5 (Totally Cliche) Things I want for Mother’s Day

Mother’s day is my favorite holiday. No, really- it is. I don’t like my birthday that much anymore. I’ve had 31 of them and it’s just gotten a little stale. Christmas involves so much running around and wrapping and cooking and lying my ass off about all the made up ways that Santa breaks into our house and smuggles in dolls and scooters they will surely break their faces on. And let’s face it, I’m doing about 99% of it while my husband’s all like “Hey… what did we get my mom?” and I grind my teeth and try not to punch him while I tell him all about the lovely gift that I picked out while the kids were pummeling each other into the floor of the mall while the T-mobile guy at the kiosk was like “Mamn! T-mobile! Switch to T-mobile!” until I yelled back that T-mobile obviously doesn’t exist anymore and can’t he see I’m a little occupied right now?

Mother’s Day comes without the dreaded T-mobile guy and the wrapping and the forgetting to hang up Christmas lights until 3 am on Christmas morning. There’s no Easter baskets to fill and no bunny trail to leave. It also comes at the perfect time of year when hopefully the sun isn’t scorching my body hairs off yet and the snow is a distant memory. It usually means that the kids try to be good and we get to eat a big brunch and drink alcohol at 10 in the morning so then at least I’m under the illusion that the kids are trying to be good even if they’re throwing bagels at the waitress and yelling about how they don’t like jelly. I’ll just sit there with my 4th mimosa, in my Mother’s Day stupor, looking adoringly at my children anyway because if you can’t do that on Mother’s Day then when can you?

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Aside from the yummy brunch and the stiff drinks, there’s a few other simple things that I love getting when this holiday rolls around. And while I’m fully aware that each and every one of them makes me a total cliche of a mom that doesn’t mean I don’t hope for a couple of them every year.

Here are the things I want for Mother’s Day:

1.Extra sleep– The number one thing on my list is, you guessed it, extra sleep. 15 minutes or an hour, really any amount will do. However long it takes until they’re beating down the door and poking out my eyeballs while my husband looks at his phone on the living room couch and wonders why the room got so quiet. It’s not that long and I usually can’t sleep over the debauchery that’s going on downstairs to begin with. But no matter, even a few extra minutes of shut-eye feels like I’m cheating on my whole family… but in a good way. 

2. Bath Bombs– I hate myself just a little for this one. Like, how is it possible that I love something so much that I used to buy for my grandmother and wonder how they brought her so much joy? Has my life really become that mundane? Don’t answer that. It might be true but it doesn’t change the fact that when I slip into a hot bath after a long day, drop one of those purple suckers in and it fizzes all around me, a wave of gratitude comes over me. My whole body says “Thank you. Thank you, bath bombs for smelling so lovely and fizzing with such enthusiasm. Thank you, children, for being asleep. Thank you, Mother’s Day, for making this dream a reality.”

3. All the coffee. All the wine. A cup of hot coffee, ready and waiting? Yes, please. A bottle of my favorite wine later in the evening, after my brunch buzz has worn off? Not gonna fight ya.

4. An afternoon alone. I really love my kids and I know I should want to be with them all day on Mother’s Day. But here’s the thing- I’m with them every day. I do the school pick-up and the dinner making. Sometimes I work at my computer with four tiny hands groping me and it feels like a million. A million tiny hands all over my body, making me want to rip my clothes off and run naked through the neighborhood until someone has me committed. Because then at least the touching will stop. I love them, but there are few things as pleasant as an entire afternoon spent alone without being felt up to do whatever I want. Go see a movie or wander the streets, asking people for hugs because I haven’t gone that long without being touched in years. I really don’t know what I’d do, but I’m definitely willing to find out.

5. A homemade fucking card. This might be the most cliche of all. My kids make so much stuff and usually it resembles something that’s been through a shredder. But a heartfelt card that they spent a few minutes of their day on, just for me, really hits the spot. It makes all the groping and the yelling in my ear and tugging off my limbs worth it. Even if I have no idea what it says. Even if it leaves my hands sticky and wondering what they hell kind of glue they used. I still want the damn card because it’s Mother’s Day and dammit, I deserve it.

Dear God, NO! Maternity leave is not “me time”

Mothers know maternity leave is no vacation. It’s not a time for self-reflection or relaxation. And it’s definitely not a time for catching up on sleep. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite of all of those things- It’s a time for taking care of a new baby, every minute of every hour and allowing your body to heal from childbirth. And while the early bonding experience of new parenthood is a beautiful thing, it’s also exhausting and relentless in a way that most of us hadn’t known was truly possible until we had a newborn swaddled in our arms.  

The round-the-clock demands of having an infant can sometimes make a new mother feel she’s lost herself altogether. It’s constant, but to make it even more difficult, many women are forced to take it on with little or no help and very, very little paid time off work. Maternity leave is, in a word, a shit-show and here in the U.S., we get a piss-poor version of it, too. Truly, it’s a recipe for very tired, very drained, sometimes emotionally depleted new mothers, and the rising rates of postpartum mood disorders reflect that.

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But don’t try explaining any of that to Meghann Foye, the 38-year-old author of “MEternity”- a new novel in which she makes the case for why she, a woman with no children, equally deserves her own “maternity leave” because, well, if women with children get paid time off to focus on themselves (wait, what?), then really, why shouldn’t she? Foye’s proclamation is that in order to avoid burnout, she deserves a sort of “sabbatical,” like a standard maternity leave (uhhh.. what?) to refocus her life’s priorities. You might be wondering, what exactly does the author think a standard maternity leave entails? I know I was. But in a recent interview with the New York Post, she gave us an idea.

Foye said, of maternity leave “For women who follow a ‘traditional’ path, this pause often naturally comes in your late 20s or early 30s, when a wedding, pregnancy and babies means that your personal life takes center stage. But for those who end up on the ‘other’ path, that socially mandated time and space for self-reflection may never come.”

Listen, I’m all for women taking any path they should choose, but what exactly is she talking about?

If you’ve ever been on maternity leave before, you’re likely wondering what “pause” Foye is referring to when she talks about maternity leave. Perhaps it’s the “pause” that comes at 4 a.m. when it’s the tenth time you’ve been awoken by a screaming baby. You clumsily make your way to the bathroom to relieve yourself before saddling the baby to your chest, moving as quickly as possible because the screaming is getting louder and louder. You catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror. “Dear God,” you think. “Is that even me?” It’s brief, but it’s there. That millisecond. That blink.

Maybe this is the pause the author is referring to. But, I’m really not sure. I’ve been a mother for six and a half years. I’m well out of the postpartum period and I’ve yet to find the pause button, or these moments of quiet self-reflection she refers to. Perhaps Miss Foye can direct me to it because clearly, I’ve been missing something. I’ll be waiting for her call.

But what gets me even more hot and bothered is the “Meternity” author saying that while women who have children are allotted this glamorous break, women who do not have children never get to experience such a thing. Well, I’m not sure how Foye spends her time off work or her vacation time for that matter, but I’m guessing it’s not the same as how most parents use theirs. Most parents end up using vacation time for things like staying home with a sick child, making it to a school event or God-forbid, being sick themselves. Time off is hard to come by when you have a job and a family. And while it might be hard for everyone, it just about evaporates when you decide to become a full-time parent. Perhaps she should “pause” to consider this. But, oh yeah, she thinks maternity leave is a vacay.

This is not a conversation about who works harder- mother’s or non-mothers. We all work hard in our own ways, no questions asked. But Foye is critical of the way her co-workers not only take maternity leave, but also dart out of the office at day’s end to tend to their children (I mean, how selfish of them!). It’s unclear why the author finds this so reprehensible, a woman caring for her child. But to hint that a working woman’s life, in any way, somehow gets easier when she has a baby because of all that pampered maternity “me time” and clocking out of work on time to pick up her kids is completely ludicrous. It’s the craziest thing I’ve heard this decade, and my daughter told me just this morning that she’s going to be an olympic ice-skater. I smiled and nodded my head, remembering our last trip the ice rink, when I dragged her around the rink, hunched over and picking her up off the ice no less than 400 times. My daughter is a terrible ice-skater, but still, her olympic dreams are far less mind-boggling than Foye’s suggestions about working motherhood.

Maternity leave ain’t no vacay, Miss Foye. Caring for a newborn baby is one of the most all-encompassing points in a woman’s life and typically, the time she is allotted to stay home and do that is very small. It’s measly. It’s pathetic. It’s inhumane how quickly we expect new mothers to get back on their feet and assimilate back into their work environments. Most of them end up leaving their newborn babies long before they’re ready and it’s painful. It’s damaging. It’s wrong. Time off from work to be with your baby is not a God damned luxury. It’s a necessity, but it’s also, just a different, likely more demanding type of work. Because no matter how cruel a boss you’ve dealt with, they’ve probably sent you home to sleep at some point. Newborns don’t give a shit about your need to sleep, or take a shower or tuck your breasts back in your shirt before you attempt to devour half a sandwich with one hand.

If there’s one thing Miss Foye and I can agree on it’s this: we all need more “me time.” Mothers and non-mothers alike. But please, I beg of you, don’t act as if maternity leave is a freaking vacation. It is so far from that. Calling it “me time” is a huge slap in the face to working mothers everywhere. 

Newbie Women Writers Wanted!

Attention Newbie Women Writers:

I have an exciting announcement that concerns YOU. 

This summer, I’ll be hosting an online all-female mentoring group geared towards helping newbie women writers get their foot in the door. You don’t have to have been previously published to participate. You simply have to have the “pipe dream” (which by the way, is what this blog was once called, as a play on my daughter Piper’s name combined with my dream of getting paid to write) of being a creative writer and earning an income while doing it.

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This girl will be our mascot- isn’t she cute? I like her because she’s hopeful.

Think of this as an internet crash course in newbie essay writing/publishing, with a whole lot of community and insight to gain. Speaking from experience, community has been a huge help to me in the world of writing. Let’s start our own!

Who is this group for? Any woman who has an interest in writing for creative purposes and the desire to have her worked published.

What topics will be discussed? Pitching- what do editors look for/stay away from. Crafting an essay. Finding your voice- what topics are important to you? What can you offer that is unique? Common mistakes in essay writing. How to promote your work. Social media DOs and DON’Ts. Where are the best places to submit your (individual) work.

What else will the workshop entail? Throughout the month, we will work on two assignments and critique one another’s work. You will receive thoughtful feedback throughout the process, as well as a final critique on your work, ideas about how to strengthen it, as well as how to move forward with it in terms of submitting for publication. The goal is that everyone leaves with two polished pieces that are ready (or close to ready) for publication.

When/where will the group take place? June 2016. On the internet! Because this group takes place online, it will be flexible enough that we can keep up with it in our often overly busy lives. You will only be responsible for completing your (2) short assignments and participating in discussions, at your leisure. This is really one of those things that the more time and energy you spend on it, the more you will get out of it. But it absolutely should not feel stressful. This is meant to help you with your work. This is about YOU. YOU. YOU. And your writing.

Other perks? As a part of this community, you will be invited to The Mediocre Mama Newbie Writer’s Group, a private Facebook community where we will aim to talk about the world of writing, women’s issues that pertain to us as writers, mothers, daughters, feminists and whatever else we are. We will share our published work and help promote one another’s pieces (if they speak to us), as well, and use the space to stay connected after the class ends. Because when women come together, amazing things can happen! As your instructor, I will do my best to help you get your work ready for publication and send you in the right direction. Hopefully, the on-going Facebook group will be the start of a powerful community of up-and-coming female writers. Remember, we all have to start somewhere. If you have the dream of writing, all you have to do is start.

What is the cost of the workshop? Because this is the very first time I’m offering this course it will only cost $50 per writer to participate in the month-long workshop.

How do I pay? You can paypal your payment using the email Sarah.Bregel@gmail.com or you can snail mail your payment. However, I must have all payments (in full) by June 1st to include you in the workshop.

To sign up or ask any questions, please don’t hesitate to send me an email @ Sarah.Bregel@gmail.com. Let’s kick off the summer by doing some amazing work together. Join us or pass it on!:)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

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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 

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