Let’s be mom-guilt free in 2016

Mom guilt

I’ve only been a mom for about a year, but I’ve managed to pack a decades’ worth of guilt into those 12 months. I’m just talented like that.

If you’re also a mom — or dad, for that matter — I suspect you possess this special talent as well. We’re hardwired for it; we all just want the best for our kiddos, and worry the choices we make now could be slowly turning them into the next Kardashian or Pharma Bro.

Well, in 2016, instead of feeling guilty, let’s put our time and energy toward our many other talents. There are plenty of parents who should feel guilty about the choices they make. (Like this one. And these ones. And definitely the parents of this guy.) But you’re probably not one of them.

Here are the things I’m going to stop feeling guilty about in 2016. Or less guilty about, at least.

Working. I work full time. So does my husband. We like our jobs, and our daughter has never complained about her daycare, which we thoroughly vetted. This is most likely because she can’t talk, but still.

When we go to work, we do not leave her in a cardboard box on the porch, with only a bottle and a package of Pop-Tarts to get her through the day. When you go to work, do you leave your children in a cardboard box on the porch, with only a bottle and a package of Pop-Tarts to get them through the day? No? Well OK, then. I’d say you’re doing a pretty great job at this parenting thing.

(Hey, I never said I set the bar high.)

But seriously, if you feel guilty for not being home with your bambinos all the time, remind yourself of all the things they’re getting exposed to that they might not otherwise: other experiences, people, toys, books, kiddos. And germs. Lots of other germs. But hey, those germs are strengthening their immune system so they’ll get sick less when they start school in a few years. Or so they say.

(Of course, in the midst of working on this post, my sweet girl came down with hand, foot and mouth disease, which she contracted at daycare. So mom guilt might still win out on this one. Again.)

Exercising. Working full-time means I get to spend only a few hours with my little bug on the weekdays, so it’s hard for me to justify doing any additional activities that take away from that time.

But I need to run. Not to lose weight or fit into my jeans — those are just bonuses. I need to run so my crazy doesn’t catch up with me. I suffer from severe bouts of anxiety, and if I don’t take care of myself, it rears its ugly head and takes me down with it.

So, sometimes I let Lily stay at daycare later so I can get my run in right after work, before I get home where I’ll talk myself out of it. Or I leave her with her dad early on a Sunday morning so I can spend a few extra miles earning those endorphins that help keep my anxiety at bay.

Is there something in your life that keeps the crazy from catching up with you? Then make time for it. As long as it’s not something along the lines of, say, juggling knives. We both know that won’t end well.

Knife juggling child

Well, apparently some parents let their kids juggle knives. They should probably feel a little guilty about that.

Supplementing. And straight-up bottle-feeding, for that matter. I’m definitely a proponent of breastfeeding (when circumstances allow) and plan to continue nursing my kiddo until she’s ready to wean.

But we moms sure can get a bit shamey about this topic, can’t we? Millions of babies who didn’t drink a drop of breast milk have grown up to be well-adjusted, productive members of society. In fact, many of them even have jobs, donate to charity and let people with only a few items cut in front of them in line at the grocery store. Some of them also grew up to be Internet trolls. But it had nothing to do with whether they were breast- or formula-fed.

My milk production dipped severely around six months, and despite increasing the frequency of pumping sessions, drinking some nasty tea that tasted like rotten licorice and eating oatmeal until it came out my ears, my supply never increased much. So you know what? We started supplementing with formula. And you know what? Our daughter is happy, healthy and gets enough to eat. Otherwise, she wouldn’t.

And, while I don’t mean to brag … at only 11 months, our kiddo was already playing peek-a-boo at a 12-month-old level.

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Formula baby

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NOT. PUMPING. I have pumped, at least twice, if not three times, daily, five days a week, since March. Since I work two half-time positions in different offices at a university, I have to haul the stupid pump back and forth to work each day (if I don’t forget to bring it entirely), and schlep it across campus when I switch jobs at lunch. Half the time, I forget some parts or milk in one office and have to rush back to get them once I realize it. All this for a measly five ounces a day, at this point.

So, at the end of the year, I am done. DONE. And if you see a pump floating down the river, it’s definitely because I threw mine in it.

Sleeping in. JK haha lolz! That doesn’t happen. But if it ever does, you can sure as hell bet I’m not going to feel guilty about it.

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What else should be on this list? I’m positive I’ve left out some major mom-guilt triggers, possibly because they’re buried so deep in my subconscious, I don’t even know I feel guilty about them. Yet.

50 Happy Things for 2015: Bloggers Unite in Flood of Gratitude

Even during the holidays, there sure is a lot of nastiness on the Internet. So when I saw a post by Emily of The  Waiting titled “50 Happy Things for 2015: Bloggers Unite in Flood of  Gratitude,” I knew I wanted to join in this collective effort, if only to drown out a tiny bit of the cacophony online.

The challenge is simple, per its creator, Dawn of Tales from the Motherland: Set a timer for 10 minutes, and write down 50 things you were grateful for or that made you happy in 2015.

So, uh, you may notice my list is approximately 41 items short of the stated goal. This is because there is nothing so small that I won’t over-think it. So the 10 minutes went fast. But, I hit all the important things.

My 2015 Gratitude-Givers/Happy-Makers

1. This little starfish, who I can’t believe is almost a year old already. There’s nothing better than starting my morning with snuggles from her.

Starfish

She’s my favorite.

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2. My partner in parenting: my husband. Lily is a lucky girl, and so am I.
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3. My family. They live two hours away, but I know they would drop everything at a moment’s notice if we needed their help. I know this because they have.
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4. My husband’s family. Though we’re in Montana and they’re in Illinois, they’d do the same, too.
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5. My crew/squad/besties/whatever the hip term for friends is these days. We’re scattered all over the place now, but with the help of technology, we never feel that far apart.
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6. Social media. Despite its obvious downfalls. Because SPOILER ALERT: I’m actually kind of awkward in real life. But online, my awkwardness comes off as mildly charming.
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7. Pancake. And the fact that our fwuffy bunny finally lets us pet her. Only took five years to gain her trust.

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Fwuffy-wuffy wufferton

Miss Pancake T. Bunsen

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8. Blogging. As a kid, I knew I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. I even remember checking out a book at my elementary school library that was about “how to be a writer,” because, — shocker — I was a nerd. It might not be my day job (though I still get to write and edit for that), but blogging allows me to do what I love and share it with the world. Thank you for reading!
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Now comes the part where I silently freak out that I might have left off someone or something really, really important. If that’s the case, I’M SO SORRY HOW CAN I MAKE IT UP TO YOU PLEASE DON’T HATE ME I LOVE YOU I’LL GIVE YOU A COOKIE.
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Want to join in the gratitude magic?  Here’s how it works: Set a timer for 10 minutes; timing this is critical. Once you start the timer, start your list. The goal is to write 50 things that made you happy in 2015, or 50 things you feel grateful for. (Or, see if you can beat my all-time low of eight.) The idea is to not think too hard; write what comes to mind in the time allotted. When the timer’s done, stop writing. If you haven’t written 50 things, that’s OK. If you have more than 50 things and still have time, keep writing; you can’t feel too happy or too grateful! To join other bloggers from the project, head to Tales from the Motherland for complete instructions on sharing your post. 

Important questions I’ve pondered while reading classic children’s books to my infant daughter

“The Cat in the Hat”

Is the Cat and the Hat holding Thing 1 and Thing 2 against their will? Are they getting enough clean food and water while he peddles them across the country in a crate with no air holes? Is PETA aware of the situation? Wait, are Things 1 and 2 even animals? Do they dye their hair blue or is it naturally that color? If I wore footy pajamas like theirs to work, would I get fired?

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Things 1 and 2

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“Guess How Much I Love You”

Why does Big Nutbrown Hare have to constantly one-up Little Nutbrown Hare? Can’t he just let him win at the Guess How Much I Love You game, even once? When Little Nutbrown Hare says he loves him to the flippin’ moon, can’t he just be like “Whoa, the moon? That’s so far — no way I can top that! I’d never say anything like ‘well hey, I’m pretty impressed you love me all the way to the moon, but guess what — I love you to the moon … and back! Suck it, Little Nutbrown Hare!’ No, I’d never say anything super douchey like that”?
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 To moon and back
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Does Big Nutbrown Hare also never let Little Nutbrown Hare win when they play Candy Land? Does he show off with fancy hook shots and dunks when playing a friendly game of HORSE with the neighborhood kiddos? Is he overcompensating for something? Does he also drive an obnoxiously large truck?
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“Where the Wild Things Are”

Why does this one Wild Thing have human feet? Is he the mutant result of some sort of unethical science experiment gone horribly wrong? What the fuck, Maurice Sendak? Why would you do this to me my sweet baby girl? How many years of therapy am I is my child going to need to stop having nightmares about the human-footed Wild Thing??
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Where-the-wild-things-are
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“Goodnight, Moon”

Is the mush gluten-free?
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Goodnight Moon

Another mass shooting, another spike in my cynicism

When October 1 rolls around again in five years, or even next year, will you remember? Will you remember October 1 is the day nine innocent people were shot and killed by a deranged man with a gun at a college in Oregon?
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Or will you not even register the date’s significance, because it was just another mass shooting, just another day in America?
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Thoughts
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I shared this satire and commentary on Facebook on Thursday, mere hours after the shooting. I considered deleting it upon realizing how cynical it sounded, but decided not to.
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I don’t want to be cynical about gun violence in this country. When I hear about yet another mass shooting, I don’t want to simply shrug my shoulders and move on with my day. I want to be hopeful. Hopeful that this one will be the last straw. If nothing else, I want to be hopeful for the sake of my 9-month-old daughter, who before I know it will be out experiencing the world on her own, where I can’t protect her all the time.
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But I’m not hopeful. I’m cynical. I have been since Newtown. If nearly two-dozen school children can so easily be shot and killed, and we as a society do nothing to fix the problem — a problem that is uniquely ours, that doesn’t happen in other civilized nations — what could possibly give me hope it will ever change?
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Blame mental illness. Blame racism. Blame religion. Blame the media. Sure, those all contribute to the problem, to some extent. But that does not negate the fact that all these incidents still have one significant detail in common: Guns. Guns that can murder throngs of people in mere minutes. Guns that are much too easy for anyone with sinister motives to access.
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I’ve never understood the logic behind the opposition to stricter background checks. If you are a responsible gun owner, what do you have to worry about? Is it really such an infringement on your freedom if you have to wait a few days before obtaining a firearm? Or to pass a basic psychological evaluation beforehand? When it could prevent someone who intends to deliberately inflict harm on innocent victims from following through? Is that not worth it to you?
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I want to be hopeful that at some point, enough of us will admit that while individual rights, including the right to bear arms, are sacred, they are not so sacred that it’s worth sacrificing the common good, over and over and over again. I thought Newtown was that point. But here we are, almost three years and dozens of mass shootings later, and nothing’s changed. Nothing’s fucking changed.
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I want to be hopeful, but I’m not. America is sick with its gun obsession, its glorification of these weapons. Even if we found a cure for this sickness, it would probably be too late. Honestly, I’m not sure why I’m even writing this. Mostly to vent my frustrations, I suppose. I know it won’t change anyone’s mind. People never change their minds. I certainly don’t plan to, not on this.
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So, I am cynical. But maybe — just maybe — beneath this deep cynicism, there’s still a sliver of hope that this time, America will prove me wrong.

My Alpha Phi

APhi photo

I’ve been debating whether to share my thoughts on the “controversy” over the recruitment video posted by the Alabama Alpha Phi chapter. Frankly, I’ve moved past the need to defend my choice to be part of a Greek organization, but I suppose I’ll do it one last time.

Joining Alpha Phi at the University of Montana almost 12 years ago marked the first time I felt I could truly be myself without feeling judged. When I was with my sisters, I finally felt comfortable in my own skin, squirrely awkwardness and all. Every women — every human — deserves to feel like this.

This self-esteem gradually radiated into other areas of my life, and I owe much of the confidence and self-acceptance I possess today to Alpha Phi.

I could go on ad nauseam about the other benefits of being in a sorority, but surely you’ve heard them all before. Philanthropy, scholarship, leadership, etc. I have no doubt I am a more well-rounded person because I decided to go Greek.

But when it comes down to it, being an Alpha Phi in college made me happy. Being involved as an alumna and helping mentor our young collegians embarking on their own Alpha Phi experience makes me happy. Spending an evening laughing with my Alpha Phi sisters, who are still my best friends today and will be 30 years from now, makes me happy.

If that makes me “vapid” and “unempowering” (which is not actually a word, Ms. Smarty Pants Columnist who jettisoned this non-issue into the limelight) and “worse for women than Donald Trump,” so be it. (Side note: It doesn’t.)

I’m not defending the video by any means. The criticism of it, while overblown, is valid. I suspect most of the Alpha Phis who appear in it appreciate other “more respectable” qualities above good looks and having fun, and the video sells them short in that respect. But some probably don’t, and that’s OK. I hope their Alpha Phi still makes them feel valued for who they truly are, just as mine did for me.

aoe

Need a cure for insomnia? You should Have a Baby™!

Do you have trouble falling asleep night after night?

Does your mind start to race as soon as your head hits the pillow, no matter how tired you are?

Are the Ambien-induced hallucinations finally starting to freak you out?

Well, we here at Squirrel Thoughts Industries have finally discovered the secret to falling asleep quickly and easily: Have a Baby™!

Our patented Have a Baby™ technology will leave you so physically and mentally exhausted, your brain will have no choice but to shut down and drift off into sweet, sweet slumber mere minutes after you collapse into bed.

Under no circumstances will you wake up feeling well-rested and refreshed while using Have a Baby™ — you’ll get far less sleep than before, actually. But hey, at least you won’t lie awake all night worrying about it!

TiredParents

Have a Baby™ will allow you to fall asleep anywhere, anytime! [Image source: UberHumor.com]

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Side effects of Have a Baby™ may include:

  • Miniature human dependent on you for survival infiltrating your home
  • Taking a quick nap while nursing miniature human dependent on you for survival
  • Waking up two to 3 billion times per night
  • Taking a quick nap in the shower and/or on the bathmat in front of the shower
  • Pulling a Costanza at work by napping under your desk*
  • Taking a quick nap on your way to the office coffee pot after you wake up from your nap under your desk
  • Rapidly falling into REM sleep, which may cause weird dreams that involve Billy from Family Circus chasing you through your high school
  • Taking a quick nap during the therapy you need after dreaming that Billy from Family Circus was chasing you through your high school
  • Decreased effectiveness once baby starts sleeping through the night** because OH GOD IS SHE STILL BREATHING?!!?!
  • Taking a quick nap while blogginZZZZZZZZZZZZdifjadsre;s e
  • Heart exploding due to overflow of love and affection every time miniature human dependent on you for survival smiles or coos at you
My personal miniature human dependent on me for survival

My personal miniature human dependent on me for survival

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*If my boss is reading this: I haven’t actually done this. I’ve only seriously considered it.
**Not that we know what that’s like.

#tbt to the time my mom tried to make me look like Hitler

My mom sent me this photo the other day, because she thinks it proves Lily looks like me.

Me Lily

         Me                                                                                                      Lily

I think it proves she tried to make me look like Hitler when I was a baby.

Me Hitler

           Me                                                                                                         Hitler

The resemblance is uncanny, amirite? I mean, with that choice of hairstyle, I’m not sure why she didn’t just draw the Fuhrer’s mustache on me and get it over with.

When I showed this photo to my husband and told him my mom thinks I look like Lily in it, he — without any provocation — replied, “Hmm. You look like Hitler.”

My mother, of course, vehemently denied any wrongdoing.

Convo 1

Convo 2

I think we all know which one of us is truly off her walker.

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