This one goes out to every mother who has ever felt lost. Over it. Wired and exhausted. Overwhelmed and broken. It also goes out to every mother who has felt at the top of her game. Winning. Like her kid is the bees fucking knees.

Perhaps, once or twice, you’ve felt trapped by motherhood. Or incomparably blessed by it. Maybe today you’re just going through the motions when all you want is a silent room and some grapes. Or you’re pumping your fist in the air because you’ve got this thing nailed.

If you’ve been at this gig for any length of time, you’ve spent good portions of time on both sides of this fence.

As I write this, I’m feeling pretty blissed out. Cal only screamed like a banshee twice so far today. I can hear AJ making breakfast downstairs and the kids are whooping happily outside. This is living.

A week ago, not so much. Way back then, in the distant past of last Saturday, I wanted to stop being a mom. As if I could just walk out wearing my uniform, flip off the manager and never look back. Imagine the freedom. The wind whipping my hair, a whole horizon ahead. All of that space.

How could someone not want to abandon this job after days of intermittent but relentless screaming? Those wild animal toddler rages. The utter loss of adult competence and control.

The truth is this: if motherhood were an actual job, the kind that you could interview for and request a transfer away from, precious few would keep it.

You see, a week ago, back when I wanted to quit, I’d been solo parenting for 4 days. That may sound minimal. For me, it was not. Given the latest, grating loop that our resident 3-year-old, Cal, has introduced to our lives, it only took 2 days for me to start feeling like a cracked out war veteran.

These days, Cal, screams bloody murder at the slightest provocation. “I want that TRUCK! Not THAT truck! NooooOOOOOO!! STOOOOOP!” He wants everything Jo has, the moment he has it, and not a moment longer. When the toy or rock or hot dog leaves Jo’s grasp, Cal could not care less. As long as Jo does have it, Cal is a desperate, wild animal. Sometimes, Jo marshals up his patience, tries to leave the room, or asks for help from me, but inevitably, frustration overwhelms and he hauls off and smacks Cal. This is met with fiercer Cal screams and a good old-fashioned brother brawl. You see how this goes. A nightmare boy typhoon that twists around again and again and again. After the umpteenth time, I start to hate it. And then I start to think I hate them. I can feel that twisting inside. I become a hard, knotty old broad who pickled sour and is out for revenge. I stomp around the house on tree trunk legs with a scowl on my face just waiting for an opportunity to bust my boys for bad behavior, because they’re so very bad.

Shockingly, when you add the stomping, bitter broad to the whole boy typhoon, things don’t tend to go well. There’s often shaming. And crying. It’s basically the worst.

And then somehow, things change. I scream and then we all cry. Or I slam a door and later, I lie to Cal that the wind blew it closed. Or I turn on the sprinkler and let the chickens out.

That’s how I found my first 2 or 3 consecutive hours of peace on that terrible solo-parenting weekend. We all needed it bad. It was like finding a spring in the desert, and we gulped it in and smiled a lot. I remembered that they aren’t only here to ruin my life, and that I can be soft, wise and relaxed.

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Then there was bedtime, and the barrage of questions and song requests and popping out of bed, and I morphed, exhausted, yet again.

After that, I slunk down the stairs to our couch and cried.

Motherhood is all of these things.

And while my story might not align with yours too well, I know there’s overlap. Maybe you have one kid and he keeps you up all night. Maybe it’s your middle-schooler whose anxiety holds the whole house hostage. Maybe peace and joy reign in your kingdom today. Any way you cut it, we are all brought low by motherhood. We all feel shame, and rage and hopelessness. The trouble is that unlike the shiny happy feelings, these ugly-step sister ones get shunned, or glossed over, or buried in our desperate pile of parenting books.

So remember this, the next time you see that mom pick up her kids from school looking flawless and at ease with her beautiful, obedient children. God bless her, she might be having a good day. Or she might not, and like the rest of us, she’s just really good at playing her role in the “I’m a tremendously good mother” pageant.

The next time your friend’s kid hits yours, or says something cruel, or has a complete meltdown in the park, remember how gritty and hard motherhood has been for you at times. You probably have all sorts of judgements and ideas and advice for how she could be a better mom and fix her mean kid, but then you can just remember how shitty it feels to be barraged with judgements and ideas and advice when all you feel is ashamed of your child’s behavior and humiliated by what her problems must mean about your own inadequacy.

Probably the best thing that any of us can do for each other or ourselves is to remember that our kids and everyone else’s are both adorable dreamboats and thorny little devils. That all of our lives as parents are sweet and disastrous. That none of us knows which way the tide will turn on any given day. One minute we are charmed. The next, undone.

And that there is nothing, nothing more relieving than simply being witnessed by someone who can see all of those things.

Since I’m so shy in public situations, I never would have believed I would have joined an exercise class. But, I have tried so many different things to try and keep my anxiety in check with some improvements here and there but nothing that made a big enough difference.

Since my husband got stationed here a few years ago, I’ve had my eye on taking a yoga class but always felt too self-conscious. I finally said fuck it, who cares, and signed up for a beginning yoga class that lasted several weeks, If you don’t have much experience with anxiety and panic attacks, it may not seem like a big thing to do something as simple as that but it’s huge for me. I was so nervous and worried about being in a class full of people.

It took some time but I found that surprisingly, I really like the group exercise class better than using dvds at home and I felt more inspired to keep up with it.

I found by the end of my second class, it did wonders for my anxiety and I felt like a dumb ass for not embracing yoga much sooner. I haven’t been practicing it much since the beginner class ended but really need to push myself to add yoga into my life more often.

My yoga classes were 90 minutes and truth be told, it took a good half hour before I could finally quiet my mind and actually focus on the now, of being mindful… and it felt good not having so much worry stuck in my head.

But there was some evil that came with my 12 week yoga course. The class was at 6 pm and despite having a light snack beforehand, it took all the focus in the world at times because there was a Chinese restaurant below the yoga studio so all of us would be smelling the deliciousness rising up to our 3rd floor studio. Egg rolls, fried rice, garlic chicken, oh my.

The most amazing part of the yoga class was towards the end of each session when we would spend time relaxing. By then, over an hour had already gone by and I was pretty much in the awesome yoga zone where no matter what life threw at me, it would all still be good. That’s just damn crazy because I don’t ever think that way. Me, optimistic? What?

The class would end but all I wanted to do was stay lying on my mat and spend the night since I was in such a relaxed state. That should be a thing if it isn’t already. Yoga class slumber parties. You wouldn’t have to deal with all the crazy shit awaiting your arrival at home.

After every class, I would take my sweet time walking to my car and driving home since I loved the feeling of my yoga high. I’d pull into the driveway and slide out of the seat of my car, then slowly walk up to the front door of my house, still in a very relaxed state.

My mistake was opening the front door and expecting to let myself settle for a bit while I changed my clothes and ate a late dinner. Instead, I had my daughter run up to me saying “Mom? Mom?? Mommy?? I hurt my toe earlier. I didn’t like what dad made for dinner. Will you please read to me? Am I having hot lunch or cold lunch tomorrow? What are you making me for a snack? Can I have a playdate with Kiki tomorrow?”

Agghhh!

And my husband would bombard me with a play by-play of the 1 1/2 hours that I was gone for class. I was glad they missed me but holy fucking fuck. Give a mom a damn minute. I just wanted to pee and change clothes and heat up dinner when I first got home.

Finally, with food in my stomach, I could handle the “Mom? Mom? Mom?” from my daughter and “Elle? Hey, Pookie?” questions from my husband but unfortunately, my relaxed and groovy namaste would vanish a few minutes after walking into my house.

And this is why there needs to be yoga class slumber parties. Someone get on that!

In case you’re wondering because I know you’re not but I’ll tell you anyway, I only succumbed to the Chinese restaurant once. That was surprising since there were plenty of times when I would be in warrior pose or downward facing dog with my stomach growling over the amazing smells from the restaurant, and would seriously consider ditching the rest of the class to stuff my face.

The food ended up being just as delicious as it smelled. Now, if they decide to put a donut shop next to the gym I started going to over the summer, I’m fucked. I can just see myself in spinning class, holding a box of a dozen donuts, getting Boston cream all over the handlebars.

This post was originally featured on Elle Davis’ blog, This Is Mommyhood. Featured image via.

I loved breastfeeding. And no one was more surprised about that little fact than me.

I mean, it was always something I knew I’d wanted to try, but it was also something that always seemed a little intimidating and daunting to me. I wasn’t sure if I could do it or, to be perfectly honest, if I wanted to do for the long haul.

While breastfeeding has a ton of health benefits for baby and mom, I am not someone who insists that it’s the right choice for everyone. Some women can’t, others don’t want to, and who am I to say what’s best for them? Their bodies, their babies, their decisions. The way I see it, fed is best. As long as baby is eating and happy, it’s all good.

So I gave myself deadlines—first three months to hang in there, then four, and then I didn’t need those deadlines anymore. This was the right choice for me and baby, and we were a great team. It was our time, our little dance. And even though we were both ready to wean at almost 13 months, I still cried when it happened.

Much to my surprise (again), after more than a year of not breastfeeding, I still miss a few things about it—5 things, in particular.

Instant soothing. Crying, be gone! And it was—instantly!—because of Mommy’s Magical Boobies. Yes, that is what my husband and I called them, and it was ever-so-accurate. Even when baby wasn’t hungry, they worked their magic before bedtime, after shots at the doctor’s office and whenever I couldn’t figure out what else was the matter. No need for Harry Potter when you had these wondrous things.

That sweet, dopey milk-drunk look. No matter how tired you are, you can’t help but smile when you see that sleepy, completely satisfied look on baby’s face when he’s done eating. Babies are like drunk little men…but in the cutest possible ways. Even with the spit-up and inappropriate groping in public places.

Eating whatever you want. Mommy confession: One of the things that initially appealed to me about breastfeeding was the calorie-burning. And it’s amazing. We’re talking around 500 calories per day. So I never felt guilty for that ice cream sundae with the works or eating marshmallow fluff out of the jar. (What, like you’ve never done that?) Biology is brilliant: Watch the calories go in, then disappear! Until you stop breastfeeding…and then they suddenly don’t.

Baby immunity. My son was never healthier than when he was getting all of those wonderful Mommy antibodies. I nursed him even between bouts of the stomach flu, because I knew it was the best way to protect him from getting sick. And you know what? It worked. I felt like Superwoman, and he was Superbaby.

Being the one he looks to for comfort. And, if I’m being totally honest, being his whole world. My boy loves his mama—and he’s always loved his mama’s hair, which is, I think, a direct result of our breastfeeding days—but at 26 months, he’s also grappling with his independence and separating from me. All good and healthy, of course, but there’s nothing like the intense intimacy of breastfeeding and knowing that you are the moon and the stars for this perfect little creature who you created and is your complete responsibility. And did I mention the snuggles? Oh, the snuggles. The. Absolute. Best.

And 5 Things I Don’t Miss…

Being the sole provider of his comfort. Sometimes you really need to do laundry. Sometimes you really need to do work. Sometimes you really need to be there for a friend. Sometimes you really need a break.

Breastfeeding in public. I am seriously in awe of women who do this and do this well. And I have many friends who do. I, on the other hand, am apparently wildly uncoordinated. Boobs out, shirt tangled, bra somehow at my chin, cover not doing the covering it’s supposed to be doing, baby and mom completely uncomfortable—it wasn’t pretty. So unless we were at a Mommy and Me movie at our local (and very dark) movie theater or going to a friend’s house, a bottle usually came out with us, just in case. That said, I loved knowing that I could feed my child if I really needed to, in any dire circumstances, and at that point, I knew I wouldn’t care about flashing random strangers. Still, I am determined to get better at this with Baby #2.

Pumping. You never feel less sexy than when you have a pump hooked up to your boobs. Personally, I felt like a cow—there, I said it—even though the importance of what I was doing was always at the forefront of my mind. Don’t get me wrong: Pumps are wonderful inventions, and they help to extend breastfeeding when you have to go back to work or just need a break. But God, did I hate being hooked up to that contraption after baby was asleep to get a few ounces of liquid gold. Which, mind you, my kid refused to drink under any circumstances, but that’s another story.

Leaky boobs. And those telltale wet spots in the worst possible places. And bra liners, which are basically pantyliners for your boobs. And that painful, engorged feeling when you’re away from baby and pump and your body truly aches for him. Let’s not forget sore, cracked nipples (which, with the right guidance from a good lactation consultant and lots of lanolin, should go away after a few weeks). The leaky boobs, on the other hand, will be with you for a while even after you stop nursing.

Nighttime wakings. At some point during those first few weeks (and months), you start looking like a zombie from The Walking Dead. Scratch that—you make the zombies from The Walking Dead look good. Feeding baby every two hours in those early days can take their toll. That said, as tired as I was, I did love those middle-of-the-night cuddles and that quiet time just staring at baby, my perfect little miracle. So…that’s something I don’t miss but also kind of really do. Motherhood is complicated and confounding sometimes, huh?

This post was originally featured on Dawn’s blog, Momsanity

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My postpartum body is amazing. Really. No, I haven’t lost all of the baby weight, and it seems like it’s going to be more of a struggle this time around. (Thanks, second baby and advanced maternal age!) And I’m not talking about breastfeeding, even though I do think it’s pretty badass that I actually produce food.

No, what I’m talking about is the sheer amazingness of skin-to-skin contact. It is so magical and so wonderful, and yes, I totally sound like I’m high because that’s what it honest-to-God feels like. And I’m kicking myself for not doing more of it with my newborn once we left the hospital.

My life has been so frenetic since this poor kid was born eight weeks ago, and I’ve been feeling guilty about that as well as overwhelmed with the amount of crap I need to do. So last Saturday, I asked my husband to take our 3-year-old to the park while the baby was sleeping so I could get some stuff done.

READ MORE: BREAST IS BEST…BUT WHAT ABOUT THE REST?

Yeah, you can imagine how that went.

The baby decided to boycott her regularly scheduled nap, so the laundry stayed unfolded, the house stayed messy, the writing stayed unwritten and I stayed unshowered. That last bit had to change, though, because, frankly, it had been a few days, and more important, we were seeing people who showered regularly later that afternoon and I wanted to be semi-presentable.

When I finally managed to get the baby to sleep, I jumped in the shower, and, of course, she started crying almost immediately. Sigh.

I rushed through my shower to pick her up, but she wouldn’t go back down and she wouldn’t be soothed just by rocking. That’s when I decided to employ my superpower: Mommy’s Magical Boobies, as my husband and I had nicknamed them back when my son was little.

READ MORE: CONVERSATIONS WITH MY BREAST PUMP & OTHER POSTPARTUM TALES

Fresh out of the shower, I was still in a towel and she was just in a diaper once I took her out of her swaddle. We plopped down on the couch, I popped her on a boob and the crying stopped immediately. When she was done, she cuddled up on my chest as she always does, but this time there was no barrier between us, not even a thin piece of fabric.

And I took a breath. A deep, calming, present breath.

The frenetic thoughts were silenced, and I just stopped. It was just me and her against the world, and my heart felt like it was going to burst. Even when the boys returned home, we stayed in our little mommy-baby bubble. Nothing was getting through it and nothing fazed me—not the Tasmanian Devil running circles around us or the fact that his dad gave him the iPad for an ungodly long time shortly thereafter.

With my son, I pretty much walked around topless for the first month of his life. For starters, I had read a ton about kangaroo care. All of that skin-to-skin cuddling releases oxytocin in both you and baby, and it promotes attachment, decreases stress (and even the potential for postpartum depression) and just makes everything better. This works even if you’re formula-feeding and also for dads.

READ MORE: THE STORM OF MODERN DAY PARENTING

But past that, as a first-time mom, I’d also been having a hard time with breastfeeding. I couldn’t be bothered to keep unhooking my bra and lifting up my shirt because he wanted to be attached to me at all times—and I was just too damn uncoordinated to do it gracefully. My solution? I just left it all off.

With my daughter, though, I’m an old pro at breastfeeding, and baby and I are both very efficient. Maybe too efficient, because we get the job done quickly. It’s great because then I can tend to my 3-year-old and shuttle him around town, and of course, I’m not struggling or in pain like the first time around. But on the flip side, I’ve been missing out this amazing bonding time, and I didn’t even realize it.

Well, now I do, and that’s why I’m making a vow to go topless as much as possible for the next two weeks. (At home, people. I’m not freeing the nipple that much.) I’ve only got a little time left in this magical phase, and I’m not going to squander it, no matter how much laundry there is to fold.

This post was originally featured on Dawn Yanek’s blog, Momsanity. Featured image via.

I’m a public transit gal and have been for a long time.

With the husband working on the other side of the city, out of range of the subway, it’s always made sense for him to drive to work. On days when I have appointments or work downtown, I hop on the bus and then the subway. Having a kid has reduced the frequency, but I’d still haul one of them in a baby carrier if I need to. I hate taking a stroller, but I’m totally fine strapping a kid on and doing what I have to.

People on public transit are f**king weird.

They’re even weirder when you have a baby with you. I think some people believe babies are like some kind of “carte blanche” moment to interact with someone you’ve never met.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I like to meet new people or exchange a story or two with another mother I run into. I love commiserating! I’m sure you’ve figured that out by now. I really don’t want to hear about how your mother didn’t love you because she gave you formula in the 60s, and that’s why you had trouble bonding with your children, who are now adults and estranged, but you think they’re doing fine because you heard as much from your friend and your sister*. Especially when you haven’t even introduced.

But despite the weird conversations I’ve had with strangers on public transit, I’d take a hundred of them or more over the assholes who presume that they can just come over and put their hands on my baby’s cheeks or fingers, without asking me first.

Last week, I was on the subway with baby C, who fell fast asleep on me. His head was covered with a slight bit of visibility. No word of a lie, this older lady bee-lined straight for him and went to lift up the hood that was covering his goddamn face so she could see him!

Like, are you f**king kidding?

I batted her hand away, and said, “HA! Don’t even think of waking a sleeping baby.”

I mean, seriously.

Yesterday, I was on the subway again with baby C. This time, the little one was awake. The lady next to us was giving him googly eyes and reached over to play with his hands.

Ummmm, excuse me?

We are in the midst of a measles outbreak. We are on public transit where a million people travel and touch and sneeze and all sorts of other things. You touch my baby’s hands, without asking if it’s okay first?

B*tch, please.

Well, that’s what I said in my head. But for some reason, I couldn’t say anything this time. I sat there, my skin crawling, wanting to scream at this woman for PRESUMING that this behavior was OK.

Is that because I’m Canadian (aka too goddamn polite)?

Or is it just because I saw her level of humanity and realized she was enjoying a moment with my adorable child, not thinking about precautions (because I’m sure she felt entirely healthy). It was thoughtless, but it wasn’t mean-spirited, so my Nice Gene kicked in (what? I have one too!) and made me just sit there while she played with baby C.

I don’t know what the right thing to do would have been.

What would you have done?

~g

*Yep. That happened.

This was originally published on Glynis blog, Little Assholes. Featured image via.

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In this video for Variety’s “Variety Studio: Actors on Actors”, Felicity Huffman and Jennifer Lopez sat down and chatted about being working moms and how men just don’t struggle with “mom guilt.” There’s almost too much greatness in one interview, if we’re being honest. Watch these two badasses have an awesome, real, totally unfiltered conversation about motherhood.

The series airs June 12 and June 19 on PBS SoCal.