Are We Not Mammals?, or Would You Rather I Let the Hungry Baby Scream?

I had such an upsetting conversation yesterday about breastfeeding in public (I am not currently breastfeeding, but have in the past). The comments ranged from "There's such a thing as decorum!" to likening it to walking over to the lawn and taking a shit in front of everybody. I was asked how I would feel sitting on a bench breastfeeding and a bus full of fifth graders let out right in front of me. It was suggested that a woman with a hungry screaming infant might consider refraining until a pleasant private location could be found, which might be more readily available than I might think.

These people are my friends. They certainly don't mind that people breastfeed, as long as they do it privately and nobody has to witness it. But that sounds to me an awful lot like how some people feel about gay people.

I can't stop running through this conversation in my mind, and I really would like to get some sleep. Can somebody reassure me that feeding a baby is not the equivalent to taking a dump on the lawn? And that maybe it's not a terrible thing for kids to understand that we are mammals?

How do we finally normalize feeding babies? And how long will it take to undo the damage done when formula replaced mothers milk, leaving breasts to be perceived as purely sexual?

When I see a woman's breast in the middle of a public place where everyone else is clothed, it takes me aback a bit every time. I can't help that; it's not a reaction I consciously choose. But I know it's my preconceptions at play, and I have the right to look away. I also know how these preconceptions make it so difficult to breastfeed our children to the extent we feel we should, and it's incumbent on me to get over it, and quickly. 

We have a long way to go to have this be normalized. You can't make each member of our/your generation take the brunt of changing this back to a normal practice, but boy I do wish we could get there faster. I did what I could. I didn't feed my children in a bathroom, and I was courteous to the extent I felt comfortable in covering my breast, while letting the baby breathe. I don't know if I was being stared at, as I, for one, was minding my own business.

Yummy! What?

Yummy! What?

Where the Time Goes, or What I Owe Them

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I am not a SAHM. I am a Working Mom. There, now you know it all.

Based on your bias, you’ve now figured out that I care more about my career than about my children, or that I’m a go-getter who hasn’t let her home situation stand in the way of her success, or that I struggle to get by and cry every morning when I’m driving away from my babies.

The simple fact is that I have always had to work, and I now that I have kids, I still have to work, like I always have, to keep the lights on. Having kids hasn’t changed that. What has changed is what part of my non-work time I owe to other people.

It used to be I could work my crazy job, pulling crazy hours, and then chill out for a while before it got busy again. The only person I owed a personal life was me, and I’m not that fond of me anyway. I mean, we get along, I guess.

Now I have personal life logistics that I never had before. I owe the kids a mother, every day. More than that, I owe them a relationship with their mother that they can depend on. A 15-hour day might be okay every once in a while, but they will be better served by overall stability.

My mother said “I know you think they need you.” Yes, that is what I think.

So I’ll fight the rush-hour traffic so I can put them to bed, instead of working late and waiting for the traffic to pass. And then I’ll work after I put them to bed, instead of writing my blog or watching TV or trying to unwind.

I’ll get up a little earlier to see them in the morning, instead of sleeping to the last minute, jumping into my clothes, and running out the door.

I’ll focus most of my weekend time around them, instead of working through the weekend or relaxing. Except sometimes I’ll have to work.

I’ll negotiate with Husband to get at least one weekend morning to sleep late, to make up for where I’ve shortchanged my sleep during the week.

I’ll get in a little Me Time here and there, see friends, visit family, take vacations, and tend to myself and my marriage. The bulk of the days are, however, spoken for.

My friend told me “They say to put in the extra hours when they’re little. They need you much more as they get older.” I think children always need their parents. I wonder if the logistics get even harder.

Motherhood, or Becoming Canadian

canadian mother.png

Motherhood never seemed relevant to me, like being Canadian. Canadians are lovely, Canada is fine, but it didn't have anything to do with me, personally. And the whole process of making babies seemed bizarre to me, frankly.

But then, my husband and I decided to try to have children. And I remembered how babies are made. Like, after the sex part. Holy shit, that’s MY job! It’s not even negotiable.

So, I put on my big girl panties – my big, BIG girl panties – and made a baby. It was awkward and inconvenient and often painful. Hormones swirled and edema set in and weight was gained and the body made demands for the child’s sake and I waddled around and somewhere in this transformed body was me, trying to work and play and live life as me and not be subsumed by this pregnancy.

And I was wildly successful.

And then I breastfed, becoming a part of a system so tightly integrated that if the baby was eating something somewhere, I had to be pumping wherever I was. Hormones swirled and schedules were juggled and the body continued to make demands for the child’s sake and somewhere in this transformed body was me, trying to work and recover my life as me and not be derailed by this labor of love.

And I did a great job.

And then I did it again.

Now I've weaned my second, my last baby. I’m finally stepping away from indentured maternity after four and a half years of nearly constant pregnancy or breastfeeding. My body is my own again. And yet I have been redefined.

I know I’m paranoid, but like a neck tattoo, the “mother” label carries certain implications. I hide it during interviews. I feel like people make judgments about my priorities and compatibility with things like offices and pinstripes, fairly or not; judgments that don't get made about fathers.

Or to put it another way, it feels as if I became a Canadian citizen. You can’t really even tell by looking. But once people find out, I’m afraid that they’re going to think that I can’t work here anymore.


I Love You, or Thank You for Leaving

Zen Masters don’t have children. There’s just no way.

You can't have both.

You can't have both.

Listen, I am that woman who is so grateful for the opportunity to have this life, and this family. My husband and sons are wonderful and mean way more to me than a clean house. If you saw my house, you would know that.

But I was single until I was 40, and I learned to really enjoy the quiet, the stillness. It was normal. This constant churning of people around me is new and alien.

So now I love it when my husband goes away and takes one of the children with him. Due to certain family logistics, he does this a few times a year for a couple of days at a time. He’s away as I write this.

I still have the little guy, but he’s pretty chill. Besides, he takes two naps a day. I am, for all intents and purposes, working from my own agenda.

I did some dishes this morning. Now they are drying. And nothing else is changing in there.

I go into the other room and pick up crayons that the baby has redistributed around the floor. As I put five in the tin, he pulls two out, so we play that game for a while. Then I give him something with fewer pieces to play with and I finish the task.

I go back in the kitchen. There are no new dirty dishes migrating in. No new crumbs on the counter. I can stand in the doorway and watch the nothing happen. It’s quiet and lovely.

This is what was beyond my imagining, all those solitary years: the simple joy of improving one’s environment while it’s not simultaneously unraveling. Possible with the house full? No, sir.

I wouldn't go back to the aloneness and its friend, loneliness. But it sure is nice to check in with myself, to slow down to my natural pace, and to make a few things in my life a little nicer.

Ok, I'm done with this. They can come back now.

Ok, I'm done with this. They can come back now.

The Weaning, or Coming Down Off the Baby High

Oh my god, what is this tightening in my chest? Is it anxiety? Do I have lung cancer? What happened to my stomach?! That’s not a navel. What the hell IS that? Am I The Only One Who Cleans Up Around Here? HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO ASK YOU TO SNAKE THE DAMN DRAIN IN THE BATHTUB?!!

This isn’t PMS, this is weaning. It’s closer to quitting smoking, except there’s no patch for this. 

For the past year, everything’s been fine. Fine fine fine. Eh, I’m a little overweight and underemployed. The two-year-old is a bit obstreperous sometimes. The house is not exactly organized, but hey, we have kids, and oh look! Facebook! 

But now, my darling sweet baby boy, my last baby, is weaning. He’s been kind of disinterested in it and easily distracted for a while now, but we’ve kept going with morning and evening sessions. The evening as a sweet part of the going-to-bed routine, in the morning because it lets me doze just a little bit linger. 

She is so stoned.

She is so stoned.

But really, the reason we’re still going is that I’m a breastfeeding junkie. Oxytocin is my drug, and the baby is my dealer. Oxytocin is the love drug, the one you get from cuddling, and it’s a big part of the breastfeeding mechanism. It makes life sweeter and gentler, and I just don’t mind my life as much. Even when things get rough, it’s fine, really, when you’re toking twice a day.

But it’s time, and from past experience, it’ll be a rough week of oxytocin withdrawal. Also from past experience, I might actually get something done around here. Because oh my god, who lives like this?!


Spanking Offenses, or Mommy, Please Be Nice To Me

Nooooooooooooooo OOOOOOOOOOO 000000000!

Nooooooooooooooo OOOOOOOOOOO 000000000!

Last night, Elvis deliberately grabbed Squeak’s face with his claws and scratched, leaving a red mark by his eye.

I wanted to smack him upside the head, but I did not. I told him he was wrong, picked him up, and changed him for bed with a fierce scowl.

It’s pretty surprising that I did not lose my cool, since this was a culmination of several incidents, which are becoming a daily occurrence. There’s taking and screaming and hitting and generally not liking Squeak to do anything mildly enjoyable.

During tooth brushing, Elvis grabbed Squeak by the arm and when thwarted in that, pushed him down with his foot. That was it. No book reading, straight to bed. In his room, I started to repeat the messages I’m trying to get through: He has to listen and do what we tell him. And No Hurting Anybody.

After a few minutes, Elvis says “Mommy please, please sing a song.”

Crap. This is not getting through. I repeated me message once more, sang a song, and put him to bed. We try again tomorrow. We’ll do positive reinforcement, lots of cuddles and attention, special time alone with each of them, yadda yadda yadda.

Now it’s tomorrow. At 3pm, Elvis threw a heavy toy at Squeak’s head. I sent him to bed and brought Squeak up and tried to get them both to take a nap. Squeak struggled and Elvis chatted and wiggled around. I scowled and told Elvis “Not one word. Lie down.”

Elvis says “Mommy, please be nice to me.”

Crushing. Not that he thinks I’m being mean; I’m okay with that. It’s crushing that the message is bouncing off and he’s just suffering my bad mood.

I’m at a loss, folks. I can’t reward bad behavior with “being nice”. I also can’t punish bad behavior when I’m not sure he even remembers it anymore. But someday soon, the little heathen is really going to hurt Squeak. He’s also teaching Squeak this behavior, which should be fun down the line.

Aside from an ass-whooping, how do we get the no-hurting message through and engraved in his mind, quickly?

Raising Men, or Chipping Away at the Paradigms

Yes, son, boys can be police officers, too.

Yes, son, boys can be police officers, too.

My son and I went to a noodle place for lunch. He’s almost three. I saw a table with several police officers having lunch. I sat us right next to them.

Right away, I was faced with my own inherent sexism, as I started to talk about the policemen. They weren't all men. Of course they weren't all men. There are tons of female policemen… policewomen… policepersons… police officers! That’s it. Of course.

We talked about what police officers wear: badges, patches on their sleeves, lots of tools on their belts. What they do: They protect everyone, they make sure we don’t drive too fast, and they especially help children. If he ever needs help and he doesn't see Mommy or Daddy, a police officer will help him every time. That’s what they do.

He said, “That one’s a girl.”

“Yes,” said my inner feminist, jumping at the opening, “but remember that men can be police officers, too!”

Girls have been given this line for years: we can do anything men can do. It implies that it’s a great achievement for a woman to break into a traditionally male role. It also suggests that it’s not normal, that it’s outside the comfort zone. Frankly, it sounds a little tiring, wading against the tide like that.

Now I’m wondering if that was the right thing to say to my son. Right there I’m introducing that there are boy jobs and girl jobs, and he’ll be on the lookout for which is which. I don’t want him to start sorting jobs by gender just yet.  

I’m hoping my sons will be just a little less sexist than the generation before. I intend on teaching them that being an adult means taking responsibility for yourself and for your family. They can choose any path, from rock star or CEO to homemaker or teacher.

So how do I do it? How do I normalize men and women finding their way, each in her or his own way? How does a boy without sisters learn to treat women as valid professional competitors rather than as extracurricular goals?

They will look to me, surely, but how do I teach them that it’s not always the right path for women to work outside the home, either? That they cannot expect that a woman will be able to support a household? That they do not have freedom from fiscal responsibility? That, in fact, until a lot of things change, a woman faces much greater hurdles than a man in being a breadwinner?

I don’t expect there will be an easy answer. I’m still working on “toys are for sharing. Don’t hit your brother.” I feel like I have time, but I also know that they are learning much faster than I think I’m teaching.

What I would really like is a curriculum, year by year, outlining what topics we need to introduce to our children in order to put them on track to be useful, productive members of society by the time we kick them out of the house.

Barely Holding Onto My Sanity, or I WANT THE BLUE DOLPHIN!

I will be mumbling about this in the home.

I will be mumbling about this in the home.

I am alone in the house with the toddler. All alone.

It begins quietly.

He says, “I want the blue dolphin.”

The blue dolphin is a little plastic toy. There’s a momma blue dolphin and a baby blue dolphin. I’m not sure which he wants, but I have tried not to give him the impression that I keep track of his toys. Or anything else, really.

I say, “Well, where is it?”

“I don’t know.”

“I guess you’d better look for it.”

Silence. He looks at me.

“But I want the blue dolphin!”

He’s the baby, I’m the mommy. I’m teaching him manners, how to communicate with people. I am also teaching him that just saying that he wants something does not mean that everyone stops what they are doing to get him what he wants. He hasn’t even asked for it, just stated that he wants it. We’ve been over this. I’m going to be calm and adult about this.

So I say, “I hear you say that you want the blue dolphin.”

“I want the blue dolphin!”


“I want the blue dolphin!”

“If you want it, you need to find it.”

“I want the blue dolphin!”

“Where did you put it?”

“I WANT the blue DOLPHIN!”

“Then find the blue dolphin. Why are you telling me?”

“I WANT the blue DOLPHIN!”

This has to stop. Make it stop. “Stop saying that.”

“I WANT the blue DOLPHIN!”


“I WANT the blue DOLPHIN!”

“If you keep saying that I will stop answering you!”

Silence. Looking thoughtful. Maybe that did it.

Calmly: “I want the blue dolphin.”


I walk out of the room. I think maybe I’m really going over the edge here. He follows me.

“I WANT the blue dolphin.”

“I DON’T HAVE the blue dolphin!”

And then, he grins at me. He draws his arm back. And he throws out the most accusatory pointing finger at me that I have ever seen.

“YOUUUUUUU have the blue dolphin!”

“I don’t have the blue dolphin.”

Pointing finger! “YOUUU have the blue dolphin!”

“I do NOT have the blue dolphin! Maybe YOUUU have the blue dolphin!”

“No,” Pointing finger! “YOUUU have the blue dolphin!”


Pointing finger! “YOUUU have the blue dolphin!”

“Stop saying that!”

Pointing finger! “YOUUU have the blue dolphin!”

“That’s it. I’m outta here.”

I go upstairs.

He follows me up the stairs!

He follows me into my room!

No! I was good! I walked away! He can’t just follow me! This can’t be happening! This can’t be my life! He can’t say it again! I can’t hear it again!

Smiling! Pointing finger! “YOUUU have the blue dolphin!”

I can’t believe this. He has figured out how to make me insane! And he thinks it’s funny!

I start chuckling, a little unhinged at first, but then just laughing. I grab him, pull him onto the bed, and start tickling him. He’s squealing, saying “YOU have the blue dolphin!” I’m saying “No, YOU have the blue dolphin!” We roll around and squeal and tickle until we’re out of breath.

We smile at each other. I ask him if he’s ready to go downstairs. He nods. We go downstairs. I fix him a snack. Sanity retained for one more day. Barely.

It’s Not Worth It, or Your Life Would Have Sucked With or Without Children

Relax,  you don't have to be happy about everything.

Relax, you don't have to be happy about everything.

Why do we always have to look at the bright side of everything? Can’t it just suck sometimes?

I had rough pregnancies. I didn't enjoy them. I found them awkward and inconvenient. The second was worse than the first. I had pain every time I walked. People told me “It’s worth it.”

     It wasn't "worth it."

My kids each didn't sleep the night for months at a time. My husband and I had ongoing negotiations to find time for naps to feel human again. People said “It’s worth it.”

     It wasn't "worth it."

My son is 2. He sometimes has complete meltdowns over incidental (to me) things, like using the wrong color bowl for his cereal. People tell me “It’s worth it.”

     It’s not "worth it."

It’s not “worth it” because my kids are a part of my life, not a reward for my suffering.

I’m not paying for motherhood with suffering. There’s no reconciliation of how much I give versus how much I receive. Pregnancy is how babies are made. Babies don’t sleep the night. Toddlers lose their shit all the time. Being their mother sucks sometimes. And sometimes it’s awesome. Life is like that. It’s always been like that. It was like that before I had kids, too.

Would I trade my mommy life for my single life? Nah. I did that, and now I’m doing this. I’m happy with my decision to have kids. Whatever comes next will suck, too. And it will be awesome.

If you liked this post,.jpg

My kids needn't feel a moment’s guilt for what I go through as a mother. Nor do they get credit for giving my life meaning. I picked them. It’s on me to raise them to find their own path — through the awful and the awesome — to a rich and meaningful life. Even as I’m still navigating mine. 

Daymares, or Our No-Tragedy Policy

People tell you a lot of stupid shit about being a parent. Things like: “You won’t sleep again for the next 18 years! Hahahaha!” That’s a lie and it’s mean. Stop telling new parents how awful it’s going to be, because it’s not. Parenting is good and normal and you get to keep being who you are and it does not replace everything you are. You just get amazing new people in your life for which you are wholly responsible. No big thing.

But there is this one thing…

My mother was right about something. She said “you’ll never know what it is to worry until you have kids.” And I didn’t. But now I do. Perhaps it’s just me and I need very expensive therapy, but I think it is because I am a mother.

It’s not just the news. My god, the news. There’s always a story about someone doing something awful to a child, and I read the headline, and I know I could not stand to read this article, and I click the link and I read the article, and I cannot stand it. And I try to push it out of my mind. It can take days to push it out of my mind.

But more than that, I vividly imagine, or “ideate”, the most horrible scenarios, complete fabrications of the mind. I cannot stop this. It happens most when I’m tired or stressed.

For example, this morning, after a very poor night’s sleep and some career stress, I started thinking about the troubling messages coming from North Korea lately, and how world leaders aren’t sure exactly how to proceed with this guy. And I thought about where we live and the likelihood that we could be a target if he has the equipment to get it that far. And what would I do when the bomb hit, if we survived the impact but knew it was over for us. And how would I hold my children. And how I would whisper that I love them over and over and over. And I cannot get off this train of thought.

Until I hear Husband picking up both Squeak and Elvis to carry them down the stairs. I imagine a misstep, all of them falling down the stairs, one of them dying, or all of them dying, or two badly injured and one possibly dead, but upon closer look, imagining the face more clearly, definitely dead. So I get up, because I’ll get no more sleep this morning.

Later, as we play outside, I imagine Elvis getting a little far from me and someone snatching him and driving off, and me running and running, finding herculean strength, pursuing until I collapsed. Or that female jogger definitely has a cell phone on her, so I mug her for the cell phone and dial 911 as I ran after the car running running running until I die of a heart attack, which probably would not take long.

It’s awful, I know. But I can’t help it. If I’m rested and happy, I get a lot less of it. I never ideate me hurting my family or myself, if you’re wondering. I just run through scenarios of something terrible happening to them.

Or to me. I think about what happens if I get on a plane and the plane goes down or there’s a car crash and how will that hurt my kids and how I don’t want to be a vague memory and a bunch of stories. Ditto with something happening to Husband.

no TRAGEDY mask.png

So Husband and I have established a No-Tragedy Policy. It keeps the anxiety under control. I remind him of our policy from time to time, and he affirms the policy in no uncertain terms every time. And then I’m okay.

So if you’re thinking that our lawn might be infested with fire ants that will swarm, attack, and eat the baby, I can tell you that it’s not. First of all, I’ve already thought of that. And more importantly, we have a No-Tragedy Policy.