Parent Season
Why I No Longer Follow, Read, Write For, or Share ScaryMommy Posts

Jeez, helicopter parents are ruining the world.
Why can't they just let their kids have experiences without trying to fix it all the time?
Look at them, hovering, micromanaging, rather than just letting the kid be a kid for gosh sakes.
Parents are the worst.

holding his hand
on the sidewalk
on a residential street
helicopter parent alert

Jeez, permissive parents are ruining the world.
Why can't they just take their kids out of the restaurant/store/airplane whenever they pitch a fit?
Look at them, waiting calmly, letting the kid scream and kick and just do whatever he wants.
Parents are the worst.

by all means
let your pint-sized savage
just tear around my bookstore
this isn't a business or anything
let him run
actually, could he damage some property too
i have an insurance claim i'd like to inflate
real quick


Jeez, organic parents are ruining the world.
Seriously, they're gonna spend how much on biodegradable diapers?
They're rubbing it our faces, that they have sooo much money that they can literally shit on it.
Why don't they donate that money to, like, charity?
Like, mild winters and multiple insect infestations have significantly affected the spruce-fir forest habitat of Arizona's Pinaleno Mountains— the only place the endangered Mount Graham red squirrel occurs
Parents are the worst.

Jeez, socially irresponsible parents are ruining the world.
Seriously, they're gonna fill up their own personal landfill with human excrement?
What, to save a few bucks on diapers?
Look at them, just slapping a Pampers on that crap-machine, no thought for the otters.
No thought for the Mount Graham red squirrel who's going to be picking corn kernels out of there in a week.
Parents are the worst.


Jeez, tiger moms are ruining the world.
Honestly, could you chill the fuck out?
Look at them, pushing their kids to achieve, with their "dangerous perfectionism" and "bilingual nannies who went to Harvard," and nothing but deadlines and Suzuki training and second place is the first loser and "oh you got a 98% on your geometry test? How does it feel to know that you failed so close to perfection? You'll never get into Harvard on this kind of lazy execution."
Joy-sucking Republicans, the lot of them.
Parents are the worst.

do you think you're playing buster
you're not playing
you are inventing

Jeez, hippie moms are ruining the world.
Honestly, could you please give a fuck?
Look at them, pushing their kids into outdoor classrooms with their "experiential learning" and "child-led curriculum" and no due dates and no expectations and no competition and no fucking hard knocks and "oh I guess 2+2 could equal cheese... no, that's not wrong. It's just different. What a special snowflake you are!"
Flaming liberal middle-achievers, the lot of them.
Parents are the worst.


Jeez, you named your kid John?
WOW. Way to think outside the box.
That won't be annoying when he's the sixth John in a class of nine students.

Jeez, you named your kid Jonn?
WOW. You just had to spell it different, huh.
That won't be annoying to spell over the phone for the rest of his life.

Jeez, you named your kid Jom?
Just wow.

Parents are the worst.


Jeez, defensive parents are ruining the world.
It's like, seriously,
nobody is being mean to you.
Nobody is judging you
just on your appearance
and your child's behavior
and your judgment when you respond to your child's behavior
and your character as interpreted by your judgment
and your child's character.
Just that.

Why do you take everything so personally?

It seems like you want everybody to think of your work as a "real job"
but then when strangers in public places give you
really constructive criticism
because they care
you totally blow them off
or tell them to mind their own business
or cry
all of that is so unprofessional.

All you have to do is just
be better at parenting
and when your kid
pitches a fit in the grocery store
for example
just do the right thing,
all the right things
that each person around you silently demands of you

1. get the kid out of there
2. wait patiently until he's done
3. buy the damn pop-tarts
4. firmly and kindly refuse to buy the pop-tarts
5. smack your kid so he knows who's boss
6. give your kid a kiss so he knows you love him no matter what

I don't know what is so hard about just
parenting right.

It seems to me that when you do things differently
from the way I was raised
or the way I nannied
or the way my friend parents
or the way I myself parent
it's because
you're probably
don't give a shit.
And it's my job
to correct that.
Or rather
correct you.

Which is why I'm here
on the internet
telling you why you're wrong.

It's not because I'm sad about something in my life
that I cannot fix.

It's not because my own child is a mystery to me
and I need to feel
like I know something.

It's not because I just read a Scary Mommy post
"Here's why I Will Never Allow My Children To Have Snacks,"
and there were 12,000 shares
and a comment board full of "Amen, Sister!"
and "Moms who give their kids snacks should be shot
and have their kids removed
and given to loving
snack-free homes,"
and then I looked over at the table where my kids were eating
apple slices
and graham crackers
at 2:30 pm

It's not because I then thought,
it took me 4 minutes to meet 12,000 people 
who think
I'm terrible.

It's not because there's a small part of me
that believes their thundering capitalized voices.

It's not because I love my kids so much
and I can't help but wonder how could I possibly be so wrong
about everything
if all I want is to do this right?

That's not why I'm being mean to you,

I'm telling you you're wrong
because you are
like me
and it felt right
at the time.

But now that I think about it,
parents are the worst.
Sometimes you just need to see some gross pictures of Buster eating. Right? Don't you?

Chapter 1: Oatmeal

my favorite part of oatmeal
is the film it leaves
on everything it touches
just like
a gray film

like check out his fingers
the film
it's already starting

did you know
oatmeal is best eaten
from within your finger cracks

my other favorite part of oatmeal
tied for first, really
is the ticking clock on cleanup
it's not like
that you can come back to
an hour later
or even
you know
oatmeal begins to destroy your life
the moment you add water

if you do not attack
and i mean
with murderous intent
as soon as that oatmeal hits the table
if you wait
you will have to come back
with rented power tools
or possibly
just a new table

Chapter 2: Soup

can be

in this house
we pre-chew our cheese
and then allow it to breathe
on the table
in a pool of chicken broth
for oh
what would you say
8-10 minutes?
bout that.
till it's real shiny
till the broth gets a skin on it
that's how you know it's time

Chapter 3: Peanut Butter

that's a disc of straight-up peanut butter
pressed into a mold
of the roof of his mouth
and when he laughs
there are peanut butter strings
can you see them
peanut butter spit strings
beige ones
spit strings
chock full of nuts
so photogenic
who wants
anything but peanut butter
right now

On Being Tired is a series of posts exploring what it means to be tired as a parent.
Make sure to catch the first few posts in the series: 

New Mom Tired explored the acute exhaustion that accompanies a woman's swift and merciless arrival into the brave new world of motherhood. It's a hunker-down-and-stay-alive kind of tired.

But then... at some point the kid starts sleeping for longer stretches, you start to vacuum again (I'm told), and you realize that you kind of know what you're doing now.

The tired that used to feel panicky and hopeless now just feels kind of normal. And it stays that way, at least for the next three and a half years. I'm sure it stays that way for a lot longer, but my oldest kid is three and a half so that's as far as my guided tour can take us today.

Question: How does tired feel when you're no longer the Piper Chapman of parenting, and you've settled into Red territory?

Well, I can't speak for you, but these are five tireds that I still feel, three and a half years into my sentence.

1. Scatterbrained Tired

Scatterbrained Tired is not just "where are my keys? Oh, here they are in my pocket."

It's, "where are my keys? Where am I going? Are they in the door again? The car door? Have I left the house today? When was the last time I went somewhere?" Scatterbrained is reaching for basic understanding of the world and coming up empty.

i was wondering
do i have to fill this out here
can i take it home
maybe bring it back tomorrow
what this is

Imagine your brain is a library, a big, old, hushed one - the kind with a domed ceiling and streaming light and smooth, scarred tables, and rows and rows of books. This is your entire life. There are books with titles like "Middle School Halloween Dance," and "What I Remember From Pre-Calculus," and "All The Zip Codes Where I Have Ever Lived" and "Times Ryan Was Wrong And I Was Nice About It," and a pamphlet called "Fun Facts about British Parliament" and a six-volume series of "Boyz II Men, Michael Jackson, The Four Seasons, and Paul Simon: The Complete Lyrics to Everything."

You go to the volume entitled "Location of Keys," and when you open it, not only are the keys not there, but the book itself is hollow, one of those plastic faux-books that realtors use to make the study in the new condo look lived-in. You look down the shelf and start to panic.

You check the books:
"Tom Cruise Complete Filmography" - No, I know this. He was in the one from the 80's where he was in his underwear on the floor... and the one in the future, or there might have been a couple in the future... and the one where he was a super agent guy... nope, EMPTY.

"Best Friend's Sister's Name" - Sssssssssssssssssss............arah? No. EMPTY.

"Current Date" - June? No, January. It's January, right? It's a J month. Check outside to see if it's winter. EMPTY.

"How To Get Home From The Grocery Store." And where did I park? Or... did I walk? EMPTY.

The library, once filled with the knowledge of an entire complex, well-examined life, now holds nothing more than boxes of air. It looks real, but the books clatter to the floor, useless, a sham, a mess.

You look up at the domed ceiling, see dust suspended in the beams of light.

You think, "what in the literal fuck has happened to me?"

Nothing, girl. You're just Scatterbrained Tired.

2. Dead Inside Tired

All the best existential nihilist philosophers did their best work right after having new babies.

(Do not look it up.)

But it would make sense if it were true. There comes a point in every Tired Mother's life when she thinks, "this is meaningless. Nothing matters. I could stay right here on this couch all day. In fact, I think I will."

Welcome to Dead Inside Tired.

That's when you stop showering.
That's when you wear sunglasses all the time.
That's when you sit in front of your phone and play Candy Crush, and you half-hear, but do not look up to watch the baby squeal, coo, and babble in his jumperoo.
That's when you say, occasionally, in an oddly robotic voice, "are you having fun, little man."

It's a hard feeling to describe if you've never been Dead Inside Tired.

You're not sad, or mad. You're just.. quiet. You're just a statue, one you imagine in a public housing lobby somewhere in the Czech Republic, a heavy, still form sitting on cracked linoleum, next to a plaque that reads, "Shell."

You're checked out.
You're done.
You can't summon the energy to give a single fuck.

Dead Inside Tired is a rough one. But on the upside, it has a short shelf life. You can only be Dead Inside Tired for so long before you either fall asleep or move into the next phase.

And for me, that next phase is usually...

3. Manic Joy Tired

Yep, I usually swing straight from Dead Inside to Manic Joy Tired. 
Listen, I never said I was a role model, and my family has a psychiatric background that our friends call colorful and our enemies call nothing because they've all disappeared.

If Manic Joy had a theme song, it would be One Direction singing "Who Gives a Fuck Let's Just Drink More COFFEEEEEEE!"

Here are the key elements for a period of Manic Joy Tired:

1. Way more coffee than is medically advisable, which you will drink to the rhythm of your galloping heart while attacking a long-overdue project like...

2. A crusty stovetop, food-spattered fridge shelf, cluttered basement, or toothpastey sink, that you can scrub furiously while sweating and lip-syncing to...

3. Upbeat pop music, playing way louder than it should be if you are over the age of 12, but which the baby totally loves, as is evidenced by his giant gummy grin, that you respond to with...

4. The most terrifyingly exultant displays of joy that any non-figure-skater has ever attempted to execute. Jumping, laughing, clapping, dancing... think about what a crackhead would do if she found all of the crack. You're there.

you had to be there
but trust me
it wasn't crazy
it wasn't
and it had been too long
since anyone had dusted
all the lightbulbs
at the grocery store
okay now that i'm thinking about it
it was definitely

Manic Joy Tired is fun while it lasts, but it only lasts as long as the coffee. At least you get a clean sink out of the deal... and as you get better acquainted with your own personal roller-coaster, you'll figure out how long you can ride this period of happiness and productivity, and how you can make sure that you get the most important things done while you have the give-a-fuckitude to do them.

4. Panic Tired

There doesn't need to be a reason. I've never suffered from depression but I do have some pretty high-octane anxiety that is a natural byproduct of being what one therapist called "lightly manic." She seemed to be pretty happy with the diagnosis, since she went on to tell me that most successful people are "lightly manic." Which I thought was pretty cute. Like, crazy manic, but light! With a lime wedge! And success! I'll take it, doc. Where do I sign?

But if I don't get enough sleep, my brain doesn't remember how to be still, and then if I don't give my brain a project (like a crusty stovetop, or, I don't know, a blog) then my brain will find its own problem to chew on. Fueled by too much coffee and tethered only by frail, spindly roots, my brain plunges madly into the dark places where Mufasa told Simba he must never go. This is where you'll find me, when I'm Panic Tired, thinking about:

1. My children dying
2. Me getting cancer
3. Ryan leaving us
4. Earthquakes, tsunamis, flash floods, zombie apocalypse, Ebola, North Korea - all that good global nightmare stuff.
5. Rats & child molesters (This is a fascinating pairing that I'll explore in more detail on my own time.)

The thing about Panic Tired is that if you call someone to explain why you're panicking, the first response is usually something like, "that's not something you need to be afraid of right now," or "but that's not what's happening right now," or simply, "you're okay."

That's true, I am! Except I am NOT.

Panic Tired doesn't care what the world actually is - it only cares what it could be, if Michael Bay were directing it based on a screenplay co-written by Jodi Picault and Cormac McCarthy.

5. Bread Tired

I don't think I need to go into detail about the number of loaves of French bread that have been eaten by tired mothers the world over since the beginning of this blog post, do I? 

I don't think I need to lay out the reasons that a crusty, flaky, crunchy, pillowy, still-warm loaf of French bread is the exact fuel a tired mother needs, do I?

I don't think it needs to be said that when I say French bread I could also mean Entenmann's coffee cake or Hostess Twinkie or mashed potatoes or obviously cookies of any stripe, right?

this mom
brought to you
by mission tortillas
"they're bread... but flatter."
I don't think it'll surprise you when I say that scientists have recently proven that bread cells bind directly to the spine, literally holding you up on days when you don't think you can go on, does it?

Nope. I didn't think so.

After my last post (which you should read before moving forward if you want all the ocean/boat/shark metaphors to make sense), I got the best comment from Jean:

From the perspective of someone who isn't a mom, this was so insightful. Do you have any advice on what friends can do to effectively help a new mom so she doesn't feel so stranded alone in the ocean?

Jean! My girl! What a great question.

First and foremost, let me say that the standard gestures are standards because they are wonderful and necessary - visiting, bringing food, offering to help with pets/housework, and giving mom a baby break so she can go bathe, all solid choices to help take some weight off mama as she floats in the deep water of her new life.

I will never forget the friends who showed up with 2 cases of beer and a package of Mega Bloks for Chicken after Buster was born. I will never forget all of the people who fed us, both times we had new babies completely changing our lives. That food was delicious, the beer so cold, and the sense of community a balm.

Like the friends on the beach, those gifts waited for me in the outside world when I was able to look around and find them. But no, they didn't solve the fundamental groundlessness of my new life. The hardest challenge was in my head - how do I redefine what a productive day looks like? How do I feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of a day in which I did nothing but leak milk and wipe shit? Is this panicky feeling normal? Is breastfeeding supposed to hurt this much? Why is the baby crying? Why isn't he sleeping? Am I okay? Are we okay? What have I done? 

The truth is that there is very little anyone can do to help a new mom feel less stranded, because she's stranded (I hate that I'm about to say this... but here I go) INSIDE HER OWN LIFE.

The reality of the situation is that she is out there alone, and she knows it, and it's an acute and unfixable feeling.

Like depression or anxiety, or the specter of a Great White circling in the black water underneath your pale, shaking legs, New Mom Tired isn't a problem with a solution so much as it is a state of mind that is both horribly uncomfortable and necessary.

That being said, you can reach out to your friend not with what we think of as a solution to a problem - a meal to solve your hunger, a load of laundry to solve the fact that you are out of towels - but with genuine interest in who she is becoming and what is happening around her.

In short, your friend needs you to get out of the boat.

5 Ways To Get Out Of The Boat

1. When you go visit, ask questions that show that you're genuinely interested not just in how she's feeling, or how the baby is doing, but what her life looks like right now. 

Ask about the birth, and wait while she regales you with all the details she can recall.

Ask, "so tell me what a day looks like right now. Tell me about the routine. Is there a routine?"

Ask, "how many diapers are you going through?"

Ask, "breastfeeding looks ridiculously hard. How do they even teach you how to do that? How is it going?"

One of the most isolating parts of new parenthood is worrying about how boring your new life is to other people. As a new mom, I gave short answers to these kinds of questions and then tried to talk about something "fun" because I didn't want to bore or scare my friends with the reality of my life. Don't let her try to entertain you. Show her that she doesn't have to put on a show. Show her you're interested. Show her that her life - the boob, spit, diaper, nap cycle - is not a snooze to you. Hear her stories and then ask more questions.

Under no circumstances should you tell her to suck it up, ask her to look on the bright side, or for the silver lining, or see the glass half-full. While you might have a fine point, the truth is that she's alone in the middle of the ocean and she needs someone to say "fuck! This water's deep! Are you a super hero?" not, "at least it's not too choppy!"

2. Invite her to go for a walk with the baby when she's ready/healed/cleared by the doc for light exercise.

Getting out is good for everybody. Baby will probably sleep, you two will get some fresh air and exercise and a good talk, and your friend will feel like a boss because she went out into the world with the baby and nobody lost a limb.

3. Text her funny shit from the outside world.

Don't just text "how are you doing?"

Text, "I just saw the full ass crack of my 85-year-old neighbor as she bent over to pick up a dog turd. She was not wearing underwear. Just something for you to dream about tonight."

4. Buy her a funny parenting book.

Personally, I like this one by Jason Good.

But you can't go wrong with this one, either.

5. If you've been a New Mom and you can relate... then relate.

When she says, "this is so hard," say, "yes, it is so hard. I remember." You don't have to give all the gory details of what's to come - in fact, I wrote a blog post about how those kinds of stories don't really help our friends so much as they alienate them.

Just remember with her. Let her know that her feelings are normal, even if they're awfully heavy. Let her know that you Validate her feeling of depletion and fear while swimming alone and exhausted and teaching herself to weave and caring for a blind 3-legged kitten.
Of course you're tired. 
Of course you're scared. 
I was, too. 
It's SO hard. 

There is no greater comfort than hearing, "me too."

Jean, thanks for this awesome question.

Moms, if you have anything else to add to this list please comment! I would love to hear more suggestions on how our friends can get out of their boats.

Let me just start with this caveat: I only know my own new-mom experience, and as that time grows smaller in my rear-view, I don't know how much my recollections hew to reality, or how much they are shadows cast on a wall, longer, darker, larger than the thing that cast them.

New Mom Tired is a unicorn, unlike any other kind of tired you've ever experienced before or will ever experience again. New Mom Tired is so brutal that they use a variation of it to interrogate prisoners of war. New Mom Tired is the Great White Shark of tireds: ancient, simple, lethal, and laser-focused on its goal to break you.

New Mom Tired is a result of, sure, yes, not enough sleep, but also physical exhaustion from the marathon of labor, weariness from treading water in a bottomless ocean of powerful emotions and hormone surges, fatigue from attempting to scale the steepest learning curve of any person's life, and the burnout of trying to live your regular life with crippling deep-in-the-gut fear that something will go horribly wrong.

New Mom Tired is knowing you're alone out there. People try to help, but it's not the kind of help you need - they bring you food and tell you to take a shower, which is kind and generous of them. But when you don't know which way is up or who you are anymore, bagels and shampoo aren't the cure. You need a life raft.

You know, what?

Actually, allow me to utilize the Great White Shark metaphor to describe New Mom Tired to those of you who may not have ever had the great privilege of briefly losing your mind in the days and weeks immediately after becoming a parent.


Okay, so you're swimming in the ocean.

that's the one

Wait! Actually, before you get in the ocean, you run a marathon, or possibly two back-to-back marathons. So you've just run between 26.2 and 52.4 miles, and now you're swimming in the ocean.

The water is deep and you know you're already tired, so you have a little knot in your stomach. You start to wonder if you shouldn't have planned ahead a little bit, maybe hired a lifeguard to come out with you, show you the ropes, and give you a minute to rest on her life raft. This is a new experience. You've never been out this far. But you look around you and you see land on 3 sides, so you think, I'm fine! There's land. This isn't, like, Mars. I can make my way back. No problem. You laugh a little. It's not like I'm the first person to run 1-2 marathons and then swim far out to sea, right? You see people on the street all the time who have done that! And I'm at least as strong and smart as they are. I'm okay. I'm okay. I'm okay.

But the water is deep. Your body is tired. And that practice loom upon which you are teaching yourself to weave keeps getting all snarled up.

OH! Didn't I mention that after running the 1 or 2 marathons and then swimming out into deep water, you have to learn a new skill completely unrelated to your previous life experience, just based on what you've seen other people do?

Every time you think about the snarled-up threads, you feel angry and embarrassed. This looks so easy when other people do it! They just pop the thread on and boom, ten minutes later there's a placemat.

You're treading water, and your legs are tired. You start to get really nervous. You start to think, something bad is going to happen.

But then you look around and you're like, calm down. There's land on 3 sides, easy swimming distance. Why are you freaking out? There's nothing to be scared of! Just calm down, master the weaving arts real quick, and -- (bump)


A little bump, a little jostle. Under the water.

Your heart is pounding as you kick a little harder and wave your arms in the air, trying to signal to the people on the beach - the smart people, the ones who didn't volunteer to run 2 marathons, dive into the middle of the ocean alone, and then attempt to acquire complex new skills without any guidance. They wave back. They're so excited for you! What an incredible day!

A speed boat swings by. It's your aunt! You reach out to her, and she throws you a casserole dish of macaroni and cheese. Then she spots your loom and says, "oh, you're weaving! Such a natural, beautiful skill. Of course, in my day weaving was out of fashion. We just bought our placemats at the store! Enjoy every minute! It goes so fast!" Then she takes your picture, guns the speedboat, and heads back to the beach party where, no doubt, they are talking about movies and books and cool new memes and not stupid weaving, for God's sake.

Speaking of weaving, when your aunt stopped by you dropped the loom. Now you scoop it out of the water and the threads become hopelessly tangled around your fingers, so when you start to weave again it really hurts. But you have to learn how to weave. Those placemats are really important. You take deep breaths and long, flat exhales, as every pull of the thread pinches a little more. This is the gig, right?



You gasp and splash around for a second, flailing so hard that you drop the blind, 3-legged kitten that has been balancing on your head this entire time.

OH!  Didn't I mention that after running the 1 or 2 marathons and then swimming out into deep water and then learning a new skill completely unrelated to your previous life experience, just based on what you've seen other people do, you are also doing all of this while protecting the safety and nurturing the development of a defenseless, helpless creature?

The kitten mews and shivers as you pull it out of the water and cradle it to your cheek. It's okay, it's okay little one. We're going to be okay.


You start to cry.

A kayak arrives, slicing through the waves toward you. It's your friend Megan! She says, "let me hold that kitten! Oh, what a gorgeous kitten! You take a few minutes for yourself now." You hand the kitten to Megan, and take a few minutes for yourself.

There is nothing for you to do, for yourself.
You bob up and down in the waves, next to the kayak that does not have a seat for you in it.
You tread water.
You look around.
You're surprised to see that the land is still there.
You see your loom floating in the water.
You think,  fuck weaving. Weaving is bullshit. 
You pick up the loom and start weaving again.
It doesn't feel like you have a choice.

(bump) (a flash of gray skin slips by under the water)

"DID YOU SEE THAT?" you say to Megan. She looks up from nuzzling the now-sleeping kitten, and says, "what? I didn't see anything. Well, I'd better get back to the beach. Call me if you need anything!" You need something. You have no idea what it is. You say "thanks, I will," as she hands the kitten back to you and starts paddling back to shore, where the beach party is still going full-throttle, and you can see a couple of bonfires have been lit, and your friends are dancing, barefoot, in the sand.

Your legs are dead weight.


The loom's threads are pinching and scraping your fingers, and it's a snarl of wrong starts and knots.


The kitten on your head wakes up and begins to cry.


Your husband swims by, with long athletic strokes, and says, "I did the dishes!"




Your husband dives under the water and comes up holding a piece of driftwood. "It was just a piece of wood, babe."

He doesn't understand that it doesn't matter if it was never a shark. It felt like a shark. It felt like a ticking clock. It felt like the end.

He says, "it's okay. You're okay. I'll take the kitten for awhile. You just float."

You lay on your back and stare up at the sky, shot through with brilliant sunset streaks. You see the first stars emerge, and shine down on you. You inhale. You exhale. It's going to be okay. 

Your husband taps you on the shoulder. "Babe? I'm sorry... I can't get the kitten to sleep. Do you know what to do?"


i really

As the weeks pass, you swim closer to shore. You find rickety purchase, first in sand that shifts under your feet in the riptides of sleep regressions, nipple blisters, baby's first roll off the couch, what color should the poop be again, what is hind milk, how many words should I be speaking to him...

Closer to the beach the ground firms up and your feet fumble on the rocks, some as slick as projectile vomit on your face, some as jagged as the first white tooth that cuts through the gum, some comforting in their smoothness, as lovely and round as a cheek.

You find your way back to land.

But you never forget how it feels to be New Mom Tired. New Mom Tired is a comprehensive depletion. It's heady, thrilling, terrifying, lonely. It's lovely, too, wild and beautiful.

Never will you be more grateful for rock and sand under your feet.
Never will you be prouder than when you stand on the beach and look out into the waves.
Never will your heart ache more than when you see a friend out there, bobbing, treading, casting.

Hanging on.

You'll wave to her and remember how it felt to be waved to, how you thought those waves were a yoo-hoo, a toodle-oo, the careless gesture of the childless and lighthearted. How the arms in the air were just reminders of how far you'd drifted from where you used to be.

You'll wave to her from the beach, and understand that the arms in the air were not salutations, but salutes. They say,


You are strong enough.

I'll see you soon.
There are a few topics that I haven't written about specifically - day-to-night wrap dresses for under $350, handy tips on how to have it all, top 5 positions guaranteed to blow his mind, ten facial recipes using what you already have in your fridge, why eyelash bleaching might be the right choice for you.

But that's because I don't work at Cosmopolitan. I work in the fucking jungle.

I write about engorgement (not that kind), holding his interest (a baby's, so you have time to put in at least one of your contacts, and then either your other contact or your eyepatch because safety first you guys), and the five-minute face (not a fresh, sparkling, lightly-made-up face. The face that says, "THAT'S IT. FIVE MINUTES IN THE CHAIR, KID. OH, YEAH? YOU WANT TO MAKE IT TEN?")

Here in the jungle, we don't write about how to survive your holiday work party, or online dating, or cut-yourself bangs (Really? Still, we're doing this? Ladies. LADIES.) We write about how to survive. Like, period. Like, life. I'm calling it "Survival Classic: Literally, Survival."

We write about being tired. Except me. I haven't written about it. It's like writing about how much I love wine or chocolate or Pinterest crafts or make-ahead dinners or nautical nursery decor.

or fresh raspberries
with dew
dangling like diamonds
from their little raspberry hairs
that totally look like my kneecap hairs
last month
when they were still short enough
to sassily stand up
in every which way
and attractively display

A Mommy Blog post about being tired? Wow. You drove straight onto the Expectations Superhighway with that one, sister. I'm already bored. It just feels like that nugget has been mined harder than Bernie Sanders' side eye.

Not to mention I, like so many moms I know, desperately need someone to recognize how hard I'm working, but balk at the idea of admitting that I'm struggling. I start to write a post in which I discuss the exhaustion of parenting, and the little voice in my head says, Never let em see ya sweat, girl. Now make yo'self a dress out of the curtains and go visit Ashley at the lumber mill.

that's not what i said.
i said curtains
and a dress.
you're wearing pajamas
 and a tiger hat.
ashley is not going to lend you any money for tara
when you walk into that mill
looking like


My yearning for recognition battles daily with my pride, and it leaves a hole inside me that only organic, seasonal steamed vegetables* can fill.

That's why I've never written about being tired...


I remembered that Scarlett O'Hara was way more of a badass when we saw her sweat, and this blog has never been about putting on a pretty face at the expense of honesty. No tired, stressed person has ever felt comforted or empowered after reading about how AWESOME someone else is doing.

Plus, woah, you guys, there is so much more to say about being tired than your standard "I pulled a tampon out of my backpack uh oh where's my pencil," or "the baby woke up at 4:00 am we are not eating cassoulet for dinner, unless Pizza Hut has a new cassoulet-explosion deep dish pizza NOW WITH HOT DOG CRUST, in which case order it up, hoss. Tonight we feast the feast of a Sooners fan."

Tired isn't just groggy and irritable. There are lots of ways to be tired.

On any given day, you might find a tired mom:
singing showtunes, like, hard,
saying "I don't think that's funny at all, and I think you already knew that," to the cat,
trailing off mid-sentence,
folding laundry from the dirty hamper,
giving up,
looking up childless friends on Facebook and clicking their vacation pictures,
giggling madly at all the Dick Poop jokes,
doing several dozen laps around the grocery store to look for crackers and eventually leaving with an avocado,
eating cake in the dark without really tasting it,
buying baby sleep books on kindle and reading them super fast so she can finally crack the code to how to make the baby sleep immediately and for at least six consecutive hours,
realizing she forgot to condition her hair,
realizing she remembered to condition her hair but forgot to rinse,
fantasizing about starting over in a condo in Pensacola,
writing a poem that isn't too bad, actually! (fast forward to the next morning when she's like, 2 questions: where is the masterwork I crafted yesterday, and who wrote this fucking garbage and published it on my blog?)
plating cheese and apple slices with hands trembling from the quad-shot she just shotgunned,
and rarely,
very rarely,

So I'm going to write a few posts about what it means to be tired as a mom.

For me, today, as I'm beginning to write this post --

(because the way I write, I wrote last part first because that's just how an artist operates, okay? Poetry arrived in search of me, okay? I am merely the medium and my process cannot be explained for it is not of this world. So just... okay?)

-- I feel like a newly-escaped North Korean at a Seoul self-serve fro-yo shop.

There are so many flavors to choose from.
I guess I'll have to try them ALL.

*Right, there was that joke about steamed vegetables up there. You guys all got where that was going, right?
the top ten hilarious/whaaaaa? things
that administrators have said to me
during a day care tour

1. We do not have books in the classroom, since books limit a child's imagination.

You're so right. I know I never imagined anything while reading! 
Now that I think about it, books are clearly the #1 destroyer of our children today. 
That's why Reading Rainbow is brilliant. 
So brilliant... 
... LY EVIL.

Also, you know all those studies about how being read to helps children with their language skills
and social skills
and empathy?
I'll believe it when you SHOW ME THE NUMBERS.
No, not those numbers.
Those numbers are far too conclusive to be convincing.
I need new numbers.
No, not those numbers either.
Those numbers just reinforce the findings of the first numbers.
I need numbers that are open to my truth.
Find those numbers please.
Find them in your imagination please.
You must have a good one
as you have clearly never read a book.

and then he was like
"this isn't a dog
it's jack
and the vacuum is the beanstalk
only instead of being a beanstalk
it's a vacuum
and jack has to go get his cow back
only the dinosaur
who is a giant
he says
i'm gonna eat that cow
and jack says
but i'm going to get my friend
dr. elasmosaurus
and his fixing tools"

and that's when i knew
we had to have another baby
this one
is ruined

thanks "books"

2. This is a peanut-free school, except for sandwiches.

Upon further discussion, it was established that peanut butter is fine, because "it is sticky."

No I think I read that somewhere about peanut allergies. Like, sticky counteracts the life-threatening anaphylaxis, like as long as the peanut is sticky and hard to clean off your skin, it's like fine though. I think I read it on the AAP site. Or Yahoo Answers. No, it was Yahoo.

3. We do not use contractions when we speak to the children. WE SPEAK VERY CLEARLY TO THEM.

Wait... are contractions a thing? 
Is that a thing to think about? 
Is that something I need to worry about? 
Are you fucking kidding me right now? 
oooooooooooh mmmyyyyyyyyy gooooooooood this suuuuuuuucks
(mentally shelve your dreams of doing anything but googling 
"toddlers contractions long-term damage" this afternoon.)

Your dogma's a fucking bummer, dude.




4. You don't want a fully-licensed program, right? I mean, that's just so structured. And you seem really cool and laid-back. I don't think you'd like it.

Wow! I am not communicating properly! Also, I should not wear these moccasins anymore!

5. There is no sugar in this school; that is one of our core values.

Uh yeah! 
Me too! 
It's like, "empathy" and "charity" and like "self-respect," you know, like pshhhhhhh. 
SUGAR. That's a value. 
Or like, NO sugar. 
Not even 

wait what
who gave buster that raisin toast
with peanut butter
oh my god
raisins are
a violation of our core values

also books

6. So here is the bathroom, as you can see there are sinks... one, two, three sinks.

Yes! Three sinks! That is true! And how old are you, Deborah? Wow! Forty-seven! I thought for sure you were going to say just four. Or seven. But like an old seven. Like Benjamin Button.

7. It's very important that we teach children self-respect, so each child has the opportunity to use the mirror of affirmation each day.

Oh please, please let's talk more about the mirror of affirmation. 
But wait, let me start recording first. 

8. We are an outdoor classroom in a public park. No, we don't have like a fence or anything, because we find that it's just not a problem. Like, running away isn't a thing the kids have done.

Also, not joking: "the maintenance guys and gardeners stop by all the time to visit with the kids and show them cool things they've found in the woods, like they'll tell us where they found a nest of turtles down by the creek and offer to show the kids, or they'll bring someone a special flower they found..."

Mom in the group: That's nice. And these guys who regularly stop by the classroom, they're background-checked too, right?

Teacher: Yes! I mean... (looks at the other teacher) They are, right? They are. I'm pretty sure they are. Like, I'd say I'm... (start to pick a percent, changes mind) wait, actually, let me find out.

Funny story, she did find out, and HAHA they are not background-checked. 

hi frank!

SO just to be clear, there are non-background-checked adult strangers who know where this school is, and this school has no security system, and these strangers are friendly with the teachers, and they bring presents to the kids, and offer to show them secret magic delightful baby animals in a remote location? 

Sign me up! Oh shoot, how long is the waiting list?

9. The kids are responsible for pouring their own tea at snack time.

That's cool. I like when a school teaches independence. 

Wait, like iced tea, right? 

Or... are you handing the toddlers a heavy pot full of boiling liquid to pour in their laps? Or... no, you know, it's probably fine. I'm just being a helicopter parent, you know, like all the worst ones. Just asking about safety and stuff. Ignore my moccasins. I'm not cool and laid-back.

10. We try to limit the adult presence in the school so parents are not permitted at the school during the day.

Also we try to limit the sunlight presence in the school so that's why there are blackout shades on the windows.

Also we try to limit escapes so that's why there are cages bolted to the floor.

A wise person might say that the day you wake up at 3:30 in the morning and grit your teeth all day long is not the day to have a long "coaching talk" about your spouse's parenting.

I never said I was a wise person. But I am a co-parent. And co-parenting is really hard.

In a family like ours, in which one parent stays home to beat back the rabid spider monkies with string cheese and Dino Trux, and the other ventures forth to bring home dat bacon, a natural tension grows between co-parenting as advertised, and co-parenting as it actually exists. We're not the only ones who deal with this, right?

Co-parenting as advertised:

We are equal partners in raising our children.

We will make parenting decisions together. 

We'll discuss problems as they arise and present a united front to the children. 

OF COURSE there is room for you to do things your way. I love you, respect you, trust your judgment, and think you are a wonderful father.

Co-parenting as it actually exists:

We are equal partners in raising our children.

As long as you do what I tell you to do.

Because I know more about parenting than you do. 

I know about problems before you know about problems.

In fact, the only reason you know about problems is because I called you and told you about them.

No, you may not "take a crack" at the problem. Stop talking and let me work. 

I will read about the problem, tap my network of trusted mom friends and medical experts for input, and formulate a plan based on our family members' Myers-Briggs personalities and the current barometric pressure.

I and I alone am going to make the decisions about how to handle the problem. And if you disagree with those decisions, I guess we can have a... "conversation."

... that you will lose. 

Some people think that conversations aren't technically something you can "lose." 

But you will lose. And I will win.

Because this is my JOB. I am the employee of the month, 41 months in a row.


In so many ways, Ryan is my equal partner in parenting. He is the Captain of Bedtime and the Sergeant Major of the Bath. He does more than his fair share of housework; before he leaves for work in the morning he empties and refills the dishwasher, makes the coffee, and takes out the trash. Just so I can have an easier start to my day. He is a magnificent father and husband.

that's the one
the one in the little girl sunglasses
and star-brite headband
that's my baby daddy

He is a full-time, full-on, full-speed-ahead dad, every minute of every day. While he is at a desk, a lunch meeting, a conference call, I know the children are always on his mind.

And right there's the difference.

They're always on my mind, too. And on my body. And under my nails. And in my hair. And in my lunch. And in front of the computer. And on my lap while I pee. Always.

We equally share the responsibility for running our home, staying married, and loving our children. But when it comes to raising our children... the sharing, she is-a-not so equal.

We are both full-time parents, but in our house I am the only full-time caregiver. I read the parenting books, blogs, and boards. I'm the one who has invented the routine, pulled an order out of the ocean of minutes that would otherwise crash into each other without a confident (or at least determined) hand at the helm. I'm the one who knows how much is too much to prep Chicken for the fact that he's going to get a haircut later today - enough that he remembers he gets a balloon, not so much that he remembers the sharp snick of scissors right next to his ear. 

It's me. I am the professional here.

I am the graduate student of parenting. I must earn my masters again every day, so that I can impart those lessons to my student when he gets home from work, so that he can continue to handle the pulse-pounding hostage crisis that is bath time. (Sweet mother of God, why have we armed them with so much water?!? AND CUPS?!? Cups are just tiny buckets WHAT DID WE THINK WOULD HAPPEN.)

I don't think I am a better parent than Ryan is. I do think I am better at the job of parenting- and I should be after 3 and a half years of 24/7/365 experience. And that's why I correct Ryan. All the time. Seriously, all the time. I interrupt him, talk over him, cut him off and mutter two-second explanations for my rudeness. It's not because I'm more loving; it's because I'm more experienced.

An example, you say? Your wish is my command.

The Scene: 

We are walking to Green Lake. 
I offered to let Chicken ride his scooter. 
The normally 5-minute walk has blossomed into a 22-minute odyssey. 

We have gone one block. 

Ryan is impatient and wants to get to the park. 

I am conscious of the fact that this is a learning opportunity for our whole family. 

Let's watch as I mentor Ryan against his will: 

Ryan: Okay, buddy, come on, we gotta keep moving.
Me: What is he looking at?
Ryan: I don't know...
Me: Hey Chicken? What are you looking at?
Chicken: A leaf!
Ryan: We gotta keep moving to get to the park--
Me: (interrupting Ryan) What kind of leaf, baby?
Chicken: A yellow one!
Me: (to Ryan) Don't rush him. It's not about getting to the park. It's about taking the trip.
Ryan: (hearing me, taking direction, engaging with Chicken) Can I see the leaf? Wow! It is yellow! Do you know why leaves turn yellow?
Chicken: Why?
Ryan: Because the seasons are starting to change. The leaves change color and fall off the trees, and that's the season we're in now. Fall. Then the leaves die.
Chicken: They die?
Me: But they grow back in the spring, baby.
Chicken: The leaves are dead?
Ryan: Well, yes, everything that lives eventually--
Ryan: Wait, I thought we weren't rushing him.
Me: He's been telling me that his animal toys are dead. I have to do some reading about how to talk about death with kids. Until I put a plan together let's just take a break on the death talk.
Ryan: Well, can't we just be honest about life and death?
Me: No, I'm going to write a script for us and we will not deviate from that script.

This is how co-parenting gets sticky.

There are two people in Ryan and Chicken's relationship, and I am none of them. It is not my job to moderate their world, and in fact, it will just piss everybody off if I try. Ryan gets to talk to Chicken about death if the subject comes up. That's okay. That's a big moment for both father and son, to begin to explore the immutable truths of life and death.


After Ryan and Chicken have their nice bonding talk about death, I'm the one who has to go in and meet the social worker when Chicken starts telling his three-year-old classmates that everyone is going to die. Yes, Olivia. Your mommy, too. 

I want Ryan to have autonomy in his relationship with Chicken, but whatever Daddy sows, so shall Mommy reap. I need some input on the planting, right? (See also: The time Ryan taught Chicken how to key in the iPad passcode, and the time at dinner he was like, "Do you think a pea would fit in your nose?" And I was like "GET OUT.")

Their relationship is their own, but it exists under the umbrella of our family life, over which I am President, Empress, and CEO: Chief Everything Officer.

That's why I shut him down sometimes, or place a firm but gentle hand on the conversational wheel. I'm not doing it because I'm mad; I'm doing it because I can see the big rig merging on top of us, if we keep going in this direction.

But I do have to wonder if I hurt his feelings when I make it abundantly clear that, first of all, he is doing "Daddy" wrong, and second, that I sometimes wish I'd married another me. It would save a lot of time if I didn't have to explain anymore why some workout clothes get hung in the closet and others go in the drawer.

I don't mean to make him feel unwelcome in our family, or worse, in his own relationship with his son. But I know sometimes I do.

It doesn't help that by the time he gets home the day has already run 99% of its happy. The vast majority of moments that occur between 5:30 pm and bedtime are moments of shit-fitting, soup-flinging, chair-shitting, brother-biting, bath-tsunami-ing, and not sleeping yet.

He comes home and my "I appreciate you, beloved family member" reflex quivers from equal parts exhaustion and last-mile-of-the-marathon hysteria. I've never appreciated anyone more than I appreciate my beloved husband, and yet I've been trying to appreciate my beloved children all day long, and most often I greet my husband with hands that both cling to and brush away his presence:

I need you; I need you to go away. 


Co-parenting is really hard. I want to say that I ask too much of him, but the truth is I ask too little. 
I ask him to do everything, but nothing his own way, and then I take everything out of his hands again in the hopes of avoiding a confrontation. The end result is a martyred mom, a resentful dad, and two kids who won't know what's broken until they too have volunteered for the glory and pageantry that is co-parenting.

I don't have a prescription, only a diagnosis, an apology, and yes, a persistent sense of rightness. 

I do still think I'm right to manage the way our life works. 

I don't think it's possible for me to take a step back, not without dropping our quality of life from the solid 4 (that's not a star rating. That's out of 10.) where it's been hovering since Buster was born.

Like I said, I don't know what to do. This is a problem.

So I'll do what I always do when there's a problem. 

I will read about the problem, tap my network of trusted mom friends and medical experts for input, and formulate a plan based on our family members' Myers-Briggs personalities and the current barometric pressure. 

(FYI, it's 29.94. Holy shit! 29.94? Get your Kevlar and scuba helmets! When the barometric pressure is that super-high/dangerously low/averagely in the middle you always have to prepare for flying debris and chilly water temps!)

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with Ronit Feinglass Plank
so today it took a little longer than expected at the grocery store
(with both the boys)
(in the racecar shopping cart)
(i know, i thought it would be super fast, too)
(when it took
90 minutes
i was so surprised, too)

and instead of making it home in time to make vegetable soup
and grilled cheese sandwiches
and fresh-cut apple slices
i tossed a plastic box of deli-packed popcorn chicken in the cart
and then on the way home i drove thru starbucks
and bought a fruit and cheese box

our three-person shitstorm knocked the front door off its hinges
and the boys scampered
and floundered up the carpeted stairs
as i chanted
to the table
to the table
go to the table

they finally found the table
by way of the bathroom
because sometimes
you have to let them find their own way
and also i had to pee.

they sat before the feast
a smorgasbord of plastic boxes
cold popcorn chicken
wedges of cheese
apple slices
almonds and cranberries
(chew chew chew)
a single cellophane-wrapped packet
of thin, seeded crackers.

they ate
bopping and twitching,
chewing and munching,
doing full rotations in their chairs
flicking their feet under the table
like the coked-up do
or like children who have been served
popcorn chicken
on a monday.

i was
in myself.

you are barely surviving
i said to myself
in the soft, sad voice
of the teacher who told me once
that i'd better marry well
you used to be a person
people thought of as a person.
not anymore.
now you are one flat tire away
from total defeat
look at you
drive thru lunch boxes
grocery store popcorn chicken
you oughta be ashamed of yourself.

i didn't disagree
because the forks were plastic
because a starbucks machine had sliced the cheese
and the apples
instead of mommy's loving
knife-wielding hand

because vegetables

because drive-thru.

but then
i did disagree.

c'est quoi ce bordel
i said to myself
in the french-accented, bullshitless voice
of the teacher who told me once
that i looked fucking weird
(because it was true
i did look fucking weird
and someone needed to say it)
get your head out of your ass.

mon dieu
you took two toddlers to the store
in the race car shopping cart
and you did not hobble the elderly
and you did not topple the wine
that alone
is a victory

even in the low-to-moderate state of alarm
that is
grocery shopping with two kids in the race car cart
you were aware of the time
and of your slowly-deflating children
and you thought
i need some chicken
and then
(which is french for
you got the chicken.

(for people who have never operated in
said low-to-moderate state of alarm
it might not feel like an accomplishment
to realize that you need something
and then successfully locate
and purchase that something
but we know.
mais oui
we know.)

you got your children back in the car
though they try so hard not to be
and you got them upstairs
and you fed them.

sacre bleu
you get to feel exhausted
you get to feel punch-drunk
you get to feel a little nervous
about how shit is going to go down this afternoon

but disappointed
au contraire
mon petit fromage
you do not get to have the nerve
the fucking GALL
to feel disappointed in yourself

it can be nice
to have lots of voices in your head
when one of them
is french
and takes no shit.

he wants to learn to cut his food himself
knife in one hand
fork in the other

that's not food
that's a chicken nugget

shut le fuck up
this is tres