That’s Motherhood

The baby woke me minutes before the alarm went off this morning. The noise that escaped my lips was half exhaustion, half anger. I hadn’t gotten nearly enough sleep as the kids took turns keeping me up. I rarely get enough sleep. That’s motherhood, I guess.

I started to feed the baby and Z came in, announcing the dogs had pooped all over her playroom. I muttered a soft “dammit” and told the husband who’d let out his own string of expletives not to worry, I’d clean it up. He had to get ready for work and has a weak stomach when it comes to smells anyway.

The smell permeated the hall and I smothered a gag – it wasn’t the worst smell I’d ever smelled and there was a good chance it wouldn’t even be the worst of the day. Zoey walked past me, singing “dammit, dammit, dammit!” I closed my eyes briefly, admonishing myself for having said it aloud earlier and then asked her not to say that word as I scrubbed at the floor. That’s motherhood, I guess.

The next hour was spent making a grocery list, getting breakfast for everyone but myself, dressing two kids, chugging cold coffee, throwing on some concealer and lipstick so I didn’t look as dead as I felt, and struggling to shake the dark mood that was quickly settling heavily over me. When Z spilled apple juice all over the car and herself (including the brand new clothes she was wearing), I felt molten hot rage course through me, and I thought, “Sometimes, I hate motherhood.” She looked at me, sorry filling her sweet, blue eyes. “The lid wasn’t on very well, mom. I’m sorry.” Guilt and shame and love immediately washed away all of my ire.

Somehow I managed to get all of us in the car and on our way. The three of us sort of matched in our hob-knob assortment of stripes and strawberries, so I asked a woman working the desk at Z’s school to take a photo of us. She handed back my phone and I grimaced at the image of myself. I’m still twenty pounds heavier than I’d like to be and much of the time feel I look tired and old. Z asked to see it and squealed over how cute we looked. I promised myself that I’d show it off for her sake.

After I dropped her off, I stopped at the store, cursing myself for not thinking ahead, in a hurry before my doctor appointment. I hitched the diaper bag over my shoulder and the million pound car seat on my arm and rushed into the store, prepared for a quick trip in and out. A woman stopped me as I walked in.

“What a strong, beautiful mother!” She exclaimed.

I thanked her, but doubt must have been etched on my face because then she said, “Truly. Strong and beautiful.”

I wanted to stop and cry and hug her and tell her that she had no idea how much I needed to hear that, that it had been an awful, ordinary morning, that I spent most of my time tired and overwhelmed, that I doubted my abilities as a mother, that I worried my daughter would stop loving me because I couldn’t quit snapping at her, but I was in a rush. So instead, I smiled at her – a great, sincere smile, thanked her again, and walked into the store, feeling a little bit lighter than I had a few moments before.

And that’s motherhood, I guess.


A Damn Good Mom

My daughter asked me to rock her tonight. I was tired – we’d been driving all day and I was up late last night. I had a thousand other things that needed to get done – chapters to write, bags to unpack, school work to prep. I was hungry and stressed because there was no food in the house (or none I wanted to eat). I wanted to lay her down and say goodnight and unwind, but I worried about the guilt, about the fear that I’m a bad mom because sometimes I want to shut down or hide.

I spend much of my time worried about the kind of mom I am. Am I a good mom? Am I bad mom? Do I care enough? Do I care too much? Am I involved enough? Am I over-involved? Am I even doing this right?

 It was easy when she was a newborn – eat, sleep, poop, repeat. We’d throw in tummy time and some songs and call it a day. Most of the time I felt like freaking Wonder Woman. It’s not easy anymore. She needs so. many. things. Or so she tells me five hundred times a day.

I need milk, Mommy.

I need to watch a movie, Mommy.

I need peanut butter, Mommy.

I need baby, Mommy.

I need to play play-dough, Mommy.

I need to color, Mommy.

I need juice, Mommy. No, milk. JUICE, MOMMY! JUICE!


She’s a very articulate two-year old. It’s exhausting. I’m exhausted. By the end of the day my patience is worn thin, my nerves are frayed, and every part of my body is sore. I can tell by the way she treats her baby dolls what kind of day it’s been. On good days, she’s sweet and loving and the baby gets hugs and kisses and songs. On bad days, the baby is in “big trouble” and goes to time-out because she’s “not nice!”

I watch her emulate my behavior and it simultaneously warms my heart and makes me cringe because she’s playing mommy. She’s playing me. Most days I don’t want that kind of knowledge.

I want to be the best mom, the greatest mom ever, the kind of mom who doesn’t snap or yell or wrestle her kid into car seats and out of bathtubs and away from playgrounds, but I’m not that mom. I can think of at least five mistakes I made today and I dwell on each and every one of them. I’ll spend the rest of the day and half of the night wishing I could take back that hissed, “Zoey!” when she wouldn’t stop whining, wondering if she’ll remember how she cried when sat in time-out after I told her not to eat the play-dough for the twelfth time, hoping that she’ll forgive the pop on her hand when she reached for the hot stove after I told her not to.

I make a lot of poor choices in the heat of the moment. But every once in a while, through the grace of God, I manage to make the right choice.

Like tonight. Tonight I sat down with my very big two-year old. She curled up in my lap and laid her head on my shoulder while I sang her a song. And when the song was over, she pulled back and smiled at me. Then she gave me a kiss and said, “thank you, Mommy,” before she nestled back in. And I held her close and smelled her hair and breathed. And for the first time all day I didn’t question the kind of mom I am because I know: I’m her mom and I love her enough to care about the kind of mom I am.

And I think that makes me a pretty damn good mom.


Today, you were terrible. Today, I was exhausted and your daddy was sick. Today, you didn’t listen to anything I said. Today, you climbed on the kitchen table everything even when I told you not to, especially when I told you not to, you laughed at me when (for the millionth time) I tried to stop you from eating the possibly poisonous fertilizer we’d just laid down, and you almost managed to insert a screwdriver into an electrical socket before your dad saved you from almost certain death. Today, I was sure I’d lose my mind.

When I caught you dumping out the dogs’ water and pulled you out of the laundry room, you collapsed onto the floor and threw a tantrum complete with flailing limbs and pterodactyl-level screeching. You calmed down when I bribed offered you a snack, but when it wasn’t goldfish, the tantrum began again.

I felt a familiar throb begin in my temple. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine I was somewhere more peaceful like a hospital ER or the front row of a One Direction concert, but your wails only grew louder. I gave in and handed you some goldfish. You smiled at me beatifically, momentarily soothed by the cheesy goodness of the fish, until I refused to share my Coca-Cola with you.

“Milk! Mommy, milk! Peeeeaaase!” I opened the fridge, more than happy to comply if milk would make the noise stop.

Naturally, we were out of milk. Since you live almost entirely on goldfish, milk, and avocado, the absence of one is nearly catastrophic. I grimaced, unprepared for the drama of a grocery store trip. Still, I packed your diaper bag and wrestled you (screaming) into your car seat. You didn’t want to be strapped in so you threw your paci and Hootie at me, but quickly realized you needed them more than you’d ever needed anything in your entire existence.

“PACI! Are you? HOOTIE!! Aaaaare yoooouuu?” You cried mournfully until they were firmly in your grasp. You were finally, blissfully quiet and I sat down, reveling in the silence that the magical pacifier gave.

But then, “MOMMY! MOMMY! MOOIE!”

I didn’t think a movie was necessary for the five-minute trip to the grocery store so I told you it was broken, but you didn’t believe me. You lifted your arms over your head, clapped your hands together, and chanted, “MOOIE! MOOIE! MOOIE!” until I had no choice but to relent because I was crying laughing too hard to continue the broken movie charade.

You were happy when Flynn Rider smoldered and Rapunzel sang, until I turned off the car and sat you in the grocery cart. You didn’t want to sit, you wanted to play, and when you couldn’t play, you wanted me to hold you, and when I didn’t hold you, you started to cry. So I let you walk, “but only if you hold my hand!” You did – for approximately three seconds – but then you saw something shiny, so you jerked away and took off running.

When I tried to pick you up, your limbs went stiff and immobile, then totally limp as you threw your weight to the ground. You lay stretched on the dirty floor, whining dolefully. Earlier today, you weighed 27 pounds but somehow you gained 100 pounds and were too heavy to pick up.

I pretended to walk away, hoping you’d follow me, but you stayed there crying instead. The woman at the deli counter with the glossy hair and high heels tried to pretend like she wasn’t judging me for leaving you there and I tried to pretend I wasn’t silently yelling at her to mind her own because HAVE YOU EVER HAD KIDS, PERFECT, SHINY LADY!?

When you thought I wasn’t looking anymore, you got up and darted to the thing you wanted to destroy touch. I used my super mom strength to wrangle all 127 pounds of you back into the cart.

I strapped you in and you started crying again. I watched you – your beautiful face scrunched up in fury, your blue eyes luminous with tears – and my frustration began to wane. I remembered yesterday when you gave me a thousand hugs, yesterday when you laughed at everything, yesterday when held my hand as I sang you another song, and I was overwhelmingly struck with love. Because, daughter, I love you so much. We stood there, just two girls in the middle of a store, until your cries finally subsided. Then I kissed the top of your head and whispered, “I love you, baby.”

And you Houdinied your way out of the strap, stood up in the seat, and said, “Gol-fish?”

Z with paci and Hootie.

Mom Squad

As the relatively new mom of an insane toddler, I spend the majority of my time (when I’m not working or cooking or cleaning or doing all of the things) thinking about motherhood in a philosophical way (what does it all mean?), mostly so I don’t think about the actual mothering and start to panic because children are terrifying. In order to make any real discoveries I’ve had to observe a variety of other young mothers. Fortunately, I’m at the point in my life where everyone my age is having babies. I know at least six that are pregnant with their second or third at this very minute so I’ve been able to watch a lot of moms. I’ve found that, for the most part, there are specific types of moms, and though not everyone fits each mold perfectly, we can probably all find pieces of ourselves in them. The types vary from place to place, of course, but here in the South we have the following moms.

The Perfect Mom
You ring the bell and she immediately asks you to “please excuse the mess” so you gingerly step inside expecting it to look like your house where humans live and toddlers reign supreme. But you can’t find a mess. Because there isn’t one. Because she’s perfect. The kids are quietly reading or coloring in their coloring books. The blocks are neatly stacked. The dishes are done. And the walls are freshly painted. You want to be mad but then she hands you a freshly baked cookie, still warm from the oven, and you wonder if maybe she can be your mom too. You can find her at any PTA meeting – she’s the president or the class mom. Maybe both. Probably both.

The Crunchy Mom
She’s either a stay-at-home mom who homeschools her kids or a working mom with a cool job like photography or graphic design that allows her the freedom to create her own schedule. She makes her own everything – syrups, diapers, food, medicine, and clothing – and only cooks with the vegetables she grows in her garden. The Crunchy Mom has so much breast milk in her freezer that she’s about to donate like a thousand ounces to women in need. You can find her at your local farmer’s market or blogging about her life as a crunchy momma.

The Neurotic Mom
“Are you okay!?” “What happened!??” and “Oh my God! Do we need to go to the hospital?” are all phrases uttered regularly by the Neurotic Mom. She worries constantly and never completely shuts down, her brain running a hundred miles an hour even when she sleeps so when she wakes, she jumps out of bed anxiously, sure there’s a crisis at hand somewhere. Vigilant and alert, she keeps her kids safe from any and all danger, but sometimes neglects herself. As a result, she must either find an outlet (like writing or interpretive dance) for all of her nervous energy or risk a mental breakdown that will render her completely useless for the unforeseeable future. You can find her in any online parenting forum, asking a thousand questions, or running a marathon in record time.

 The Easy-Going Mom
Motherhood seems to come naturally to her. She takes it all in stride – fussy babies, skipped curfews, temper tantrums from the tiny and the teen. She’s confident in her abilities as a mother and knows she can only do her best so she doesn’t worry about the bad days. Her home, though far from perfect, is comfortable and cozy, and she exudes a sense of serenity that can calm even the most Neurotic Mom or upset child. You can find her doing Mommy and Me yoga or pushing the jogging stroller down a long country road, smiling tranquilly.

The Hands-Off Mom
Though her kids are nowhere to be seen, this momma is busy doing other things – she’s baking or reading or cleaning. It’s not that she doesn’t care, it’s just that she doesn’t see the point in hovering when they’re so much better at entertaining themselves than she is at entertaining them. Besides, with all of the games and toys stacked up around the house, she knows they can’t have gone far. The other parents are up and screaming at their kids to “run faster!” or “keep going!” but she’s content to sit on the sidelines during Toddler Tennis, a glass of wine in one hand and a book in the other, only looking up when she hears her name called. You can find her in whichever room her kids aren’t.

The Southern Mom
A bona-fide former Southern belle, this momma oozes charm from every inch of her thick, lustrous hair. Everything in her house is monogrammed so you’ll never forget where you are or who you’re dealing with. You’ll know which kids are hers because they’re the loudest ones in the room, but if they get out of line, all she has to do is give that look and they quiet down faster than a prairie fire with a tail wind. And if they don’t, well! Bless their hearts! You can find this momma at any small-town boutique or picking up someone’s trash because pallets equal projects, y’all!

The truth is that even though I’m mostly just the one type of mom, I need the other types to balance me out and keep me sane when I’m panicking about what the spot I found on my daughter’s arm means. I need my mom squad: one to tell me I’m doing a great job, one to hand me a bottle of homemade organic lotion, and one to hand me an ice-cold beer (because I’m not a wine drinker). But I think, most of all, I need a mom to make me cookies. Because cookies heal the soul, y’all!

The best part of my squad.


It’s Not Soap Night

Stop standing in your highchair. Sit down! Are you done eating? Say “all done!” SAY “ALL DONE!” Why are you smearing avocado in your hair?! Stop! Stop it, Zoey! It’s not soap night! 

I always said I wouldn’t be that parent. I wouldn’t be the parent who has to leave places early because it’s bedtime, the parent who misses things because they couldn’t bear to leave the baby with find a sitter, the parent who wouldn’t have to bribe their child not to throw a tantrum. I was never going to be the parent that doesn’t go to dinner with her friends because mom guilt keeps her home with her daughter, the parent that misses out on impromptu dates late night golf cart rides around the neighborhood because the baby is asleep and she should be there if the babe wakes up…even when her aunt is there to watch her.

But I am that parent. I think. Sometimes, not other times. But I don’t actually have any idea what kind of parent I am because it varies so greatly from day to day. One day I’m gentle and endlessly patient and the next day – well, the next day is last night.

Last night I lost my temper. Lost it because I was tired and knew I had to be up far too early for another biopsy that might not yield answers. Lost it with a toddler who doesn’t mean to test my patience because she’s not even two and she (usually) doesn’t know any better. Lost it because I wasn’t focused on my daughter, I was focused on the routine of bedtime tasks.

I laid her down to change her diaper and she moved because she hates it when I change her diaper (and yet stays perfectly still when they change her at school because her school is full of wizards who use their powers to make children behave). She yelled and writhed and threw her body around angrily. Her leg went straight into the poopy diaper that I’d just opened and that poop went everywhere – on her, the mat, and me. Frustration welled up in me. I didn’t yell but I held her down firmly and said her name furiously.


And she stopped for a minute. She stopped when she normally wouldn’t because she heard something in my voice, saw something in my face that said I was going to lose my mind. Over nothing. Over poop. And for a minute, I won. But her eyes widened and her lips quivered and she lay still – scared, sad, hurt. And I did that to her. I scared her. I saddened her. I hurt her.

It wasn’t supposed to be soap night.

But she didn’t care about that. All she knew was she didn’t want her diaper changed and her mom hurt her feelings. I hurt her feelings. And my husband, seeing the meltdown that was imminent (on my end, not hers), swept in and started helping, the cool dad diffusing the tension brought by the mean mom. (And I can already see how this will play out in the future.)

I saw her start to calm down because he was calm. I saw her start to smile. I saw her forget what I’d done. And I may not know what kind of parent I am, but I know what kind of parent I don’t want to be. So I choked down my anger, put aside my misplaced frustration, and started singing “The Wheels on Bus.” And when those little hands started rolling as the wheels went ‘round and ‘round, and that smile shook the sad out of her eyes, I knew it didn’t matter what kind of parent I was as long as I let love fuel my actions rather than anger.

Even when I’m tired and covered in poop and it’s not soap night.


That Mom Life Though

Sidebar: No matter how hip and with it I am, I just can’t bring myself to say “doe” instead of “though.”

Y’all. I thought getting married changed my life. Then I had a baby and everything really changed. I think we all have some sort of vague idea of that because we have sisters, best friends, and neighbors who have kids, because we have younger siblings, because we babysat as teenagers, but the idea (even when we’re pregnant) exists in a sort of hazy, dream-like state. Because the reality of caring for your own child is so beyond comprehension that there’s no way to prepare.

So, naturally, I’ve compiled a list of things I’ve learned in these past four months of Motherhood. I’m sure some will only be true for me but I hope that some will resonate and, possibly, make us feel understood.

You will be exhausted. Forever. Because you’re waking up multiple times per night. And getting up for work. And cleaning the house. And NEVER, EVER resting. And even when you’re sleeping, you’re actually half-awake waiting for a cry, making sure they’re still breathing, listening to your husband snore, fuming about the teenagers down the street who are still playing soccer loudly outside after 10 PM ON A SCHOOL NIGHT. Speaking of which…

Noise makes you angrier than anything. And you hear every. single. noise. Because the baby just went to sleep and maybe you were going to sit down and catch up on Scandal but now you can’t because your neighbor just rang the doorbell. And then the UPS guy came to the wrong house. And the dogs barked at a shadow. And…what? Yep. There’s the baby.

You won’t actually sleep when the baby sleeps. I really don’t know what people are talking about when they say, “sleep when the baby sleeps and don’t worry about the dirty kitchen or the fact that you have nothing to wear except your prom dress or clothes stained with vomit and bright yellow poop.” When Zoey sleeps, I either stuff my face with food for the first time all day or I rush around the house cleaning up. I can’t put that stuff off because a dirty house makes my anxiety skyrocket. And then I Hulk out.

You’ll cry. When she cries. When she smiles. When you’re reading “I’ll Love You Forever.” When she gets hurt. When she won’t stop crying. When you haven’t slept in 42 hours. When your husband asks you what’s for dinner. When you get up in the middle of the night to stare at her sweet, sleeping face and she sighs in contentment and your heart swells because you never knew you could love like this.

You can’t have nice things. This one would hurt if I didn’t love my daughter in that weirdly all-encompassing way that one does as a parent. Because I really, really, really love pretty clothes. And I really, really, really hate messing them up. But you will get poop and vomit and drool all over yourself – sometimes all at once – and it doesn’t come out when you’ve let it sit all day (and night) but you don’t always have time to change and do laundry. And what’s the point when, as soon as you do, the cycle starts all over again.

Everyone will judge you. All of the time. For everything. No matter what you do, someone will always be there to tell you it’s wrong. Or how they did it. Or how, if they had kids, they would do it. There’s something about babies that makes people feel as though they have ownership. Breastfeeding? Great but you should do it for at least twelve years. Co-sleeping? No way! You will absolutely suffocate your child! Solid foods? Start them at and no sooner/later. You wrote a blog about that mom life? That’s so messed up. And you will smile and nod politely until, finally, after a sleepless night and a fussy baby, you snap and punch them in the throat.

You will love your husband. But in a different way than you did before. Women always talk about how the love they have for their husband grows when they watch them love the baby. I didn’t get it right away. This one took some time but now, when he gets up in the middle of the night so I don’t have to, or when I get home and she’s wearing a “Future Zombie Hunter” onesie and pink socks with bows, or when he reaches for her and says “mine,” I go totally white girl and literally can’t even.

You will miss things. And sometimes you’ll be bummed about it. Sure, you won’t always mind because you have your mini-me at home and, honestly, you’d normally rather spend time with them. But sometimes you want to go see “Guardians of the Galaxy” or go skiing or have a girl’s night. But you can’t. Because you don’t have a sitter or there’s not enough time or you’re too tired to move. And you’ll have to remind yourself that one day you’ll be able to do things for you again but for now, you have to enjoy your little monster as much as possible.

Occasionally, you will be jealous of your friends without kids. Because they get to do what they want, when they want. They get to sleep in and all night. They get to eat an entire meal sitting down. They get to have nice things and go nice places. They get to run to the store without carrying a diaper bag, unloading a stroller, and trying not to wake a sleeping baby.

But no matter what you feel or how tired or hungry or frustrated you are, the second she tucks her head into your neck, and holds onto your shirt, and falls asleep…


Words can’t do it justice.

And that mom life? It’s the best kind of life I’ve had.


Note: A version of this post ran on Scary Mommy.

Lies I’ll Tell My Daughter

I’ve always known that I’d have to lie to my kids one day. It’s one of those weird parenting moments (because parenting is all super normal) where you have to make hard decisions (because parenting is normally really easy). We have to teach our kids not to lie, while still occasionally lying to them. Then, once they figure out that we lie regularly, we have to teach them the difference between a white lie, an out-and-out lie, a lie of omission, and just pure delusion, as well as when it’s appropriate (or not) to use each. It’s very complicated stuff.

One day, I’ll tell Little Z about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny as incentive to behave to give her a sense of magic and help foster her imagination. And though I know it’s a lie, I think it’s a lie that will do her more good than harm. I hope to be a parent who is open and honest with my daughter, but I know there will be times when I’ll lie to her. Sometimes I’ll lie to protect her, other times to give her hope, and, more often than not, because I’m still trying to convince myself.

Everything will be okay. Well, baby girl, fingers crossed and here’s to hoping! A sentiment spoken to reassure and soothe, the truth is that sometimes it won’t be okay – at least not right away or for a while or on any kind of timeline that you would like. Whatever wounds you suffer will heal when they’re supposed but not before then. At 16, I suffered my first true heartbreak. People told me over and over that I’d be over it and him in no time. I wasn’t. It took me several years and two boyfriends to get that ish out of my system. I wasn’t okay for a long time. Then, one day, I was.

There’s nothing to be afraid of. Bullshit. There are lots of things to be afraid of. I’m still afraid of the dark and things grabbing my feet when I step off the bed. I’m afraid that someone will stab me as I sit enjoying a meal. I’m afraid that I won’t be a good parent and that I won’t write the book I so desperately want to write. And I’m afraid for you, Little Z. I’m afraid of all the terrible things you’ll run into in life. I’m afraid you’ll get hurt. I’m afraid you’ll get lost. I’m afraid you’ll hate me. I’m afraid of SO.MANY.THINGS. The point is that it’s okay to be afraid as long as you don’t let your fears debilitate you. Don’t let them keep you from living or loving or being yourself.

If you’re a good person, good things will happen to you. Sure, and sometimes you’ll be a good person and bad things will happen to you. Like you’ll get cancer, or lose your job, or someone you love will leave you. And there’s nothing you can do to prevent it and you’ll feel defeated and worthless. You might feel like there’s no one on your side and no one understands. Sometimes for no apparent reason, things just suck. Embrace the suck because it won’t last forever and try to find the good in life, however small or seemingly insignificant, amidst all the awful because the good is what makes life worth doing.

You can be whatever you want to be when you grow up. If this were true, I’d be a professional writer living the easy life in my Manhattan penthouse. But that’s not how life works. For some, yes, it’s as easy as pie to achieve your dreams and be all that you can be, but for most of us, it takes a lot of work. You’ll need talent, skill, perseverance, and dedication. And sometimes even that isn’t enough. I thought a big smile, passion for dance, and good attitude would be enough to make me a Rangerette. They weren’t. I thought writing a book with relatable characters and quippy one-liners would make it interesting. It didn’t. I thought waving a wand around and making up spells would get me into Hogwarts. It didn’t. If you understand that it won’t always be easy and you don’t let failure discourage you, eventually, you’ll get wherever you want to be.

Love is all you need. It is if you want to live on the street with your 5 kids and loving husband. Only (mostly) kidding. It’s a lovely and romantic notion but love alone cannot sustain us. Love is patient and kind but it doesn’t guarantee food or clothing or safety or warmth. It won’t provide you a home. It won’t cure you when you’re sick. It won’t guarantee you security. So while love of self, of others, of God is essential, it alone is not all you need. Don’t let anyone convince you that it is. That, my dear, is a trap you don’t want to fall into.

I don’t want Little Z to be a cynic like I was, at least not before some heartbreak and her own Summer of Scandal (which is an entirely different story), so I’ll tell her these lies to give her confidence and comfort. I’ll tell them lovingly and believably in the hopes that she grows into an optimistic, fearless woman who believes that she can conquer the world. I’ll tell them with a smile and a hug because I’m her mom and that’s my job.

I’ll leave out the fine print though. I may be a liar but I’m no ruiner of childhoods.



Note: A version of this ran on SCARY MOMMY.