Tag Archives: organizing

Fresh Beats, Gators, Surrender

So I didn’t do much (okay, any) writing last week. But I promise, I wasn’t slacking!

What I did:

1.)    turned in my grades

2.)    spent 2 days in professional development seminars

3.)    went to my nephew’s track meet

4.)    planted lime basil seeds

5.)    hung out with my sister and her new baby

6.)    cheered for the otters at the zoo

7.)    cheered for Margeaux when she stood up for the first time

8.)    bought a new round squishy ottoman so Margeaux has a safe place to stand up

9.)    taught D and Lucy how to use a lint brush so they can clean the cat hair off the new ottoman

10.) chased the cat around to squirt peroxide on his gross open wounds twice a day

11.) vowed to never let the cat outside again Continue reading

Having a Baby as a Life Organizing Strategy

A miracle occurred in my house on Sunday: my two year old slept all night, by herself, in her bed. For the first time in her life.

Finally, she sleeps!

I’ve written about my children’s terrible sleep before, so this bears repeating: my twenty-seven month old daughter slept through the night for the first time last night. I remember that it was also April when my older daughter started sleeping through the night, too: something about the spring after turning two must flip a switch in the brains of my children that says, “Hey – sleep is grand. Let’s do it some more.”

This means I slept through the night, too! For the first time! In over four years! I woke up at 5 am and could tell that it was way later than I typically got to sleep before being called back to the kids’ room. I squinted at the clock to bring the numbers in focus and couldn’t quite believe it. Then I fretted in bed for thirty minutes, assuming that she had not woken up because ya know, she was probably dead. 

It’s funny: co-sleeping is so often characterized as reckless endangerment of a child, but to me it offered ironclad knowledge that my kid hadn’t suffocated. I felt like a neglectful Mom when I woke up the next morning, having slept all night in luxury and not made sure my child was alive once. But she was alive! And I missed her little body in that moment, her snuggly ways and how she always jams her feet under my side. I know she will probably continue to wake up sometimes (like, ya know, the very next night), but I also expect that, like her sister, this will be the start of her kid years. She’s not a baby. She’s almost not even a toddler. She’s almost a kid. I’m almost to a place where I might sleep, all night, in a bed, maybe even with my husband (if he doesn’t snore).

So it might surprise you (it certainly surprises me) that I’ve been thinking a lot about whether or not I want to have another baby. Not only did my youngest child do something that tells me she’s not so little anymore, but it’s my breeding time of year. I got pregnant with Robin in June, and Holly was accidentally conceived during a post-finals week high in May two years later. My body is telling me it’s time to get back on that horse: my body really, really thinks it would be a good idea to get pregnant yesterday.

My heart also kinda wants a baby: I love newborns, I love fat baby faces and snuggles, and I’d love to see my 4-year-old dote over an infant (she often asks me to have another baby, and often asks when she can have a baby). And there’s nothing like the anticipation of a new baby. It has this open possibility that is scary but intoxicating: you know life is going to change completely, and you also know you are about to fall hard for someone completely new and wonderful in ways you can never anticipate and never knew you needed. I found this especially true with Holly (our 2nd) because we were no longer so terrified of the baby thing, so we really enjoyed her infancy and getting to know her little personality. The idea of seeing what else our genes could come up with is tempting. A brown-haired child (finally)? A boy? It’s not that different than gambling, in a way – and it has tremendous emotional and cultural payoff. Nothing is as hard as having a small baby, but on the flip side, nothing is as powerful. In the right circumstances – support, security – a desired pregnancy is enormously LIFE ORGANIZING. It has its own gravitational pull, a centripetal motion that brings everything else into focus and order in a way that’s really gratifying.

I’ve been rereading The Feminine Mystique and one of the themes that comes up again and again is that women have another baby to solve problems in other areas of their lives. I say this not as judgment but as fact: I think anyone committing to having a child does it for myriad reasons, some selfless or laudable as “in the child’s best interest” and some personal, relational, and complex. I didn’t have kids when I did because the timing was perfect and we have pre-established college funds, etc. It was a complicated blend of biological imperative, life timing, and personal desire. In Friedan’s analysis, women of the 50s and 60s kept having children because they’ve been culturally conditioned to see mothering as the only valid use of their time and abilities, and when their littlest becomes independent, they have a personal crisis. I don’t think that’s the case any longer: certainly, all the women I know understand that there are many paths to a fulfilling life and work can be a part of that; but at the same time, we still expect, and experience, an intense devotion between mother and child that can feel and be engulfing at times. It makes sense that coming out of that, and deciding to end that time (no more kids) creates new space for questioning and wondering that’s a bit scary to negotiate.

Sweet Baby Robin

Pregnancy really forces you to get your shit together. You get house projects done, you quit drinking or smoking, you start eating better. Suddenly, you are flying through your dissertation or push a big project at work through because you want to be done before the baby gets here. For some women, pregnancy is really good for them: they love their bodies, sometimes the hormones even relieve persistent problems like depression or anxiety. In some marriages I know, the time around pregnancy and birth is a time of harmony in the home: conflict and disagreement are set aside while both parents focus on the new baby. It might not be “right” but babies can temporarily repair broken relationships, broken minds, and broken bodies. The needs of an infant are urgent, primal, and utterly reasonable (love, food, clean bum). Priorities become crystal clear. Life makes sense. Nothing quite brings together personal desires, biological urges, and cultural cache quite like babies. And I think it does allow us to kick down the road some stuff we’re just not up for yet. Betty Friedan specifically asks,

What if the terror a girl faces at twenty-one, when she must decide who she will be, is simply the terror of growing up – growing up, as women were not permitted to grow before? What if the terror a girl faces at twenty-one is the terror of freedom to decide her own life, with no one order to which path she will take… What if those who choose the path of ‘feminine adjustment’ – evading this terror by marrying at eighteen, losing themselves in having babies and the details of house-keeping – are simply refusing to grow up, to face the question of their own identity?

I hope I’ve made it abundantly clear that I’m not sitting in judgment of people who might have babies to defer dealing with life problems or “facing the question of their own identity.” Nor do I think people who want to have lots of babies or who are in the middle of growing their families are necessarily “avoiding” growing up. I’m just speaking to my experience and from observation that sometimes we have babies for reasons beyond a simple “I want another baby.” I’m in the middle of the “terror” Friedan describes right now, albeit 10 years later than the women Friedan writes about, because both my childbearing years and my whole vocational concept are coming to an end at the same time.  So, I have to be aware of the fact that I might be fantasizing about another baby not just because I want another baby or it might be fun or good. It might also be – hell, it probably is largely because – I’m not sure what’s happening next in my life, and having experienced the power and pleasure of mothering a baby, that seems like an awesome option. My very own brilliant and wonderful partner wrote me this email back in February when we were trying to make sense of this emerging obsession:

I do think you should try to think about this stuff in the context of grad school falling apart. I remember after grad school feeling suddenly very old and somehow more aware of my own mortality. There’s something about being launched into the real world that is very disconcerting and makes you feel like there’s no time, or that you have to make up for lost time or something. In your email you say, “I always wanted to mother a lot of kids but maybe I’m just not cut out for that, and that’s ok, but kind of sad to acknowledge.” To me that sounds like a classic I just got out of grad school and I don’t know what I’m good at anymore statement. It makes perfect sense that you would want to replace your sort of stillborn grad school career with the thing that made the most sense to you and brought you the most fulfillment, but the reality is that you might not actually want to go through with having another baby. I can see how the idea of having a fresh little person to dote on would seem attractive to you right now. It’s unfortunate that the thing you are fantasizing about (having a baby) is also inextricably linked with some of the most unpleasant memories you could possibly conjure up (months of nausea, vomiting, sleep deprivation, etc.)… The point I’m trying to make is that you might need something new to think about. You might need something new to obsess over.

Jolly Baby Holly

This is why I’m not making any big decisions right now. As much as having a third baby might be a great thing for our family, I don’t want to get pregnant because I’ve tried nothing and I’m all out of ideas when it comes to life after grad school. I don’t want my knee-jerk reaction to the fear of what’s next to involve a human life – at least not a new human life. Having a baby is compelling but it would also shut down a lot of possibilities – writing? A magic job that may or may not be in the works? Moving? Travel? The point is, I may not know yet what I want from my future, even though my instinct is to grab on to something for dear life. I want to keep as many doors open as possible and go through the terror of “growing up,” as painful as it may be, because I want to keep possibility open and see if life surprises me. So right now? I’m sitting tight with my two kids, watching some Spongebob, and doing some more writing.

(Chat) The Push-Pull of Motherhood, Careers, and Other Grown-up Pursuits

This week’s chat is our take on the whole Mommy Wars/The Conflict/work-versus-home dilemma we face. Ultimately, we agree that there needs to be less at stake for mothers who want to both be there for their kids and have a working life of some kind. We also wonder what alternatives there are to identifying through an occupation, and how do you become a “real” writer, anyway?

12:20 PM Lauren: Holly slept through the night last night, for the first time in her life.

In her own bed, too.

12:21 PM Jennifer: WOW. AWESOME!!!!

Do you feel like a new, well-rested, human person?

Lauren: Well, I woke up at 5 convinced she was dead.

So I’m still kind of tired.

12:22 PM But yeah, it’s exciting. It was April when Robin started sleeping through the night as a toddler, too, so maybe this trend will stick.

Jennifer: I hope so!

Lauren: Me, too.

12:23 PM So, how’s the old work/life balance treating you today?

Or identity-discovery-through-vague-means?

12:24 PM Jennifer: Today was Wacky Wednesday, so it took longer than usual to get ready. But the girls were very happy and excited, and my schedule is more flexible, because it’s exam week, so we actually had a really nice morning.

12:25 PM Lauren: Nice!

Jennifer: Of course, next week I have 2 days of professional development and 2 field trips to the zoo and no childcare lined up yet, so this happiness probably has an expiration date.

Lauren: I *hate* the scramble for childcare.

12:26 PM And I don’t even have family around for that kind of thing!

12:27 PM Jennifer: I’ve been thinking since I posted yesterday about why is it that I feel stressed so much of the time when I have what appears to be a functional balance. And I think child care is a huge part of that stress.

The cost to put the girls in full day care would negate my financial contribution completely.

12:28 PM Lauren: That makes sense. Just the fact that your schedules shift every week, so you can’t just say M-F 12-4 or whatever…

Jennifer: But also, our schedule is different every single week, because Tyler’s schedule is different every week.

Right.

Lauren: Yeah, that’s our situation right now. Which is why me going to making very little money but staying home more doesn’t make much of a difference.

(Can we have a moment to acknowledge how much retail SUCKS?)

12:29 PM Jennifer: It’s so hard. So hard.

12:30 PM And because we are pulling multiple sitters/moms/sisters as child care, every week is a weird patchwork: on Monday, Dad will be home, and on Tuesday, mom will drive you to school but Grandma will pick you up, and on Wednesday the other Grandma will watch you all day and take you to school, and on Thursday…

12:31 PM Lauren: I have to say that sounds nightmarish to me, I hate that scrambling. We went through that last year when Holly was more of a baby…

OK, every morning you’ll both go to daycare but I’ll pick you up BEFORE lunch.

Then in the afternoon, a babysitter will come but different sitters at different times, oh wait she’s suddenly unavailable, how will I ever get anything written, etc etc.

12:33 PM Jennifer: Right. It’s insane. But any time we talk about going to a more structured care schedule, the cost seems insane, and then we start saying, oh, wait, sometimes you’re off on Wednesdays, so why would we pay for care every Wednesday when at least 1 of those we won’t need, etc, etc.

Lauren: Totally.

This makes me so glad our daycare has us pay ONLY for the hours we use. But yeah, most places you pay for a “slot” rather than per hour, which makes it really expensive.

12:34 PM Jennifer: Do you try to work at home while you are also parenting?

Lauren: Not really. I pretty much gave that up when Robin was a toddler and kept trying to “help” me grade or read with me.

I just end up getting really pissed about being interrupted.

12:35 PM Sometimes I can write (personal stuff, not academic stuff) with the girls playing nearby.

Jennifer: I had to give it up too. Sometimes when I’m in a real crunch to grade I can get a few things done while they watch Dora or something. But mostly it’s a lost cause.

12:36 PM Lauren: I can’t straddle those worlds.

I can move between them, but not inhabit them simultaneously.

Jennifer: Same here. I’m happier and more productive if I draw firm boundaries.

12:37 PM Lauren: So, why can’t we feel satisfied with our partial commitment to mothering/homemaking, and our partial commitment to a profession?

Why isn’t adjuncting enough for either of us? Why isn’t SAHMing appealing?

12:38 PM Jennifer: For me, I think I love my job too much to SAHM. I would miss it. My colleagues, my students, the time in the classroom– I really like what I do.

12:40 PM And I feel like I am maybe unusual in that I also really love the more SAHM type stuff: classroom parties, field trips, going to the Childrens Museum, playing in the garden. But I don’t think I want to give up the fulfillment of my job for it.

12:41 PM Lauren: I have realized that I like the SAHM stuff that involves interacting with the girls.

If I can take them to the park, play with them, hang with them — awesome.

I just need someone else to do the cooking and cleaning while I’m out.

As I’ve said before, I like the maternal but I’m not wild about the domestic stuff when it comes to SAHM.

12:42 PM But I don’t get INTO it the way some people seem to. I don’t relish planning crafts or whatever.

Do you think a full-time CC teaching position would be fulfilling?

It seems like it would be pretty ideal.

Jennifer: I like cooking and gardening. I despise cleaning and organizing.

12:43 PM I would love to have a full time teaching job at the university I’m at. Because the stuff I teach is interdisciplinary (WGS, lib studies) I’m less likely to be a good fit at a CC. But conceptually, yeah: a full time mostly classroom gig is my dream job.

12:44 PM Lauren: Duh, I thought you were at a CC — sorry.

Jennifer: No prob.

I feel like even though it would be more work hours, it would be less stress.

12:45 PM Lauren: Well, having the income of a FT position is really helpful.

No doubt about it. And the benefits.

Jennifer: Right. Better finances means more childcare options means less chaos.

12:47 PM I do like the balance of working very little in the summer and closer to full time in fall/winter.

Lauren: I kind of like a steady stream of work

I wish I could work part-time all the time

And do work I feel really good about.

12:48 PM But I worry that PT teaching is leading to burn out. I’ve felt very checked out an uninvested in my teaching this year.

12:50 PM Jennifer: Do you think that has to do with the status of part time faculty?

Like, if part time were valued equally in the university hierarchy, would there be less adjunct burn out?

12:51 PM Lauren: Maybe.

I really think if I was around more, and had some space on campus, I’d feel more hooked in.

But right now I’m in and out, as bad as any adjunct who’s a ghost, you know?

12:52 PM Jennifer: I recommend pretending that a popular lounge is your office. That strategy has worked well for me. Although it is also kind of crazy.

Lauren: We only have one TA lounge and it’s kind of a drag.

ANYWAY: I think it’s a mindset thing more than anything, but I’m trying some new things out instead of assuming that I have to be or want to be a FT teacher.

Jennifer: What’s your game plan?

12:53 PM Lauren: I have absolutely no game plan.

I am adjuncting one class in the fall.

I just interviewed for a position doing advocacy for a campus union that’s super PT.

Otherwise…..??? I don’t feel pulled strongly to a JOB, you know?

I like the idea of income, and the idea of having somewhere to BE, and of feeling like I make a difference

But I don’t want to just go out and work at Kmart, you know?

12:54 PM I don’t want to work for the sake of working, especially if it means being away from my kids. If I leave my kids, the job had better be meaningful.

12:56 PM Jennifer: Yes. I definitely agree. And I feel lucky that I have stumbled into a job that feels that way. I feel like a lot of what’s missing for me is structural support.

Lauren: YES

Jennifer: I have purpose as a mom and a prof. But I need better pay and health care and more flexible/affordable child care.

Lauren: Don’t get me wrong, teaching is awesome. I LOVE IT. I just need a break from it.

Definitely

12:58 PM Jennifer: I would also like the flexibility to move in and out of full time/part time/time away without fearing that I will be replaced/be seen as replaceable.

Lauren: Right, the dreaded MOMMY TRACK.

Jennifer: Yes.

Lauren: People have been so serious in warning me that I shouldn’t stop teaching

JUST IN CASE

Because ANY GAP in employment is the kiss of death, I guess

12:59 PM It might hint that I think my kids are more important than teaching the 4 adults who attend my reading class on MW mornings.

Jennifer: And how could that possibly be, right?

But ti does feel that way.

it.

1:00 PM Lauren: Especially when they’re very young, yes, my kids trump teaching.

Jennifer: And I don’t even know if that’s a real fear or if it’s just a thing everyone says but that wouldn’t actually matter because I have never attempted to find out!

Lauren: I don’t know if I should be a SAHM but I do think I should be Canadian. I think I’d have thrived as a Mom in a system that pays you for a full year after you give birth.

I needed it to be ok that my babies mattered more for awhile. Not permanently, but for awhile.

1:01 PM Jennifer: Yes: Structural Support. Why do so many Americans think that is bad/crazy/socialist/evil?

Lauren: EYE ROLL

1:02 PM I don’t know but it makes me nuts. Actually…

I think I recently heard that there is a lot of bipartisan consensus among people that more/better family leave is good.

It’s probably businesses that have the clout there,

Jennifer: That makes me crazy.

Lauren: I think it’s interesting that we met in a writing workshop, but neither of us has really considered what role writing plays in our developing sense-of-selves-as-mothers.

1:03 PM Can we talk about fulfillment outside of “occupation: housewife” or “occupation: teacher/whatever thing that is paid”?

Jennifer: YES.

1:04 PM So, the thing about me is that I basically let go of any self-identity as a writer when I left grad school. I had been beaten up for so long about my writing that I just…. stopped.

1:05 PM And then, just before Margeaux was born, I started thinking about blogging, and I talked to Marian (from Runaway Sentence) about the logistics.

And then I found out that somebody else had the blog name I picked out, and so I totally gave up on the idea.

Lauren: Oh no!

1:06 PM Jennifer: And I honestly couldn’t tell you why I decided to go to the workshop with Ariel. There is no logical reason why I should have driven to Iowa in the winter and left all my girls home and gone to a writing workshop when I was not a writer and had actually not written anything in years.

But I did, and there you were.

1:07 PM Lauren: I did it because I needed an antidote to grad school.

I don’t know about you, but writing is working for me: the more I do it, the more I want to do it.

Jennifer: YES.

Lauren: But I have no idea how to translate that into some kind of life path, you know?

1:08 PM It feels like I should DO SOMETHING MORE with it than just post it for free online! 🙂 Yet I don’t know if it needs to be a paid gig or something to “matter.”

1:09 PM Jennifer: Right. the blog has been an amazing, awesome experience for me. I love writing. I love reading your posts. I check our stats. but… are we writers?

If we want to be WRITERS, should we be, like free lancing for Parents magazine?

Is that a thing writers do?

1:10 PM How would we even do that?

Lauren: I’ve looked into it

Jennifer: HA!

Lauren: It looks way too much like doing homework 😛

Jennifer: I love that you have looked into this.

Lauren: It’s a lot of filing and reading to figure out what the editors want and then matching up your voice to theirs.

I mean, I would love to do some freelancing, but I don’t want to write articles like “Ten Ways To Beat the Heat!”

1:11 PM Jennifer: Nope. Well, maybe? No, probably not.

Lauren: I really spent a lot of time one weekend being like “I could do this!!”

And then feeling like I was still in grad school, having to do research to write a paper that would meet a teacher’s needs but not mine.

1:12 PM I want to be able to write in a way that includes my perspective. I want to write personal stuff.

1:13 PM Jennifer: Yeah, me too.

Lauren: I guess I feel like if I’m taking time away from my children, and doing something that requires me to pay for childcare

1:14 PM Then I have to be earning money

Jennifer: Yes.

Lauren: I have it in my mind that next year I’d like to have more time to devote to writing — whatever THAT means — but I don’t know how to have a job that pays enough and takes little enough time that it’s possible to do that.

I love teaching but if I teach more than 1 section, grading will suck up that down time.

I like the idea of the job I interviewed for but it might be time intensive at times, and that makes me nervous.

1:16 PM But I feel like a heel because I am not a “real” writer

Right?

I’m basically taking time off to UPDATE MY WEBSITE

Jennifer: Most days I feel like I’m not a real anything.

I’m not a real writer.

Lauren: It has this cheesy geocities feel to it.

1:17 PM Jennifer: I’m nto a real prof.

I’m not a real SAHM.

Lauren: Right. YES. When do we hit that threshold so we can feel REAL at something?

Jennifer: And the thing is that to my students, I am a real prof. And to my girls, I am a real mom.

1:18 PM Lauren: So whose eyes are we seeing ourselves through?

Jennifer: EXACTLY.

1:19 PM So how do I stop the madness and chaos and self doubt and insane scheduling and too much mac and cheese and find some peace in doing what I’m already doing well, for teh most part?

1:20 PM Lauren: Right.

The whole “bloom where you’re planted” thing

I suck at that. I’m never satisfied with now.

Jennifer: We need a cutesy Mary Engelbreit graphic there.

Lauren: yuck 🙂

1:21 PM Jennifer: I kind of love M.E. Not sure why. More importantly:

WHY AREN’T WE BLOOMING?

Lauren: It’s like we’re blooming, but we can’t see our own blooms, because we are wearing the BLINDERS OF PATRIARCHY

1:22 PM Jennifer: ALSO THE BLINDERS OF CAPITALISM.

Lauren: Fuckin’ capitalism man.

1:23 PM Basically: how can we feel really good about the non-Mom stuff we want to do, even if it doesn’t pay

And about the Mom stuff we do want to do, that isn’t Pinnable

1:24 PM Jennifer: Yes. I want to be able to see my self and my strengths more clearly. I want to be able to enjoy the days I spend with my girls and the days I spend at work.

1:25 PM I want good healthcare and flexible, reasonably priced child care.

I can’t figure out if these desires make me feminist or Buddhist or Socialist or all 3.

Lauren: I want better maternity leave so you don’t have to plan your birth around a semester schedule.

Jennifer: YES.

1:26 PM I feel so grateful and lucky that we got pregnant with Margeaux when we did, because if we hadn’t, I don’t know if we would have tried for another month, because a July birthday seemed really scary if I was going back in August.

Lauren: Totally

1:27 PM I remember doing those feverish calculations in my mind as a grad student

How can I plan babies so as not to fuck up everything?

Of course when push came to shove we just rolled the dice and hoped it wouldn’t be too disastrous.

But those semesters were incredibly stressful. I was back in the classroom — not for long, but still having to negotiate all that shit — 4 weeks after birth.

I’m not one of those bounce back from birth mamas

1:28 PM I like to sit for like, 3 months, and do nothing after I give birth

I needed more down time.

1:29 PM Jennifer: I feel like the moms I know who have been able to immediately reintegrate into normal adult life are moms who are DISCIPLINED. I’m just too… loose, I guess.

1:30 PM Lauren: I’m just a mess, kinda, I need a lot of adjustment time.

Jennifer: Again: If we were Canadian, this would not be an issue.

Or Scandanavian.

Lauren: (I’m geeking out because Obama is speaking at Iowa right now and I’m streaming it!)

Right.

One of the things I think I’m learning from rereading Feminist Mystique

Is that women go through some identity shit when their babies aren’t babies anymore

Jennifer: YEAH OBAMA!

1:31 PM Lauren: In the 60s, the only option they felt they had was to become

a Mom again

They would just have another baby to maintain the necessity of their devotion or whatever

Or some would go on to a career or whatever, but that was viewed as a huge deal

Now we have more options, more acceptable options anyway

But I think we may just be hitting a sort of identity THING that women at this stage may go through

1:32 PM What’s next? Who am I? Etc

I just want to keep doors open to possibilities beyond a job in terms of fulfillment. But I know I need something more than “just” mothering.

Jennifer: Yes. And I think if you are part time, it’s harder in some ways to sort through because I can’t fully integrate into any of the worlds I move through.

1:33 PM Lauren: Yes, the shifting is so hard

Jennifer: I can’t join the playgroups, or keep going to breastfeeding support group to be social, because I have to work.

But I can’t go out with the women at work, or go to the more social events (like holiday parties or retirement parties) because I’m needed at home.

Lauren: I have absolutely NO social life.

Jennifer: It’s hard.

1:34 PM Even to get together with my friends with kids, it’s hard.

Lauren: I have been asking other Moms how they do this and it sounds like a job itself

Making calls, following up on things, having parties and snacks

Facebook event creating, etc.

I wish, wish, wish I didn’t live 20 min away from most of our friends. But that’s another topic altogether.

1:35 PM Jennifer: I fantasize about living in a neighborhood with other parents who I like and who have casual social gatherings.

I know people who live in neighborhoods like this, and I envy them deeply.

1:36 PM Lauren: I basically want to live in a housing co-op

I really should have been a hippie.

1:37 PM Jennifer: I want the support network: I want to be able to say to my neighbor, Can you pick D up from preschool on Wednesday when I’m at the zoo with Lucy and I’ll be by to pick her up from your house in an hour?

Lauren: Can you watch Holly while she naps so I can pick Robin up from preschool?

1:38 PM Jennifer: Can you watch Lucy while I take D to get a tetanus shot because she cut her finger on a can in the recycling bin?

Lauren: Can you take this $10 and get me some milk and bread while you’re at the store so I don’t have to run errands with no bra on and screaming children?

1:39 PM Jennifer: This is why people used to live with their extended families.

Lauren: The whole village thing really makes sense.

1:40 PM Jennifer: Because it creates flexible support, which is what we seem to need most, especially when we are trying to be present in more than one grown up world.

Lauren: Right

To not have either mothering nor working make or break the other thing

1:41 PM Being a mom shouldn’t negate my ability to work

Working shouldn’t negate my ability to be a good mom

Jennifer: The stakes shouldn’t feel so high.

1:42 PM Lauren: RIght

Not at this vulnerable time of intense personal transition

This has been a lovely chat!

You need to prep, though, right?

Jennifer: I should try and finish grading this batch of essays before I go in to hear their presentations.

1:43 PM This has been an awesome chat.

Lauren: Have a great class!

Jennifer: Enjoy Obama!

Lauren: You know it!

1:44 PM Jennifer: I’d offer to find an ME Bloom Where You’re Planted image, but wordpress hates it when I use pictures.

Lauren: I’ll take care of it 🙂

Jennifer: Thank you 🙂

TTYL!!

Lauren: TTYL!

You can’t throw a shoe without hitting a recent post about The Mommy Wars or Elisabeth Badinter’s controversial book The Conflict, so I’ll spare you the links. What do you guys think?

 

Mothering by Default

I recently calculated my “Mom salary:”

Sorry it's blurry. It says I am worth $117,780.00 IKR??!!

This is how much it would cost to replace me; but really, this model doesn’t add up. Because I’m not a great housekeeper or cook. I do not have the patience, persistence, or disposition for many domestic tasks. Knitting has too much math. I get bored and frustrated at home. I certainly don’t do enough housework well enough to earn the $18/hr we pay a local woman to clean our place on Friday afternoon.

This was in my car. It's all back in my car. Because my car is my mobile Mom/teacher/shopper locker.

My cleaning is incomplete, half-assed, and mostly involves moving messes around creatively. I’d be fired. In no way am I “saving” my family over $100k by working dramatically less now that I’ve quit grad school, and that’s my plan next year unless a magical job comes along. Currently, my modest adjuncting income is offset almost completely by childcare expenses, and next year, I’ve committed to teaching a single course at our local community college, which will bring in just enough to cover childcare and maybe pay for my gas. Is that what I’m worth? About $100/week? My adviser asked me yesterday about my career ambitions and I just said, “Shrug.”*

Dinner.

I like to think that as a Mom, I’m greater than the sum of my duties: what makes me irreplaceable, what makes my absence from my children’s lives impossible and unbearable is that only I am myself. Only I am my girls’ mother; only I can be me. So I might not make organic meals every night, create unnecessarily elaborate tooth fairy magic, or sign my girls up for soccer and dance classes; but I can sprinkle nutritional yeast and turmeric on popcorn, have tons of art supplies ready for plunder, and sing the Krusty Krab Pizza song to them as no other human can. I’m not replaceable by a chef, or a teacher, or a robot. No one else can be me.

Holly, just painting, with no special or specific outcome in mind.

But I admit that I’m not a particularly ambitious or driven Mom. I remember being vaguely resentful of my Mom as a kid because she refused to play board games with us; didn’t do our hair all fancy like the girls down the street; wasn’t an enthusiastic “room mom” like Kit Davis’s Mom was. But now I can see that she did not do that shit because that shit is boring. I’m really glad we don’t own Candyland. I do not ever intend to make elaborate, healthy snacks a la Weelicious. I want my kids to play together, outside, unsupervised, without need for direction or tons of interaction. At heart, I am lazy, even when it comes to things I care about.

“Each suburban wife struggles with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night- she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question– ‘Is this all?” 
― Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique

I’d like to separate the domestic from the maternal when we talk about SAHMing, because I’m very bad at one and very good at the other. I love connecting with my kids, but I’m not Caroline Ingalls: I can’t mother, and make soap and put out prairie fires and cook dinner and garden and pay the bills and take the cats to the vet and and and. I’m not gifted at this kind of coordination, and I am not motivated to get better at it. But I feel like I should be better at it, I feel like I should care more about being good at it. I recognize those things as good things.

I know what I am good at. I can answer every anatomy question Robin has: where babies grow, how they come out, what’s inside our feet, what a placenta does (“It scrubs the pee from the baby,” she says), how our brains work, where our blood goes. I can pretend to be a dog, or cat, or Grandfather, or whoever else Holly decides she needs me to be, at least for fifteen minutes until I want to check my email or read my book. But my talents end there, and I feel like if I’m going to eschew my entire professional identity for the sake of mothering my children, then I should be pursuing maternity as my new vocation to the Nth degree. I even had the insane thought that I should have another baby to sort of seal the deal on my impending mostly-SAHMhood and signify my commitment to the enterprise. Shouldn’t mothering be my new ambition? Why am I not more into this stuff, if I do love them so much?

Some want reclaim “lazy” or “free range” parenting, pointing out the real perils of over-involved “helicopter” parenting. Lazy is good parenting because you allow your children to explore, make mistakes, and self-direct. I trend strongly in this direction both because I agree with it on numerous philosophical levels, but also because it’s the only way I have a prayer for feeling like a decent mother. But I also read “lazy parenting” lambasted as household anarchy, as failing to cultivate talents or abilities that are crucial; as detached and disinterested. We care too much; we don’t care enough. We do too much; we don’t do enough. As usual, we can’t win. I have a lot more to say on the subject of free parenting of all kinds (free range, free thinking, free money would also be great), but right now what I really want to know is, is it acceptable to half-ass this? Is it all right to be a full-time (or mostly full-time) mother without a real zeal for the work of it? If I don’t want to industriously clean my home, take my kids on educational outings, and make complete and healthy meals, should I pay someone else to do those things instead? Can I just drop the ball on these Sisyphian tasks? May I just mother by default rather than by declaration, devotion, or destitution? Who am I without work, real or imagined? 

* I didn’t actually say that. But I should have.

(Chat) PINTEREST: Thinspo-for-the-home or divine inspiration?

This is the first in a new feature on our blog, which I’m realizing as I type that we haven’t named. But whatever: it’s CHAT! Jen and I will get together once a week to talk about some topic on our minds, and then share it with you. We hope it’s just the start of a broader conversation.

This week: PINTEREST! Love it or loath it? Inspiration or desperation? Time-waster or under-ass-fire-lighter? Below, we wonder if some crafts are more like porn than creative acts, and if design boards are just thinspo-for-the-home.

We have two boards at Pinterest that illustrate our points below, one that focuses on what we like about Pinterest (where we see promise, things we may actually do) and what we dislike about Pinterest. I should note that Jen is a fairly avid Pinner, and I have dabbled but am overall unimpressed. We are not saying that Pinterest is pure awesome or pure evil, but that it’s a complex and interesting phenomenon that we find intriguing.

And now, the chat!

3:18 PM Jennifer: Hello!

3:19 PM Lauren: Hi! This is going to be funny because when people read this, our names will be Jen/Lauren and “me.”

3:20 PM Jennifer: We should probably fix that. You should know that while I am chatting, I am also feeding Margeaux overpriced squishy organic baby food.

Lauren: I do not know how to fix that. I am somewhat tech savvy. But not that tech savvy. Maybe when you save it changes the names?

That is the best kind of baby food.

3:21 PM Jennifer: I bet I could find recipes for homemade baby food on Pinterest.

Lauren: You could totally do that. We should try to do that right now.

Jennifer: But then it wouldn’t be in this awesome package that attaches directly to a spoon.

Lauren: No way, that sounds awesome.

3:23 PM Yes, I have not only found baby food recipes, but also a baby food jar chandelier, baby food jar cupcakes, and magnetic spice jars made out of baby food jars.

3:24 PM Jennifer: I should totally pin those. I’ll get to them right after I bake that 8 layer rainbow cake.

3:25 PM Or the baked oatmeal. Or the Key West grilled Chicken.

Lauren: That kind of brings together everything that is awful and awesome about Pinterest: something you might actually use, something no one should ever do/care about/use, and something to make you feel bad about the things you wish you’d do but never will.

Jennifer: I don’t even eat chicken, for the record.

3:26 PM Lauren: Ha!

Jennifer: I’ll be honest: I have never actually cooked a recipe I pinned on Pinterest.

3:27 PM Lauren: People swear by Pinterest as a way to find great recipes, but I don’t get how it’s any better than googling “black bean tacos” and reading the recipe.

3:28 PM Jennifer: I like the idea that all those recipes are there waiting for me, as though I had cut them out and stuck them in a folder.

3:29 PM For me, that’s the appeal beyond googling: the organization.

Lauren: Pinterest is full of possibility but it seems like there’s very little follow through. I’ve seen bloggers with “Pinterest challenges” where they vow to actually do projects they’ve pinned.

3:30 PM Jennifer: If we do that challenge I’m starting with Rolo cookies.

And I’m unpinning those elaborate bunk bed plans.

Lauren: I used Pinterest the most when I was decorating my daughters’ room and I pinned all this “inspiration”

3:31 PM But then the final product really didn’t resemble those pins, and in fact, juxtaposed, it looked kind of homely and embarrassing. That made me kind of hate Pinterest, because it’s a great room and was done on a budget.

But since every square inch of the walls weren’t covered in fanciful art, and I didn’t customize the knobs on the dressers, somehow it didn’t feel good enough.

3:32 PM Jennifer: I actually have intentionally stopped even browsing decoration inspiration my dream home type pins.

3:33 PM I realized looking at that stuff was making me depressed.

Perhaps because most of the people I follow are facebook friends from high school and once I started looking at those pins I became convinced they were all living in enormous beautiful houses and I hated them.

Lauren: I posted a few new boards to our account and tried to find some examples of the kinds of things I do like and don’t like about Pinterest, and under don’t like I posted a few images of people’s decorated LAUNDRY ROOMS and GARAGES.

3:34 PM (http://pinterest.com/mamanervosa/)

Jennifer: YES! I saw a bunch of those types of pins come across my account today.

Lauren: WTF? Am I crazy or is the garage supposed to be a stinky mess?

3:35 PM Where are our kids supposed to be dirty?

Where can we pile the sheets our 4yo just peed on?

3:36 PM Jennifer: In my garage right now: 2 turkey fryers Tyler uses for brewing beer, an ugly table from a garage sale, an old set of shelves with a jumble of gardening tools, 4 bikes, a tricycle, a big wheel, a cozy coupe… organize that Pinterest!

And spiders. at least a thousand spiders.

Lauren: Ha

Exactly.

3:37 PM I was thinking that Pinterest fuels lookism. Morality = aesthetics.

The better you are as a person or a parent, the prettier the things are in your life. The better your crafts, the more elaborate your tooth fairy rituals.

3:38 PM The absence of any other images — anything simple, messy, or imperfect — implies it’s lack of worth.

Jennifer: Yes. Yes. Yes.

And yet: I keep going back for more.

Lauren: Have you heard about the whole Thinspo controversy at tumblr and now Pinterest?

3:39 PM Jennifer: No. Tell me more!

Lauren: So, Thinspo is short for “thinspiration”

Which means these are boards/images that girls and women use to inspire them to be thin.

It used to be called “pro-ana” aka pro-anorexia.

Jennifer: Oooohhhhhh….. pro-ana I know.

3:40 PM Lauren: So, tumblr and Pinterest have these Thinspo boards/circles popping up

Because they are visual-intensive social media sites. And girls are using these sites to fuel notions that being thin is something to aspire to, posting their stats, posting meals/diets and challenges to lose weight, etc.

3:41 PM And I’m thinking, isn’t everything on Pinterest, sorta, Thinspo for our entire lives? Isn’t the logic that if we are good enough/disciplined enough/organized enough, we can achieve perfection (even if it’s perfection in knitting)?

3:42 PM Jennifer: I just searched it on Pinterest. This is really disturbing.

Lauren: Yes. We will not link to evil, evil Thinspo.

Jennifer: Ok. I have to stop staring at those images.

Lauren: And people are upset about it, and I think that’s totally appropriate, but what I’m saying is, I’m not sure other aspects of Pinterest are that different (except it won’t destroy your bones or kill you if you try to make that paint chip art).

3:44 PM Jennifer: Right. Instead of beating myself up about being fat I’m beating myself up about not being the kind of mom who makes string art easter eggs and dips my kids feet in paint then makes footprint butterflies and frames them.

Lauren: Right

Is it really that different from images of housewives/mothers in the1950s/60s?

3:45 PM Jennifer: No. It’s the same oppressive bullshit. Just on an iPad. And we take Xanex to cope instead of Valium.

3:46 PM Lauren: I guess what bugs me is, blogs and Pinterest are supposed to be from real people. But increasingly, they do not match up with my lived experience.

As I was looking at Pinterest today, I was wondering what the difference is between looking there and looking at, say, a fashion magazine.

Are the images any more realistic than highly edited, styled, commercialized publications?

3:47 PM Jennifer: No.

3:49 PM And I think it’s easy to fall into the hate on Martha Stewart and the skinny girls trap. That’s not where I want to land either.

Lauren: It feels more insidious to me because there’s less psychic distance between me and that mommy blogger… she feels more real, so it feels like I should be able to achieve her level of contentment and organization.

Exactly. Like, I was doing a search on Pinterest for fashion for curvy girls, and all the pins were either 1. famous people in gowns or 2. not curvy girls!!

3:50 PM Oh, I misread your point

Yes — I want to avoid black and white, us vs them stuff.

3:51 PM Jennifer: Because it’s more complicated than that. I have occasionally made delicious food and done awesome art projects with my girls. (Not on the same day.) But if you could see my house right now? It’s appalling.

Lauren: Yes.

3:52 PM I feel like I go to social media craving authentic connection with other people.

I want to share something. And I look for myself in others, and all the things we do when we seek community.

3:53 PM But I don’t see myself on Pinterest. In a weird way, it just archives our collective cultural fantasies, or at least the fantasies of middle class ladies.

Jennifer: Yes. We all want that gorgeous outfit and that enormous kitchen and those clean shiny garages and entry ways.

3:54 PM But instead I am wearing shorts from Goodwill and there are Cheerios on the floor and my kitchen is so tiny I have to fold my chairs up after every meal.

Lauren: Right.

And my laundry lives in a basket and my beds are never, ever made.

3:55 PM I guess no one aspires to that.

3:56 PM Jennifer: I make my bed sometimes. But yeah, I think we’re afraid to acknowledge that this is what our real lives look like because shame! Judgment!

Bad mom!

Lauren: It’s weird because I think the fact that Pins are images really dehumanizes our lives. We never see children making the art, or people eating the food, right? We lose sight of the sort of visceral pleasures that things like creativity and togetherness are supposed to draw out.

Instead we focus on the aesthetic appeal or the product.

Jennifer: Oooooo….. that’s REALLY interesting to me.

Because yeah, the pleasure for me is in the doing.

3:57 PM But that’s completely absent.

Lauren: I get really frustrated with craft Pins because they seem way too focused on reproducing a perfect product, rather than the process.

Right? Especially with children: I mean, there’s no way my kids could recreate the perfect owl mobile or whatever.

The adorable children’s rooms are never in use, or the clothes aren’t on bodies.

It’s very commercial in that way.

3:59 PM Jennifer: I keep pinning outfits that I fantasize about wearing when I’m done nursing and my wardrobe doesn’t revolve around easy access to my breasts. But it’s been driving me crazy that there are no people in any of the fashion pins. How do I know if I can wear that?

Lauren: YES

Exactly. Show me that shirt on someone with actual boobs so I can see if it would be flattering and sexy (good) or lumpy/awkward (bad).

4:00 PM Jennifer: Also hips.

Lauren: But I guess that furthers the notion that these Pins aren’t really for people, they’re for our ideas about ourselves.

4:01 PM Jennifer: Right. And I’ve found that I enjoy imagining myself as a person who wears stylish clothes, does crafts with my kids, and cooks elaborate desserts.

Lauren: Certainly: I love the idea of a home with eclectic bookshelves and walls with neat art, both commercial and handmade.

I guess I wish people used Pinterest to say something like “Here’s how I…”

4:02 PM Like, here’s how I found jeans that fit.

Here’s how I used some leftover gift wrap with my kids.

Here’s how I… made leftover beans into something other than fucking burritos.

Helping Pins, not Judging Pins.

4:03 PM Jennifer: Here’s how I made a delicious cocktail with Juicy Juice and some odds and ends from my liquor cabinet.

4:04 PM Lauren: Right. With a real picture, not a staged, photoshopped image.

Jennifer: Here’s how I found a style of shirt that doesn’t make me look pregnant.

Lauren: I mean, couldn’t we use an entire board of that??

Jennifer: YES.

Lauren: I’m 5’1″ and curvy, these clothes work for me — etc.

Then maybe we could take delight in our actual lives.

4:05 PM Jennifer: Let’s call it Realspiration.

Or some other catchy spiration.

Lauren: Right

This is the whole point of counterpinning.

Lives as we live them, not as we wished they were.

4:06 PM Then maybe Pinterest could be less like Metropolitan Home and more like Shape of a Mother 

(Realspo?)

Jennifer: Because it’s not that I want to wallow in the half chewed Cheerios. It’s just that the leap from where I am to the fairy garden treehouse bunk beds is too far.

Lauren: (Spo sounds so close to spooge to me. I have a hard time using it without giggling.)

4:07 PM Jennifer: HA!

Lauren: Right — babysteps.

Here’s what’s achievable!

You could really actually do it!

You could really actually paint a room green and buy some JC Penney bedspreads and make a room as cute as my kids’ room. Here are the real kids playing on the real bed.

4:08 PM Here is the reading nook where the book basket is perpetually full of play food and that’s ok!

4:09 PM Jennifer: Yes. Process, pleasure, play, possibility.

4:10 PM Lauren: They all begin with P so they should totally work at Pinterest.

Jennifer: Not owl mobile craft porn.

Lauren: YES.

It is sort of pornographic.

In the way that porn objectifies pleasure.

Jennifer: In all the worst ways.

4:11 PM Lauren: I mean, some craft posts really do seem to make kids the objects, rather than the subjects, of joy/fun/whatever.

We sort of act out fantasies of good motherhood ON our kids with our aggressive leprechaun visits or whatever.

Jennifer: You will inevitably feel dissatisfied with your real life owl mobile partner!

4:12 PM Lauren: Your kids will inevitably not make the googly eyes perfectly centered on the die-cut circles!

Jennifer: The owl always ends up looking drunk and mangy.

4:13 PM Lauren: So you Pin owl crafts all night on the internet instead of doing owl crafts with your real kids.

Jennifer: But they loved using the glue stick, and isn’t that the point?

Lauren: Exactly. I mean, there doesn’t have to be a goal when you craft with kids. Sometimes I just put shit on the table and see what they come up with. Today we use scissors! Today it’s stickers!

4:14 PM Jennifer: Resolved: in the next week I will cook a food and do a craft from Pinterest and post pictures of the process.

Lauren: Sweet!

I have a post about post-partum fashion tips in the waiting.

Jennifer: And I will do them with my kids, not alone at midnight so the owls turn out perfectly.

4:15 PM Lauren: Excellent. You should take some kind of staged shot with the clock just to prove it ;).

Jennifer: I need those fashion tips!

Lauren: They mostly involve MacGyvering breast pads.

Jennifer: Nice.

4:16 PM Okay. You should go get your darling daughters, right? I feel like we’ve definitely got something here.

Also, Margeaux just pooped.

Lauren: Yes. This is a good time to get my real children and make them campbell’s bean and bacon soup for dinner, w hich is their (disgusting) favorite.

Duty/doody calls.

4:17 PM Jennifer: Drive safe.

Lauren: I will figure out how to post this and I’ll put it up tomorrow.

Let your post breathe :).

Jennifer: Awesome. You’re the most awesomest co-blogger ever.

4:18 PM Lauren: You are the awesomest blogging soulmate in history!

Jennifer: High five!

Lauren: Top Gun Windmill

TTYL!

Jennifer: TTYL!

Clearly, our jury is out on Pinterest: there’s promise and concern – legit, we think — here. I (Lauren) left the chat with a greater appreciation for the promise of Pinterest and ways it could function differently than it does now: for example, sharing more process-oriented images, and finding more awesome art. If you’re interested in contributing to these “counterpins” — pins that focus on doable projects; real visions of women, bodies, homes; and the creative process, follow us at Pinterest or drop us an email and we’ll add you as a collaborator.

lauren(at)mamanervosa(dot)com or jen(at)mamanervosa(dot)com

Jen promises to do some process posts this week!

Here are other recent commentaries on Pinterest:

Mom-101 on the darker side of Pinterest.

NPR tries to nail down the appeal of Pinterest.

Her Bad Mother talks about Pinterest as a storytelling venue, and as a space for men, too.

Bitch Magazine explores lifestyle blogging in general.

New Domesticity tackles all these issues and more, although she hasn’t covered Pinterest specifically (yet!).

And we got the idea for a weekly chat straight from Tiger Beatdown.

So, what do you think about Pinterest? We’re interested in the diverse experiences, uses, and views of Pinterest and we’d love to hear your thoughts, here or on any of our boards at Pinterest.

This is Not a Lifestyle Blog

I just read a fantastic article from Bitch Magazine’s newest edition, “Better Homes and Bloggers,” and it deeply resonated and spoke to me to the darkest depths of my blogging soul. Freelancing mama Holly Hilgenberg (great name) writes:

Both the appeal and the unease of lifestyle blogs are centered on the fact that, unlike more traditional forms of media like magazines, television, and movies, blogs are supposed to be real… This tension between authenticity and aspiration may be at the heart of why lifestyle blogs don’t just inspire readers, they also tend to bum them out… As one reader, Claudette, recounts: “I see her fucking noodle soup. And I feel like I should do that. And I don’t feel good. I feel like I should be perfect.” Claudette, who follows many style blogs, particularly those that reflect her own modernist sensibility and obsession with fashion and design, isn’t unhappy with her own life. But, she says, “I look around my house and I like the things I own…but it can never be good enough.”

I know Mama Nervosa is merely a week old, but this is not my first trip around the blogging block. This is my fifth or sixth attempt to create a blog with more than 4 readers (Hi, Mom!) despite the fact that for all of those blogs, I followed THE NUMBER ONE RULE OF BLOGGING SUCCESS which is DEFINE YOUR AUDIENCE: that is, find a niche and aggressively pursue it. I tried a budgeting blog (HA!); a mommy blog (fun for me, boring for everyone else); a hilarious TV blog (dang it, you have to actually watch a lot of TV to do that, preferably shows that are currently running and not outdated dregs on Netflix streaming); and even an aquarium enthusiast blog (it died when my fish did).

I sometimes worry that Mama Nervosa won’t be read because it is non-niche. We’ve written about screaming toddlers, grandmothers and peonies, and birth and car purchasing. OK; all of those topics have a thread of motherhood woven through them, but we promise to branch out into topics as diverse as our past lives as hippie fangirls, smokers, baristas, and teachers; crazy road trips with drug dealers and Frisbee throwers; quitting graduate school and near-death experiences; anti-hipster rants and commentaries on teen magazines from the early 90s. (So, far, though, we think the real NUMBER ONE RULE OF BLOGGING SUCCESS is USE FACEBOOK. It seems to be working.)

But the big premise behind all of this, the one thing we agreed upon when we hastily formed a blogging alliance via email after a transformative writing workshop, was that MN had to be about “messy life.” Not organized life. Not sexy mom life. Not it’s-the-little-things-and-insanely-good-taste-that-make-life-perfect life. True, real, un-light-diffused, unstaged life (past, present, and future). We think there’s room for that in the blogosphere. I’m not anti-lifestyle blog and believe me, I’ve felt deep pangs of envy when I look at Young House Love’s art wall. I’ve seriously thought that a household binder would change my life forever. It’s just that the best thing, to me, about blogging, has always been real people. The real people behind blogs interest me. My favorite blogs, the blogs that got me hooked a dozen years ago, the blogs I stayed up all night at the library computer lab to read? They weren’t lifestyle blogs. They were people’s life stories, told well, and told (mostly) truthfully.

So this is my real life, right now. It is not styled.

Ce n'est pas une lifestyle blog

These are my dishes, always. I have no solution to the enduring problem of dirty dishes. I wash dishes every day, and the damn things keep reappearing. My kitchen looks like this right now, and every day.

This is me, right now.

Pants: stretch Levi's. Shirt: An ill-fitting hand-me-down from my Mom that I wore because it was the only clean thing I had. Bra: saggy nursing bra with underwires that are poking out of the seams and stabbing my armpits; has not been washed in over a week (not shown). My underwear has two holes (not shown).

Optical illusion brought to you by unfortunate laptop placement. Note the living room chaos behind me, including a partially dismembered wagon and nicotine gum wrappers strewn about. I didn’t even crop this, y’all.

I got my glasses at the eye doctor.

Me again, close up. My face is breaking out, and I don’t wear jewelry, and is that a gray hair? It may be. I’m due. I am sure you are as excited as I am that I washed my hair last night – a triumph! Let me tell you a secret: my husband thinks I look great and really likes everything about my post partum body, my lack of makeup, and my everything. (I’m just as surprised as you are.) Apparently, sexy transcends appearance, at least in our love story.  

So what’s your real life story, not style? What life problem do you have no solution for? What life problems aren’t really a problem at all? What are your snapshots of chaos and beautiful nowness? We’ll post ‘em. lauren(dot)clodi(dot)whitehead(at)gmail(dot)com