What have modern mothers lost?

Pregnancy and new motherhood have historically been times for human connection. In other cultures, experienced mothers take pregnant women under their wing. Those moms- to-be are embraced and a wealth of knowledge, advice and friendship is dispensed upon them from the older, wiser women of the community. During postpartum, new mothers are doted upon, rarely leaving bed, let alone home for weeks. And as their children grow, they are not raised by a single family, but rather have a community of eyes looking out for them and hands to help when they are in need.

As American mothers, this is far from our societal norm. We’re mostly meeting the needs of our own children, with little community behind us, minus doting grandparents (if we’re lucky). And that’s okay. But in this day and age, where we mostly do it all ourselves, it seems we’ve become quick to push away even well-meaning offers of help, love or advice for pregnant women and new mothers. With all the viral lists of “what not to say”, the dos and don’ts, and on-going slew of no-nos, I can’t help but wonder, with all the new rules of motherhood, what have we lost?

modern moms

No longer is it commonplace for women to offer well-meaning advice to one another, share experiences or heaven forbid, give love in the form of a pat on the belly. Oh, no. These things are not just frowned upon- they’re considered rude, intrusive and downright reprehensible to subject a pregnant woman or new mother to. Granted, some people lack general common sense. We’ve all felt a bit out of place when a touchy-feely grandmother figure got all up in our business. But, I’m talking about advice or physical contact that comes from friends and family members, or other women in our social circles who’ve experienced pregnancy, birth and motherhood, and have knowledge we don’t yet have. Our mothers and grandmothers, our friends and neighbors- aren’t these the people we should be looking to for help and connection, rather than pushing them away?

It seems to me that all the “dos” and “don’ts” and “things not to say” lists (and don’t get me wrong, I’ve written some myself!), don’t do much to connect new mothers. In fact, all these rules seem to do the opposite. They seem to push us further and further away from one another. These days, new mothers seem to do far more learning on the fly, which is no doubt an essential part of motherhood, but wouldn’t it be easier if instead of turning the other way, we tuned into the wealth of information around us? Wouldn’t our first experiences as new mothers be more calm and less anxiety-ridden, if instead, we let people in? And pertaining to pregnancy, birth and postpartum, we can read all the books and articles we want, but what better source of information is there really, than the experiences of our fellow mothers, the ones we already know and trust?

I can’t think of any.

It’s not easy to let people in- I accept and understand this. We simple don’t live in a culture where people do this on the regular. We sit behind computers and phones all day. We are the most technologically connected and yet, emotionally disconnected society that ever was. So it makes sense that most people, especially people in the vulnerable positions of pregnancy and early motherhood, do not have an easy time letting people into their lives with a lot of enthusiasm. We don’t allow people to pat our bellies, ask how many children we plan to have, or if we plan to breastfeed. We feel enraged if someone mention childbirth, daycare or infant sleep, because, hello- that’s just not okay to talk about!

With all the talk of “the mommy wars” dictating our relationships, it makes sense. We are too afraid of the judgment and ridicule we might experience if we do things wrong or differently. So instead of letting people in, we shut them out. We find people who do things just like us, or no one at all. We pile our bedside tables high with stacks or parenting books and use the internet to do our research, rather than looking down the street to the mom of three (with her own stack of books next to her bed).

I am not pointing fingers- I am just as guilty as anyone of all of this. I spent the first few years of my motherhood experience basically alone. And I’m sure it was not simply because I was the first of my friends to have a child, or because I didn’t live in a community with a lot of mothers. It’s because I was afraid. I was self-conscious in my new role. I was not used to talking about my experiences with something so hard and exhausting, something I thought was supposed to come naturally to me, with other people. I was afraid of looking stupid, or incompetent or like a failure. If someone offered advice, I took it to mean they thought I didn’t know what I was doing. If someone expressed affection, I put up a wall. My motherhood experience belonged to me, and I could do it myself, I thought. Yet, I often wondered why it was so damn hard, and why I was so lonely.

During my second pregnancy, I started to understand how people genuinely felt connected to my experience much more than I did the first time. I’d since felt that same connection to other moms or pregnant women, too. When people reached out to me, I began to look at minor invasions differently. I understood now that words and excitement and hands on my belly came from a good place- no one was trying to be offensive, harmful or invasive. They were simply trying to offer love and support because having your first baby, second, and so on, are times of incredibly transition, anxiety and wonder. Our hearts swell when we see a pregnant woman or a mother caring for an infant and we’re built to feel this way, not to live our lives as separate entities who don’t help or guide or teach one another, especially during the transitions that motherhood brings.

These days, no matter how deeply we feel those connections, we’re also taught to push them away hard and fast. Few people mean to be offensive, or harmful, when giving a loving pat on the belly or words of wisdom. But it is so often, viewed as invasive, as are words of advice or tales from experience. Now, instead of offering advice or support when we see a new mom, we mostly keep our mouths shut, our hands to ourselves. We’ve read one too many lists of rules and we know the things we aren’t supposed to do by now. Even though, we know in our hearts, women don’t often reach out to one another in order to ridicule- it’s to offer help, compassion, friendship, we remain quiet. We play by the rules and leave new moms to fend for themselves, like we did.

I’ve been a mother for over six years now and my thoughts on connection between mothers has shifted. These days, I embrace well-meaning intrusions whenever possible in whatever form they come in. I listen and take advice whenever I can- in fact, I’m desperate for it. I’ve grown comfortable in my skin as a mother and so, I’ve let down my walls. I don’t always agree with what’s being offered. I’ve been around the block long enough to have my own way of doing things, my own ideas, my own motherhood agenda. But even with that being true, now I realize, that there is always the opportunity to learn from the mothers before me, the ones whose daughter is going through puberty, or whose son is struggling in school. There is simply too much to learn, to keep pushing others away, and it’s hard and it’s scary, but becoming a mother is all of those things, too. It’s less scary with community. It’s less scary with connection (and I don’t mean the internet).

New mothers have a lot of worry and sometimes one of those worries is about all the advice they might receive. But that is one I think we should all scratch off our list. Because if we’re so worried about the usually well-meaning intrusions of other mothers that we completely close ourselves off, then that is the saddest thing of all. Motherhood is not a time to isolate ourselves, in fact, it is a time that should connect us through common struggles and experiences. It is a time to let people in, to ask for help and to throw out the damn rulebook. Because while some of the rules might make sense on paper, in real life, the only thing that really matters is having people who are there for you, and there will likely never be a time when you need them more.

Sorry, Pregnant mamas- I’m a belly toucher.

Pregnant belly touching is kind of a no-no. Many mamas-to-be find it annoying, tactless or invasive. I get that, and I know I should keep my hands to myself at all costs. But sometimes, I do it anyway. It’s completely unintentional, I promise. But pregnant mamas, I’m sorry—I’m a bit of a belly toucher.

I know that having your belly rubbed is something a lot of pregnant women could likely do without, in part, because practically the moment you become pregnant, all of the sudden everyone thinks you are their own personal property. They want to give you their thoughts, opinions, and of course, unlimited belly rubs. It’s almost as if they believe a genie will come out and grant them three wishes, rather than a baby covered in mucous who screams all night.

Continue reading @Scary Mommy… 

Why I’m not ready to talk to my daughter about tragedies

Turn on the TV, open the paper, scroll through your Facebook feed—every day it’s filled with news that’s too difficult to really let sink in. We simply can’t digest it all. It’s too much and we aren’t capable. More often than not, we just scroll past it, look the other way, not allowing the sadness and the pain of others make its way into our hearts.

But then once in awhile, more often than we seem to expect, a tragedy comes along that’s far too big to look away from. A city attacked, another school shooting, innocent people dead without purpose and everyone feels the pain. Today, tomorrow and for many days to come, we mourn for Paris and for the families whose lives have been shattered. Because we know, while our hearts will heal when the news stories let up, theirs may not.

Continue reading @ Mommy Nearest… 

“I Never Planned On Being A Parent”

At the time I turned twenty-four, the only thing I was nursing was a half a dozen vodka martinis and inevitably, a hangover. But by the end of the year, I had a full-time milk guzzler attached to my ever-expanding chest. This had not been in my plans for the year, but then, I was never much for plans.

I’ve always been a person who does things in extremes. I partied hard. I enjoyed the high highs of life which meant that sometimes I had to dig my way up from the low lows. So, it would only be fitting that when it came time for me to get knocked up, I’d be unmarried, underemployed, and under the influence. Motherhood would knock me off any high horse I’d ever ridden on. But for me, the work of it came early and it stayed late, like I always had.

It is for this reason that getting pregnant was the best and worst thing to ever happen to me. It was the worst because it altered everything I thought I wanted for my life—freedom, excitement, and spontaneity. It was the best because I eventually found out I didn’t need those things. But the road to get there was hard, harder than I had thought it would be.

Just a week after taking the test (the test which seems to have only one question but really has hundreds: Where we will live?, Can I handle this?, Will we be okay?, Will I make a good mother?), I was hit with the most attention-demanding nausea of my life. Every day was a battle. Getting out of bed was pure pain. No matter what I’d do to stave off morning sickness, I’d always end up on the bathroom floor for hours upon hours. Finally, I’d move to the couch, I’d bring a bowl, and there I’d stay.

Everything in my life shut down. It was as if someone was trying to tell me to make a clean break. “Leave the rest behind. There’s no room for it now. This motherhood thing is gonna get ya.” That god-awful nausea, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. But maybe in some ways throwing up my stomach lining for the better part of a year needed to happen to me. Maybe it made my first year as a mother less gut-wrenching because I’d already purged up so much of my past life. Maybe it was my detox, my saving grace. Maybe at the time I delivered, most of me was already gone.

For me, pregnancy was hard and terrifying. I’m not sure if it’s like this for most people, but it was for me. I didn’t eat pickles and ice cream. I ate toast and peanut butter, maybe mashed potatoes, or something that might, hopefully, maybe stick to my stomach. I didn’t take the classes or read the baby books. I figured everything would turn out the way it was supposed to (again, not big on the planning).

As my hips grew wider and I peed a little more every time I sneezed, I started to wonder what pregnancy was like for people who actually did plan to be parents and who mapped out every step of the way once they saw that pink plus sign. I’d never so much as thought about being a mother or really knew if I wanted to be one. I wondered how much easier the people who’d desired motherhood for years and years might have it than me, how much more graceful their transitions to being a parent would be than my own.

Excerpt from It’s Really 10 Months- Special Delivery 

unnamed

To continue reading my story (and heartfelt and hilarious others) you have to buy the book! ;) 

Being a depressed parent doesn’t make you an “ungrateful” one

If you haven’t seen the results of the recent survey on parental happiness, perhaps you’ve been sleeping under a rock (or under a mess of children) for the past couple weeks. The study, which no one can seem to stop talking about, looked at over 2,000 Germans before they had children until two years after their first child was born. The researchers found that on average, parenting was not only more stressful than divorce or unemployment, but also than the death of a partner.

The internet erupted, and continues to erupt over the findings. Parents are at odds with one another about the study. Some feel it’s ridiculous, proclaiming they enjoy absolutely “every moment” with their kids. But others aren’t surprised one bit that the first two years of parenting are monumentally draining, emotionally taxing and, yes, depressing, some commenting to the tune of “did we really need a study to tell us that?” It’s okay that all parents aren’t on the same page here. But then the word “ungrateful” starts to get thrown around a lot and that’s when I get all revved up and start typing.

What rubs me the wrong way is the name-calling and trying to speak to someone else’s experience when you haven’t walked one day in their shoes. If someone isn’t enjoying every moment of parenthood or is going through a rough patch with a newborn (or, hell, a teenager!) they are instantly pegged as not being grateful enough for their children. The minute a parent admits it’s not all roses, it seems the mud-slinging starts and it’s not okay.

Opinions about whether the study is a crock or not aside,  lets get one thing straight- depressed or unhappy parents are not necessarily ungrateful parents. So can everyone please stop saying that? Being exhausted, overwhelmed, lonely, financially strapped are things a lot of people have to go through and no, it is not always easy and enjoying every moment is not always possible.

Sometimes, you’re just trying to keep your head above water. Sometimes, you have to go through really, really difficult things that you didn’t expect, like an infant who doesn’t sleep more than ten minutes straight for a whole year, or a partner who travels constantly for work.  Sometimes parenting is so much damn harder than we expected it to be and we have no idea where to turn or what to do to make the carousel stop turning.

Yes, I’m speaking from experience. And yes, I can tell you, after the last chaotic and exceedingly overwhelming year of my life, that is it entirely possible to be mind-numbingly depressed and still completely and utterly grateful for the lives and health of our children. In fact, it’s the only thought that kept me going after the birth of my second child. I am so grateful for this baby. I thought it, said it, felt it when I stroked his cheek on the rare occasions that he slept. I cried and cried and held him and said “thank you” a hundred times a day because I was so grateful for him even in my darkness. Sometimes I even felt my immeasurable gratitude exacerbated my anxiety that something could one day happen to him. That he wouldn’t always be okay. That there were a million things , scary things, completely out of my control. 

grateful

While the study didn’t shock me as much as it did some, it did make me realize one thing- as a community of parents, we need to do more to help one another because most people feel very alone at some point during their parenting journey, but especially during the first two years. I’ll admit, the results of the study aren’t easy to digest. How can parenting be more stressful than death? But even if it’s a little rough around the edges, it seems to me that there has to be a kernel of truth there, and that is, that parents are struggling.
As a community, we need to realize that not everyone walks the same path. Just because parenthood has been kind to you, don’t point fingers at someone who is struggling and say “how ungrateful you are! Why did you even have kids in the first place?” Because sometimes it’s the parents who are giving absolutely every bit of themselves to their children that struggle the most.

Giveaway: Introducing Udderly Hot Mama in honor of World Breastfeeding Week

There is nothing I love more than helping hook mamas up with awesome products while also introducing a wonderful business that is dedicated to supporting them. That’s why I’m reeeeeally excited about this giveaway.

I have long been wanting to do another giveaway, since The Mediocre Mama hit 2,000 followers ::mini wave in celebration::, but I’m even more excited because this giveaway happens to fall during World Breastfeeding Week, too. Woohoo!

Udderly Hot Mama is a clothing line specifically dedicated to nursing and pumping mamas. How cool is that? Now, way back when I was nursing (like 2 months ago… dammit, don’t get emo, don’t get emo!) I basically wore a nursing bra and a t-shirt or one of the same two nursing tank tops every day. It was… alright. But there were times when I definitely wanted to look a little more put together. I usually erred on the side of comfort, though, because comfort and easy access are crucial when your boobs are in high demand.

http://www.udderlyhotmama.com
http://www.udderlyhotmama.com

The greater public doesn’t always do that much to support nursing mothers. The world we live in is just not that psyched on seeing women’s breasts doing what nature intended them to do. It’s not uncommon to hear about women getting kicked out of restaurants, pools, or literally have their babies dragged away from them… for nursing. WHAT? I know… but it’s true.

Even the boldest nursers sometimes feel conspicuous while breastfeeding. I tried my best to be bold the second time around. I nursed any damn place my baby needed to nurse and I didn’t use a cover or a towel or hide in a bathroom stall. I just nursed when my baby got hungry. But there were a handful of times I felt the stares. There were also times when I really wished my postpartum belly wasn’t hanging out because of a poor outfit choice.

Needless to say, when I come across a business that is actually working for the breastfeeding mother, to make her life easier and to help her in her breastfeeding journey, I get a little excited.

Also… I may or may not have gotten myself into a situation, once… or possibly twice, where I had to take my entire outfit off in order to nurse my baby (once I realized there was no possible way to get my boob out of there). It’s just what happens when you aren’t used to getting dressed up, get overly excited at the thought and totally space out on the whole, need-to-get-your-boob-out-in-a-hurry-situation- the exact reason why you never dress up in the first place.

The reason Udderly Hot Mama is so awesome and the subject of our World Breastfeeding Week giveaway is because the clothes are designed to make a mama comfortable, stylish and obviously, accessible to her little one. They’ve been featured in US weekly, Celebrity Parents, Pregnancy and Newborn Magazine and various news outlets. And in our opinion, they’re worthy of all the attention.

The Luxe (long sleeve)
The Luxe (long sleeve)

The front of every top easily pulls down so you can nurse your baby. But the coolest part of this clothing line has to be the undercover flap that lays on top of your breastbone and provides a little extra coverage so you don’t have to feel like your entire breast is exposed each time you nurse. The flap easily snaps off so you can remove it at any time, like perhaps if you don’t give a rats ass about extra coverage, or when you are done nursing altogether.

Here is the shirt we are giving away! Isn’t it cute? Read more about it on the site (and it’s hidden features!).

The Sassy Scoop Neck Nursing Shirt
The Sassy Scoop Neck Nursing Shirt, retails for $54.99

Now, listen closely because here are the rules.

All you have to do to enter is the following:

1. FOLLOW: Make sure you are following both Udderly Hot Mama and The Mediocre Mama on Facebook.

2. COMMENT AND TAG: Leave a comment on this blog, on the giveaway post on The Mediocre Mama’s Facebook page (or both) and TAG A BREASTFEEDING, PUMPING OR SOON TO BE BF-ING OR PUMPING PAL! 

3. SHARE: Share the giveaway post via Facebook.

That’s it! 3 steps! 1, 2, 3! Don’t skip any! I can’t way to give this lovely clothing item to one deserving mama bear. Good luck everyone and Happy World Breastfeeding Week!

The winner will be chosen exactly 1 week from today on August 12th, at 12 PM and Udderly Hot Mama will hook you up ASAP. 

Mom who smokes pot to curb anxiety is doing her best, just like you and me

Mom-blogger, Lea Grover, recently won the hearts of honest moms all over the globe when she admitted in a piece for Cosmopolitan that she smokes pot. Not only that, Grover said she believes smoking marijuana to curb her anxiety makes her a better parent because she can relate better to her kids, break up disputes without getting angry and still feel in control. She also said she never drives her children anywhere after smoking so she doesn’t feel she is putting them in harm’s way.

Grover, who writes the parenting blog “Becoming Super Mommy” says she also has a prescription for anxiety, Xanax, but it typically makes her too sleepy to take good care of her kids. So she prefers marijuana and feels more competent in her ability to parent her 3 kids that way. Even though Grover is upfront about her anxiety (bravo, mama!), she of course is still going to be questioned for her outspoken “drug” use. (Notice the quotations. I’m using the term drug here very lightly). Even though marijuana is medicinal and is often prescribed for the treatment of PTSD and other anxiety disorders, Grover is still being questioned about her intentions and her capabilities as a parent.

Source: Lea Grover's- Author Page via Facebook
Source: Lea Grover’s- Author Page via Facebook

The popular mom-blogger has dealt with her fair share of criticism over the Cosmo piece. Family Safety Expert, Alison Jacobson, said on Fox and friends that she believes Grover’s pot smoking sends the wrong message to kids. She also expressed concerns about what would happen in the case of an emergency. Likewise, parenting expert and physician, Dr. Deborah Gilboa, “Dr. G,” told Yahoo Parenting that her biggest concern was about reaction time, which marijuana is known to delay. “When you are taking care of kids, sometimes reaction time and coordination really matter.”

While in some cases that may be a valid point, ya know what else delays reaction time, Dr. G? Struggling to parent through a deep fog of depression or anxiety. Secondly, the amount of marijuana Grover is smoking is quite small, just one or two hits to better cope with her anxiety. And, by her own admission, she is more capable when under the influence of marijuana than a prescription medication.  She personally feels safer, and that her kids are safer, when not taking a prescription drug. It seems that the women arguing against Grover must not have that much experience with treating anxiety because if they did they would note that it is perhaps the most distracting thing to deal with when it comes to taking care of kids, far more than a puff of a “one-hiter,” which is what Grover uses to smoke.

I would also make the case that while prescription medication is way more socially acceptable (I have many parent friends who openly admit to using anxiety medication on a daily basis) it is equally, if not more powerful, than a couple hits of pot. Likewise, that many friends or more take a nightly sleeping pill, like Ambien, to get a solid night’s rest. No one tells these moms they are doing something wrong- and I’m not going to start. These drugs are prescribed by a doctor and being used appropriately to treat depression, anxiety, or sleeplessness. But in many cases, they are also over-prescribed and when they are used without adequate need, they can cause harm and dependency. While marijuana can no doubt be “habit-forming” it doesn’t possess the same highly addictive qualities that many prescription pills do.

I applaud Grover for doing what feels right to her and having the guts to admit it. As a long-time sleep-struggler, I have sometimes smoked pot to get a better night’s rest. My reason for doing so is that I can be easily awoken if I am needed in the night (I almost always am) and I don’t wake with a “hangover,” like many prescription sleep-aids leave behind.  Smoking a small amount of pot before bed helps me to wake feeling refreshed instead of completely exhausted due to sleeplessness. If something genuinely helps me to take better care of my kids, I have no reason to feel bad about it. Neither does Grover.

While many parents struggle with anxiety and depression and need a bit of help either daily, or once in a while, there aren’t that many parents out there who don’t have a drug of choice, whether or not is it truly a need. Grover contests that she is using pot medicinally, when her anxiety is too much to cope with on her own and I believe it’s a responsible choice. But how many of us don’t have a couple of glasses of wine after a day of one meltdown after the next, or even on our best day? It is completely socially acceptable to drink beer, wine or even whiskey in front of our kids, as well as take prescription medication. Mention marijuana, even being smoked privately, and everyone loses their minds. I guess I just prefer sanity, even when it comes from a weed.