Off Duty Mom

Thoughts from an exhausted mom who is NEVER really "off duty"

Archive for the tag “stress”

Bleeding Out

When I decided to go by “Off Duty Mom,” it was through inspiration from my own mom who, in the evenings of my childhood, would sometimes pick up a book and lie in bed in an attempt to have just a bit of time to herself, declaring that she was “off duty.” As an adult, once I had children of my own, I realized the importance for moms to go “off duty” every now and then.

When not on duty as a mom, I’ve spent a few decades as a high school English teacher. There were days when I didn’t know which job — mom or teacher — was more rewarding, exhausting, frustrating, illuminating, and/or indicative of my very identity. Both jobs have had their ups and downs.

You may have heard through sources such as The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Washington Post, and, you know, everyone you personally know in education right now, that teachers are quitting in astronomical numbers. And, they’re not just quitting their jobs, but they’re quitting the entire profession and giving up on years of training, years of dreaming, and years of just KNOWING that being an educator was their “calling.” Something is happening and it is bad, people.

I first realized that my own mental health was in decline just before the pandemic forced me out of my classroom. I remember a conversation I had with an assistant principal where she and I talked off-the-record about morale being low in our building. This is something that can just “happen” from time to time, though, so at this point, the very fact that she just sort of listened to me, heard my concerns about general dissatisfaction, and tried to be supportive was enough for me. But then a dear friend and colleague of mine quit — perhaps not suddenly, but it did unfold fairly quickly — and on that very last day of his, my administrators came over our PA system to let us know that we ought to take our work home with us over the weekend of March 14, 2020 since schools would be closed come Monday.

As schools closed that spring, many districts across the country took vastly different approaches to how they’d handle serving their communities. “Fairness” was an issue of particular concern for a whole lot of schools all over, especially when it came to taking care of the needs of Special Education students. Some schools realized that Zoom-learning wouldn’t really allow for Individualized Education Programs to be met fully which can violate federal law, so that was pretty bad. In order to have “equity” or “fairness” for all students, some schools chose to push through and go all “CDC-be-damned” and stuff to stay open despite, like, several million people dying. Others decided to educate NOBODY because that, too, was “fair” in that everyone was being equally shafted.

During the multiple months that followed, this “fairness” and “equity” remained pretty buzzy. It isn’t for no reason, either. Teachers had a glimpse into students’ home lives and realized that tons of stuff we never even realized was happening behind those closed doors was causing barriers to student learning. Some kids showed up to classes online with their younger siblings on their laps, being primary caregivers AND full time students at once. Some teachers saw a variety of conditions of homes, relationships, boundaries (or lack thereof), supplies, wi-fi reliability, noise levels, and all kinds of trauma-in-the-making. Some kids went fully MIA for the entirety of the time of remote learning. One parent came to an online meeting regarding her son’s pending failure of a course that was a graduation requirement for him while she was actively moving a table from one room of her house to another — huffing and puffing and screaming at her family members while (sort of) talking with me about whether her child was going to get a diploma or not.

The truth was that kids were dealing with all kinds of shit and teachers had a front-row seat. Of course, teachers themselves also had more than they’d signed up for on their own plates. We had to reinvent our entire profession from scratch, learn technology new to most of us, and figure out how to do the non-academic parts of our job with pretty much no help from anyone. Who could even help if they wanted to, anyway?

Things were NOT “equitable” for kids. They had all kinds of levels of support, love, affection, kindness, peace, responsibility, expectation, money, and ability. We always knew this, but it was another thing to witness it.

What happened was that expectations for school systems rose and accountability for students fell. The general consensus was that kids’ differences in preparedness for school wasn’t their “fault” (and it, indeed was not), so we, as a system, had to level the playing field for them. Makes sense on paper. But, of course, the root issues causing these unfair circumstances weren’t going to change for the better and we weren’t attempting to (or able to) fix any of that, anyway. The only thing we could do was “do better” for kids.

I do NOT disagree that “doing better for kids” is both warranted and vital. But, it certainly is stressful.

Art installation titled “Can’t Help Myself” by Chinese artists, Sun Yuan and Peng Yu

Have you ever seen that art installation of the dying robot? Well, there was this robot that constantly leaked hydraulic fluid and was programmed to sweep it up to return to its own system. At first, as the story goes, the fluid leaked at a rate that was manageable for it to contain and return to itself. Over time, though, the moments of “rest” for the robot became fewer and farther between and it was eventually in a situation where it did nothing but clean up this leak literally at all times. The leak was never fixed. It just kept cleaning up, over and over, never able to stop the root cause but instead just in a perpetual cycle of futile efforts to save its own life.

That robot “died” after the spills and loss of fluid became greater than its physical ability to clean up the mess and carry on. I had heard later that the irony of it all was that it wasn’t even a hydraulically-powered machine. Though it was programmed to “believe” that it had to perform this task to save itself, it actually never needed the leaking fluid in the first place. And yet, it died anyway.

Such is the state of education.

When does stress just become unbearable?

I’ve heard the saying, of course, that you “can’t pour from an empty cup” and so, I’ve decided to take a brief hiatus from teaching. Attempting to sweep up all of my leaking hydraulic fluid has left me exhausted and physically unwell. I’ve had heart palpitations. Depression. Anxiety. Stomach all tied up in knots. Sleeping too much. Trouble sleeping at all. I’m on 6 different medications a day like an old lady and half of them are for issues related to stress. So, I get it. That mass exodus of teachers: I get it.

The system is bleeding out. Hemorrhaging, even. And, there are underpaid, undervalued people who are working to stanch that flow every day. In return for their efforts, they are asked to do more: improve test scores, attend more meetings that could have been emails, close the racial performance gap, provide trauma support, get yelled at by parents, have the public refer to them as “glorified babysitters,” shift effortlessly between online learning and in-person as needed, wear masks, get tested, get vaccinated, break up violent fights, prepare for a mass shooting at their workplace, differentiate instruction so that each individual student gets a unique and tailored educational experience, do paperwork nobody reads, give standardized tests, and, well, you know, I am just tired of listing things so I have to stop.

I might add, though, that to the other teacher-moms out there: I know that being a mother is also unforgiving, thankless, and just damn hard, too. And it is hard in ways nobody ever told you about. I mean, we all knew there’d be diapers. But, when you have to deal with bullying, or mental health problems in your kids, or talking about sex and consent, or online predators — well, that was just not what I was thinking about when I was pregnant and people were all, “It’s hard but you’ll love it!” I do NOT enjoy worrying about an adult pretending to be a 13-year old girl to get a kid to meet him “IRL.” Give me a thousand diapers instead, actually.

What’s the moral to the story here? Hell if I know. I wish I had a perky call-to-action to end this rant. Or, a positive “however” statement to make here. I do not.

How many more empty teacher desks will it take before crisis truly sets in?

The world is changing. I guess that’s all there is to it.

If you’d like to read more about this nationwide teacher crisis, here are a few articles you might want to check out:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/magazine/2021/10/18/teachers-resign-pandemic/

https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/teachers-are-not-ok-even-though-we-need-them-to-be/2021/09

https://www.forbes.com/sites/markcperna/2022/01/04/why-education-is-about-to-reach-a-crisis-of-epic-proportions/?sh=fcd302178c7b

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/newsletters/2022-01-06/more-teachers-than-ever-are-considering-leaving-the-profession

https://www.wsj.com/articles/teachers-are-quitting-and-companies-are-hot-to-hire-them-11643634181

https://www.forbes.com/sites/petergreene/2019/09/05/we-need-to-stop-talking-about-the-teacher-shortage/?sh=472c6924494c

https://thejournal.com/articles/2022/01/19/survey-finds-teacher-shortage-exacerbated-by-bans-on-classroom-discussions-of-race-and-gender.aspx

Whatchu want? Baby, I got it.

When you are preparing to have a baby, the universe inundates you with an enormous list of items you supposedly need. It is a scam, really. You don’t need even a third of that crap. And there are many tricks, substitutes and sneaky ideas you can employ to save time, money, sanity or all three.

First of all, if your baby will spend his first three months in hot weather, all you need are short-sleeved bodysuits and short-sleeved t-shirts.  They can be plain white, too, because your baby can’t read and he thinks that his clothes are neither cute nor cool.  He will just poop and puke on them, anyway.  You can save a boatload of money by going to your local bulk club warehouse store or discount retailer and buying only these ordinary items for his first several weeks.  The bodysuits are good for daytime as they won’t ride up in the stroller, carseat or crib.  At night, you will save a few precious moments if you use t-shirts as diaper changing will be so easy with nothing to snap, clasp or move in the dark.  If your baby, however, will spend his first three months in cold weather, all you need are footed pajamas.  Save yourself some trouble and get only ones that zip.  Snaps are too obnoxiously annoying at 4 am.  He can sleep, play, eat and scoot around in pajamas all of the time.  And, outfits are cumbersome as they have too many parts you’ll need to keep your baby warm.  You will need a bodysuit, pants, sweatshirt and socks.  Too much.  Just put him in PJs.  They’re sweats and socks, but all together in one piece.  You’re welcome.

Next — you do NOT need a diaper wipe warmer.  Your baby really will not care about the temperature of the wipes.  I promise.  Don’t waste your money.

Okay — here’s a tip:  you don’t need anything before brining home your baby except a car seat and a safe place for the baby to sleep.  The hospital will give you a long-sleeved t-shirt for your baby to wear.  They will even swaddle her in a flannel blanket and give her a hat.  I was even given a small container of baby bath gel, diapers, diaper rash ointment, wipes, formula samples, changing table covers (paper ones), and a comb.  You can’t leave the hospital without a carseat, though, so you do have to get that key item.  Unless, I suppose, you live next door to the hospital, in which case you could probably walk home.  And, you may not need a crib at first, even, as many babies don’t want to sleep in something that vast when they’re very new and small.  You can possibly get away with a bassinet, swing or play yard, as long as it is safe.  Please refer to pediatric guidelines to find out if your device will provide a safe place for your baby to rest.  

 http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/babies-kids/index.htm

http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/category/child.html

Once you get home, you may feel a panic about needing to go out and buy some items you forgot, didn’t know you’d need, or didn’t have time to purchase before your quick delivery.  http://www.diapers.com/ is a nice site and it offers free 2-day (or faster) delivery if you spend enough–  at least $49.  It is not at all hard to spend $49 or more on baby items, either.  A case of diapers will get you close.  And, while we’re on the topic, skip newborn-sized diapers and go straight to size 1.  It’s what the hospital will put on your kid, anyway.  And, if your baby is born big, newborn diapers may not even be appropriate.  Or, if your baby gains weight quickly, newborn diapers may not get you very far.  Whatever sizes or items you choose, Diapers.com can deliver them to you often within 24 hours.  They’ve got everything, too — diapers, wipes, soap, baby bathtubs, clothes, humidifiers, formula, sheets, decorations…  Spending ONLY $49 is more of your problem here.

Now, everyone loves to buy them, but you do not need hooded towels and the cute, matching baby washcloths.  Whatever towels you’re using in your bathroom right now are just fine.  The hoods are unnecessary and the towels are pretty small, so if your baby grows quickly like mine both did, they’ll be too small to wrap around them by about 9 months, anyway.  Baby washcloths are no different than regular washcloths, except for the fact that they’ll be rendered useless after about a year’s worth of use.

And, speaking of unneeded fabric items, baby bedding is an enormous industry scam.  The adorable, expensive 5-piece (plus) sets you can buy can often set you back a few hundred dollars.  Here’s what you need:  a sheet.  Yep.  That’s it.  A sheet.  If you’re trying to make things easier for yourself, though, you’ll get a few sheets and a few sheet protectors.  Layer one sheet, then a protector, then a sheet, then a protector and so on.  As your baby soils or wets a sheet in the middle of the night, just peel off the dirty stuff and there’s a clean sheet underneath.  No wrestling with changing a bed a 3 am.  Blankets, pillows and quilts are cute, but aren’t even allowed to be in your baby’s bed at all due to fears of SIDS.  And, diaper stackers are a frivolous, unnecessary accessory.  Put your diapers in a basket or box.  For no money at all, you can upcycle the box your diapers came in with some Mod Podge, pretty cut or torn paper or cards and ribbon left over from your shower gifts.  You can keep your diapers, wipes, lotions, etc. in that.  And, it is a cute reminder of your celebration with your family and friends.  Or, for less work (I mean, really, did I just recommend decoupaging with a newborn at home?  WTF?), just put your diapers on a shelf or in a drawer already in the room.  Frankly, you may end up finding that changing your baby on the floor is plenty easy, anyway, so you can just set a few diapers in the corner, for crying out loud.  But, please don’t buy a frigging diaper stacker.  YOU DON’T NEED IT.

The list of things you do not need is very long:  medicine droppers (your pharmacy and doctor’s office has these for free), baby brushes (even if he’s got tons of hair, the free comb you can get in the hospital will do you just fine), a mobile (only permitted in a crib for three months due to choking, strangulation and other health concerns once your baby can grab it), stuffed toys (not permitted in cribs due to fears of SIDS and your child won’t be able to hold or play with one for about a year, anyway), nightlights (toddlers and older children will be thankful for them, but your baby doesn’t know to be afraid of the dark and will sleep better if you help her figure out what “night” really is supposed to look like), burp cloths (just get more swaddling blankets and use them interchangeably as burp cloths, too since some of that spit-up will be too plentiful for the tiny burp cloths you will get), baby-specific laundry soap and cleaning solutions (just get dye- and fragrance-free versions of your own detergent.  It’s cheaper.  And use plain vinegar for cleaning your house.  It only smells bad for a minute and it kills germs and keeps your floors shockingly clean).  Wow.  I could name several more, but instead invite other experienced moms to comment here with their suggestions, too.

Soon, I will let you know about some other items that aren’t vital, but will make your life a little easier, to comment on some of the “dos” instead of just all of the “don’ts.”

I welcome your ideas and feedback!

She’s Crafty, or, “How Pinterest Saved my Life”

Where have you been all my life?

   Honestly, I have no idea how I lived a reasonable life before Pinterest came into my world.

It occurred to me some time ago that the main cause of Disgruntled Mom Syndrome (or DMS) stems from a vacuous feeling of loss of self and a nagging wonder when one might ever have anything of one’s own ever again. Anyone who is a caregiver can get DMS. The causes are well known: you need only have an earth-shaking priority shift from your own, happily selfish life to a life that will not allow you to make your own schedule or have your own interests. Many people who care for children, elderly relatives or disabled family members may feel the effects of DMS. It is often just too hard to find the time and energy to fix cars, paint, dance, jog, yodel, meditate or whittle wood once your primary focus in life is to look after others.

But, there’s hope!

Have you heard about this thing called the Internet? There are, like, a bunch of ideas out there to help you remember yourself again. You can be online while rocking a baby to sleep (like I am right now). You may find that you stumble across some things you might think would be fun to do, make, read or see “when and if you could find the time.”

But, I always assumed I’d never get that time to myself, or I’d forget all of those fun ideas or I’d decide to use any found spare time for Jello shots or sleep. Either one would typically make me more pleasant to be around afterward.

Now, though, I “pin” the cute ideas and don’t beat myself up if I can’t or don’t get around to them. But, when I do have some time, I check my pinboard every now and again. In many cases, I can be inspired at least to start a fun craft or plan a delicious meal for another day. Pretty soon, these small chunks of “me time” have given me my sense of self back. and, before I know it, I’ve made my own glitter shoes and read “The Fountainhead” (but not at the same time).

Tonight, we shall feast on Chicken Tagine. Epicurious gave it 5 stars. And I wouldn’t have even heard about it had it not been for Pinterest. Of course, if it sucks, then I will be back with another blog about how Pinterest will poison your family and ruin your life. I will let ya know.

 

…Or Get Off the Pot

How hard can it be to potty train a three-year old?

If you have to ask, you probably don’t really want to know.  

Yeah... This "potty" stuff doesn't always go as planned, I guess.

DAY 1 — After reading some parenting magazine article about how to potty train a kid in one weekend, I decide to employ the potty training technique where you introduce the potty and then usher the kid to it every 15 minutes without fail.  This is even more gruelling than I thought it would be and I get far less accomplished than I imagined in my wildest dreams.  The 15-minute interval regimen doesn’t even last until lunchtime before it slowly goes to every 20 minutes, then 30.  But, all in all we’re fairly successful and pottying and pleasing Mommy seem to be good motivators.

DAY 5 — Making Mommy happy?  Who gives a shit?  Not my preschooler.  So, we hang a reward poster in the hall and my little guy gets to put a sticker on it every time he successfully gets something – anything – in that potty instead of his pull-up.  Thomas stickers work better than Elmo.  And, Toy Story stickers seem to work best of all.  Whatever.

DAY 10 — If Mommy remembers every hour or two to tell her son to use the potty, he generally will.  But, he will NOT alert her to his need to use said potty.  Fine.  I can hang in there.  How long could this process take?

DAY 14 — After reading another theory about potty training, we decide to repeat a hundred million times each day “Pee goes in the potty,” or “poop goes in the potty.”  We hear that these statements are the only ones you need and the only ones that matter.  Bullshit.

DAY 23 — I read another philosophy of potty training for boys that informs me that they will use a potty “when they are each individually ready.”  I am not to pressure a youngster who is not developmentally prepared for this adult endeavor.  So, I feel like an ass for all the yelling I have been doing when pee and poop have ended up in anywhere but in the toilet.  Clearly, I am the worst mom in America for pushing my three-year old to aim for Froot Loops in the family commode.

DAY 32 — Seriously?  32 days now?  He’ll be wearing diapers at his wedding.  Do I even bother to buy more pull-ups or should I just give up and put diapers on him again?  Ugh.

DAY 36 — We haul out the Toy Story and Thomas-themed big-boy undies.  The hope is that he wouldn’t dare crap all over Buzz Lightyear.  That hope is soon lost.  So is the hope of rearranging my living room couch again.  It…um…should really stay right where it is on top of that carpet.

DAY 65 — We set out for family vacation to the beach.  The new plan coincides with yet another theory published by another genius pediatrician.  Let him be naked.  He won’t just pee all over himself.  Oh yeah? 

DAY 66 — Okay.  So, we decide not to put a pull-up or swim diaper under the swim trunks on vacation.  Pull-ups only at night.  For the most part, this works nicely, but we still have to be vigilant about telling him to use the bathroom.  At least he will hold it until we tell him to go.  But, in all this time he has not once told us that he had to go.

DAY 74 — While running around in his swim trunks, little guy says, “Mommy, I have to poop!”  Victory!  We rush to a toilet and he uses it properly, quickly and efficiently.  We’ve done it!!

DAY 99 — Yeah… It’s day 99.  We most certainly have NOT “done it.”  We’re on our 477,000th package of pull-ups, I am sure. 

Fuck you, mom-whose-kid-that-is-who-pooped-where-you-wanted-him-to.

DAY 100 — On the 12-hour ride home from the beach, the little man refuses to use the potty all day.  We find him at the end of the evening, sitting happily on a completely soaked car booster, watching a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse DVD in the car.  He is drenched from the waist down.  He literally drips when we take him our of the car.  Thank God for leather seats.

DAY 102 — Little guy starts preschool.  Surely the positive peer pressure from other trained kids will make him want to use the potty more regularly himself.  Right?

DAY 109 — Little guy stinks to high heaven when I pick him up from preschool.  The kids still PLAYED with you while you stunk like that?

DAY 114 — I start giving prizes (bribes) for successful pottying and dry/clean pull-ups and I start taking away privileges when the little guy sneaks off to another room to crouch down and poop in his pants.  One conversation goes like this:  “Do you want to play with your fire truck?”  “Yes!!!”  “Okay, then no pooping in your pants.  Do you understand?”  “Understand.”  “Okay.  Good.”  “Mommy?  I pooped.”  “Okay, so you don’t want to play with your fire truck, then?”  “Noooooooo!!! I dooo!!!  I dooo want to play with my fire truuuuuck!!!  I doooooooooooooo!  Aghhhhhh!!!”  “Well, I said that you could play with your fire truck only if you don’t poop in your pants.”  “Aghhhhh!!! Noooo!!!  I dooooooooo!!!  Gimme that!!!  Give it to me right noooooww!!!”  “Well, we can try again tomorrow.  If you stay clean and dry, you can play with it tomorrow.”  You can imagine that this went on for some time.  And, on Day 115, he did not manage to stay clean or dry.  At one point, he peed so much, he soaked through his pull-up and pants, it dripped into his shoes and created a puddle on my hardwood floor.

DAY 129 — This all has spun widly out of control and has become a real power struggle.  As he seeks autonomy, his control of his body is really the only thing in his little world he can much control anymore at all.  So, he flatly refuses now to use the potty.  In fact, “Please go potty and wash your hands” is now typicaly the catalyst for little guy throwing himself on the floor violently, thrashing, screaming and crying.  Advice from other parents has led me to believe that ignoring a tantrum is the best methodology.  But, those parents never met my kid. I think he’s better at it than their kids.

DAY 159 — Consult with little guy’s preschool teacher: a 26-year education veteran who owns her own Montessori preschool that has churned out some of the brightest scholars in our town.  She assures us that his behavior is NOT abnormal, that he’s just testing his boundaries and that no kid goes to high school in diapers unless he has a developmental or medical problem.  So we are to chill the fuck out.

DAY 177 — It is hard to stay chill when I have now cleaned crap out of someone else’s crack for three and a half years now.  And, I have another infant in the house now, so I have two in diapers, essentially, though I specifically waited three years between their births to avoid this very thing.  Awesome.

DAY 185 — I give little guy a new toy for staying dry all night.  He is so excited.  Ten minutes later, he throws it on the floor and screams that he doesn’t want it.  He wants Skarloey, a new train.  Tough break, kid.

DAY 198 — 8:00 AM:  little guy tells dad he has to poop, then uses the potty all on his own to take aforementioned poop.  9:15AM:  little guy pees in his pull-up.  7:30PM:  little guy hides under the dining room table and poops in his pants.  His play date, a sweet little girl (potty trained at age 2) lets me know he “is playing hide-n-seek.  I found him.  He’s under the table.  He pooped.”

DAY 204 — Another article in some other magazine suggests that I should help my little man to recognize when he needs to use the toilet.  Lady, he RECOGNIZES it just fine.  I swear he just wants to piss me off.  You got advice for that? 

DAY 205 — The smell of feces is now permanently lodged in my sinuses.  I will never be poo free.

DAY 210 — That’s today.  You thought this was going to have a happy ending, didn’t you?  You thought I was going to tell you what finally worked and I was going to get to tell you about how all of this was worth it and it has been a long journey, but that I am proud of my son and I am so happy to have been a part of helping him get closer to manhood and closer to the independence he so desperately seeks himself.  Well, you must be new to this blog.  My kid just told me, “I pooped ’cause I was being a bad boy.  Now, come change me.”  Hmmm…  

Three-year olds. Yikes.

Now, if you aren’t a mom, or if you don’t already know, my kid isn’t an indignant little jerkface.  THREE IS JUST THE WORST AGE IMAGINAGBLE.  I used to look at friends’ kids and think “God, why is he such a little shit?”  Now I know.  THEY ALL ARE.  Don’t believe the “terrible twos” hype.  If you’ve never raised a child through three-dom, you simply can’t understand  One day, perhaps the Off Duty Mom blog will change from being a rant-filled, angsty bitchfest and be a rosy dialogue about how beautiful children are.  When they’re 34.

A Mom and Her “Friend”

“I’m a mom of two,” she said today.

“My days and nights don’t end.”

“Now, now…there, there, it can’t be that bad,” offered a “friend.”

“There’s poop and puke, croup and tears

“Then there’s colic, too

“And, why the hell did no one tell me age three’s much worse than two?”

Her friend looked shocked.  “What do you mean?”

She didn’t help at all.

“I just always think being a mom is such a terrific ball!”

“Come on,” she said, “you know it’s hard always being ‘on.’

“There’s never a break – a chance – a breath

“And something’s always wrong.

“Strained peas in hair, temper tantrums, midnight feeds and more

“I’m sad to remember five years ago

“When my life was such a bore.”

“Me, too,” “friend” said. “My childless days were the worst I had!

“Carpools, playdates, chores and more

“Make ME so very glad!”

Reaching in the fridge just then made her smile a bit.

She poured a glass of wine just then

And took just one small sip.

She slid the dirty glass to “friend” and smiled like an elf

Then she kept the rest of the bottle

To finish for herself.

They don’t call it an “idiot box” for nothing…

Ever stop to really check out what your kids are watching?

Of course you have.  That’s why you know all of the words to the Wiggles theme song and why you wake up in a cold sweat wondering where you put all of Jake’s gold doubloons.

There’s really something out there for everyone’s little ones.  

For the spawn of fomer club kids, there’s Lazy Town (Sprout).  It has everything.  Girl in Katy Perry wig?  Check.  Superhero who fights crimes with Cheer Dance?  Perfectly-coifed, chisel-chinned villain with high-waisted pants that are, frankly, so fabulous that they deserve three snaps in a “Z” formation?  Check and check.  Plastic puppet people?  Check.  Seriously.  I can’t tell if the people who invented the show are all on ecstasy, are very, very gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that), or are just European.  One look at the credits and their overabundance of “S”s (names like Samuelsson, Karlsson, Joahnsson) tells me that it is door #3.  

Hmmm...

Speaking of drug-fueled children’s entertainment, ever seen Yo Gabba Gabba (Nick Jr)?  If those folks aren’t on acid, then Gordon the Express Engine isn’t the fastest steamie on the island of Sodor.  Wait.  Oh, preschool entertainment is all becoming a jumble…  My mind is mush.  Calgon, take me away…

But, there’s more.  Want your kids to love James Bond as much as you do?  There’s Special Agent Oso (Disney Junior).  One part 007, one part Get Smart and one part Teddy Ruxpin, this “unique, stuffed bear” is actually very cute and offers something for the parents and the grandparents with its wink and nod to the bygone spy genre. 

When you were a kid, did you love Sesame Street  (PBS) and think that that new red monster, Elmo, was kinda cute?  Good.  Watch Sesame Street now.  He’s staged a coup and is pretty much all that is on that show anymore. 

Remember how Jem was truly outrageous when you were little?  Well, girl power has come along way and now the kids have Dora the Explorer (Nick Jr.).  A little girl of unknown Latin origin helps your kids learn Spanish and learn about the world with the help of a moderately annoying monkey.  The preschool set (particularly the little girls) find it totally addictive.  You’ll find it tolerable, at least.

Someone let me know if you figure out why Caillou is bald, okay?

Want to see what the perfect child is like?  Watch a little Caillou (Sprout).  While you will find that this theme song will haunt your dreams, the show is kinda cute.  Except the title character (what the hell kind of name is that, anyway?) does things like turn down an opportunity to turn on the siren on a fire truck because it’s his friend’s “turn” to do so, and he comforts his little sister while she’s teething.  He also, of course, totally understands when he is too sick to attend his beloved preschool and perform his much-anticipated puppet show and he doesn’t whine, stomp, cry or bitch – EVER.  Just like my kid.

Want to watch a show where you won’t understand a damn word that anyone says, even though it is all in English?  Try Fireman Sam (Sprout).  Want to help your kids appreciate They Might Be Giants?  Watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (Disney Junior).

Honestly, there is something out there for everyone so that we all can plunk our kids down in front of the boob tube and go do shots of tequilla in the kitchen to numb the pain of ears that are bleeding from hearing “mom — mom — mommy — ma — mom — mom — mommy — MA!! — MOMMMMMMYYY!!” a little too often.

Any thoughts on other totally interesting children’s programming?  Feel free to comment here.

Who am I?

 

Trent Reznor made me understand  today.

While coming home from the grocery store, my Sirius/XM memory alert thingy ding-donged and let me know that one of my favorite songs was on another channel.  I absent-mindedly switched over.  

Then, I suddenly found myself alone in my car, radio blasting something from Pretty Hate Machine, singing as loudly as I could.  I was 16 again.

My Sirius is almost always tuned to Lithium.  I often hear them say, “You used to Rage Against the Machine.  Now you just rage against the washing machine.”  

THEN.

That pretty much says it all.

NOW.

Remember just having to worry about whether or not your parents UNDERSTOOD you?  Remember not even having to pay for your own gas money, even though your parents swore that you’d have to pay for all your own gas if you borrowed the car?  Remember knowing that you were going to graduate, go to college, get a degree, get married, have a kick-ass career, have a family, live in a house with a driveway, own a dog who could catch frisbees, and then eventually retire to Key West?

Neither did I.

Thought you were angsty, lost and uncertain when you were in 8th grade, though?  Try becoming a parent.

I realized today that one of my biggest struggles as a mother has been figuring out who I now am.  I thought I knew.  And, as I left my twenties and entered my thirties, I felt like so much more of myself and I was thrilled to leave a naïve, self-conscious young girl behind to become a strong, independent woman.  But, then I became a mom.

Everything I thought I understood about the person I was becoming -who I hoped to be- had changed. 

I had been driven in my career – focused, interested in moving up, begging for more responsibility.

Now I wish they’d let me just work part time.  Or telecommute.  Or just pay me to stay the hell home and do as little as possible.

I had been independent.  I enjoyed nights when my husband would work late because I’d take a long, hot shower, watch my favorite TV shows, read a book and eat Ramen noodles for dinner and drink a glass of wine.

Now I am pissed when my husband has to come home late because I am left by myself to deal with screaming tantrums, a family dinner he may or may not get home in time to eat, pureed peas in my hair, a pile of laundry, a stack of work to be completed for – you know – the people who PAY me, and a bank of shows in the DVR that might be watched  sometime before the summer of 2064.  And, you know, just walk away from your desk and come home, jerkface.  I can’t just stay at work whenever I want for however long I want.  Why are you special? 

When I was in high school, I knew exactly where I was going.  I didn’t need a guidance counselor to help me figure things out.   Now I just wish I could find someone to help me sort out my life.  Since I was born with a vagina, I have to choose now between primarily being a parent or being a careerperson.  There aren’t many ways to be both and to do both jobs as well as they can and should be done.   Interestingly, men don’t seem to have to make these kind of decisions.

Though I always figured that I wanted to have children, I never really knew that doing so would make me feel as though I had lost myself.  I am probably not ever going to get that PhD. I had always wanted now.  I will likely not, conversely, make it to every recital, meet, match, game, concert and event in which my children are involved.  Truth is, I don’t really know who I am anymore, and I don’t know anymore what I want to be when I grow up.  But, trying to be a supermom isn’t working out that well.

There’s a whole lot of animosity between stay-at-home moms and working moms.  Many working moms don’t respect the stay-at-home moms.  And, the stay-at-home moms don’t understand why the working moms want their children raised by nannies or institutions.  We should all start banding together and demanding more of American culture – demanding better workplace-based childcare, opportunities for at-home moms to be a part of working society, job flexibility, job sharing opportunities, more paid time off for family sick leaves,  and more mom-friendly business practices in general.

Though I found a little piece of the 1993-me I thought I had left behind today, I am glad not to be a teenager anymore.  I do really love my children and I consider myself to be incredibly fortunate.  I just wish that I could retreat for one afternoon, listen to Liz Phair on my Discman, paint my toenails with Revlon Vixen polish and watch reruns of My So-Called Life.  Just one afternoon is all I ask.  Maybe it will make me feel a little better…

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