world make their own milk-soaked, overcrowded, peed-on beds and should lie in them.

Without a word of complaint.

Let's get something straight. My complaining about my corner of motherhood is not an invitation to be patronized or blamed from my parenting choices.  It does not signify a lack of love for my children, or that I am delusional about either the big picture or the minutiae of parenting.  

It is simply an admission that I am having a hard time, and that I need some support -- someone to listen to me. It's a request for reassurance that what I'm feeling is normal, and will pass.  I need that pat on the shoulder when I feel like my life's a shambles. 

That's what everyone needs.  

It's called empathy.  It's called being sensitive to other people's feelings and needs.  "They" start teaching us those things in preschool, but many of us never really quite get it.  

I lived without children for over 35 years.  I thought I was stressed and busy and tired as a childless adult, but now that period of my life seems blissfully carefree. It's almost a joke how little I had to think, let alone worry, about.  

But is it fair to invalidate what I felt back then?  My problems were REAL, and I dealt with them with whatever maturity and perspective I had.  

Which is exactly what I try to remember when I hear someone without kids complain about how exhausted/busy/strapped for cash they are. That's their reality.  Parents aren't the only people in the world allowed to be emotionally, physically and financially tapped out.  

When a friend without kids complains, I put judgement aside. I listen and offer whatever support I can.  

And I deserve that same courtesy when I vent about my kids.  

Whether you're not a parent, or if you're one of those people who has parenting all figured out, if I express frustration about their children, please just acknowledge my feelings. Even if you can't understand. Keep your assumptions and evaluations to yourself. Do it even if you think I'm totally out of my mind, and I'll do the same for you.

And afterward we can go back to our respective camps and vent anew about each other's insensitivity/entitledness/delusions.  

Or better yet, we can put ourselves in the other person's shoes, shrug our shoulders, and go on with our lives. - If you are a childless person who hears a mom complain and says 'Well, you made them!' go ahead and slap your own face now.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Road of Motherhood Is Paved With S--t You Forgot

Even though all our devices are slowly being rolled into one (Apple and Tesla met to talk about an ICar, people!) we have more to remember than ever before.

Forgive me for starting another battle in the Parents vs. Child-free by Choice war, but when you have kids (and a body part that rhymes with bulva - yep, started yet another battle) the amount of stuff you are trying to remember to keep everyone not just comfortable, but ALIVE, goes up if not exponentially, than big-time.

Gradually you start doing things that only someone with severely impaired brain function would do, like wearing two different shoes, or misplacing your keys several times a day. And that's in addition to doozies like forgetting to put more diapers in the diaper bag the day the baby has a Code Red blowout, or getting stuck in make-Mother-Theresa-curse-level traffic when your menu of distracting snacks was left on the kitchen counter.

You think about getting more sleep, taking gingko biloba or playing some intellect-strengthening games online, before realizing how uber stupid that is.

It's simple math. The more you stuff have to remember, the more likely you are to forget something.  

You begin to realize this: 

And it's not over when your kids crawl out of that baby stage.  Diapers, sippy cups and wipes are replaced by electronic devices and gear for swimming, ballet, soccer, t-ball, school, and every other activity known to the affluent suburbs. 

And, of course, you have to remember to take kids places, and to actually pick them up.

Which can be a problem in itself.  It seems that no motherhood journey is complete without at least once forgetting a whole HUMAN BEING.   

Today I'm at BonBon Break telling my dear friend Nicole's tale of a botched pick-up.  

What about you?  What's your pick-up story?  

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