Posted on | December 5, 2013 | No Comments
Sometime when I wasn’t looking, or maybe I was, my son turned a corner. He slipped right past baby and into toddler and then seamlessly, breathlessly, and unexpectedly into preschooler. And along with the stinkier feet (SERIOUSLY?! How do they smell so bad??) and the full and complete sentences and the crazy and amazing imagination, he carried me headlong into a world where parenting is nothing like it has been for the past four years.
For a while, parenting was about keeping him safe, clean, and fed. Full stop. Change diaper, give bath, give bottle or food or hugs and tuck in at night. That was it. If I could avoid dropping him on his head and could manage to keep his bottom rash-free then I was doing a bang up job at this whole parenting thing. Sure it was hard… sleepless nights, so many “needs” that I couldn’t interpret because all the cries sounded alike. But it was PHYSICALLY hard. It was a chore of endurance, a labor of who can outlast the other… who needs less sleep… who can function longer without clean hair.
Then, unbeknownst to me, it slowly evolved. The physical tortures of babyhood gave way to the new physical tortures of toddlerdom. The accidental head butts, the kicks, the full speed ahead barreling runs at your midsection…. it was still 90% physical… still 90% exhausting on my nowhere near toddler body. Just when I thought I was toughening up, just when I believed I was getting the hang of the bruises and cuts and muscle aches, everything changed. Parenting went from being 90% physical to 90% mental and let me tell you something… there is nothing more exhausting than an emotional and mental battle with a four year old.
Things you would normally say “Gross” to, you have to nod and smile and explain. Things that make you want to giggle have to be stone-faced. Things that make you want to scream or cry or throw up your hands and say “I QUIT” must be met with a calm smile and a calm “no.” Then you throw in the whole fact that I have a boy with a penis… something I know little about… and you have me at a complete and total disadvantage when it comes to answering questions, dealing with drama, and properly explaining … well… anything.
The “mentally challenging” portion of parenthood, as my sister so aptly put it, has begun in our house. And I am not all that sure I’m up to the challenge. I can no longer laugh at fart and poop jokes because then my child takes them to school and I get the stern look from this or that teacher or parent. I probably need to stop saying “Boobs” and “booty” since my kid now yells those out like curse words. The “I hate you” and “I don’t want you to be my mom” statements now have to be calmly responded to with an “Okay.” or an “I still love you, though” even though every ounce of me wants to scream “FINE THEN GO AHEAD AND STARVE!” like the Beast in the Disney classic.
The physical part of parenting got easier, even as my child grew bigger and stronger. This mental part? I’m no longer sure I’m all that up for the challenge.
Posted on | December 4, 2013 | No Comments
(Fist bump to Montell Jordan for the title, amiright?)
Even before I became a single working mother, I always heard a lot of “I just don’t know how you do it” from women who worked from home as either a mother or an employee of this or that company. They seemed to think there was some magic juggling gene that was instilled in we working moms that made us suddenly able to accomplish the unaccomplishable with lightening speed. When I got divorced, there was a lot more of the same… a veritable chorus of “how how how do you do it” that seemed to follow me wherever I went. As if it’s magic. As if I somehow do it all with one hand tied behind my back.
In this world of instagram filters and selective sharing with the whole world, it’s easy to believe that someone is doing it all, being everything to everyone, and somehow doing it better and easier than you are.
They (probably) aren’t.
Here’s the truth… I struggle every day to balance my work life and my home life. Every day is a struggle of what gets done and what doesn’t. There is NEVER a day when everything gets done. The real and total truth is that I DON’T do it. I just don’t. Not all of it. Some days, not any of it.
Yesterday, our newest associate made a joke about how she would have to learn how to do it all … work, clean, make dinner… and that her sister told her she’d just figure it out. And yeah… it’s true, you do just figure it out. But it never hurts to have a little help.
So with that, here’s what I’ve learned/how I’ve learned to manage a career outside the home and a career inside the home and still have time to cry about how hard it all is:
1) Find your “thing.” It sounds silly, but everyone has a “thing.” One room, one item, one place that if that thing or place is tidy, you don’t feel so overwhelmed. For me, it’s making my bed. If I can just remember to make up my bed in the morning, I don’t feel quite so overwhelmed with how messy my house is when I get home. Of course, for me… once I make up the bed, I tend to straighten up the room around it, so maybe it’s just having a clean bedroom? I don’t know. But I know I can deal with dishes in the sink and crumbs on the sofa if I just have a made bed to crawl into at night. So find your “thing” and remember to do it every day. You’ll feel so much better.
2) Sundays are for cooking. Seriously. If you try to cook every night you will go bat shit crazy. Cook a big meal on Sundays. Make a lasagna that will last a few days. Make a pot of chili. Make two or three things that you can pull out and serve without having to chop, dice, stir, or puree. You will feel MUCH better about what you’re serving for dinner.
3) Don’t be afraid of frozen food. Yes. Everyone should eat organic. Everyone should eat fresh fruit and vegetables. Everyone should have a home cooked… blah blah blah. There’s great stuff in the frozen food aisle. I’m especially partial to the Bird’s Eye steamers… just broccoli or green beans, no sauce, that take five minutes to steam up into a healthy side dish in the microwave. Yes. Please. And. Thank. You. Take a little while and peruse the frozen food section then say a silent thank you to whoever dreamed up that gold mine. It will be your bestest friend.
4) Pack lunches at night. Just trust me on this. It’s a pain, but it’s MORE of a pain to try to do it in the morning.
5) Give up on doing everything. You can’t. Trust me. You can do some things. You might even be able to do most things. But you can not do everything. There will be days when the laundry mildews in the washer. There will be days when the dishes pile up in the sink because you don’t have time to unload the dishwasher. There will be days when “tidying up” consists of brushing breakfast crumbs onto the floor to make room for dinner crumbs. And you know what? That’s perfectly okay. Because at the end of the day, you just have to remember that to everyone else… you’re doing it all. To everyone outside, to everyone looking in and not seeing the moments when your trashcan tips over and you’re just too tired to pick it all up, or when you slip on dog pee and fall on your ass and scream out “I JUST CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE” … to all of them, you’re doing it all.
And they don’t know how you do it.
Posted on | November 26, 2013 | 8 Comments
Yesterday, when I went to pick J up from school, his teacher met me at the door with a concerned look on her face. She motioned for J to wait inside the classroom and she pulled me aside to chat. Before she got ten seconds into the spiel I was on edge… mostly because she looked at me with complete concern and asked:
“Is everything okay at home?”
Just five little words. Just a sentence that shouldn’t be bad or good or accusatory or congratulatory. Just five little words. And yet those five little words had the power to almost reduce me to tears; to a blubbering mess of a mother wondering what she’d done now to somehow screw up the little life that was hers to protect. The conversation continued, with his teacher telling me that J’s been aggressive for the past week, hitting and pushing, knocking people down. And it culminated in an incident at lunch yesterday when another child tried to take J’s fork and J poked him with it on the face.
He poked a child with a fork.
And as she talked, my sweet child flashed before my eyes, from birth to now all snuggly and sweet and full of happiness and all I could hear behind her words was “What on Earth have you done to your child lately to make him so unhappy at school?!”
She wasn’t blaming me. She was genuinely trying to figure out if there was an explanation for what could only be called TOTALLY out of character behavior for my normally well-behaved little boy. But all I could think was that yes, something must be wrong at home for this to have happened. Surely there was something wrong with me and my parenting and my housekeeping or feeding routine or SOMETHING. It must be my fault because, after all, I am the only parent in the home.
All the way home, I thought about what I might have done wrong. I wondered if my depression had played a role, if my relationship with Banks was to blame. I wondered if I wasn’t spending enough quality time with J or if I was spending too much. Am I spending more of my attention and time on Banks? Am I neglecting J’s needs or wants or desires? I wondered how often and in how many ways I must have failed my child to lead him to this point, where he’s stabbing kids with eating utensils.
And then I dropped my child off with a sitter, went to my work meeting, and came home several hours later to snuggle with my little boy. We talked about being kind to our friends and not hitting people with fists or feet or, obviously, eating utensils. But mostly? Mostly we just snuggled. Because I don’t know how to delve into his head and figure out what’s upsetting him. I don’t know how to talk to him about the choices he makes or the people he hurts. I don’t know how to fix whatever is happening in his life.
So we snuggled. And we laughed. And I tried to let go of the feeling I’m doing everything wrong and hold onto the feeling that I’m doing the best that I can.
And obviously? Today, he had a spoon in his lunch.
Posted on | November 20, 2013 | 7 Comments
Last night, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed. Work was kicking my butt, my house was dirty, and my kid wasn’t listening for shit. He’d dropped a lunchable pizza on the sofa and there I was, on my hands and knees, scrubbing pizza sauce out of the fabric of my sofa and feeling like the world was just about to rain down brimstone on me and tell me it was hell.
My son crouched down beside me, trying to help but really getting in the way and I turned to snap at him to just. leave. me. alone. And then he smiled.
“I’m glad we’re doing this together, mom.”
He was all earnestness and four-year-old smiles, with pizza sauce on his hands and face that was, no doubt, spreading to the carpet and the rest of the sofa and yet the urge to snap at him just… disappeared. He was glad we were doing this together… this messy clean up job of a lousy dinner prepared by ripping open a box and slapping the contents on a plate. He was glad that I was there beside him, frustrated and frazzled and worn thin with all the living I was trying to do in the time I was given to do it. He was just glad we were doing all of this together.
I rocked back on my heels and blew my hair off my forehead with a sigh. Sitting the bottle of cleaner down beside me, I looked at my son… really looked at him. His hair is too long on the top and it musses up into strange shapes that are more cubes than curls. He has my dimple right up on the right side of his cheek below his eye and he has my way of thinking too much about maybe everything. He was grinning up at me, in pajamas that are inexplicably a size 5, with hands that are incredibly capable at cursive writing, and feet that just seem to get longer and more childlike with each step he takes away from baby. He’s getting so big now, so full of personality and life and a curious form of child-like wonder that is part wisdom and part whimsy and I love every stinking bit of him even when he puts me here, after a long day, scrubbing pizza off the sofa.
“I’m glad we’re doing this together, too, buddy,” I smiled, draping an arm around his ever-growing shoulders. And for a moment, or maybe a lifetime, I really and truly meant it.Even when I get it all wrong, even when I snap and reprimand and reach the end of my always frayed rope. Even when I’m tired of explaining, tired of punishing, tired of feeling like nothing I ever do is enough. Even when he eats Lunchables for dinner and pizza sauce gets everywhere. Even then. Even now.
I’m so very glad we’re doing all of this together.
Posted on | November 19, 2013 | 4 Comments
When my marriage ended, I thought I knew how to spell divorce. It started with an “F” and ended with “ailure.” I was a failure. My marriage was a failure. My family, my world, my self-image… failures. I had failed at choosing a life partner, failed at being a wife, failed at keeping a husband, failed, failed, failed.
And as a perfectionist, I LOATHE failure.
So I spun myself into a cocoon of self-loathing, not trusting anything about myself or my choices or my ability to reason, think, love, or exist. I was my divorce. I was my failure. There was just no other way to spell it out for myself.
Slowly, through that first year, I started to re-think how I thought, how I spelled, how I loved myself and my short comings. Slowly, I started to redirect my anger and frustration and sense of failure towards my ex-husband. HE was the failure, he was the one who failed and I was this perfect pristine goddess of purity and righteousness. I started to spell divorce with a capital “B-L-A-M-E.” As in he was to, as in I was not, as in SOMEONE HAS TO BE WRONG HERE, DAMMIT AND I CAN’T KEEP HATING MYSELF. I wrote sonnets in my head about his failures, my accomplishments, how hard I worked at being awesome… how awesome I was at working hard. It wasn’t right, it wasn’t fair, but it was coping. It was coping with the secret, number 2 definition of divorce that says “divorce: failure of one or both parties to make a marriage work.” If it wasn’t my failure, it had to be his.
Then, as the weeks crept into months and the anniversary came and went, I realized there is a third way to spell divorce… a way to spell it that makes it just a word, just a silly word made up in English to signify the end of something. Just the end of one thing, not of all things. Just one end, not all the endings.
Divorce became just a word, just an afterthought, just a surprise addition, not the sole definition of who I was or am or will be. I am not just a divorced mother. I am not just a former wife. I am not a failure. I am not to blame.
And neither is he.
Because divorce, when it’s the best course of action, when it’s the right thing for the parents or the kids or the people who tied themselves to each other without really understanding or knowing who was on the other end of the rope… THAT divorce is also spelled “B-E-G-I-N-N-I-N-G.”
A do-over. A chance to be better. A chance to believe you deserve better, you are worth more, you can be loved and give love the way it should be done. So while the first part was about failure, and the second about blame, this part… this last part… is about beginnings. And I’m a big fan of those.
Posted on | November 14, 2013 | 5 Comments
It’s hard to plan when you’re single parenting. It’s hard to say “On such and such date, I will be at this or that place at this or that time” because you really don’t know what is going to happen that day. Your kid could be sick and you have no sitter, you could be exhausted from yet another week of hellacious work, you could maybe meet someone and maybe want to go on a date that night. Being single feels a lot like your life is on hold but you don’t really know why or what you’re holding for.
Now, had you asked me when I was single, I would have denied this. I was happy. I was quite content with my life just as it was and I didn’t realize that I wasn’t making any real plans for my future. I didn’t realize that I was circling but never landing.
But now, I have plans. Not major, life shattering plans, but plans like going on trips that are already partially paid for. Plans like buying two tickets to a concert I really want to see and not wondering if I’ll have to go alone. Plans.
And I didn’t realize how much I missed that until I had it again. Even when I was married, we didn’t really make plans. We didn’t travel well together, didn’t like the same things, didn’t care to think about two or three or six months down the road. I honestly can’t remember buying any concert tickets that weren’t for concerts the following month. We just… didn’t plan too far down the road. I guess maybe we both knew that neither of us knew for sure we’d still be around that long. I think getting pregnant or maybe buying a house were the only things that we ever did that meant we might actually be together longer than a month.
But Banks? Banks is a planner. He doesn’t laugh at me when I suggest a trip to Disney in March, even though it’s only November. He doesn’t roll his eyes and say “We don’t know where we’ll be in March.” Instead, he seems to believe that we will still be right here, enjoying each other and making plans for four more months down the road. Instead of balking, he plans with me, asking what parks we’ll go to and where we’ll stay.
It’s nice to feel invested in for a change. It’s nice to feel that someone thinks I’m worth sticking around for… that WE are worth sticking around for. Banks has spent a crazy amount of money on J for Christmas and while part of me shakes my head and says “Seriously? Don’t worry about spending so much on him!” the other part of me swells and contracts and embraces the fact that this man wants to spend money on my child… on a child he loves without needing a blood tie. And I remember that I’m invested, 100%, up to my eyeballs in being right here through March and Disney, too. And further. And maybe, just maybe, even farther than that. Who knows where we’ll be this time next year, but if I had to guess… if I were pressed to guess… I’d say we’ll still be planning.
Posted on | November 13, 2013 | 1 Comment
From almost day one as an attorney, I’ve spent a ton of time in depositions. Some of them I take, some of them I sit through as this or that attorney peppers my client with questions, but all of them have created in me this internal script of how to depose a client. I remember thinking that I would never have it all down, never memorize the “introduction,” never figure out when and where and how to object. The first several years were spent with a printed out script of questions and introductory information, a guideline that I read through religiously at the start of any deposition. Then slowly, those words seared onto my brain and they came pouring out of me without need for direction or instruction. By year three, I was a veritable deposition guru, with no need for a script of any kind.
That’s about the time that I realized that parenting is, be it fortunately or unfortunately, quite similar to taking a deposition. The first few years need a script and after that, it’s just every mom or dad for themselves, and you’re rote reciting the same words you’ve said over and over and over again: “I love you” instead of “this will be the deposition of ” and “put on your shoes” rather than “all objections except as to form of the question and responsiveness of the answer will be reserved until time of trial or other use of this deposition if that’s agreeable.”
Lately, I’ve realized just how much of my work life is spilling over into my home life and with that, let me share with you five ways that being a parent becomes a lot like taking a deposition (and yes, this also applies to non-lawyers!):
1. No matter how many times I try not to, when J mumbles an answer to this or that question, my first instinct is to say “Is that a yes?”
2. I will, in fact, continue to repeat my question or command until I get an answer or some action, regardless of how long we both have to sit there and listen to me ask.
3. It’s not about trickery, it’s always about lulling J into a false sense of security… a happy world of “this isn’t my adversary, this is my friend” and then BOOM…. he’s admitted to doing whatever I knew he’d done to begin with and the punishment begins.
4. There is, in fact, someone taking down all of his answers… it just happens to be me, in my head…. and I can and may use them against him later.
5. Above all else, I’m really just trying to get to know my deponent, or in parenting, my kid… find out his strengths and weaknesses, find out what makes him tick. And if it takes an hour, or three hours, or several days, months, and years, I’m going to keep asking questions until I find out what I need to know.
Because at the end of the day, all that really matters is that I get to know who is sitting on the other side of the table… regardless of whether it’s a conference room table or a dinner table.
Posted on | November 12, 2013 | 7 Comments
All of it.
Because my kid is stupid cute. Except sorry about the hair… it was a long day. And he needs hair cut.
Posted on | November 8, 2013 | 2 Comments
Last night, my mother told me that a childhood friend’s sister had surgery on Monday for breast cancer. As the words bounced around in my brain, I thought about girl scouts and soccer games and late night slumber parties. I thought about her and my sister having birthdays close together and remembered ski trips and camping trips and… hell… childhood.
As the word “cancer” rolled around inside me, I realized what 35 really means.
I have become middle-aged.
I am sitting on the cusp of my 20 year high school reunion, railing against the worry lines, and laugh lines, and crow’s feet and yes, of course stretch marks. I feel 20 but my driver’s license and c-section scar and four year old child and divorce papers all tell me that I am, in fact, way closer to 40 than even 30 much less 20. Somehow, as I graduated high school and college and law school, as I married and divorced, as I birthed and raised a child, I never quite realized that time is still passing by. I never realized that I was treading closer to a time when no one would think to card me or cat call or even call me anything other than “Ma’am.” It doesn’t seem possible that 30 years have passed since I set my first foot in Miss Angel’s kindergarten class (yes, that was her name.). It can’t be right that I am approaching 40, semi-single and still feeling like any minute my life is going to start.
I remember sitting at 7 and wondering when time would speed up and bring my birthday or Christmas or Easter. I remember being 16 in the front seat of my Ford Tempo and thinking if I could just get through the year, life would be amazing. I remember wondering how long before I’d graduate college, when I’d finally fall in love, how much longer until J arrived. Every moment passed with me anxiously awaiting the next and then the next after that. Every moment passed with me waiting for something else, waiting to be a grown up, waiting for my life to “really” start.
Any minute that will happen, yes?
Any minute, I’ll grow up, right?
Any minute I’ll have a clue about who and what I am… any minute I will act my age. Any minute I will become the 35 year old single mother/attorney that I actually am. Right?
Or maybe one day I’ll just wake up and hurt in more places than I can count. Maybe one day I’ll look in the mirror and I won’t recognize the lines on my face, the gray in my hair. Maybe one day I’ll just wake up and realize that every ounce of my youth is behind me.
As the word “cancer” spun and twirled inside my brain and I remembered losing two Jennifers and two grandfathers and several acquaintances along these all too short 35 years … I realized that maybe that day is today.
Posted on | November 1, 2013 | 6 Comments
You know how sometimes, you wake up after a bad night of sleep and your kid is grouchy and you totally eat left over pizza for breakfast? You know how you roll into work begrudgingly on time, with your fancy lawyer shoes on, and your make-up just so, and you have four voicemail messages from the night before and too many emails to count? You know how you could just roll your eyes and hunker down into the depths of despair, as it were, and be oh-so-woe is me about all the world?
Only then, you get to your desk and on the right side of your computer is a framed picture of your kid in all of last year’s 3 year old curls and glory and beneath it is a photo tucked into another frame, this one of you and your significant other, and suddenly you realize that dammit, your life is so freaking great that one night of crappy sleep just isn’t enough to change that?
I feel overwhelmed with blessings, these days.
I feel just… overwhelmed.
And it makes it hard to write here because I’m so used to being broken and spilling out my tears for the rest of you to read and nod or read and judge. I’m used to feeling like my words are needed for some form of catharsis… some brand of therapy to mend and stitch and piece together my heart and soul and mind. I’m not used to feeling so… overwhelmed by happiness. And it feels dangerous to admit it, as though by saying “Look at me! I’m happy!” I will somehow jinx the happiness or rain down the bewitching forces of negativity to tell me that I should “shut up” or “stop being so braggy.”
I don’t feel like I’m bragging though.
I feel, well, like I’ve earned this. I’m wearing my happy like a badge of honor, spit-shining it every morning and giggling to myself that “My GOD, I am blessed. And lucky. And oh-so-happy.” And yes, maybe saying it out loud will bring bad news. Maybe shouting it from the roof top will make it less special, less of a private joy and more of a public “nanny nanny boo boo.” But I don’t care.
Because I’m overwhelmed with happiness.
And it feels just right to say that here.keep looking »