Is There Really, Actually, Truly a Plague of Mommy Mean Girls?

Read this piece by Julie Suratt for Boston Magazine and you might think so. That in the suburbs there is an absolute glut of mom cliques every bit as catty and underhanded as the ones some of us encountered in middle school.

After all, in Suratt’s own suburban mom experience there seems to be an overabundance of what she describes as cool moms. Whose apparent coolness, judging by the wording of article, stems from things like Lululemon zip-fronts, iced lattes, Prada, and having all the time in the world. And yet all that apparent coolness is actually just a front for straight up coldness. She writes:

It turns out that suburban life is dictated by the kind of tribal behavior I thought we’d grown out of: popular girls and their obsequious minions willing to do anything to fit in. But this time, with kids, money, and jobs on the line, the stakes are even higher. And so you have countless grown women cowering behind their beautifully trimmed hedges in bucolic towns around Boston, trying to avoid getting “fired” from their friend circle while simultaneously hating every minute they have to spend with those ladies who lunch. It’s a mom-eat-mom world out there…

Except is it? Is it really?

Or is it a mom-eat-mom world for the moms who see the perfectly coiffed mama stepping out of her perfect car with her perfect handbag and mistake her perfectly polished exterior for warmth within? Aspirational friendship. It’s a term I think I may have made up, but whether I borrowed it or invented it, Suratt’s article is full of it. And by IT I mean moms choosing their friends based on some vision of motherhood that they aspire to – whether in terms of finance or fashion or fitness or otherwise – so they glom on to moms who have it and, I guess, hope like hell that those moms bring them into the exclusive inner circle.

Sort of like middle school all over again. Get in with the popular crowd and get popular, but risk total social suicide in the process.

Except that Suratt admits way way wayyyyy down at the very bottom of her article, in the very last paragraph in fact, that most of the moms she knows don’t fit into the Queen Bee mold she spends roughly 4,500 words describing as some scourge of suburbia. So which is it? Is she “knee-deep in mean-girl antics” or does the real truth come out when a friend worries about moving out of the city and her response is to reassure her that the majority of women she knows are not actually jostling for alpha status in suburban mommy cliques.

I mean, either there are roving bands of mean girl mommies roaming the streets of my town that I haven’t ever noticed because a. I am too uncool to be noticed by them (in which case, yay) or b. I am actually one of them (doubtful) OR this was some serious clickbait bullshit wrapped up in the guise of a serious lifestyle article.

There was only one paragraph in the entire piece that did not strike me as total sensationalist nonsense meant to stir up some new battle in the Mommy Wars. And most of that paragraph is a quote from a social worker.

That’s why the minute our children are born, we begin to search for like-minded women, a journey that binds some moms together and isolates those who can’t keep up. “When you have a kid, it’s like going back to high school,” says Deborah Hurowitz, a social worker who leads support groups for parents in Greater Boston. “Everybody is scrambling to figure out who they are, how they’ll fit in, and who they want to be friends with.”

Hurowitz – who in my mind is now wondering why she chose to lend her voice to something titled ‘ The Terrifyingly Nasty, Backstabbing, and Altogether Miserable World of the Suburban Mom’ – is telling the God’s honest truth here when she says becoming a mom can mean going back to square one in terms of personal identity. What new mom hasn’t wondered who she is now, especially if she finds herself in a position where she needs to build a support system from scratch. We’ve said it before and we’ve said it again: finding mommy friends can be hard. Really hard. But that doesn’t mean you need to work your ass off to be friends with people who are nasty.

There are mean girl moms and mom cliques everywhere, of course, and not just in suburbia, because there are mean people and simpering hanger on types and bullies everywhere. Suratt’s article turns a very real problem – adult bullying – into a fluffy, silly upper class bored suburban and easy to dismiss housewife problem. My big fear is that people will read the original piece and it’s going to give them yet another reason to judge moms and women in general. This is not a SAHM problem. This is not a suburbia problem. This is not a problem unique to the 1%. It’s not even an issue unique to moms.

As a mom, new or otherwise, you need to ask yourself what’s more important… finding amazing mom friends you can count on or fitting into some mold of perfect motherhood you’ve created in your own head?

I know which is more important to me – it’s a big part of what inspired me to create something like Mom Meet Mom. No mom should ever think that ingratiating herself with the local clique, nice or not, is her one and only chance at finding friendship, support, and fun during the new mother years.

Give Up On Being the Perfect Mother and Become a Happier One

Hey, you. Yeah, you.

The mama who is standing in the organic food department trying to decide how you’re going to get a totally homemade paleo dinner on the table tonight and finish up a work project before baking something gluten-free for your big kid’s bake sale – all while knowing you’re going to get woken up four or five times after your head hits the pillow because your youngest just won’t sleep. And whoops, let’s not forget that science project that is now a family project except family really means you and sometimes your child but never your partner for whatever reason. Now can I ask: Have you dusted lately?

And maybe also: Are you freaking out yet?

I know what it’s like to spend every waking minute trying to figure out the next way to be a perfect mom because I’m a perfection chaser myself. But you know, it’s a shifting target. What’s perfect has a lot to do with what’s trendy. For a while it was the crafty moms with the talent for interior design. Now it’s the homeschooling moms. In some decades it’s the working moms. In others it’s the SAHMs who sacrifice their entire lives giving their children the most robust childhood experience possible. When I had my first child it was the ultra granola moms. When I was growing up it was the moms who woke up at 5 am to drive kids to the ice rink before putting on a power suit. For a little while not too long ago it was the Tiger Moms.

The whole premise, before you even dive into the practicalities, is confusing and exhausting! It’s also pretty stupid. There is literally no such thing as a perfect mom any more than there is such a thing as a perfect person. We are all imperfect, we all have imperfect days, we all get dirty, and we all make mistakes – sometimes those mistakes even involve our parenting decisions. Anyone who looks like the perfect parent from the outside is probably a blogger who is trying to sell something and that something is your attention (with the buyer being advertisers vying for your eyeballs). Anyone who is actually trying to be the perfect parent is probably frazzled beyond belief but hiding it with a good haircut and great concealer.

How about this: Instead of trying to be a more perfect mother, try to be a happier mother.

Just for a week. If doing third-language worksheets with your little ones makes you happy, w00t! But if saying bag it all and walking to the ice cream store for no reason at all makes you happy, why not? Maybe getting away from your kids for just two hours one weekday evening is just the thing that would boost your mood, and that’s okay, too. Or telling the mister that he has overnight duty tonight, no backsies and see you in the morning, will make your heart sing. Could be that signing up for pottery classes just so you can sit at the wheel and make Ghost jokes with a bunch of old retired ladies is what you need to put a smile on your face.

Just for a week, do the things that make you feel happy instead of productive, accomplished, or like a supermom. For seven days, shove aside the guilt and make your mantra “me time makes mom time better.”

If you don’t want to hear it from me, a self-admitted Type A perfectionist type, take it from Hollee Schwartz Temple, a law professor and co-author of Good Enough is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood, who said in an interview that surveys showed that mamas chasing perfection “were actually less happy and less successful than moms who took a more relaxed approach.”

I’m not going to say that being a happier mother can make anyone a better mother. As long as you love your kids and treat them with kindness and respect you are already winning in my book. But I do think that doing what you can to become a happier mother will let you enjoy the experience of motherhood more. And enjoy your children more. Because honestly, who cares what you look like from the outside or how much non-essential stuff you accomplished today when the trade off is not necessarily more, but better quality time with your little ones?

Perfection can’t hold a candle to that.

The Most Important Thing a New Mom Needs to Remember

Ever wonder why most hospitals, during a new mom’s maternity stay or upon her discharge from labor & delivery, will ask her whether she has enough support at home? It’s because taking care of a baby is hard. It’s not necessarily physically demanding or mentally demanding – babies are light to carry and also it doesn’t take a degree in rocket science to change a diaper – but emotionally? Taking care of a baby can be draining. Even if you’re not dealing with something like colic or prematurity, just having this fleshy ball of need looking to you and only you to keep it alive is exhausting.

Can I admit something? It’s not ever right to shake a baby or hit a baby or otherwise abuse a baby. Ever. And I absolutely never would. But there have been times in the middle of the night when I was bouncing around the living room in the dark with an inconsolable wailing baby clutched in my arms in which I could suddenly understand with a frightening degree of clarity how someone could end up hurting a baby.

I came into motherhood somewhat more prepared than most. I have a herd of younger siblings – and when I say younger I mean a lot younger so I was dealing with babies or watching other people deal with babies in my teens and young adult years. I knew, for instance, that sometimes babies will cry and cry despite your best efforts. I knew that they can sometimes make a simple diaper change feel like trying to catch a greased pig. I knew that babies, when they first join the family, don’t do anything to acknowledge you other than stare and stare. I knew they keep you up at night – sometimes for months and months or even years.

And yet, even knowing that, it was still hard to cope with the challenges of new motherhood that were specific to our family. Like trying to nurse a preemie who was waking up and staying up at night long after she was “supposed to” be sleeping through the night. Like fisted hands and torticollis and slow weight gain and more. Like being homebound for her first few months because crowds were a no-no. I cried plenty of new mom tears in those days. Looked straight into my daughter’s uncomprehending eyes and asked “Why are you doing this to me?” And sometimes even put her down, walked away, and closed the door behind me while she wailed in a safe place and I just breathed until I was back in my mental safe space.

Those experiences – my own moments of WTF motherhood – inspired me to create a list that I will sometimes share with mamas hanging by the end of their ropes:

  • Your baby is not trying to piss you off.
  • She’s not manipulating you.
  • He isn’t pushing your buttons on purpose.
  • She isn’t crying to drive you crazy.
  • He isn’t staying awake to force you to do the same.
  • She’s just a baby trying to tell you something the only way she knows how.
  • And sometimes you can’t overcome the language barrier.

I say, there will be times when despite doing all you can you will not be able to suss out exactly what it is your baby needs in a given moment. Your baby will scream in your ear, head on your shoulder, thrash in your arms and you will wonder if it’s hunger (but then why won’t they eat…) or thirst (but then why won’t they drink…) or exhaustion (but then why won’t they settle into your cuddles) or pain (but then why isn’t the medicine helping). You will change diapers, change clothes, check for hairs wrapped around toes. There will be no answer, either right then or later. Time will tick away and eventually it’ll stop. Your job will be to wait it out and it will be frustrating and awful and feel like it lasts forever.

You and your baby, you are speaking two different languages. Sometimes you can overcome the language barrier through touch and hand gestures and cues. Sometimes you can’t and it sucks, but it is what it is.

I don’t think it’s an accident that the first thing most babies really do is smile. How many weeks can one mom go caring for a tiny human who gives her nothing in return? The answer is probably forever, but without that acknowledgement – those first tiny lopsided baby smiles – it’d be an ever rougher road than it already is. Until that smile, and then even after, try to remember that babies cry, babies don’t cooperate, and babies don’t always understand what we’re trying to tell them any more than we always understand what they are trying to tell us.

When you’re at the end of your rope, you can always walk away for a minute or five or ten until you can breathe again and start over from a better place.

Julia Reviews the NUK Advance Developmental Hard Spout Cup

In my house we are all about lasting value and these sippy cups – the Gerber NUK Advance Developmental Hard Spout Cup – definitely have that. We originally bought these for Katherine when she was first transitioning to a cup. The hard spout made it easy when she was switching to big kid cups, and we’ve used them plenty during the last three years on trips or when I needed to keep something to drink right in my purse.

So I can vouch for the spill-proof claim as well as the toughness of the cup!

Other things we like about this cup include the:

  • spout shape that makes transitioning between sippy cups and open cups easier
  • the bite resistant (no kidding) spout
  • 100% leak-proof, spill-proof, break-proof guarante
  • easy to wash shape (no tiny valves to get gummed up with gook)
  • cute designs!

On top of that, it’s a steal at about $7 for two considering how long they last!

I Don’t Want to Rush Things. But I Do. And I Don’t.

Having a baby is a wonderful, exhausting, glorious experience that I wouldn’t want to trade for anything in the world. In fact, I love having a baby – especially a six-month-old baby who I can send into spasms of joy with nothing more than my very own kissy face or a gentle tickle on the chin. Bo is a delight, as babies go. Capable of charming not only me, but my various clients and random strangers whose eyes he loves to catch with his own bright, sparkling orbs.

Seriously sparkling. So much that poor P. came to me despondent because, as she said, she “wished she had sparkles in her eyes like Bo has.”

I also have wishes. I want to slow down time so that Bo’s first two years feel as lengthy and as glorious as P.’s, which will never happen because in those years I was doing everything for the first time. I’d changed diapers but I’d never mothered before. I want to slow down P.’s next two years so I never have to live in a world where she’ll say no to one more nighttime cuddle or another game, but I know that’s silly since watching your babies turn into grown up people is kind of the point.

My darlings. They will be both be living their own lives in what for me will feel like moments, leaving me wondering how my own timeline could have lagged so far behind. This I know.

And yet still, I sometimes feel like I’ll be okay with it when this:

Turns into this:

first foods
I’ve admitted before that my least favorite part of being a mom is having to feed my darlings over and over and over again. Mere hours after one meal there comes another, and it’s my job to prepare them and to clean up after them and to monitor their relative healthiness against the Standard American Diet (which we all know is just awful). And when they are young, mealtime is a messy affair. I swear, we still have Cheerios or puffs – some circular foodstuff, anyway – trapped under our baseboard heating where even the slimmest vac attachment can’t touch them. There are still stains on the kitchen wall from P.’s puree days.

Someday I will regret feeling this way. I will wish for one more day of Stage 1 prunes flying through the air and finding its way into ears and nostrils. I will think wistfully about finding a pile of shredded cheese underneath the table. I will stroke the cold, hard surfaces of an impeccably clean kitchen and wonder why I ever worried about sticky fingers. I will meditate on mealtime through the forgiving lens of years gone by and sigh and remember the good times and the bad times, which were also good times that I just couldn’t see as such in the moment.

This, too, I know.

Christa Reviews the Stokke Tripp Trapp High Chair

I live in a tiny house – our eat-in kitchen is our dining room and it’s none too big. I think living in NYC during my early adulthood programmed my brain to like a cozy house. I mean, compared to a Brooklyn galley kitchen we are living large in ours… There is one downside to having a tiny house, however, and that is the fact that kids and babies will sometimes need furniture specific to their development levels. Like cribs, bouncy seats, and yes, high chairs.

Even way back when I was pregnant with my first the thought of putting some monstrous high chair in my kitchen was nightmarish.

Enter the Stokke Tripp Trapp high chair, a table-level, all-wood, grows-with-your-baby/kid chair that is super easy to clean and totally stylish. According to Wikipedia, this high chair was was developed by the Norwegian furniture designer Peter Opsvik in 1972 after he couldn’t find a chair that would let his son, Tor, eat with the rest of the family. What he created was adjustable and stable enough for little ones to climb onto themselves.

We have two:

The Stokke Tripp Trapp high chair is not cheap at $249.99 – I’ll grant you that. But when you consider that you can use it through infancy, into the toddler days, into the teen years (when it makes a great desk chair), and then into adulthood, it starts to look like a MUCH better buy. They’re great for small spaces, too. Plus, for the mamas who care about aesthetics, I have to say I think it is much nicer looking than the more common plastic and metal high chairs.

At our house? We think the Stokke Tripp Trapp high chair is worth every penny – even when you need two.

 

Obama Sold Me with His Celebrity Mom Healthcare Ad – Clever…

Just a couple of weeks before the Obamacare enrollment deadline is due to close (3/31), a new video (actually a few new videos) magically appeared on YouTube featuring two moms of celebrities. And two pretty damn likable ones, to say the least. The videos came with a hashtag, #YourMomCares and the intention was to target all of us moms out there. Mission accomplished!

While watching the video clip, I couldn’t help but think: Wow, these moms are pretty awesome… I would totally hang with them…I hope one day I have the freedom to drop everything and roadie my son around should he happen to need a lift on his music tourWhat I would give to find a mom friend who I’m so close with, we swap phones when we want to track our children.

It’s just one of those things, isn’t it? You know, the ol’, I’ll buy it because the celebrity bought it. Or is it?

Do I love the ad because these women are associated with celebrities? Or do I love it because I simply love these particular women? (Sharron and Patsy, are you on Mom Meet Mom? Send me your profiles, and we’ll schedule a moms’ night out asap. Here’s mine.)

Check out how the new healthcare ad pulls you in….

Yes, I can picture Jonah Hill dramatically slapped on the windshield of his mom’s car. I actually find myself asking myself if there was a movie featuring him with that exact scene in it. And what mom doesn’t want to someday reflect on memories with her son as if he were her best friend – the child who loved you so much, he wanted nothing more than to hang with you on tour?

Seriously, I’m hooked – and this is an ad for healthcare, for goodness sake.

I don’t care if you love or can’t stand Obama, you have to admit his team nailed it with this video campaign, which closes with a mom-to-mom plee.. “Every child should be insured” And there’s me immediately picturing that child as my own – the kid with severe allergies – who might have one day been denied insurance due to his condition. Well played.

This video followed one with other celeb moms, including those of Jennifer Lopez and Alicia Keyes…..

So the government and Hollywood are playing a little game with our heads, moms. Is it working? What did you think of these Obamacare ads? Love them? Hate them?

 

 

Why Moms Like Me Need to Give Up Total Self-Sacrifice

Sigh.

Okay, can I come clean with you here? I absolutely stink at self-care. Ever since my eldest daughter was born, I’ve put all of my needs by the wayside. Whether it’s pursuing hobbies, career, or personal hygiene, I’ve let it slide, all in the name of coming as close to being the perfect mom as I can. But I’m not going to do that anymore.

Back in the pre-baby days, I had a lucrative and promising career in Washington, DC. I was teaching myself how to play guitar, and perfecting my hand-ground garam masala. I had just bought a condo in the city. I showered and flossed daily.

Fast-forward to now: I haven’t slept through the night since 2010. If I’m lucky, I take three 5-minute showers a week. I still try to floss daily, but, honestly? There’s at least one day a week when I don’t even manage to brush my teeth, let alone floss. Hobbies are a thing of the past, and I quit my job ages ago. And even on those rare occasions when I eat food off my own plate while sitting down, everything I eat is evaluated based on its impact on the quality and quantity of my breast milk. So, what do I do with my time?

I wake up – every time the baby wakes at night, I’m there. I clean 1,000 messes. I kiss boo boos and make up songs. I invent math games, prepare healthy snacks. I breastfeed on demand. I work at preschool and monitor playdates. I get down on the floor and play with my kids. I read and read and read aloud. You name it, I’m doing it in the service of my children.

Do I love it? Mostly. Does it make me feel good? Sometimes? Do I think it’s the right thing to do?

Well…

No.

Is that crazy? I feel like I’m damned if I don’t, damned if I do here. If I don’t sacrifice my every ambition in the service of my children, I certainly will not be able to meet their every need in a timely way. Their environment will lose some of its richness. They will have less time in the company of a loving parent. But, if I do continue this pattern of behavior, what are they learning?

I don’t want my girls to learn that their physical and emotional needs are less important than those of the people around them.

…and yet, that is exactly the behavior that I am modeling for them. Everything I do is consistent with the idea that they, their father, our extended network of family and friends, are all more important than I am.

I don’t want my girls to believe that anything less than perfection is failure.

Would it kill my kids to eat fast food a few times a year? No. But my kids don’t get fast food, because anything short of a home-cooked, healthy meal made from local, organic, and sustainably raised ingredients and served at the family table sends me into a paroxysm of maternal guilt. If I don’t read to them for at least 20 minutes a day, I feel bereft and inadequate. Heaven forbid they not get outside all day; that’s an unacceptable failure. Even more, I’d better meet all the requirements with a smile on my face, and maneuver them in a way that doesn’t leave my kids feeling overscheduled or out of control.

And that? That’s not healthy. I don’t want my kids to beat themselves up like that.

I don’t want my kids to learn that it is okay to destroy yourself in the name of love.

You might argue that I’m a good mom, I’m trying to meet my girls’ needs, but I have to be honest with you – this sacrificial parenting style is not sustainable. My tank is empty. At the end of the day I feel lonely and scared. I don’t really recognize myself anymore. What happened to the vivacious, spunky career gal with a commitment to lifelong learning and a bit of a potty mouth? Why did I give up on feeling fabulous and settle for just getting through the next five minutes? When did I give up on balance?

I want my kids to learn balance. I want them to know that compromise is part of life, but so is unyielding passion. That it’s good to care for people, but you also can and should set boundaries. I want them to know that part of loving others is protecting and nurturing yourself. And that’s why I’m giving up my self-sacrificing parenting style in favor of showing my kids, by example, how to take care of themselves.

Yesterday, I turned on my sewing machine. I’d bought one, ages ago, thinking, “I’d like to learn how to sew.” And even though the baby was cranky and clingy, even though it meant opting out of answering the endless stream of “why?” questions aimed in my direction, I made something.

It’s a start.

Don’t Touch Me – I’m a Nursing Mother!

The poor mister. He’s a very touchy-feely kind of guy. Loves hugs and cuddles. Among other things. Because he’s, you know, a guy.

Me? I have a kind of take-it-or-leave-it relationship with physical contact.

If I’m being completely and utterly honest, my deeply ingrained affinity for personal space can sometimes even include contact with my own children.

Now, I will never, ever – like never ever ever – refuse a hug or a cuddle from my little ones, but there are times when P. is hanging from my neck and Bo is trying to climb my legs that I would sincerely love the ability to teleport so I could just disappear to the nearest Starbucks or any other location where it would be unlikely that anyone would try to touch me.

It doesn’t help that my son is still nursing now and then.

More now than then when he’s feeling tired, sick, or if he’s teething. A couple of months ago I thought he might be self weaning because he was down to one nursing session a day but then he got the cold from H-E-double-hockey-sticks and we were back up to full speed.

And yes, even at 17 months old he’s still glued to me for at least a few hours over the course of the day and night. I wouldn’t change a thing since he’s a baby after all and I know that someday he’s going to grow up and P. is going to grow up and I will swoop in for the occasional hug and get squarely dissed by big kids who are just too cool for that sort of thing.
I figure that’ll be mostly okay. My own mom still swoops in for what I deem far too many hugs and totally ignores my square disses.

But back to the mister. And my bubble. After a day being climbed on by two tiny humans that last thing I want is to get my romp on. Or even do a lot of a hugging. I just want to relax with nothing but air on all sides of me. I want to wrap myself in my own shell and remember where my skin begins and ends. I want to just kind of be me for a while without having to share myself or my space with anyone.

I figure that once my little ones are bigger and are less physically demanding it’ll all change, but for now… can any mamas out there relate?

St. Patrick’s Day Crafts with a Snakey Twist

St. Patrick’s Day, right? Green beer? Shamrocks, “Kiss me, I’m Irish?” What’s that all about?

Wikipedia tells me that St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, having served as a missionary there after being enslaved in Ireland as a child. The shamrock imagery comes from his use of the shamrock as a visual aid while discussing the Holy Trinity. He’s also rumored to have driven all of the snakes out of Ireland, and to have stuck a walking stick into the ground, only to have it grow into a living tree.

This? This I can work with. You ready? Queue up Snakes on a Plane and get ready for some monstertruckin’ St. Patty’s Day crafts!

You want finger puppets? I got finger puppets.

Easy-peasy. Draw a snake. Have your littles color, paint, or otherwise decorate it. Cut it out, tape an extra piece of paper on the underside to fit over a tiny finger. Craft: accomplished! Reward yourself with a green beer!

But Julia, where is my healthy snack craft?

Oh honey, don’t worry, I’ve got you. If you can slice a cucumber, you can make a cute cucumber snake.

I want something more complicated!

I want you to sew socks together to make this cute sock snake! Bonus: use it to block a draft under a door. Everyone wins!

That was too complicated!

Don’t worry! Draw a tongue on a paper plate!

Okay, that last one was just insulting. I’m craftier than that!

You’re right, I’m sorry. Have another green beer, and choose from these three toilet paper tube crafts:

Okay. What are you making?

Actually? I got a sewing machine for Christmas because I want to learn to sew. I’m planning to make a circle skirt out of some cute green chevron patterned fabric!

What are you making this St. Patrick’s Day?