Saturday, February 18, 2017

It's not me, it's you

The other day some kids were mean to Amani. Not the innocent kind of mean; mean-mean. The kind of under the radar, sneaky I'm-asking-you-a-question-but-really-I'm-making-fun-of-you kind of mean. These two little eight year old twerps were asking Amani to read words and smirking at each other because she can't read. What the Hell? She's five! Why were they acting like assholes to a five-year-old who can't read?
Amani had no idea that they were making fun of her. She was sweet and genuine in her responses, which only made it worse. "No, I don't know that word but I can read a few. Do you want to see me write my name?"
I am totally unprepared for this. I couldn't really intervene because Amani would realize that the kids were making fun of her, and that would have only made things worse. I just wanted to grab those little shits by the shoulders and shake them, "What is your problem?"
The whole situation is not helped by my personal history. I was picked on a lot as a kid. Whenever I asked for help, adults often just blew me off. I got a lot of, "He just likes you"; "It will get better when you're older"; "Consider the source"; "Try not to be so sensitive"; "Just stay away from them".  Then there was a fan favorite, "What does it matter what other people think?". I HATE when people ask why I care what other people think. Ummm...the human need for approval is one of the foundations for a civilized society, so I guess I care because... I'm not a sociopath?
People gave me all kinds of ideas as to why I invited so much ridicule, and what I was doing wrong. Huh, I had never really thought about it that way, but that is in fact, what a lot of people did. Most people did not try to help me. Instead they tried to give me reasons as to why I invited ridicule. It's funny that in the adults mind the ridicule was not the problem. I was the problem. Maybe that's the case; I think I was pretty immature and I admit that little weird. Maybe that's why so many kids seemed genuinely offended by my presence. Oh, and also, kids are assholes. It would have been really nice if an adult had acknowledged that.
Now there is the Internet, and God help me, I have no idea what I am going to do about that. I'm going to keep working on it, but for now I am going to start by acknowledging that other kids can be really mean and she does not have to put up with it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Should this be the new normal?

     Depression has a way of making you question everything in the world including your own feelings. Outside of the generalized symptoms of insecurity and self-doubt, knowing I have a mental illness feeds my tendency to second guess myself. Unfortunately, it is really hard to come to a satisfactory conclusion.
     Case in point: these days I am angry all the time. I'm overwhelmed and sort of unfocused. I feel manic, but without the happiness. On paper, it totally reads like a time line of impending doom. On the other hand, this is a totally rational reaction to the state of current affairs. So, I go back and forth on it:
   On one hand: A lot of my behavior has changed, and it's sort of having a negative affect on me and those around me. I'm neglecting a bunch of my responsibilities just so I can fight with people on Facebook, and my relationship with my kids is changing a little bit because I ignore them a lot more. I know I am making some of my family and friends uncomfortable.
     On the other hand, this type of behavior is not necessarily out of character for me. even when I'm well medicated and stable, if I get pissed, I get pissed and am slow to recover.  I firmly believe real political push-back comes from people who are noisy, passionate and to some degree obnoixous.

     I told my psychiatrist about all this today and she agreed that I was in step with pretty much all of Seattle. She did however, adjust my meds a little bit.  I am not sure that's a good idea.
If I haven't made it clear thus far, second-guessing is my job.
Anyway, do I really want to medicate this away? Even if I am demonstrating a few symptoms and acting weird, do I really want to medicate myself out of it? Maybe we should have been behaving this way all along.  It is going to take some serious committment to outraged to fight what we are facing for the next four years. There is part of me though that is scared that my outrage and passion are symptoms of an on coming breakdown. Then again,  Maybe the world needs a little righteous-crazy to balance out the crazy from the other side.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Shhh...they'll never find us...

      You know what's great? I love being a mom. Like, really, truly, love being a mom. My kids are awesome and I love hanging out with them. Even though they are messy and loud and annoying and boring and stressful, I still think they are the best thing in the whole world. Which is a nice change from how I felt about parenting when my children were first born. I was hit hard by my postpartum depression after the birth of both my children, and I can now happily say that I am fully and completely out of the woods.
     For now.
     Turns out, while postpartum depression is a hot topic right now in the psychology scene, there is evidence to suggest that postpartum is not the most psychologically trying period for moms. In fact, postpartum might be one of the most fulfilling periods in a mother's life. According to a new study published by Developmental Psychology, mothers of infants report the highest levels of life satisfaction and fulfillment when compared to mothers with older children. Additionally, despite the societal emphasis on postpartum, the study found that new mothers report the low levels of emptiness, loneliness and stress when compared to mothers with children in school. According tothe data, the most difficult time for moms is when their children are in middle school. Mothers of middle schoolers actually feel more parental dissatisfaction and stress than mothers with children at any other stage.
     What the Hell?
     I feel a little bit like I've been tricked. All this warning and counsel over how to recognize and treat postpartum depression, and then science turns around and is like, "Oh, no. That's the easy part."
     The study gives a lot of reasons as to why this might be the case. First of all, science now recognizes that middle schoolers are horrible, horrible people. Well, maybe not horrible, but the report does note that middle schoolers are at least as difficult as babies, but not nearly as cute. Plus, teens and parents encounter a lot of stress as the kid deals with more complex issues in school and peer relationships. All this is happening, but there are not a lot of resources for parents of teens. There is an unending collection of books, and websites, hotlines and social groups for new mothers, but almost nothing for parents of children hitting puberty.  Parent of older children can hardly even find time to vent to each other because they all have packed schedules.
     Obviously, I just think this is all fan-friggin-tastic.
     I need to be careful though. This study is not saying that parenting my kids as middle schoolers will be worse than dealing with my kids postpartum.  I need to remind myself that the law of averages is clouding the results of the data. Yes, the study indicates that most mothers will have a decrease in life satisfaction as their child moves towards middle school, but most mothers don't have postpartum depression. Apparently, most mothers are blissfully happy postpartum. (Jerks.) Live it up ladies, because nobody gets through middle school unscathed.
     I'm just kidding. I love you.
You know what we all need to do? We need a bunker. Then instead of driving our grumpy little hormone-balls, to practice after study group after sleepover, we drink and plot ways to embarrass our kids at the mall. I've been through the paretal depression thing before, so you can just come and hide with under my blanket until they leave for college.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Heroes Can Be Human

I hate that moms are considered superheroes in our society.
That shit needs to stop.
I very much understand that parenting is undervalued in our society, but the idea that mothers are superheroes is not doing anyone any favors.
Have you seen the viral news story about the mom pumping while running a marathon?  She posted the photo with #normalizebreastfeeding.

Uhh...No. No. Please don't.

A photo of Hein Koh working while breastfeeding her twins went viral not very long ago. The internet blew up with articles praising Koh for proving children "don't hold women back". Hooray for moms! We are so strong and powerful! Look at how well we make it work!
Yeah..y'all need to stop.

These women are kicking ass and taking all kinds of names, but can we all agree that they are (hopefully) not normalizing anything? Can we all take a step back and see that a woman nursing twins while working is no more "Making It Work" than Angela Cavallo was when she lifted the car off her kid?
I'm sorry, they are unbelievable women, but Koh, marathon-mom, and the like cannot be celebrated as symbols of motherhood. They don't represent mothers; they hardly represent humans. (Are we sure that they ARE in fact humans, because I have my doubts.) Or maybe they do represent motherhood, but that's not a good thing.
     To me, these photos only illustrate that pressure on mothers to has really come to a fever pitch. Women are led to believe that if they are not simultaneaously June Cleaver and Beyonce, they have not lived up to what motherhood is supposed to be. Across the internet, women bemoan their own inadequacy with the hashtag #mommyfail.  "I bought a cupcake without sprinkles", "I forgot her swim lesson", "I missed the first day of school pic".
Don't get me wrong, I'm obviously not blaming the hashtag. I am well aware that people love to poke fun at themselves for silly misadventures in parenting. As a matter of fact, poking fun at myself for misadventures in parenting happens to be my forte. However, it's important to realize that by only joking about "failures", and holding demigods up as the only examples of #momsuccess, we begin to create an unachievable standard, and trivialize the difficulty of being a parent.
     When I was in the center of my depression, I remember wondering to myself why everyone else seemed to be handling parenting so well. It seemed like everyone thought it was hard, but also cute, and silly and fun. Everything I read, from ecards, to newspapers, to parenting literature diminished the difficulty of just being a mom.  During our birth class, the doctor warned that women are particularly sensitive during this time because of adjusting hormones. They warned against "Mommy Burnout"?
Are you fuckin' kidding me?
We Can Do It!!
     "Oh those silly mommies and their horomones. If they weren't so emotional and weak, maybe they would deal better with being able to sleep five hours a night in 45 minute chunks and then working full time. Dads, try to be sensitive to her moodiness."
     When I called in hysterics literally begging the doctor to help me with Amani's eating and sleeping schedule, the nurse told me to have someone watch he baby and go get a manicure.  A MANICURE? I am alone, recovering from an infection, nursing my child every 45 minutes round the clock, while she holds daily four-hour-long crying fits everyday, and you think a MANICURE is the solution?
     The way I saw it, the onus was on me. I would say to myself,  "This is parenting. It's hard. Everybody knows that. Yet people succeed at it everyday. Suck it up, just like all the other parents do."   I would not ask for help; not when I was becoming septic; not when Amani had GERD; not when I was in the deepest darkest of despair. I wouldn't ask for help, because I didn't think there was anything anyone could do to help me, and I was weak for even complaining about it.
     I say this as one of the most priviledged in our society. I am white, educated, and upper middle class with a healthy and supportive family. I can only imagine how difficult parenting must be and how lonely other women must feel. Imagine if Koh's photo had not been a woman at her laptop in bed, but of a women wearing double baby carriers while she worked the register at McDonalds.
Or handed out fliers on the street.
Or cleaned a hotel room.
Somehow #Makingitwork doesn't seem appropriate. If we posted accurate reflections of "superhero" moms, the hastag would read  #maternityleavenow

To her credit, Koh noted that she holds a position of priveledge.
"I couldn't [be a working mom] without the support system that I have and I'm very fortunate in that regard. However, many moms don't have enough support and it's pathetic that out of all of the industrialized nations, the U.S. offers the least amount of support for working moms... I'm self-employed and I choose to work, having a flexible schedule and a support system in place, but so many moms don't have choices and are forced to go back to work way too soon after giving birth."
     It used to be that science thought women had a higher pain tolerance than men because, well, how else could they possibly endure labor? Turns out, that no, women aren't able to give birth because they have superpowers. Women are able to endure labor because they have to.
We need a similiar paradigm shift with regards to "superhero moms". Mothers should not have to be super human to maintain a job or a hobby. Our society needs to shift our perspective of parenting to give families the support they need.