I occasionally suffer from a condition commonly known as “bitch face.” It’s involuntary, and I’m usually not even aware of it. It’s plagued me throughout my life, however.
People have often told me that before they knew me they thought I was stuck up, unfriendly, and/or unhappy. When I was single, a favorite pick-up line of guys in bars was, “Smile!” or “Cheer up!” (Shockingly, this line was ineffective and only made me want to punch the guy out.)
In fact, my self-consciousness and shyness were a big part of the problem. Most of the people I know who go around smiling all the time are pretty confident, outgoing types. Me? I’m a writer and blogger who doesn’t even use her real name or photo here. Draw your own conclusions.
I’ve learned a lot in my almost 36 years of life, though. Most lessons I have to learn over and over before they “stick,” BTW. But one of those is, if you smile people are nicer to you. And if people are nicer to you, you feel better about yourself. And if you feel better about yourself, you’re a happier person. Is that profound or what?
Fortunately, I smile a lot more these days. Mostly because I have 2 adorable kids I love more than anything. I dare you not to smile when you see tiny jean-clad butt or a miniature pair of rain boots. Or a round little Buddha belly or a peanut-butter-smeared, dimpled face. Go on, I DARE YOU.
Another lesson I’ve learned about happiness? It’s a choice. When I was younger, I used to think that circumstances determined a person’s happiness. If only I had a job I liked, I’d be happy. If only I had a boyfriend, I’d be happy. If I only I had a better body, nicer apartment, more friends, a bigger paycheck … you get the picture. Is it any wonder I was often miserable?
Becoming a freelance writer actually made things worse for a while. I gave up a high-paying job to sit in solitude in front of my computer all day, sending out queries and getting back rejections -- or worse, nothing but silence. I joined a writers’ group and soaked up the anxiety and negativity of the most vocal members. Every acceptance made my heart soar, every rejection stung like a slap in the face.
To be honest, it was a relief when I got married and then pregnant with my first child. I could focus on something else for a while. I eventually went back to writing, but things were different. First of all, I welcomed what little solitude I could find. Second, I connected with other writers online and started writing again for pleasure by starting a blog.
I did less pitching and got more work through networking and referrals, including some of my biggest career successes to date. And the highs and lows evened out because I no longer had my ego and self-worth all tied up with my profession. I had one, and now 2 little boys to remind me of what’s really important.
It kind of sneaked up on me, but I have realized I am finally happy. Sure, I still have struggles and disappointments, but deep down I am content and at peace with my life. And that’s enough to make anyone smile.
SHOUT OUT: To my fellow writer Christina Katz, the original Writer Mama, The Prosperous Writer, and the inspiration for this post. I'm fairly certain she never has bitch face. When I took her class 2 mos. after becoming a new mom, I never dreamed it would set me on the path I’m on today. Thanks, dear!
You, too, can take her class, Writing & Publishing the Short Stuff, or my class, Personal Essays that Get Published, both starting May 12. You'll be glad you did!
I occasionally suffer from a condition commonly known as “bitch face.” It’s involuntary, and I’m usually not even aware of it. It’s plagued me throughout my life, however.
Stop the presses: C. and I went out to a movie the other night. I KNOW!! In the theatre and everything! We go to the movies so rarely that we barely recognized a single Oscar nominee. This is because a) movies either start too early or too late for us (gotta get the kids fed but can’t stay awake past 11 pm) or b) we can’t agree on one.
But we both wanted to see “Date Night” with Tina Fey and Steve Carell, and we arranged for a kind and generous neighbor to come over after the baby was in bed. I highly suggest trading childcare with a friend if you can swing it. Because there’s nothing I hate more than paying a sitter to sit and watch TV after all the hard work is done!
I really enjoyed the movie. It was exactly what I look for in date-night entertainment. I hate how the trailers give away most of the movie these days, but there were still some surprises. One of the funniest parts to me was when T.Fey’s character, a harried working mom, reveals her “fantasy” -- eating lunch by herself in a quiet room. Every mother I know can relate to that!
That’s one of the biggest adjustments to becoming a mom, I think. All of a sudden you are never, ever alone anymore. Not even in the bathroom. If you work, commute, or have a sitter, you might get a few solo moments in your day, but mostly likely you spend that time trying to “get stuff done” -- phone calls, errands, basic personal hygiene. (BTW, I have seen a woman flossing her teeth at 55 mph.)
My husband and I have an ongoing argument about his 2-hour daily commute. On the one hand, I know from experience that stressful rush-hour traffic is no picnic, but on the other hand? How awesome would it be to sit in a quiet, air-conditioned place drinking your coffee and listening to whatever you want on the stereo without complaint from the peanut gallery in the backseat?
A few months after C. and I first started dating, he moved an hour away for a job. Shortly after, I lost my job and moved to the same city. Lots of people thought it would have made sense for us to move in together. Nope, not for me. First of all, I wasn’t sure about this guy yet. And second of all, I was finally making enough money to not have roommates. Damn straight I was looking forward to that!
The funny part is I ended up renting an apartment directly downstairs from C. I was something like Apt. #526 and he was #527. In the evenings after work we’d usually eat dinner together and hang out. But then if I wanted to go to bed early or he wanted to watch some game I wasn’t interested in, I’d go back downstairs. I didn’t even have to put shoes on. It was awesome. It was like all the benefits of living together without the hassles of someone else’s dirty dishes in the sink or having to split the phone bill.
So, yeah. I sometimes miss having my own personal space. But every now and then I get an unexpected gift -- like today, when both boys are napping at the same time (!!) and I have a few quiet moments to myself. And I enjoy it all the more because these moments are as rare as a free babysitter.
NEWS O’ THE WEEK: The next session of my 6-week online writing class, “Personal Essays that Get Published” starts in 2 weeks! There are still some spaces left. The class offers great camaraderie, accountability and best of all, how-to tips on getting published, even if you never have before. Past students have sold their essays to Chicago Parent, Southern Living, The New York Times and more. Get more info and sign up here.
Being awake at 6:30 a.m. on a Sunday is just plain WRONG. You feel like you’re the only person in the world who’s up at that hour. Out the window, you see not a soul or a single car pass by. You wonder whether the neighbors would notice if you “borrowed” their newspaper and returned it after you’ve read it. Probably not. They don’t have kids, so they’ll be asleep for HOURS yet. Lucky bastards.
The upside of getting up at an ungodly hour is that it makes the weekend seem much, MUCH longer. Yesterday, for instance, we had all eaten breakfast, played, watched some TV, and cleaned the whole house from top to bottom by 10:30 a.m. That left us plenty of time to go on a picnic, take naps, do the grocery shopping, and make dinner. (Heck, with that much time we probably also could have road-tripped to Niagara Falls, run a marathon, and completed a 2,000-piece puzzle.)
While I am SO not a morning person it’s not even funny, both my kids are. Ironic, huh? In fact, it’s their best time of day. Fueled by a full-night’s sleep and some Cheerios, they’re off and running. Also, shrieking, giggling, climbing on furniture, upending the toy box, and riding on the dog. They’re like little energy vampires in dinosaur pajamas, those two.
Hubs and I trade off on who gets to sleep in on weekends. Saturdays, he gets up with them; Sundays, I do. The supreme injustice is when the kids inexplicably decide to sleep until 7:30 on your morning to stay in bed. No fair! If your spouse isn’t forced to suffer those pre-dawn hours, it’s just not as satisfying.
Although “sleeping in” is a bit of a misnomer. First of all, C. usually leaves our bedroom door open, meaning all the shrieks, squawks, and squabbles travel right up the stairs to my tender ears. Thanks, guys.
You would not BELIEVE how loud my children are unless you heard it yourself. Sometimes it sounds like a rugby scrum in the kitchen. Sometimes it sounds like a bowling alley. Sometimes it sounds like cats in heat clog-dancing on a tile floor covered with broken plates. And sometimes it sounds like a whole lot of screaming and crying.
Any way you slice it, it’s LOUD. And not at all conducive to a leisurely lie-in. (Isn’t that what the British call it? Love that. Much nicer than the French “faire la grasse matinee,” which translates literally to “make a fat morning.” Gross.) Oh, well, sleeping in is overrated.
... Right. And so is being rich, thin, and married to David Beckham.
LINK O’ THE WEEK: Maybe this article will convince you: “10 Benefits of Rising Early, and How to Do It”
Usually I try to pick a theme for each post, something that hopefully other people can relate to. Other times, this is my written record of my kids’ milestones since I’m too lazy to fill out their baby books. Fair warning: this post is the second type.
If there are any Alias or Chuck fans out there who haven’t seen this show, you’ve got to check it out. Along with possibly the catchiest theme song on TV, it features a stuffed-animal spy whose missions involve helping kids learn to do things by themselves, like rake leaves or make a salad. Also, every show’s name is a take-off on a James Bond movie, like “For Your Pies Only” and “Tie Another Day.” Who says TV is all bad?
A far more annoying new habit of my son’s is refusing to eat at mealtimes and then claiming he’s ravenous at bedtime. I know, I know, I shouldn’t give in to this behavior. But the kid is nothing if not stubborn. Wonder where he gets that?
The child also eats like a trucker. For breakfast this morning, he had eggs, bacon, toast, a whole banana, and a few bites of oatmeal. No one can believe how much he packs away -- until they try to lift him. Should I worry that my baby has a binge-eating disorder? Or does he need all those calories to fuel his overly developed lungs?
He has been walking for 4 mos., and has now moved on to sprinting, tripping, and falling flat on his face. He’s not a big talker – he finds screaming to be a far more effective means of communication – but he does make sounds that are intended to be words. “Brrrrr,” for instance, means “more,” “moo” and possibly “shoe.” “Nana” means “banana” and also, food in general. “Dada” is another all-purpose word, and he has never, NOT ONCE even tried to say “Mama.” Thanks, buddy.
In general, the boys are getting along better and better. This leads to some very cute moments, like this one where Miles “reads” his little brother a bedtime story:
As I’ve discussed here before, I have difficulty just going with the flow. It’s taken me years to adjust from efficiently checking things off my daily to-do list to living in a world in which nothing is ever truly done. By the time you change one diaper, the next is filling up already. By the time you finish cleaning up after a meal, it’s time to start the next one. By the time you’ve picked up all the toys, they’ve already been dumped out again. By the time you finish all the laundry ... oh wait, that never happens.
The point is, raising kids is largely a Sisyphean task. (That’s right, I have a liberal arts degree.) Or like Groundhog Day; choose your own analogy.
That could be why on the weekends, I turn into a bit of a taskmaster. (My husband might choose a different word.) We have 2 adults around? Quick! You run to Home Depot for the deck stain and I’ll wrap the present for the birthday party this afternoon. Then when you get home I’ll do the grocery shopping and get gas. Then we’ll switch, and you take that one for his haircut while I feed this one lunch. The baby just went down for his nap -- go! GO!!
If we do not accomplish at least 1 major home improvement project per weekend, I consider it a failure. If anyone is idle for more than 30 min., I start to sweat. There are closets to be cleaned out! Scooters to ride! Meals to plan! Get busy, people! Is it any wonder my husband cherishes his Monday morning commute into work? ;)
Anyway, the Saturday C. was away I woke up and realized nothing was going to get accomplished anyway, so I might as well relax and enjoy the day. And I did. With no school or sitter to get to, we could lounge around in our PJs as long as we liked. Since it was Easter weekend, we dyed eggs, made cupcakes, and did some coloring.
When we finally ventured out, we took a leisurely stroll to the market, stopping to pick flowers along the way. We bought a cookie, stopped at the playground, and paid no attention to the clock.
I can’t tell you what a relief it was to not be constantly checking my watch, thinking, “Preschool pickup’s in 22 min. We’ve got to get home for lunch by 12:30. I have 40 min. to get in and out of the supermarket, pharmacy, and Babies R Us. C.’s already half an hour late getting home and it’s bath night!”
This otherwise unremarkable Saturday was so remarkable because it was stress-free. Isn’t that great? Or is it a sad commentary on my Type-A personality? In any case, I should get points for noticing and appreciating this, right? Great. Now I’ve got to go accomplish something concrete before it kills me.
LINK O’ THE WEEK: One of my new favorite bloggers and writer moms, Angie Mizzell, has launched a new site, awesomely titled NotSoSupermom.com. It’s about keeping it real and supporting each other. Check it out. And I’m not just saying that because I’m her first Not So Supermom of the Week.
Posted by Mom2Miles at 6:43 PM
So remember when I blamed my problems on Oprah? Well, now I’m pointing the finger at Jamie Oliver. Dude, why do hate chicken nuggets so much? I’m on board with your plan to healthy-up the American diet. But your constant assertion that anyone can just whip up their own fabulous meals from scratch in mere minutes is FALSE. Let me tell you a little story...
It started when I watched the British chef on the talk show circuit discussing his new show, “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.” Interesting premise, relevant topic, I’m in. I was feeling a little smug if you want the truth. Or perhaps sanctimonious is a better word.
See, unlike those corndog-munching, Mountain Dew-swilling West Virginians, I feed MY children vegetables. Whole-grain pasta. Organic fish sticks. Tofu, even. (So what if half of it gets thrown to the dog. The point is, I’m serving it.) I would never DREAM of giving my kids Coke or Twinkies. (But the occasional sip of Orangina and a cupcake’s OK, right?)
Yeah, well... then I realized that sweets used to be a special treat in our house. Whereas these days, my 3-year-old demands a cookie, popsicle, or piece of Easter candy after every meal. Sort of contradicts the definition of “special” treat, huh?
And although I did not let a smidge of added salt, sugar, syrup, or the like pass my firstborn’s lips until well past his first birthday, I’ve adopted a somewhat looser approach with Kid #2. Let’s just say he’s no stranger to waffles or bacon. So I guess what I’m saying is there’s room for improvement in our family diet.
But I take issue with the chicken nuggets. My 3 y.o. USED to be a good eater. He devoured avocados, hardboiled eggs, even raw bell peppers. And then things changed. Now I’m lucky if can get him to eat a scrap of protein or a raw carrot, ever. So he eats a lot of chicken nuggets. Lots and LOTS of them. And so does his 14-month-old brother. Don’t judge me. At least they’re the baked kind. Unless they’re from Chick-fil-A.
Anyway, that Jamie Oliver got under my skin. He convinced me I could -- and should -- whip up some chicken nuggets from scratch. The thing is, I’m a vegetarian. People who don’t eat chicken should certainly not attempt to cook it. But I did. And it went horribly wrong.
So no, we did not dine on homemade chicken nuggets that night. Although my husband did choke some down out of pity when he came home. So, Jamie? Maybe it’s easy for YOU to whip up a healthy, tasty meal from scratch. But for us moms in the trenches? Those frozen chicken nuggets might be our last link to sanity.
RECIPE O’ THE WEEK: Now that Rachael Ray, she’s a good egg. Her recipes haven’t turned out nearly as terrible for me. Like the Sweet and Sour Thai Noodle Bowls, for instance. You can easily swap in tofu or shrimp if you’re so inclined.
Admit it, you're obsessed with who’s getting it, who’s not, when, where, and how often.
I mean SLEEP, people!! That's a subject new parents become intimately familiar with.
Sometimes I'll find myself having lengthy, detailed discussions about nap schedules with complete strangers. If they're also parents of young kids, they're just as absorbed with the topic as I am. If not, their eyes glaze over after the first 2 minutes.
I've spent so much time thinking about sleep that I came up with a glossary of sleep terms. Here it is, new and improved, over at TheBump.com:
Our formerly white picket fence is the least of our worries at the moment. Do you realize that you could go through your house room by room, updating and fixing and renovating, and you would NEVER be done? By the time you got to the last room you’d have to start over again.
Now granted, we live in an old house. But still. Doesn’t this list of issues we’ve had in the past few months seem a wee bit excessive?
- A lingering sewer stench in the newly finished basement
- 2 clogged sinks
- 3 leaky windows, one of which soaked the carpet, which stained the drapes, and another that buckled the paint and cracked the plaster beneath it
- Some kind of animal(s) in the attic
- A strange stain on one bedroom ceiling
If you’re thinking we should have jumped on these issues immediately before they got worse (hi, Dad) then you don’t fully understand what our life is like. Scheduling a plumber around preschool and swimming lessons and doctors’ appointments is hard enough. Actually TALKING to the plumber while one child screams on your hip and the other pillages the guy’s tool kit is another story. Is it any wonder he had to come back 3 times before the issue was resolved?
BTW, the source of the stench was a clog which looked suspiciously like baby wipes. But it couldn’t possibly be, because I’ve told a CERTAIN SOMEONE at least 7 trillion times that you can’t flush baby wipes down the toilet. Moving on...
How hard is it to peek into the attic and see what’s making that scuffling sound? Not hard ... unless it’s a trap-door type attic that you have to access with a ladder through your child’s ceiling. And you don’t own a ladder.
As I watched my husband stack a bathroom step-stool on top of a chair and attempt to climb up this precarious structure, my sons’ behavior was suddenly so clear to me. So THAT’S where Miles got the idea to put a rocking chair on top of his bed and jump off it. And THAT’S why Riley’s favorite trick is to climb up the side of the wood stove and dangle from one hand. I see “America’s Funniest Home Videos” in our future. And a lot more ER visits.
I am amazed that we have been able to get ANY home improvements done around here since we had kids. I literally finished painting the dining room the morning of my 1 y.o.’s birthday party, because my parents were around to watch the boys. It took 2 weeks' worth of naptimes and a couple Friday nights just to finish the trim in the basement.
I have the perfect husband, kids, and house. I just don’t know if we or the house will still be standing by the time the kids get older.
The Little Crooked House by Margaret Wild is one of Miles' favorite books. It's about a house in slightly worse shape than ours.
When I was expecting my first child, I spent my time doing prenatal yoga, downing vitamins, reading books, interviewing doulas and doctors ... I even learned to sew and knit. You might say I went a little nuts those 9 mos. When it came to childbirth prep, I was determined to be an A+ student. I was going to be prepared, dammit!
But then the birth didn’t go exactly according to plan. And all those things I'd learned and practiced and visualized went out the window along with my illusions that I'd fit back into my regular clothes immediately. (Insert "duh" here.)
So was all that preparation a waste? I don’t think so. Read more about why not at TheBump.com:
Have you seen the show “Accidentally On Purpose”? It’s kind of loosely based on the premise of the movie “Knocked Up” -- a 30-something single career woman gets pregnant during a one-night stand with a less-than-perfect guy. Hilarity ensues. Only in the case of this show, it doesn’t.
I keep forcing myself to watch it now and then because it’s a show I SHOULD be interested in. It’s about pregnancy and babies, for pete’s sake! It stars the adorable Jenna Elfman. She’s even a writer! What’s not to like?
It’s got its moments, I suppose, but scenes like the one in last night’s episode really turn me off. These slacker dudes are fantasizing about a hot baby nurse and breastfeeding. Ew. Anyone who’s ever witnessed cracked nipples, engorged or leaky boobs, nursing bras, etc. knows there’s NOTHING sexy about breastfeeding. What is it with guys and boobs?
I watch plenty of other shows largely because they feature babies. (You’d think I’d want escapism in my entertainment, but you’d be wrong. Realism all the way. Only funnier and prettier than my life, of course.) I LOVE “Modern Family,” and I feel baby Lily gets way too little screen time. In fact, I frequently annoy my husband by saying, “Where’s the baby? Both the parents are out and there was no mention of a babysitter. Where is she?!” Yes, I want it spelled out!
On “Cougar Town” it bugs me no end that the next door neighbors have a baby that only occasionally makes an appearance. The kid looks to be about 7 or 8 mos. old, maybe. He can’t be sleeping ALL the time. They’ve never mentioned a sitter or nanny, and have maybe once shown a baby monitor. The mother, Ellie, is always taking naps and having lunch and playing tennis, no baby in sight, never glancing at her watch.
Come on, people!! Get real. I want calls from the sitter, emergency trips to the pediatrician, even the stray spit-up stained shirt. I want to see diaper boxes, bottles, wipes on every counter, binkies and blankies everywhere. I want to hear the adults talking about teething, asking whether he’s started crawling yet, what his first word was. SOMETHING to indicate there’s a baby around!
Life does not simply go on as usual once a baby comes along, with the tot making only the occasional appearance to coo or smile. You don’t get to go back to who you were before, just with a snuggly little accessory on the side that conveniently shows up every few episodes. No way, sister.
Of course, it goes both ways. One of the reasons I stopped watching “Parenthood” was that it was a little TOO real, and too depressing. The same with the movie, “Motherhood.” Too close to home to qualify as entertainment. Got my own dramas, thanks.
What do you guys think? What are some of your favorite mom-related shows and movies?
Last week, my husband C. discovered he had to go out of town unexpectedly. For 4 days. Over a holiday weekend. When Miles was out of school. And we had invited guests for Easter brunch. In spite of this, I
suppressed toned down my first reaction, which was panic and dread.
In fact, things started out swimmingly. I took both kids to the zoo (by myself!), Miles and I dyed Easter eggs (fun!), picked flowers for the table (festive!), and made cupcakes with 3 (3!) different colors of pastel frosting. We went to the playground, the farmers market, and the neighbors’ for dinner. We were FINE without C. GREAT, even. Look at me, I’m Supermom! I don’t need no stinkin’ husband!
(Imagine the theme song from “Jaws” starts playing now.)
Then I noticed Riley’s head felt a little warm. And his cheeks looked red. I took his temperature and it was 102.9. Uh, oh. By the time I got him some Tylenol, a bath, and in bed along with his brother, I was exhausted. And I hadn’t even cleaned up the house yet, put together the kids’ Easter baskets, picked out their church clothes, or prepared the French toast casserole for tomorrow when my brother and his family were coming. Ugh. Now’s about the time another parent would come in handy.
The next morning, Riley woke up at 6:30, miserable. Flushed, feverish, nose crusted with snot. Oh, boy. Church was out. Again, had there been 2 parents, one of us could have stayed home with the baby. I don’t even know if we can show our faces at Miles’ (Christian) school after not going to church ON EASTER. Oh, well, I guess God will understand.
I called my brother right away. After much deliberation, they decided to come anyway with their 2 kids. The older kids are in school and daycare and probably teeming with germs at all times anyway. Well, thank goodness they DID come because when Riley woke up from his nap he was burning up. When his temperature read 104, I started to panic. I called the pediatrician, who said to take him to the ER.
At this point I was mildly hysterical and called C. in tears. “Don’t worry,” he said. “He’ll be fine.” The hospital staff, God bless them, were friendly and efficient. They got us right into an exam room and a nurse took the baby’s temp again (103.8) and sucked out his snot with a hospital-grade snot-sucking machine. Riley took this about as well as someone having their face plunged into hot lava.
I tried to distract him with a rattle, which he promptly smashed in half. If you’ve ever wondered what’s inside those cheap, painted wooden rattles you get for $1 at Target, the answer is dozens of tiny metal balls. Now all over the hospital floor.
So then the doctor comes in, all calm and soft-spoken, and says, “Fevers are our friends. It’s the body’s way of fighting off infection. They can go as high as they need to --103, 104, 105. Treat the child, not the fever.” I almost snapped, “Listen, Jack Handey in clogs: my baby is BURNING UP and I am HOME ALONE with 2 KIDS for 4 DAYS!!”
I calmed down a little after the tests came back negative for flu and RSV, and they decided he just had an ear infection and prescribed antibiotics and the correct dose of Motrin for his weight and let us go home. By this time, 3 hours had passed.
Thank God my brother and SIL were there to take care of Miles. Thank God Riley did not have some horrible infectious disease that he’d passed on to everyone else. Thank God this is my second baby and I have built up my tolerance for seeing my child sick and in pain. Thank God for red wine and Easter candy to help soothe my nerves.
And that, people, is Murphy’s law for moms. The one weekend Dad goes away, all hell will break loose. And if you ever find yourself smugly thinking you’re Supermom? Get ready. That’s the “Jaws” theme song beginning to play...
P.S. Also, I forgot to mention the garbage disposal broke right before our brunch guests arrived.
FLICKS O’ THE WEEK: Can you believe I rented 3 movies to watch while C. was away? “Have You Heard About the Morgans?”; “The September Issue”; and “Coco Before Chanel.” Know how many I’ve watched so far? Half of ONE.
There are 2 types of new moms, in my opinion. 1: Those who say "Why doesn't anyone talk about this stuff?!" Meaning, they want the nitty-gritty, gory details about everything right from the start. 2: Those who essentially plug their ears and go "nah-nah-nah-nah!" every time someone tries to tell them something unpleasant about motherhood. "Maybe that was YOUR experience," they think. "But things will be totally different for ME."
Guess which one I was? That's right, the stubborn second one. But in an effort to appease everyone, I attempted to write an honest yet encouraging post about whether or not the statement, "It gets easier" is actually true. What do you guys think?
Read more about it at TheBump.com: