Tag Archives: parenting

A Guide to Surviving Mom Groups; or Don’t Be a Jerk

When you become a new mother, especially if you are a stay at home mom (SAHM), you often find yourself in a lonely place. Whereas you may have had adult interaction at a previous job, or had the freedom to come and go from your home with ease and see other humans larger than 20 inches long, now you feel secluded. In days past, I’m not sure what moms did. I suppose they made friends with their neighbors, had cleaner houses, and drank lots of martinis. But in my generation? We’ve found solace in the internet.

I know for myself, once I became a mom, mom groups on Facebook became my village. My place to escape, and vent, and socialize, and laugh and cry. With a sleeping baby on my breast, a granola bar in my mouth, and a phone charger always close by, I could have company at the tips of my fingers, from the confines of my 4 walls, without ever putting on a stitch of makeup or shoes.

I became obsessed. The first mom group I was really active in was Captain’s birth group, “The Blue Mamas”. These women became my everything. I talked to them about anything and everything, more than I talked to my own husband. I could count on someone being online at 3am when I had milk soaked sheets and a gassy, screaming baby. From there, I was added to a breastfeeding group. And then another one… and another and another (sooooooo many breastfeeding groups!). Baby product co-op groups, cloth diaper groups, local mom groups, local-er mom groups, mom and baby product buy, sell, trade groups, babywearing groups, general parenting advice groups, natural birth groups, natural family planning groups… ALL. THE. GROUPS. In fact I just looked at how many groups I am in, and I counted 204. Most of these groups are some how connected to mothering.  

How wonderful! I would think, as I found another kindred spirit on the other side of the globe. I had friends in every corner of the planet, people I could talk to and trust with my struggles and joys. What a marvelous age to be living in! One where we can communicate and bond with people time zones away! It was marvelous and it is marvelous–but it can also be not so marvelous from time to time.

With awesome people, come jerks. People who call you names, argue and accuse, and belittle the death of your baby (yes, that happened. From a real, live mom you would love to be friends with if you met her at the park during a play date. Religious, pretty, and fit– great hair, too! Beautiful children and a happy marriage. Literally made light of my baby dying.)

Of course, jerks are everywhere. Jerks are the people who leave trash in the shopping cart at target, cut you off on the freeway, and don’t pick up their dog’s fecal matter at the park. But jerks on the internet are much more brutal than the person who leaves droplets of pee on the public restroom toilet you are next in line to use. Jerks on the internet have a screen to hide behind. They type nasty and insensitive things that they would never say in person. They cut down your character, make rude remarks and follow them up with sarcastic tag lines like “enjoy your dead baby, sweetheart” at the end of a debate on co-sleeping. They are the ones who, in person, would throw a lovely dinner party and serve you the best wine while you had some laughs, but in their mommy group they call people the R-word and make threats about stabbing their mothers in law for daring to wash their dishes. The young mom you sit next to in church tells her mom friends on the internet how badly her husband performs in bed, and your sweet neighbor with twins down the street calls anyone who doesn’t fully vaccinate their kids “murderer”, “a-hole”, and “idiots”. You guys. Women call other women the C-word, simply because those women parent differently from themselves. THE C-WORD. Conversations that would never, ever, EVER happen in real life (at least while sober) happen on the internet with such vitriol and spite that you find yourself alternately blushing and raging while scrolling through your newsfeed.


Why does this happen? Well, if I had the gumption I would google some study that talks about normal housewives who become interweb vigilantes and their need for an outlet so they don’t run off with Fabio or start having nervous breakdowns in the dairy room at Costco. But the thing is, who really cares? I don’t care why it happens, I care THAT it happens. It stinks. 
Now you may be thinking, “yeah, this is nothing new, why is this lady on the internet ranting about ranting people on the internet?” Because I have a solution to share with all of my fellow dwellers on this series of tubes we share. Are you ready?

Here it is: don’t be a jerk. Yup. That’s it! Stop being a jerk. 

Need a little more specific help? Try one of the following:

-Scroll past topics that get you heated. You just move your thumb from the bottom of your screen to the top, and it’s like it was never posted.

-Is your thumb broken, and you simply can’t scroll past? Try reading the opposing view from their standpoint. This will teach you how to practice empathy. Empathy is a word that we like to talk about in feel good memes and want our children to practice, but don’t like to practice when the going gets tough. After trying to understand the other point of view, use your other thumb to keep scrolling.

-Oh no!!! Other thumb broken? Okay, here’s an idea. Ask questions if you really, truly can’t understand. And not passive aggressive ones like “wow, I’m not sure how anyone could be such a giant moron and endanger their children like you do by offering them snacks with red dye, could you explain how you are able to sleep at night while your child’s colon is being dyed green from those Cheetos?” Ask real questions that can help you understand where the other person is coming from.

-Can’t help but interject some advice? Re-read the post. Was someone ASKING for advice? Or were they just venting? Or maybe just sharing an article or stating an opinion? Ask yourself, “do I like unsolicited advice?” If the answer is no, use your pointer finger to scroll. 

-Just really, super, can’t help but grace the interwebs with your opinion? We circle back to the first step: Don’t be a jerk. Just don’t. You can still state your opinion without being mean. I’m sure of it. Because you do it every day when you talk to your girl friend over coffee, pillow talk with your husband at night, and sit across the table from relatives at Thanksgiving. Besides, you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar. If you really wanted to convince someone of your viewpoint, you’d do it nicely.

And you know? Being nice isn’t all that hard. Saving your sarcasm for super witty blog posts (cough, cough) or open mic night at the local stand up club is okay. Kissing emojis don’t need to be used next to peach emojis, unless you’re sending your husband a suggestive text, and threats of dismemberment, bodily injury, or death… well those are best left unsaid at all.

I’m preaching to myself here, too. We can all stand to be a little nicer. I wiped feces off a few butts today and I bet you have as well. I’ve eaten chocolate in the closet and sobbed with a glass of wine in the bathtub while my kids banged on the door, and I assume that also speaks to your experiences as a mom. I have cried staring at my sleeping babies at night, my heart exploding with love, and you do that, too.

So when next we meet on the internet and the topic of formula vs. breastmilk, MMR, organic food, circumcision, or how much screen time is okay, let’s all not be jerks. It makes the internet a nicer place to hang out while I ignore my kids’ screams for more snacks. 

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In Between 

I’ve been quiet around here. It’s strange, and perhaps makes no sense, but the busier and more stressed I am, the more I tend to write. I suppose it’s a little escape, or, much like the pressure valve on my new instant pot (who else got one for Christmas??) a release from all the craziness that gets trapped inside when life is jam packed.

I’m in between. Our home for the last 2+ years is going to have the rent raised high enough that we can’t possibly afford to sign on another year. I’m packing up the house with out much of a clear picture of where we are headed next. We have reached one month without a Foster placement. Every day I wake up and wonder if today is the day we will get a call, and each day it doesn’t ring. 

But though I’m in between, I’m also soaking up the cuddles with my 3 bio kiddos. Captain is enjoying being read aloud to. We are currently working through Mr. Popper’s Penguins and just finished Little House in the Big Woods. I love how he tells Milkman about what we read later on. Mamitas is as sharp as ever. She’s a never ending source of Disney movie facts, and has a myriad of imaginary friends (one named Bubblegummy and another named after herself– who has an astonishingly similar life to her own.) Peachy is a wild child. Wordless jokes, funny faces, and the ability to play her parents like a deck of cards. She’s brilliant and every time she does something new (be it naughty or clever!) I am in awe of her.

And then there’s been time with Milkman. We’ve had 2 dates in the last month, as dates are hard to come by once we have another foster placement in our home. We’ve spent a lot of time talking, cuddling, and indeed– staring at our phones waiting for a call. 

We feel the same way. Thankful that we haven’t gotten a call while our own kiddos have been sick almost constantly this cold and flu season. Thankful for the time spent focusing on our children, and on our marriage. But also mourning the empty room in our home, just waiting for someone else to take it over.

We know God’s timing isn’t our own. We know patience is the key to surviving fostering, whether you have a full or empty home! We know that the right child will be here when the right time comes. 

But in the moment, we feel very much in limbo. Very much in between. 

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Why Did We Bother Going to Church Today?

Some Sunday mornings are blessed with quiet children, happily coloring or munching on snacks while listening to the sermon, a sleeping baby, and a toddler who wants to go to the nursery.

Then there are days like today, where I ask myself, “Why did we even bother to show up today if we weren’t going to hear a single word of the sermon because all 5  kids are screaming, fighting, crying, filled with energy, and all around going crazy??” I couldn’t wait to leave church today, because the kids were such a handful! I felt like today was a total waste.

So why do we still go to church, when we end up pacing the lobby with children having difficult mornings, and we don’t hear any of the preaching? 

We go because we are setting an example to our kids. We go to show our children that even on rough Sundays, God is the priority. That some times obeying really sucks, and we would rather stay home in our Jammies and hermit, but being with God’s other kids delights him. We go to show them that we don’t get to throw out the commandments that we don’t think are important. We go because God’s word never returns void, and even if they caught one sentence of the sermon today, it may stick with them later. We go because it’s not about us. It’s about God. It’s His day. And what better place to spend His day, than with other people who love Him, too!

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Foster Parenting: It’s Good… for Your Marriage??

It’s been just under 5 weeks since Milkman and I became foster parents. When I got the call from the social worker that there was a need to place a sibling set, and would we take them, if our home study could be expedited, I said I would need to talk to my husband. I called Milkman, my heart racing, and we agreed we would pray about it for 30 minutes, and then I would call him back and we would make our decision. 

Thirty minutes later I called and said, “So, what do you think?” And before the words were all out of my mouth, he said, “we should do this.”

The rest of that day is a blur. Cleaning, arranging furniture, going grocery shopping, and putting our own 3 children to bed. But what will forever ring clearest in my mind is what happened after everything was done. Milkman and I put flowered sheets on the twin bed and placed a stuffed bunny I had purchased just a couple of hours earlier on the pillow, and we sat down, side by side. We prayed for the little ones who would be coming to live with us the next day, and when we finished I said, “Babe? I’m already on an emotional roller coaster. We are going to need to be so transparent with each other. Can we commit to being as open as we can about what we are feeling during this process?”

Now, if you know me, you know I’m a bit of an open book. I don’t mince my words often. And if you know anything about my marriage to Milkman, you know we are very open with one another and seek to have quality communication with each other. However, there is a little box in the back of every parent’s brain that has a lock on it. In that box are the feelings of inadequacy you have as a parent. In that box is where you hide your list of parental failures. And the most secret thing in that box, are the things you think about parenthood and your children from time to time that you are too afraid to type or utter for fear of judgement. You may even just fear that saying them makes those feelings more tangible and real, and therefore more scary. 

I knew that I was going to need a whole steamer trunk for that box once I became a Foster parent, because I assumed (and rightly so) that I would go through so many more feelings of inadequacy, so many more feelings of failure, and so many more feelings about how I would view myself as a foster parent and my foster children. I knew that I was going to have to open up to Milkman about those deep, hidden thoughts if we were going to make this work. And he was going to have to with me.
In the first 24 hours we had our placements, I had to unload on Milkman several times. I would say, “I know this sounds [selfish, naïve, strange, etc.] but, right now I am feeling really [scared, confused, frustrated, etc.]. What about you?” And then he would reply with what he was unpacking from his box.

Every time there has been a change, a bit of news, a call from a social worker, or a meltdown from a child, we have this exchange. It is happening less and less as time goes on. I am able to cope more, he is too. We are learning that if biological parenthood seemed overwhelming or emotionally draining, Foster parenting is incomparably much more so. But still, we have our talks in the evenings when staring at chubby cheeks, freckles, and curls while all 5 children sleep. We can’t believe we are doing this. We can’t imagine not doing this. We can’t believe we love these children so much. We can’t believe we care for their mother (whom we have never met) so much.

Like I said, we’ve always talked, Milkman and I. But I’ve never opened up that little box quite so wide. And same goes for him. We have become vulnerable to one another in new ways. We have an entirely new level of transparency. We hold each other up, because most days, no one is going to understand how hard Foster parenting is except for another foster parent. He’s the closest friend I have, and it just so happens that he is a foster parent, too.

Don’t get me wrong, Fostering can be hard on your marriage. There’s a lot of stress adding a change to your family dynamic, and it can be scary. The lack of sleep, schedule changes, visits, appointments, and nearly non-existent down time when you have 5 children under 5 is draining. But some how, right now, it’s pulling us closer together, and I’m thankful for it.

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Hush, Little Mama, Don’t You Cry…

After 6 years of discussing it, 4 years of deciding to do it, 1 year of going through classes, background checks, paperwork, and fingerprints, Milkman and I got the call to become Foster parents. The last week and a half of my life has been so exhausting and such a learning process. It brings more emotions each day than I normally experience in a month. 

Thankfully, we expected uncertainty, we expected to work through a lot of emotions, we expected to be exhausted having 5 children aged 4 and younger… But one thing I didn’t know I would feel is intense love and compassion for the mother of our Foster children.

There are so many horror stories of biological parents who get their children taken away and put into foster care. There are parents who truly don’t care about their kids, parents who abuse their kids, and parents who grossly neglect their children. Many of those stories are sad and real. These are the stories that made me want to become a foster mom as a teenager, so I could help remove a child from a scary situation.

However, in my VERY short time as a foster parent, I’ve come to the realization that some (hopefully many!) mothers whose children get placed in foster care are not so far gone that they are not in shambles at the thought of their precious babies being handed over to complete strangers. I don’t know the parents of our placements. I don’t know their ages, what they do for work, or what kind of struggles they are going through. What I do know of most parents whose children end up in foster care is that things got tough enough in their lives that someone needed to step in to help out while they get the right things into place.

I am not the hero. The parents of these children are not villains. We are not fighting some war on opposite sides of the battle field. We are, in fact, on the same team. We are on the same team as their children. We all want the same thing: for their children to be healthy, happy, and safe. 
When I hold these sweet children close to my heart and sing them bed time songs, I think of how their mother must be wondering who is tucking her babies into bed. When I push one of these children on the swings and hear them giggle, I think of how their mother must miss that sound. When I look into their eyes, I wonder if they look like their mom or dad did as children, and think of how I’m staring at a piece of this mother I’ve never met. 

How her heart must ache. How empty her arms must feel. How many tears must her eyes have shed… 

When I put myself in her shoes, I imagine her desperation, fear, love, and yearning to feel complete again. 

There may come a day when we have children in our care who have been in truly deplorable circumstances, and whose parents I struggle to love. But for now, I’m so glad that God is teaching me to practice empathy for these people I have never met. 

I wish I could tell the mother of these children that her treasures are safe, and hug her when she cries. But for now, I’ll just keep holding these little ones close for safe keeping, until she’s ready to hold them safely again herself.

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Their Papa

It all started on a Friday night in July and we were going to get drinks and listen to Brazilian jazz downtown, and I had a strange feeling that I should stick to the jazz and not the drinks. I came out of the bathroom and into the living room in the converted garage where we were living, and I said “it’s probably a false positive.”

And in that moment, your face displayed a joy I had never seen before. I just remember you saying “Babe! Babe! Babe!” and kissing me. I refused to let myself get excited because I was scared of the unknown. After googling “false positive pregnancy tests” I took another and it was also positive. You held me and you said “I’m going to be a daddy.” And that night I got a virgin Mai Tai.

And when Captain was born 9 months later, he was placed in your arms all swaddled, and I watched you from my bed while I cramped and bled and was sore, and nothing was more satisfying than seeing the man I loved the most hold the physical proof of our love– our son.

And 8 months later, I was tired and decided to take a shower after a nursing marathon with Captain, and before I got in the shower, I looked at the test on the counter to see 2 lines. I came bursting down the hall in piles of tears, so scared to be pregnant and nurse a baby, and you held me and told me it was going to be okay, and you once again had that look of joy in your eyes, though slightly dimmed by 8 months worth of sleep deprivation. I didn’t know you were scared about money in that moment, because you never let it show, you just held me and kissed me and said “We are going to have another baby!”

And when she was born after 57 months of pregnancy (okay, it felt like that) you stood over Mamitas’s screaming, pink body and she let out the most ghastly shriek I had ever heard, and you said your baby girl was perfect and beautiful.

And then 10 months later, Captain announced mommy had a baby in her tummy, and you gave me a look of astonishment and once again I saw that light in your eyes I had seen twice before, and you were so excited, you even ate the oatmeal I made for breakfast that day.

When I delivered his sleeping body at 17 weeks, it was just you and me in the room, and you cried with me. I sang “Stay Awake” to Ezra, and he couldn’t hear me, but you did, and you sang me and our still child praise songs and held his tiny body in a green blanket I made just hours earlier.

4 months later, I asked you to get my glasses off the bathroom counter on a weekday morning before work, and after you saw the test on the counter, you came back to me in the living room with tears in your eyes, and you held me and we cried, and I didn’t see your eyes because mine were too clouded from crying, but I felt that light and warmth and joy radiate through my body from yours, because we were going to have our rainbow baby.

And when we met Peach, after a very awful 48 hours of little sleep, and frustration, you cried at the sight of our baby girl– the first birth you cried at.

Late nights, and middle of the nights, and early mornings, you are present. When Captain cuddles up close in the dark of the night and I hear you kiss the top of his head, when you wash Mamitas’s hair in the bathtub and assure her you wont let the shampoo get in her eyes, when you take Peachy from me because I’m tired and put her in your Ergo and sing to her. When I get into bed and begin whimpering, missing our Ezra Eugene, and you hum “10,000 Reasons” in my ear and whisper that you miss him too.

Your children love you. There is some sort of magic in your relationship with each of them. Captain wants to be just like you, Mamitas wants to have your attention every second, and Peach? Well, she wishes she was glued to you 24/7 because you are her favorite person.

I hear so many say that women become mothers the second they see those 2 pink lines, and fathers have to grow into their role as a dad after the baby has born. You were different. I have grown into motherhood, but you were made out of the fabric from which the finest fathers are constructed.

And now that I think of it, it didn’t all start on a Friday night in early July, it started in a church parking lot in April, 14 months earler. We were both nursing confused and broken hearts and we sat on the curb in the middle of the lot and cars began heading home that Sunday night. We talked about our faith, and we talked about how we were raised. We talked about goals in life and morals and values. And we talked about children. And I had never seen a man my age so passionate about the idea of getting married and having babies and raising a family. And though in that moment I didn’t know for certain what would become of our friendship, a little light flickered in my mind’s eye– a little hope, that maybe those babies you seemed so excited to have one day, could be my babies, too.

When you don’t sleep for 4 years and you spend most of your life covered in some sort of bodily fluid from a child, the time that passes seems to grow into centuries. But here we are, babies, kids, family, and so much love.

And when you walk in the door every day after a long day of work, and you drop your work bag on the floor and your children see you, I see the same light in their eyes that I saw in your eyes each time you found out they existed– and that makes all the craziness worth it.

I love you, Milkman. Our babies do, too! Happy Father’s Day.

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