Tag Archives: mothers

Why “If Mama Ain’t Happy, Nobody’s Happy” is a Bullshit Lie I Live

IMG_6863There comes a time in you life when you are doing something really mundane, like going on your daily run, when you realize,

Shit.  I’ve been selling out.  I’ve been settling.  I’ve been settling for behavior from others and myself.

And there are layers to these epiphanies.  My first one?  Came when I realized I wanted to recover from my eating disorder.   My second?  When I wanted more from my life than forgetting the night before because of too many rum and cokes.

My 45th came today when I realized I don’t want to yell anymore.  And I don’t want a partner who yells either.

*****

I am a mother.

I am a wife.

I am a co-owner of a business.

I have a shit ton of stress.

Because, as a woman, I’m expected to “do it all”.  So not only do I manage the money, I make the majority of the money upfront, and I also am expected to do all of the housework, manage my child’s appointments, playdates, extracurricular activities AND manage the psychological well-being of my child.

It was very furtive, wasn’t it?  How, in the span of 70 years, men have continued to deftly sidestep responsibility in any way they can.  Shit, I have to chores now? Guess I can still be lazy emotionally.  Sweet.

Before any right-wing idiot or plainly, insecure men jump down my throat, I want you to do something.  Walk up to the woman in your life.  Ask her what she’s worried about.  Chances are, her experience will be more rich than yours. She’ll be worried about being able to schedule their child’s gasto-intestinal appointment in between the clients she sees.  She’ll be thinking about how her husband yelling at their child mimics the traumatic experience she had as a child and how she’s failing.  She’ll be wondering if she can work out while the baby sleeps because somewhere, in the back corners of her mind, a demon tells her to be attractive for her boyfriend.  Now ask yourself if you have those same thoughts.

The pressures are not equal. NOT.  YET.

So when I hear, “If Mama Ain’t Happy, Nobody’s Happy”, I want to scream.

Why?

Seems to be yet another misogynistic turn of phrase, so eloquently masked as feminism.  It’s misogynistic, because it puts all the pressure on the female to chart the course, when males are perfectly capable of doing some of the emotional work. They’re perfectly capable of putting themselves first, taking care of themselves so they don’t take it out on their children.

It’s just that we haven’t EXPECTED them to, since the dawn of time.

And it reinforces that disgusting, martyr-like dynamic in older women that I despise. “Poor me, I’ve put up with so much from your father.”

EXACTLY.  You put up with it. You’ve enabled it.  Women have enabled it.  And that’s our part.  And that can be changed.

*****

Am I a sanctimommy who expects herself or others to never yell?  No.  But let me tell the truth and talk about yelling, because a lot of us have a ton of shame over it.  And it’s important to talk about during this time of year, when kids are going back to school and transitions are driving us parents nuts.

We’ve been yelling too much in my house.  I know my part – part of me has been justifying my and my husband’s trauma histories.  A refined form of “If we were ok, then she’ll be ok.”  “I’m a good parent.” “I’m doing the best I can.”

Maybe I’m fucking not.

Maybe I’ve been enabling years and years of the masculine approach to things.  The masculine approach of anger, of forcefulness, of yelling.

All I know is, This Mama Ain’t Happy.  Period.  And I’ve been justifying stuff I’m not OK with.   That’s my part.

And it’s my husband’s job to work on his.

My Daughter Called Someone Fat

It was a beautiful autumn Friday in New England.  My daughter had just completed two successful, confidence-inspiring hours of gymnastics at the Little Gym.  (In a blue shiny leotard we had just purchased, nonetheless!)  We walked back to the car, hand-in-hand; I was proud of this time.  She was a baby who had low muscle tone, and I had put her in gymnastics purposefully.  Now, she was doing flips over the bars.

As I unlocked the car, Fiona started to gaze off into the distance.  Stare, in fact.  I followed her gaze to her classmate and parents, who were walking together.

A slow smirk spread over her face, as her gaze focused on the obese father.

“Mama, he’s fat.” She continued smirking, and an implied sense of power washed over her as she realized she was NOT and he WAS.

Not my daughter.

******

For those of you who don’t know, I was a FAT kid.   I was mocked for it by classmates, I was deemed “disgusting”, I was even sexually assaulted by a classmate in music class “because I was fat.”  (Because I deserved it, because I was fat.)

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There are people who will view this who will argue with me and say that there’s no negative connotation with being fat.  They will tell me that I’m too sensitive and that I put too many expectations on my daughter and I say to them, I AM DONE WITH YOU.

I LIVED it and I continue to live it every time I lose 5 pounds and I am praised for it.  I continue to live it every time I gain weight and I notice people give me less compliments about my appearance.  You are bullshitting yourself if you think there is no negative connotation with being fat.  There is less today, but it still exists.

When Fiona uttered this sentence, I panicked.  Where did she pick this up?  I, for one, don’t use the word fat.  I use the word heavy and overweight, but not fat, because I know what it carries with it. We also refer to foods as being healthy, or having “vitamins to make you run fast”.  Had she picked it up from her friends?  Seen it on an ad?  I was a little stunned, and a little disgusted, even know the intellectual side of me knew she was four years old.  She reminded me of that blonde in my class on the playground who always made fun of my awkward body during Project Adventure.

“Fiona, we do not say that.  That is not nice.  Get in the car.”

I buckled her up, prayed, and said to myself – Do not be hard on her.  Do not project your experience on her and shame her.  Just be honest, factual, and tell her your experience.

“Fiona, I have to tell you a story.”

“What?”

“A long time ago, Mama was overweight when she was a kid.  A lot of people made fun of Mama and called her fat and it made Mama feel really, really bad.  So I know how it feels, and it doesn’t feel good.  That’s why we don’t call people fat.”

I don’t know if was blood memory, or a sudden lightbulb that went off in her head, but Fiona’s face turned ashen.  Her face crumpled, and she GOT IT.  Like, mourned for her mother got it.  Like, cried all the way home got it.  I immediately felt horrid, even know I know I maintained an even tone (isn’t this motherhood thing fucked?)

On the way home, she turned her face into the seat, ashamed.  I tried to reiterate my unconditional love for her. “Baby, Mama doesn’t think any differently of you – Mama would love you even if you punched somebody!  It’s just important we’re kind to people.”  It didn’t seem to help.  She whimpered and finally started to come around after I distracted her with a joke.

*****

Parenthood is brutal.  It’s even more brutal with a trauma history you have to dissect and not project onto your kids whilst maintaining some sort of a lesson for them when they’re unkind.  Childhood is brutal too – imagine not knowing you were being unkind, and then being told you were being unkind in a way that hurt your parent when they were kids?  Imagine being so innocent and then not, knowing your Mama was hurt for the way she looked?  And would that happen to you?

Yesterday, someone on my husband’s facebook feed disagreed with the meme that Donald Trump’s words about sexual assault leading to the actual crime did not matter, and that words are very different from actions.  I sit here enraged, thinking about that, because I know the effect of words.  Words that lead to sexual assault.  “FAT” leading to “less than” leading to “it’s ok to touch her in a sexual way because she’s less than”.

Not my daughter.

 

 

 

Shake What Your Momma Gave Ya.

Yesterday, I was inspired to resurrect an old head scarf I used to wear all the time when I lived in Amherst.  One of my close friends, Devin, had started wearing head scarves and bandannas recently, and I wanted to look as cute as she did.  The fam and I were on our way to Boston’s trendy SoWa open market, and I wanted to dress up.  It’s a big deal, these days, you know.  Dressing up when you’re a Mama.

So I donned a long summer dress, drop earrings, and a paisley head scarf.  I indulgently took this ridiculous duckface selfie, complete with seat belt:

bohoselfie

 

What’s important to note about the scarf, is that it was my Nana’s.  She passed away in 2003, and I gratefully received this after she died, along with a few other cherished jewelry pieces.  It got me thinking about what she, and my mother, and the women before them had to go through to let me be as strong as I am today about this whole body image thing.

A little backstory:

This is what I was told about my Nana: she was born in Ireland and came to the US when she was a baby.  She was adopted by a family over here, and worked fairly young, as her family was not, let’s say, the Kardashians.  One thing that always made me smile was the stories my mother would tell me about her trips into Boston as a teen.  She would take the train into Boston by herself, walk around the city, and buy a trinket with the little money she had.  She seemed fiercely tough and independent, and I identify with that.  Anywho, she married my Grampy, and worked tirelessly as a housekeeper while raising seven kids.  One of them being my mother.

My mother often tells me, “When I was a kid, we didn’t think there was any other choice than marrying and raising kids.  That was just what you did.”  And she’s right.  Were there some women going to college in the mid-sixties?  Sure.  But not like there are today.  In 1965, Betty Friedan truly hadn’t reached everyone yet, and when there were financial stressors on a family, college was a completely ludicrous idea.  So, those women married, and followed the ideals of the fifties.  They pleased their husband by cooking and cleaning.  They tried to look pretty for them.

1950

Someone I see on a weekly basis often likes to tell me, “You women are lucky today.”  And he’s right.  Choices for my Nana and mother were limited – and they, perhaps, didn’t have the time or energy to love their reflection because they were too busy cooking or working or cleaning.  Also, they didn’t know they even had a RIGHT to challenge old, patriarcal beliefs because they had been taught to not question things like that.

My mother, however, had a streak of hippie in her (even though she denies it).  She was an attachment mother before there were attachment mothers, she organized church food drives for the hungry, and she was a bleeding heart who took her patients home on weekends from the Fernald State School to get a respite from the horror.  Her compassion – despite ARDUOUS circumstances that I will keep private – inspired me to choose the career road I walk down today.  It spurred me to get an education that furthered my liberal, feminist beliefs, and challenged me to look beyond what I had been conditioned to believe about my body.  And I’m sure her mother had an effect on her character, in some way.  But that’s her story to tell.

What am I saying?

Even if we have a conflictual relationship with them – even if they hate their body and you learned that as a result of being around them –

Let’s thank the women who came before us.

Without them, we wouldn’t be able to be the fantastic individuals we are today.  Maybe you’re completely different from your mother because you felt angry with her and wanted to rebel.  Well, your fabulous rebellious self?  Thank your mother for that.  Or maybe you’re a carbon copy of your mother, who spends half her time cooking organic food and the other half volunteering for the homeless.  Either way, they have an effect on our personalities – and our body image.  

All I know is, I feel absolutely gorgeous when I wear my Nana’s scarf.

How have the women in your life affected your body image?

 

(1950’s ad provided by Molly Treanor’s blog.  Check her out!)

A Husband’s Perspective

heartout

Happy Tuesday, folks.

A BIG thanks goes out to Liz for sending me this posting by Nate Milsham.  Nate writes about the difficulty, pain and triumphs one experiences when trying to support someone with an eating disorder.  (I’ll go on record and say it’s one of the most difficult disorders to support.)  His wife has been battling ED-NOS for years, and in this post he details his sensitive observations of her and the how the outside world treats women.

Beautiful.  That is all.

 

 

Dear Media: Stop Trying to Kill My Sisters.

Dear Media,

I woke up this morning to a picture my friend had posted (mockingly) of a “Get Beach Ready!” article in some beauty magazine.  In it, the first tip suggested,

“BAN STRETCH MARKS.”

stretch marks

and I say –

Go fuck yourself.  That’s right.  You heard me.

Stretch marks have nothing to do with beauty; in fact, I think they have a lot to do with skin elasticity.  So stop trying to attach moral value to stretch marks.

Or anything else body-related for that matter.

Media, did you know eating disorders are the deadliest mental health illness?  Bypassing alcoholism?


death

Well yes, they are.  And you are contributing to many a woman’s death, on a daily basis, all for your love of money.

Stop trying to kill my sisters.  Or my daughter, for that matter.

What if you, instead, chose to publish an un-airbrushed, average looking lady on your cover?  Might that young pre-teen you’re selling to have not chosen to go on a 500-calorie a day diet?  Maybe, maybe not.  Even if you’re not the direct cause, you’re part of the equation.

And when the women who don’t kill themselves via starvation give up on attaining that perfect ideal, they swing the other way.  They start binging, because they just as well might give up and “get fat because there’s no hope for me anyway.”  You may have heard of an epidemic called “obesity.”  You play a part in that.

binge

They buy into your bullshit because you’ve inundated them with false truths since the moment they were born.  Society’s values do a number on them too – “sweet, cute, Daddy’s little girl.”  Pushed down by the patriarchy as soon as they can breathe air.

Oh, and stop trying to kill our mothers.

The other day, I heard a husband joke about giving his wife 6 months post-partum to appear as if she never had a baby.  Behind the joking that made me want to stick a needle in my eye – there is truth.  A million of your articles have been dedicated to women pretending as if they never took part in assisting the human race in surviving.  Makes sense.

babyweight2

 

Keeping women insecure earns a lot of money for you.  How do you sleep at night?  How do you live with yourself?

Either way, it’s got to stop.  You make my new-mother friend feel like she should weigh less, you make my daughter the subject of weight stereotypes, and you make me feel like my genetic spider veins are little spindles of evil on my pasty-white, untanned-and-therefore-unappealing skin.

STOP.

(Another Piece of Cake realizes there are healthy ad campaigns out there, and applauds them!  Another Piece of Cake also realizes men are hit hard by the media too, but Another Piece of Cake only writes about women because she’s, well…a woman.)

Blissful Body Fridays: Don’t Talk About Your Weight in Front of My Daughters

Happy Friday, everyone!  We made it!

elfgifThis week’s link comes to us from Pam G, a friend from college who is a caring Mom of three (one older son and twin boys – she’s my hero!)  The article is written by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, who has a TV show and books and other fabulous stuff.  It’s called Please Don’t Talk About Your Weight In Front of My Daughters, and in it she writes about the importance of adults NOT putting their own bodies down in front of kids.

Why?

Kids do what we do, not what we say.  So even if you tell them they’re gorgeous and breathtaking, they’re still probably going to have bad body image if you talk shit about your abs 24/7.

And I LOVE the attitude this lady has towards food.

Read away, and have a great weekend, folks!

(Gif provided by coed.com)

The Real Issue At Hand

I’ve been struggling lately.

(UGH, that sucks to say…)

Not like, using full-out behaviors struggling, but having eating disordered thoughts popping back in my head.  And when they do, my wise mind quizzically says, “huh?” and pushes them away, at least for the time being.  That’s the cool thing about working so hard on my recovery – having old thoughts doesn’t  mean they become old behaviors.

Eating disorders are just a distraction from the real issues at hand.  For me, they’re a way of “numbing out” or dissociating from current emotions because they’re simply too hard.  And if you have strong emotions, like me – it’s deceptively helpful, because who wants to live with sky-high and below-ground emotions 24/7?

In an attempt to not slip back into old thoughts, I’m going to tackle one of the issues at hand.

Yesterday, Father’s Day put me in a really bad mood.  And I felt really fucking guilty about it, because I have another Dad to celebrate now – my daughter’s father.  But I couldn’t get out of it and here’s what I’m guessing was the cause:

My Dad’s health.

My Dad is 83.  He was born three months before the Great Depression.  Up until two years or so ago, my father was unstoppable.  He lived 5 lives before he even met my mother, flying airplanes in the Air Force, schmoozing with celebrities as an actor, teaching classes and co-opening his own theatre.

And then old age struck.

But it wasn’t just physical health – in fact, the emotional health fell away first.  He stopped working, started getting depressed, and then his physical health began to fail.  He needed to use a cane.  He needed to use a walker.  And then he needed to use a wheelchair.

Not to mention the fact that the stuttering which he struggled with as a kid mysteriously came back about 8 months or so ago.  So basically, he can’t talk.

Or hear well, or see well.  He has hearing aids in both ears and has macular degeneration.

My mother takes care of him, and also takes care of my daughter two days a week.  One of those days, she brings my father with her, and he lights up at anything my lady does, but it’s a production just getting him in the house.

So, you’re thinking, I must be torn apart.  And I am, on one level.  But let me give you a little history.

My father is from a totally different generation.  The kind that thinks mental illness doesn’t exist, or maybe that it’s a choice.  So he’s had trouble understanding or even acknowledging what I’ve been through at times, and denies any depression on his part.  I jokingly remind him that I’m licensed to diagnose him, but he dismisses it.

And let’s just say he wasn’t given the best upbringing emotionally.  So, he and I were never particularly emotionally close.  Maybe it was because I clung to my mother in the early years and he took it personally.  Or maybe it was because we were too alike and clashed during my teenage years (We are so alike.  Stubborn as anything, intelligent, independent, ambitious, curious.).  Either way, the “Daddy’s girl” thing always eluded me.  I’m not putting him or I or our relationship down – it just wasn’t us.

So, now that his health isn’t great and it’s obvious that he probably doesn’t have 30 years left to spare, I’m left thinking I should feel something different, or do more.  I’m sad – it’s fucking inhumane to watch your parent decompensate like that.  And I feel bad on a daily basis that I can’t do more because I have my own family.  I feel bad for my mother.  But I also have about two minutes to spare on a daily basis, and when I do, I try to take care of myself.

It always comes back to that issue – that I’m not doing enough.

My partner likes to remind me that I have, however.  He likes to remind me that I’ve made my amends to my father for past transgressions, and I’ve set up VA services for them, and  made calls to the Council on Aging to look for any services they could utilize.

I don’t know.

It just sucks, and this is the work I have to do, writing about it and talking about it, instead of  distracting myself with useless thoughts and behaviors.  And I usually don’t do it out of fear of insulting some family member, but I’m sick of living my life for others, and I think everyone would agree with what I’ve written anyway.

Have you ever had to deal with the loss of a parent in one way or another?  How did you healthily cope with it?  Did you ever catch yourself numbing out?

Blissful Body Fridays: How Being A Kid = Loving Your Body

Me, before I cared.
Me, before I cared.

In case you didn’t know, Good ol’ New England is having a heat wave; the temps are expected to hit 93 before the end of today.  So naturally, I went to Revere Beach this morning with my 17 month old daughter.  It was 85 degrees by 9 in the morning.  Crazy.

I grew up overhearing tales of the old Revere Beach from my mother; she regaled us with stories of cotton candy and vomit-inducing roller coaster rides with her cousin.  It’s nothing like it used to be; it used to be a resort area filled with amusements and fast food.  Now, after a couple of conspiracy-story fires that were set, it’s just quiet.  Which is fine.

I camped out right where the dry sand met the wet, mushy stuff.  My daughter wanted nothing to do with the cold, rolling waves, but loved the sand.  So she literally bathed in it.  While I was leaning over to make a sandturtle, she had dumped a pile of sand on her head.  A thick layer of sand coated her scalp.  I groaned inwardly, but laughed to myself.  Because the best thing that’s ever been taught to me was by my daughter – the art of letting go.  The art of getting messy and not caring what things look like.

Before I had her, I would spend 20 minutes on my eye makeup.  I would have long pedicures at home and just curl my hair for fun sometimes.  Now, I don’t have time for that stuff.  Which sucks, sometimes, but it’s great, in another way.

Why?

When you are eating a mud pie and smooshing it all over your face, you don’t care if your blue veins are showing through your pale Irish skin.  You’re having fun and marvelling at the fabulousness of having mud pie ALL OVER YOUR FACE.  When you’re throwing sand in the wind, you don’t pay attention to the cellulite on your thighs because you’re jumping in big, funny lunges to avoid getting sand in your eyes.  And when you’re picking up shells, you’re not caring about your untoned tummy, because you are collecting little magical treasures, one at a time.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still have control problems; you’d probably all laugh at my nighttime routine, which is OCD-esque and consists of this strange “sweep-the-entire-house-feed-the-cats-change-their-litterbox” routine.  But spending time has done wonders for my body image; I use my body in way more fun ways now than I ever did.

Do you remember that time?  Before you hit puberty and all hell broke loose?  When you made soup in the ground with sticks and leaves?  When you rode bikes just as fast as the neighborhood boys?  When girls were equal to boys and just as capable?

It’s still there.

You can still have it now.

Have a blissful Friday.

 

Hi, My Name is Amanda, and I’m…Different.

normalIf nothing else, the following is true for me –

“Masquerading as a normal person day after day is exhausting.”

– Anonymous

*******

What I’m about to say goes against all advice given in any self-help meeting, but it’s how I feel, damnit.

I have often felt different than most, not a part of, less than.

Not always.  Sometimes, I feel on top of the world, totally present, and I love everything in my life.  And sometimes, I feel just like every other “bozo on the bus”, another nameless face in the crowd, which is honestly ok.  But often, I feel…different.

Why?

Well, let’s pick apart the seventy different kinds of recovery I’m in.  I can’t diet, I can’t drink in safety (in the words of Biggie, if you don’t know, now you know) and my therapist has diagnosed me with depression (that requires medication) and some trauma stuff for a long time now.  Let’s say this:  if you were a clinician, and you saw my rap sheet, you might wince a bit and say, “Jeez.”  You might expect me to be doin’ a lot worse than I am now.

Cause I am doing pretty damn well for the “stuff” I have.  I got my master’s degree, am successful in a field where I can turn my misery into someone else’s avoidance of said misery, and  have a family of my own.  I am fairly high-functioning; I am lucky.  Or resilient.

But there’s something funny about high-functioning anything-ers: they can slip more easily between the cracks.  They, in turn, can feel more different, because they mingle with the “normies” of society.  At work functions, at family parties, at friend’s BBQs.  They can be around people who drink or diet or binge or don’t experience the glory of mood swings, but it doesn’t make it any less hard.  In fact, it can be a particular kind of hard because they’re often the sole “different kid” in a group of “normies”.

So that’s why I feel different.

Self-help groups tell you to identify as just another worker among workers, which helps sometimes.  I’ll often use this example: I have a friend who is allergic to basically any kind of food.  So, I try to remind myself, “Wow.  She must feel the same way – like everyone is staring at her when she orders her food.  Maybe she feels different than, too.”

(And I do realize there is no normal.  And I do realize everybody’s got their thing.)

But I do think it can seem overwhelming to an individual when they realize –

“Hey!  I need an everything-anonymous!”

Fun.

How do YOU feel different?  Is there something that sets you apart from the crowd?

Blissful Body Fridays: Mama’s Wisdom

How’s everyone doing?  Hope you’re having a great Friday.  I’m kind of blah, to be honest…have a migraine and am exhausted…but I didn’t want to skip posting this AWESOME blog post my friend Michelle sent me on FB.

In this post, this brave mama blogs about her fearless daughter, and her attempt to explain beauty to her (which she does flawlessly).  I totally related to it because my daughter is a little daredevil with tons of energy, and is always having accidents like her daughter had.

Read away!