If you want to be happy, you shouldn’t have kids. That’s a fact. Or at least, Time magazine and the sociologists who conducted this study believe so.

Parents get less sleep, have less money, and less independence. Parents have more stress, more marital arguments, more expenses.

And although those facts are indisputable, when I see them my feathers get all kinds of ruffled. I am defensive. Angry.

How dare you insinuate I’m unhappy?–I’m sooo happy! You don’t know just how happy I am, you stupid PhD scientists. Isn’t that right, mamas!?

Right…?

Truth is, my husband and I are tired and broke and frazzled. Our kitchen looks like a yogurt bomb exploded in it, and my Diaper Genie has yet to grant my one wish: a pleasant smelling nursery. For the last three months my hair has literally been falling out – by the handful. Oh, it’s growing back . . . in stand-up inch-long patches. There are bags under my eyes and cold coffee in my cup.

Sure my non-parenting friends have fresh hair and dewy skin and exhilarating hobbies and romantic Caribbean vacations. But what do they know about happiness….?

A lot, apparently.

They are well-rested and well-entertained and well-traveled. Oh hell, I’m not even going to dispute it. They’re SO happy.

I’ll go a step further and AGREE: If you want to be happy, you shouldn’t have kids.

What is happiness anyways?

It’s a fleeting emotion. It’s a feeling we experience when life circumstances serve our interests. Momentary bliss. Don’t get me wrong–there’s nothing bad about happiness. In fact, it’s a beautiful, sunny sort of thing that everyone wants to have.

But what happens when it rains throughout your Caribbean vacation? I’ll tell you: Happiness crawls back into its little turtle shell and waits for the weather to improve.

I have no doubt that as a mom, I experience that brand of happiness less than I used to. My guitar playing and horse riding and fancy dining days are few and far between. And those things truly made me happy.

But please, Time Magazine. Don’t feel sorry for me. Because, to me, your brand of happiness is overrated.

What I have now is joy. A fullness and abundance of joy that transcends my current sleeplessness. That negates my messy hair and offers more sun than 100 Caribbean vacations.

Happiness is merely an outward expression. Joy is a deeply-satisfying inward contentment.

Sociologists can study joy all they want, and they’ll never be able to quantify it.

But I can. My aptly named “bundle of joy” is 22 pounds and growing. And the longer he’s in my life, the more my heart is overwhelmed with the quiet gratitude, the self-sacrificing contentment that is JOY. It swells up in my chest as I watch him sleep. It bubbles through me as he laughs. And joy stays. It remains through the yogurt bombs and the stinky butts. Through long nights and low account balances, joy will remain.

Sure—parents are tired. And we bicker. And we’re broke half the time.

But let’s be honest. Happiness is overrated.

This post was originally featured on Mary’s blog, Mom Babble

Not even gonna lie, I spend the vast majority of my time worrying about what I’m doing to my poor kids. It’s always there. I mean, think about it. We are charged with the extraordinary responsibility of helping these tiny creatures turn into well-adjusted adults. And we only have a few years to do it.

Sometimes I get anxiety because it feels like their success or failure as people lies entirely on my shoulders. And the older they get the more I worry.

Think I’m just being crazy? See for yourself.

Here is just a small sample of the ways I’m totally screwing my kids up:

1. I Swear In Front of Them…Like, a Lot: Now just to rationalize clarify, it generally only happens when I’m angry or stressed. I do NOT think it’s cute to drop f-bombs at the dinner table. But when my emotions are high it’s my go-to coping mechanism. Oddly though, whenever there’s a song on the radio with swear words I make sure to freak out and crank the volume down so they don’t hear it. Which is usually followed by laughter and, “Mom, it’s not like we haven’t heard it from you.” So busted.

2. I Let My Daughter Love Disney Princesses: I know, I know.  She’s destined to grow up to be a damsel in distress. Twenty years from now you’ll be sure to find her cleaning up after some asshole and baking him a pie while woodland creatures watch on. At least she’ll have great hair though.

3. I Throw Away Their School Projects: Yep. That’s right. And what’s worse they bust me! “Mom, why is my map project in the garbage?!? I worked hard on that!” My response is generally a silent cringe, followed by an exaggerated, “What? How did that get in there?” Now the obvious exception to this scenario is if they create anything cute, funny, or about me. Those projects get filed away for display at the high school graduation party.

4. We Don’t Do Big Birthday Parties: Don’t worry, I am fully aware this guarantees they’ll be socially awkward for the rest of their lives. But having grandma and grandpa over for cake and ice cream or doing something fun as a family is doing the trick for now. Also? If I’m being honest, it’s just easier than dealing with strangers and their kids, asking everyone to bring gifts, and plopping down hundreds of dollars for a party they probably won’t remember anyway.

5. Pinterest is Not My Friend: In fact, Pinterest annoys the hell out of me most days. I don’t do Bento Box lunches, I put money in their lunch account. I don’t do veggie trays in fancy shapes for holidays or snacks shaped like animal friends, I put food on their plate and tell them to eat it. I cringe at the thought of DIY teacher gifts 25 times a year. I call bullshit on all of it. When did it get like this?!? Competitive crafting is just not my thing.

6. My Parents Would Never Have Done This: Why do I find myself doing things for my kids that my parents wouldn’t have dreamed of? For example, waiting in the carpool lane 40 minutes before school gets out so I can get my son to his piano lesson on time. Or correcting all of my kid’s homework before he brings it back to school, because if he has one math problem wrong I look like a deadbeat parent. And entertaining them whenever they say they’re bored. At this rate, my kids will be 40 and still expecting me to come up with activities for them on command.

7. I Wont Let Them Get a Dog. Worst Mom Ever! Let me just lay it all out.  I don’t want another living thing to take care of. And that’s the truth. It’s the same reason why I don’t have houseplants. I’m completely overwhelmed as it is. And I just can’t worry about keeping another thing alive.

8. I’m a Dance Mom…Everyone Knows Dance Moms Are Crazy. We’re a different breed. (Not as crazy as the moms on that TV show, but definitely crazy sometimes.) Competitive dance is like its own little world. Once you’re in, you’re IN. And only other dance moms can truly understand it. We are generally Type A, often times over the top, and usually willing to do whatever it takes for our kids to succeed at dance. But the thing is, if I told my daughter she couldn’t do it any more she would be devastated. She loves it. And therefore, so do I.

9. Could We BE Any More Over-Scheduled?  Seriously, I promised myself I’d never do it. But here I am. That mini-van mom carting her kids around all week long, spending every weekend at practices, dress rehearsals, tournaments, competitions, what have you. The worst part is that I can’t be three places at once. I’m doing my best, but by default that means that I’m always missing somebody’s something somewhere. My kids will never be able to thank me for “never missing a game” when they’re older. That stings.

10. I Have Absolutely…No…Clue…What I’m Doing. I’m totally making this parenting shit up as I go. And all I keep thinking is, Oh my god. What’s going to happen if they ever find out? One of these days they’ll be on to me.

On the episode of Parenthood that I mentioned earlier, when Julia was guilt-ridden about screwing her kids up, her amazing father Zeek (my favorite character) had this glorious piece of wisdom for her:

Parents screw their kids up. That’s just the way it is. 

The only way not to screw em’ up is not to have em’…

and what a shame that would be. 

Seriously, just sit with that for a minute. Those three beautiful sentences make me feel SO much better. Maybe I’m not alone in this after all. So for now, the best I can do is just take a deep breath and put a few more dollars away for my kids to help them pay for their therapy someday. They’re gonna need it.

This post was originally featured on Marie’s blog, Make Your Own Damn Dinner. Photo via

By the time mid-October rolls around, the kids (and if you live in my house, the grownups) are getting excited about Halloween. Having a semi-sane Halloween with young kids involves a little planning and lots of luck.

Here are eight tips for surviving Halloween with kids younger kids (under six) and making great memories.

1. Pick the costume out early and get it out of the way

I buy my kids’ Halloween costumes as soon as they go on sale right after Valentine’s Day. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating…but not much. I snag costumes as soon as I see them in the store. I get my pick of sizes…nothing is worse than telling a four year old who wants to be Batman that there are no Batman costumes in his size anywhere within three counties.

I give my kids minimal input on costume choices. Kids under six are either too young to care about their costume or are “into” so many cartoon characters that they’ll change their minds on what they want to be for Halloween 486 times before October 30th.

If you’re one of those crafty moms who makes costumes by hand, I’m a little jealous of your skills. If you are one of those crafty moms who makes another costume because little Annabelle decided she wanted to be Sophia the First instead of Elsa two days before Halloween…well then, I say you’re batshit crazy.

2. Potty planning

Your child will have to pee at some point during the Halloween festivities. Have an idea of where and how to make that happen. If potty training is still a new thing and there’s a narrow window between “mommy I hafta pee” and an accident, you might want to rethink a costume that’s complicated to get out of.

3. Don’t try to do all the things

Trick or treating in your neighborhood? Trunk or treat at your church? And again at your mom’s church and the church down the street that don’t even attend? Your local “Zoo boo?” If you play your cards right, your kid can party hard the week leading up to Halloween and snag enough candy to keep 10 children sugared up for days…but is that a good thing?

It’s great that there are so many options for enjoying Halloween…but stop and think before you drag your small human to each and every thing just because you can.

4. Step away from Pinterest

Yes, really. Too much Pinterest will rot your brain…okay maybe not that but it might convince you that you should become a whiz at concocting Halloween crafts out of recycled yogurt containers and toilet paper rolls.  Every time you log on, Pinterest will make you feel inferior by showing you “easy” projects and treat recipes you should be making with and for your kids. And, if you’re one of those moms who bought  costumes at Cotsco, Pinterest will shame you for not caring enough to make a dinosaur costume out of felt in 104 easy-to-follow steps.

Don’t get me wrong…Pinterest is great. It’s the first place I look when I want to find a great recipe or inspiration for a party hairstyle…but this time of year, Pinterest is full of oh-so-simple looking crafty things and recipes that lure you in. The next thing you know, your fingers are stuck together with hot glue and you’ve got glitter underneath your fingernails and in other places you don’t want to have glitter…ahem.

5. Talk to your kids about what to expect

This is really simple, but sometimes we get so caught up in the frenzy that we don’t realize the Halloween festivities are new, unfamiliar and maybe overwhelming for little goblins. My two boys are five (yes, I have two five-year-olds…just let that sink in) and this is their third year trick-or-treating. I plan to go over the play-by-play with them before we head out on Halloween night. They sort of remember how it went down last year but 12 months is a long time for very young children, so don’t assume they remember the drill.

And, things change…this year, one of my boys is really afraid of all of the super scary Halloween stuff that didn’t bug him last year. Unless you plan to take your kid to a Halloween event that doesn’t involve anything scary (and those events are certainly out there), it helps to set expectations. We’ve explained to Zack that some parts of Halloween are meant to be scary and to reassure him that it’s all pretend but we avoid those houses that are really tricked out with spooky decorations. The yard littered with dismembered skeletons, tombstones and fake entrails may not the best fit for the very young trick-or-treaters…you can tell your kids “it’s not real” all day long but that might be a little too much for them to process.

6. Set limits 

This goes along with talking about expectations. I’ve found that trick-or-treating for an hour and then coming home to pass out candy works best. Younger kids might not have the stamina to walk the streets begging for candy for two hours plus. An hour works best for us and everyone knows what’s up ahead of time.

7. Have a candy plan

My candy plan is to sort through all the candy, pick out the quality chocolate and let the kids have at it for one night. I mean…it’s one night. I can handle two hyped up, sugared up kids for one night. After that, everything goes into a bowl and I dole it out…I might give a piece for good behavior or throw some in the lunchboxes. Maybe it’s the OCD in me but I like knowing beforehand how the candy is going to be handled.

If the idea of a ton of candy in the house bugs you, try adding the Switch Witch basket to your Halloween lineup. It’s a cute, decorative basket that you enjoy as part of your Halloween décor up until the big night. You use it to display your candy and then after a set number of days “the Switch Witch” comes to take the candy, replacing it with a toy or other fun thing that doesn’t involve sugar. We haven’t tried that yet but I think it’s a good idea.

And let there be no doubt, that quality chocolate is all mine.  Mini Snickers pairs well with a nice Pinot Noir.

8. Cut them some slack

Your kids probably won’t be on their best behavior on Halloween night. It’s something special and the general vibe of the evening is not the same as every other day…and really, why would it be? Expect hyperactivity, the odd tantrum or two, uncharacteristic shyness, potty accidents…and anything in between.

Teach your kids basic manners…you know, to say “Trick or Treat” properly at the doorstep and to say “thank you” when someone gives them candy or compliments their costume. Teach them not to say stuff like “ewww, that looks gross” when some old lady drops Christmas candy from two years ago into their buckets.

And then cut them some slack if they forget their manners or say something embarrassing. Chances are, nothing that happens on Halloween is going to really matter in the long run…keep things in perspective.

Bottom line, trick-or-treating with children under six might require a little more preparation and structure, but it’s totally worth it. Seeing these little kids’ eyes light up at the magic of Halloween is priceless.

This post was originally featured on Jill’s blog, Ripped Jeans and Bifocals

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a warm-weather, tankini-clad, floppy-hat-obsessed Scrooge. I love summer.

There’s the gloriously gorgeous weather. The maxi dresses and cute sandals. The perfect excuse to claim that pedicures are a necessity. Barbecues. Playing hooky on the perfect beach day. Fun field trips with the kids. Cocktails at sunset (and pretty much whenever else you damn well please).

But when your spending your summer with kids, things are a little more…complicated. And messy. And sweaty. And tantrum-y. Behold, the untold delights of summer with small children!

Sand.

No need to spend a day at the beach. Just head to the nearest playground. Millions of tiny grains from the sandbox will stick to your sweaty kid, as well as find its’ way into the abyss of their shoes and pockets. No matter how well you think you’ve de-sanded your kid, grains will magically appear all over your house a few hours later.

The crap you need to lug everywhere.

Trade in the bulky coats, gloves and hats for soccer balls, baseball bats and bubble machines, not to mention hats, water bottles, a change of clothes, towels, sunscreen and the like. You’ll have just as much crap, possibly more. The difference is that now you’ll be sweating profusely as you schlep it to and from the park.

Sunscreen.

You need to apply, then re-apply and then re-apply some more. If your precious little cherub goes home with more-than-rosy cheeks, you will be convinced that he’ll come down with melanoma in 20 years and it will be your fault.

Terrifying playground equipment.

Every year it gets bigger, higher, and more horrifying – at least from a mommy perspective. Despite the fact that my son is sturdier and stronger than he was last summer, he’s also more daring and that makes the threat of taking him to the ER with broken bones or a concussion a lot more real. I mean, what geniuses designed all of this playground equipment to be on concrete or padding that’s about as thick as a cracker?

Unexpected mom guilt.

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the flowers are making you sneeze, and you’re hungover. You could persuade your child to stay home and watch Frozen for the gazillionth time, but it’s just so damn nice outside. Remember when you were frozen a few months ago and wished for a day like this? Time to suck it up and hope that the sun doesn’t make your blood-shot eyes actually bleed.

Other a-hole kids.

They push, they shove, they cut in front of your sweet child who’s waiting patiently for his turn to go down the slide. They also usually have a-hole parents who are either not paying attention or who are trying to take pictures of said kids acting like a-holes. (That seriously just happened yesterday.)

Burgeoning independence.

I’m not a “free-range” parent, but I’m smart enough to know that I shouldn’t totally smother my kid. He’s started telling me to “watch from there”—way over there—and as long as he’s not doing anything death-defying, I respect his wishes. When I see him trying to make friends or join in the fun with some older boys, I back off. But wow, is it so hard.

Water, water, everywhere.

Which means having a change of clothes and water shoes. If you don’t pack these things, you may have a wet, shivering child with blue lips who either needs to walk too many blocks to get home or needs to get into a car seat. You’ll be praying that your car won’t acquire an eternally moldy smell. (Reality check: Most likely, it will.)

Bare arms and legs.

The hotter it is, the fewer clothes your kids will want to wear. The fewer clothes that they wear, the higher the possibility of scraped elbows and bruised shins. After just a few days, my rough-and-tumble kid’s legs looked like Courtney Love’s legs in the ’90s.

Epic meltdowns.

You haven’t experienced the meltdown of all meltdowns until you try to take your hot, restless kid out of a place where he/she is having a blast. It doesn’t matter that they are literally falling over because they are so tired or starting to get grumpy with his friends. It doesn’t matter if he’s hungry or if you want to move onto next fun thing. (Which, for you, would be a nap.) He…wants…to…stay! Good times.

So, yes, it’s complicated. But, hey, at least it’s not winter!

This article was originally posted on Dawn’s blog, Momsanity. Featured image via. 

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My family recently moved to a small town, and as a result, we had to change pediatricians. On the intake form, we wrote down that our daughter was adopted (as it rendered our genetic history irrelevant).

It took the doctor all of two minutes before she asked for “proof” that we were really the legal parents.

She walked out the door before I could ask her whether or not biological parents are also asked to provide proof. After all, you can’t always tell if two people are genetically related just by sight.

My husband wasn’t as annoyed as I was. He’s more passive than I am and it made me contemplate whether I’d been overreacting. I was fairly certain the doctor meant no offense, of course, but it still ate at me because I found her request ridiculous.

Then, I began to imagine living in a world where all adoptive moms turn into assholes, merely because of the general assumptions we all face under these type of circumstances.

If you’ve adopted (or know someone who has) you probably know what I’m talking about – the none-of-your-business questions people have. The unintentional prying that makes you think you left the house wearing a t-shirt that read, “Please, ask me about my child!”

Now, let me be clear, I absolutely don’t mind if people I know ask questions. That’s how mere introductions evolve into lifelong friendships. I certainly ask them questions too – about how they think and how they feel. Or the routing number to their checking account.

But, when people I’ve never met and will most likely never see again ask questions, it makes me wonder. I wouldn’t say it makes me upset, but I do take notice and I imagine answering their questions like a total asshole.

It would go something like this:

Stranger at grocery store: Is your daughter adopted?

Me: Yes, my daughter was adopted. What about yours? Is that your biological son?

If the stranger said yes, I’d then turn to the son and say, “Your parents had you through sex!”

Stranger at grocery store: Is your daughter from a different country?

Me: No. My daughter was born in the US. Yes, her skin is a bit darker than mine but this is America, not Iceland. She was born in an exotic place called Colorado. You’ve probably heard of it. It’s the place with all the pot.

Stranger at grocery store: Well, I guess you’re lucky you didn’t have to go through labor.

Me: Well, I guess you’re lucky that it’s illegal for me to punch you in the face.

Stranger at grocery store: How did you afford to adopt?

Me: The same way people afford to do anything. Saving, compromising, robbing strangers at knifepoint.

Then I’d rummage through my purse like I was really looking for something.

Stranger at grocery store: Are you going to tell your daughter that she’s adopted?

Me: I thought maybe you could tell her.

Stranger at grocery store: Do you know your daughter’s real mom?

Me: Yes. I know her quite well. I see her every morning…….in the freaking mirror.

This article was originally published on JJ Keeler’s blog, You’re Mommed. Featured image via. 

 

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