Moxie Madness Round 1 Voting Part IV

Today we need to knock out another six first-round matchups. Read the description of each problem in the pair, then vote for the one you think sucks more than the other. MY DESCRIPTIONS ARE ONLY FOR EFFECT, and you should vote on how bad YOU feel each problem is, not based on my description of it. Voting runs midnight to midnight, EDT.

Today's matchups:

15. Your child bites another child vs. Mother-in-law second-guesses you

16. Leave the house without any diapers or wipes in the bag vs. GERD

17. Your sister's baby sleeps 8 hours at 6 weeks old vs. Asked if you're your baby's nanny

18. Co-sleeping in a queen size bed vs. Pet wakes baby from nap

19. Waitlisted at daycare vs. Partner can't soothe baby

20. Carrying baby and bump its head against the wall by accident vs. Child puts golf ball down toilet and plumber can't get it out

 

 

Your child bites another child

You arrive at preschool pick-up and the teacher meets you with a serious look on her face. Your child has bitten another child in the class. Not enough to break the skin, but the other child cried, and your child is visibly upset. You see the mother of the bitten child rushing her child out of school. She sees you and gives you a look of pure hatred.

vs.

Mother-in-law second-guesses you

Things were ok–not great, but ok–between you and your mother-in-law, until the baby came. Now you're become stupid, apparently, because she can't stop telling you you're doing everything wrong. And going on and on about how your partner never had any of these problems as a baby, and how parents "these days" create so many problems no one used to have. If you didn't love your partner so much…

VOTE

15. Which is worse?
  
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Leave the house without any diapers or wipes in the bag

Whoa, big poop! It's nice to be someplace with an actual changing table, though. You open the diaper and assess the damage while reaching into your diaper bag for the pack of wipes, which suddenly don't seem to be there? And wait, no diaper, either? The only diaper you have is filled with poop.

vs.

GERD

Puking, crying, not gaining weight. Oh, and how about the not being able to stay asleep? And did we mention the puking? And you have no idea how long it will take for the baby to grow out of it, if the baby ever does grow out of it? And the meds may or may not even help?

VOTE

16. Which is worse?
  
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Your sister's baby sleeps 8 hours at 6 weeks old

After months and months of struggling with sleep with your baby, your sister has a baby who sleeps through the night at 6 weeks old. She, of course, thinks this is normal, and now wonders what is wrong with you.

vs.

Asked if you're your baby's nanny

Even when you were nursing the baby in public, people asked you if you were the baby's nanny! Aside from a shocking lack of knowledge of the possibilities of genetics, it's just rude. (If you've BTDT and still need the t-shirt, here are two: "I am NOT the nanny" and "NTN" created by a long-time AskMoxie reader.)

VOTE

17. Which is worse?
  
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Co-sleeping in a queen size bed

A queen size bed is 60 inches (152 cm) across. That leaves 40 inches (100 cm) for your toddler, and 10 inches (26 cm) each for you and your partner.

vs.

Pet wakes baby from nap

15 minutes of nursing followed by the motionless contortioned transfer to the crib, followed by the Silent Ninja exit from the baby's room resulted in nap success. All until that !@#$% cat walked right into the baby's room and meowed loudly. Count one, two, three, and cue the crying.

VOTE

18. Which is worse?
  
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Waitlisted at daycare

Very cordially-worded email from the daycare near your office telling you that you've been placed on their waitlist and they'll let you know when a spot opens up. You're going back to work in three weeks. Now what do you do??

vs.

Partner can't soothe baby

It's funny, because you thought you'd chosen someone resourceful and capable, but your partner doesn't seem to be able to figure out how to soothe your baby or stop the crying, despite lessons from you, plenty of alone time with just the two of them, and all the pumped milk in the world. You are beginning to think it's all an act, and are wondering if you will ever be able to leave the house at bedtime until this kid goes away to college.

VOTE

19. Which is worse?
  
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Carrying baby and bump its head against the wall by accident

You don't know which is worse, the recriminations you give yourself for being so STUPID as to bump your baby's head against the wall or doorframe, the baby's crying because its head hurts, or the fear of telling anyone that you bumped your baby's head.

vs.

Child puts golf ball down toilet and plumber can't get it out

Seriously? It is 2012 and not only are toilets built to be the exact size of a golf ball but there is no technology that will push a golf ball out of the neck of a toilet without cracking the toilet? And the only solution is to buy and install an entirely new toilet? You are freaking kidding me.

VOTE

20. Which is worse?
  
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We are in the home stretch! Voting tomorrow and the next day and we'll be finished with Round 1. Good job, everyone.

 

Moxie Madness Round 1 Voting Part III

This weekend we only need to knock out two first-round matchups. Read the description of each problem in the pair, then vote for the one you think sucks more than the other. MY DESCRIPTIONS ARE ONLY FOR EFFECT, and you should vote on how bad YOU feel each problem is, not based on my description of it. Voting runs Friday midnight to Sunday midnight, EDT.

Today's matchups:

13. Nasty look from server while nursing in restaurant vs. 4-month sleep regression

14. Nursing strike vs. Asked to bring 15 dozen homemade cookies to preschool fundraiser

 

Nasty look from server while nursing in restaurant

You're in a restaurant with your baby and a friend. Your baby is hungry, so you nurse them, in that not-particularly-concerned-with-anyone-else-but-not-showing-anything-extra-on-purpose way you have, and continue the conversation with your friend. Then the server walks up to your booth and stares at your chest area, glaring, then turns and huffs away.

vs.

4-month sleep regression

So let's get this straight: The baby sleeps in two hour stretches for the first six weeks, then three-hours stretches, then by 12 weeks is sleeping for four blissful hours at a time, and then suddenly at 4 months goes back to waking up every two hours again?? Right when you've been back at work for a couple of weeks? What? How? What?

VOTE

13. Which is worse?
  
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Nursing strike

Your baby, who has been nursing for several months, suddenly refuses to nurse. Nothing you do can coax the baby back on. The baby also refuses pumped milk in a bottle or formula, and can't survive on cheerios and mashed peas. It's been two days. You're huge and in pain, and have never heard of a baby just stopping eating. 

vs.

Asked to bring 15 dozen homemade cookies to preschool fundraiser

Yes, that is what the email from the head of the PTO says: "15 dozen homemade cookies." Homemade. 15 dozen. 180 cookies. Homemade. In your copious spare time.

VOTE

14. Which is worse?
  
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On Monday (Sunday night at midnight EDT) we'll be voting on six match-ups again.

 

 

Moxie Madness Round 1 Voting Part II

Today we need to knock out the next six first-round matchups. Read the description of each problem in the pair, then vote for the one you think sucks more than the other. MY DESCRIPTIONS ARE ONLY FOR EFFECT, and you should vote on how bad YOU feel each problem is, not based on my description of it. Voting runs midnight to midnight, EDT.

Today's matchups:

7. Your child is bitten by another child vs. Pacifier falls into dirty sand

8. Stranger chastises you for baby's lack of hat vs. Poopsplosion

9. Catch glimpse of your postpartum backside in a mirror vs. Another mom in your mom's group writes a book during naptime

10. Persistent diaper rash vs. 18-month sleep regression

11. Nanny at the playground chastizes you vs. Child says they like the other parent better

12. Asked if you're your baby's grandmother vs. Baby pukes in your mouth

 

Here we go!

Your child is bitten by another child

You pick up your child at preschool and are met at the door by the teacher. Your sobbing child is rubbing their arm, and the teacher tells you that another child in the class, the one you always thought was too wild, has bitten your child. No broken skin, but there is a distinct bite mark on your child's arm. Your child cries the whole way home.

vs.

Pacifier falls into dirty sand

You've just decided never to come to this playground again because the sand is so filthy and you're going nuts trying to keep your kid distracted and entertained by the slide. Having made that decision, you relax your attention for the exact amount of time it takes your toddler to rip the pacifier out of their mouth and fling it, making a perfect David Wellsian arch directly into the ratpoop-infested sand.

VOTE

7. Which is worse?
  
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Stranger chastises you for baby's lack of hat

Your big-headed, delightfully willful darling does not like to wear a hat. It can be a problem in the winter, but now that it's 50 degrees F (10 degrees C) outside, it's all copacetic. Until the stranger with the loud voice walks up to you on the street and insists, "You should put a hat on that baby!" and looks at you like she wants to call Child Protective Services. It's 50 degrees out.

vs.

Poopsplosion

Whoa! Out the sides of the diaper, out the sides of the onesie, soaking through the pants onto the stroller and blanket, up the back of the diaper up to the baby's neck and out the neck of the onesie into the baby's hair, all over you and your phone and the diaper bag. You notice a glob on your eyelash when you blink. And the baby's just smiling.

VOTE

8. Which is worse?
  
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Catch glimpse of your postpartum backside in a mirror

You know how your hips spread during pregnancy? And they don't go back right away? And you feel so much smaller once the baby's out of you, but you're not? And you didn't need to know that, because "9 months on, 9 months off" is really a good guide and not everyone has a personal trainer and chef and nanny? Well, then yes, curse that stupid mirror.

vs.

Another mom in your mom's group writes a book during naptime

She was always so quick to take off after playgroup, wanting to get her daughter down for a nap. You wondered why she was so anti stroller nap, or why she didn't want to hang and get an iced coffee or just keep each other awake during the early afternoon mom-slump. And then one day she announced that while the rest of you had been napping yourselves, or on FB, or cleaning, or just staring off into space, she had written a book in 90-minute increments during her daughter's naps. And you knew she wasn't trying to one-up you, but still…

VOTE

9. Which is worse?
  

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Persistent diaper rash

This is not "slap a little Lansinoh on it" and it'll go away. This is not even triple paste and air baths. This is persistent, weepy, red, scaly, ugly diaper rash that fades but doesn't go away and then comes back full force and makes your baby cry and cry.

vs.

18-month sleep regression

What? the? hell? Running leaping just-talking toddler, who has been sleeping through the night for months, suddenly wakes up three times a night and won't go back down. It's like her body just won't let her fall asleep, but she's agitated and cranky and screeches when you fall asleep with your forehead on the crib rail. It is insulting and perplexing and makes you wonder if you've done something horribly wrrong.

VOTE

10. Which is worse?
  
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Nanny at the playground chastizes you

Out of the blue, a nanny at the playground turns to you and tells you you are teaching your child badly, that your child is not a "good sharer," and that you let your child get too dirty, and that this is why the nannies at that playground don't let the children they watch play with your child. Stunned.

vs.

Child says they like the other parent better

Whether it's a toddler hiding their face from you and reaching for the other parent, or an older child telling you straight out they prefer the other parent, it's a gutpunch. Especially if you're the one who does most of the caregiving and you child rejects you for the other parent. Worse than any romantic rejection could possibly be.

VOTE

11. Which is worse?
  
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Asked if you're your baby's grandmother

So yes, you haven't been getting enough sleep lately, and maybe you could use a haircut, and maybe you're walking around in maternity clothes like Caillou's grandpa does, but when the woman YOUR SAME AGE at the store asked you about your grandson while pointing at your son in the stroller, well, that is just hurtful.

vs.

Baby pukes in your mouth

Poor sweet crying baby. You wake up and go to get the baby from the crib, pick them up and just as you're saying, "It's okaaaa–" the crying baby throws up directly into your mouth.

VOTE

12. Which is worse?
  
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Schedule update: We are only voting in two match-ups over the weekend, and voting will open Friday night at midnight EDT and close Sunday at midnight EDT (when Monday's six match-ups will open for voting).

Moxie Madness Round 1 Voting Part I

VOTING IS CLOSED FOR THIS SET OF MATCH-UPS. You can click through "View" on the poll to see the winner of each match-up. I'll update the brackets before we go into the next round of voting. Please keep voting on open polls.

Today we need to knock out six first-round matchups. Read the description of each problem in the pair, then vote for the one you think sucks more than the other. MY DESCRIPTIONS ARE ONLY FOR EFFECT, and you should vote on how bad YOU feel each problem is, not based on my description of it. Voting runs midnight to midnight, EDT.

Today's matchups:

1. Miss child's first drop-off at preschool because of work vs. Partner asks "What did you do all day?"

2. Teething vs. 9-month sleep regression

3. Child chastized by another parent at the playground vs. Child begs you not to go to work

4. Family vacation vs. Child won't put on shoes in the morning

5. Have to pump in bathroom vs. Nap strike

6. Leak through your blouse at work vs. 3.5-year-old

 

Let's get ready to rumblllle!

Miss child's first drop-off at preschool because of work

Every working parent has been stuck at work or in a meeting or on a work trip when they're rather be with their child, but it's especially hurtful when you have to miss a milestone–and a highly-photographed milestone at that–just for stupid work. If you've been able to meet the teacher ahead of time, and some of the other kids and parents in the class, you can maybe make it through your morning without feeling like the saddest sack around, but if this is going to be everyone's first encounter, missing that first drop-off feels like someone ripped out your heart and put a cold rock in your chest for you to carry around. And then you have to deal with the questions from the other parents about where you were, offers from them to email you pictures of your own child at drop-off, and then the "who is she??" looks from the other parents in the class when you do finally get to go to a drop-off.

vs.

Partner asks "What did you do all day?"

Let's see. You woke up at 3 am, then again at 5:30, then were up for the day at 7. Nursing, changing diaper, changing spit-up clothes (baby's and yours), made a cup of tea, spent an hour trying to get in 10 minutes of Tummy Time so the baby won't be a dolt, spent 40 minutes getting the baby down for a nap which ended up lasting 20 minutes, made lunch and spilled half of it on the baby's head, clothing changes all around, nursing, found now-cold cup of untouched tea and drank it anyway, more nursing, baby falls asleep on you but wakes up if you try to move him so you just stay slumped on the couch with one leg forward and the other bent uncomfortably under you because this kid needs to sleep or we'll all diiieeee, nursing, realize you forgot about the weekly mothers' meeting which was your only adult outing dammit and now who will be your friend?, get it together woman, playtime on the playmat, baby falls asleep for another 20 minutes and you manage to shower but forget to use shampoo on your hair, dress in last remaining pair of clean underpants plus jeans that still barely zip and a t-shirt that reminds you of your old life, retrieve now-wailing baby from clothing hamper aka crib, sit down to nurse again. Then your partner arrives home from work and asks, "What did you do all day?"

VOTE

Which is worse?
  
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Teething

Sticky, stinky, crying, whinging, finger-gnawing, boob-refusing, food-refusing, night-waking, coughing, spitup-having, fever-spiking, whining, bib-soaking, rash-having, stringy-pooped teething.

vs.

9-month sleep regression

Your baby used to sleep, but now she doesn't. And you don't, anymore, either. You thought you had a handle on this thing. Bedtime was down to a routine, and wake-ups were regular and manageable, and even naps were solid. But now it's all gone crazy again and what did you do that made her sleep go so nuts? And why won't she get back on track? You've read every book, tried every method, but she just. Keeps. Waking. Up. You feel like a failure.

VOTE

2. Which is worse?
  
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Child chastized by another parent at the playground

You turned your back for a second, to throw away a banana peel, and when you come back to the slide area another mom is speaking to your child harshly about taking turns on the slide. You have no idea what happened, so you don't know if your child was pushing and shoving, or if the other mom was being overly sensitive about her own child. Either way, you want to simultaneously sink into a hole and slap her.

vs.

Child begs you not to go to work

"But Mama, I love you. Don't leave me. I want to be with you."

VOTE

3. Which is worse?
  
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Family vacation

What makes a family vacation so horrible is that you think it's going to be fun. Beach house, staying up late, cooking out, lazy days in the water. You look forward to it for weeks. And then when it comes, you realize that not only do you have to pack up everything you could possibly need for a week, you have to entertain your kids for hours in the car, and then once you're in a strange place the kids are cranky and it's twice as much work as normal life.

vs.

Child won't put on shoes in the morning

You are a marvel of modern efficiency, waking up late and still managing to get everyone dressed, lunches packed, breakfasts made, bags all packed for the day, and yet, despite three requests, your child will not put on their shoes. Patently refuses to. And points their toes when you try to jam the shoes on their feet so the shoes won't go on.

VOTE

4. Which is worse?
  
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Have to pump in bathroom

You are 32 years old, a competent, educated person, and yet somehow you find yourself sitting on a closed toilet seat in a strange bathroom stall with your boob jammed into a plastic cone while a machine sucks out your milk and makes a noise like a broken drum machine. How did I get here?, you wonder as you contemplate what kind of world it is in which there is no other place a person can sit down for a few minutes of privacy to provide food for her child.

vs.

Nap strike

And just like that, your child stopped napping. Same sleep signals, same schedule, same everything else, but instead of drifting off to sleep, your child just screeches and arches their back and then lies there talking or yelling. It's been three days. You can't even.

VOTE

5. Which is worse?
  
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Leak through your blouse at work

Walking out of a meeting during which you had to fight to defend your department's budget against your office nemesis, you notice you feel a little cold and itchy on one side…

vs.

3.5-year-old

No description is either necessary or sufficient to describe the misery and learned helplessness. If you know, then you know. (You've watched Annie's "It Gets Better: Toddler Edition" video, right?)

VOTE

6. Which is worse?
  
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Come back tomorrow for another six Round 1 matchups!

Q&A: Helping your child develop confidence and become a friend

Kristen writes:

"Some questions for you and your wonderful AskMoxie family. How do you inspire courage and confidence without encouraging arrogance and bragging? How do you impart or help develop the strength to stand up for yourself and ask for what you need while also understanding the need for a certain level of compromise to maintain a friendship?

These are the issues I'm struggling with now. Sleepless nights (mine were immense and long lasting), breastfeeding troubles, potty training, all seem simple compared to this stage of parenting. Would love some inspiration and guidance.

My sweet boy is almost five and very reserved around new people with quite a bit of separation anxiety. I see him struggling to make friends at school and it breaks my heart."

Ouch. This one's a toughie. First of all, almost-5 is notoriously difficult. I feel like 4.75 vies with 3.5 for tough ages. It's that I-need-you!-stay-away-from-me! thing on a larger scale. So any issue you're feeling with your kid is far more intense at that age.

Having said that: ouch, again. Watching my child try to navigate the making-friends process has been one of the most difficult parts of parenting for me. Whoever said that thing about how having a child is "like watching your heart walk around outside your body" was dead on. Having to watch your child try to make friends brings up all of your own stuff about being liked and making friends, plus the nauseating pain of realizing that it's possible that other people might reject your child.

I would go through another 10 unmedicated labors, 20 bouts of mastitis, two solid years of potty training, and an infinite number of sharp jabs to the kidney in the middle of the night if I never had to worry about my child making friends.

I have tried two different approaches (and they seem to be working, finally): giving verbal feedback, and modeling.

Giving verbal feedback was a lot like what my music teachers did over the years with me (and what I imagine good coaches do): We talked about good friendship behavior to get the right tapes playing in his head and rehearse effective words and actions. Then, after an encounter, we'd talk about how it went. What everyone said, what everyone did, how we felt, how we think the other person felt, what we could have done differently, what we'd do the next time we saw that person.

Yes, a 5-year-old is not going to be especially thoughtful about this, but if you don't start somewhere you'll end up with a 40-year-old who isn't thoughtful about it, either. And you'd be surprised at how empathic a 5-year-old can be, although clumsiness still usually wins out.

Modeling friendship was the other tack I took. I started, in the middle of the divorce, to make a deliberate effort to be a better friend and to cultivate friendships carefully and to show my kids my friendships. This wasn't always easy, as anyone going through a divorce isn't completely in control of their emotions at all times and can be (and be on) a roller coaster sometimes.

But I wanted my kids to see that I had friends and that I was a friend, so they could know that was normal and worth their time and energies. So I made the effort. And as I felt more supported and connected, it also helped me to worry less about my children.

Readers? Does watching your kids learn friendship skills hurt you ass much as it hurts Kristen and me? Or is it just easier for some people? How have you tried to teach these skills to your children?

 

Q-and-your-A: Fibroids and future fertility

(I'm changing the rules of Moxie Madness 2012 slightly because I miscalculated the number of matchups we need to do–I'll be running voting across weekends as well as weekdays, but weekend votes will be open for the entire weekend instead of just one day.)

A friend has been diagnosed with a large fibroid outside her uterus and will have surgery to remove it. Her doctors are giving her a great prognosis, but she's heard a million horror stories. I'm looking for positive stories or encouragement for her. She's specifically concerned about her future fertility (she's in her early 30s and has never tried to get pregnant) as well as internal sccaring and adhesions that could interfere with a pregnancy.

Does anyone have stories with good outcomes for her?

Welcome to Moxie Madness!

Welcome to Moxie Madness 2012: Misery Poker Tournament!

64 mothering calamities go mano-a-mano in a single elimination tournament like you've never seen before.

Only one mothering problem can be the champion…

Vote for which problem is worse in a series of shoot-from-the-hip head-to-head matchups that will leave you breathless.

First matchups start Thursday. Final Championship Match April 2. Are you ready to rumble?

Download the Moxie Madness 2012 bracket here. Voting starts Thursday, with 6 match-ups for you to vote on.

All calamities were assigned to divisions and slots randomly.

 

Sears Division:

Miss child's first drop-off at preschool because of work vs. Partner asks "What did you do all day?"

Teething vs. 9-month sleep regression

Child chastized by another parent at the playground vs. Child begs you not to go to work

Family vacation vs. Child won't put on shoes in the morning

Have to pump in bathroom vs. Nap strike

Leak through your blouse at work vs. 3.5-year-old

Your child is bitten by another child vs. Pacifier falls into dirty sand

Stranger chastises you for baby's lack of hat vs. Poopsplosion

Weissbluth Division:

Catch glimpse of your postpartum backside in a mirror vs. Another mom in your mom's group writes a book during naptime*

Persistent diaper rash vs. 18-month sleep regression

Nanny at the playground chastizes you vs. Child says they like the other parent better

Asked if you're your baby's grandmother vs. Baby pukes in your mouth

Nasty look from server while nursing in restaurant vs. 4-month sleep regression

Nursing strike vs. Asked to bring 15 dozen homemade cookies to preschool fundraiser

Your child bites another child vs. Mother-in-law second-guesses you

Leave the house without any diapers or wipes in the bag vs. GERD

Leach Division:

Your sister's baby sleeps 8 hours at 6 weeks old vs. Asked if you're your baby's nanny

Co-sleeping in a queen size bed vs. Pet wakes baby from nap

Waitlisted at daycare vs. Partner can't soothe baby

Carrying baby and bump its head against the wall by accident vs. Child puts golf ball down toilet and plumber can't get it out

You stink like sour milk vs. Business trip when your baby's under 6 months old

Baby sleeps through night but you have insomnia vs. Mommy drive-by from friend

Food allergy vs. Woken up more than two times in an 8-hour stretch

Potty training vs. SAHM shunned by WOHMs at school

Babywise Division:

Asked "When are you due?" when baby is a year old vs. You mix tomorrow's formula bottles and forget to put them in the refrigerator overnight

Crib in a bedroom allllll the way down the hall vs. Mommy drive-by from stranger

Nanny quits vs. Partner soothes baby better than you can

Two in diapers at the same time vs. WOHM shunned by SAHMs at school

Sex for the first time post-partum vs. Partner's business trip when your baby's under 6 months old

You wake up at midnight, drooling, on the floor next to the crib vs. Mommy drive-by from your mommy

"Mom. Mom! Mommy!! MOM! MO-O-OM!!!!" vs. Electricity goes out and you lose your frozen breast milk stash

Mastitis vs. Walk into room to find baby climbing out of crib

 

Be ready to start voting on Thursday! We'll have 6 match-ups that day to vote on in Round 1. Voting will continue on weekdays for the rest of the month, with the Final Match-up on April 2. Download the brackets now to make your picks.

 

 

* This actually happened to me. One of the moms in playgroup was always strangely anal about getting her kid home for naptime, and then after about 6 months she told us she'd written a book during all those naptimes.

Daylight Savings Time and Helping your kids avoid fights

Daylight Savings Time returns this weekend for most of us. We spring an hour forward Saturday night. If your kids have problems with this, put your kids to bed 20 minutes early tonight and wake them up 20 minutes early tomorrow morning, do the same Friday and Saturday, and you'll be caught up by Sunday morning.

I adore DST and am so glad to see it return.

Possibly of interest: I wrote a piece on Moxieville about helping my boys set up a rule to decide who gets to trump on a given day so they don't need to fight about playing with a shared toy anymore: Conflict prevention for brothers.

Q&A: Cheating husband and not knowing what to do

Latest post on Moxieville, notable because the stock photo I used for slide 6 made me laugh: 8 Ways To Make Mornings Easier (Do As I Say, Not As I Do)

And now a question from Jessica:

"I have a friend with a baby who is going through marital troubles and I was hoping you could post and ask for some support and advice for her.

She married her husband when she was 20 and they've been together for 15 years or so (she's mid-30s, but I forget her exact age because I'm bad like that). They had a baby last June after a couple of years of fertility treatments including an ectopic that required an emergency surgery. The pregnancy was high risk and very difficult, but they won the baby lottery, because their daughter is a delight. She's now a SAHM.

When she was several months pregnant, she discovered that he was having an affair with a co-worker. She has graphic evidence of this. She confronted him and he apologized and said he wanted to work on the marriage. They went to therapy a few times but they didn't click with their therapist and her health was a complication in scheduling and they stopped going. They both acknowledged things that both needed to work on, but his seemed to amount to alienation of affection and her deficiencies in being a model homemaker.

She's fairly isolated and has little support nearby, including someone to help care for the baby. He's also resistant to having "strangers" come help with the baby or help with the housework.

She'd been having some suspicions again and discovered today that he's been regularly texting the woman, pretty much continally throughout. She doesn't have any knowledge of whether anything else is going on.

She's now not sure what to do. She still loves him and was willing to forgive his transgression because he seemed genuinely remorseful at the time. He's a terrific father. She doesn't know how to start fixing her marriage. She's terrified of what she would do if the marriage ends. She doesn't feel she's that employable, she doesn't know where she would go. She's struggling with depression, which isn't helped by the negative messages he keeps giving her. And she feels like a lot of this is her fault.

A complicating factor is that she's not a US citizen, so she doesn't know what problems that might cause to a divorce or custody. I'm hoping you'll post so she could see what advice and support people might offer up. She just has no idea what to do now."

Oh, your poor friend. She's got such a huge mix of horrible stuff: infertility, difficult pregnancy, first-time motherhood, being a SAHM suddenly, depression, infidelity, gaslighting, and immigration status worries.

(Note: I emailed Jessica back and found out that her friend is here legally and is legal to work in the US, she's just not a US citizen and her family lives in another country, so she couldn't take her daughter to visit them without the daughter's father's approval. This isn't actually a big deal, though, as any custody agreement and settlement addresses time spent visiting family and who has the child for which holidays, and Jessica's friend would have this permission written into the settlement along with a minimum number of trips to take the daughter to see her family per year anyway. It's basically just the "Who gets Christmas?" question but with an added twist of international travel.)

The first thing I need to say is that she is employable, and fear of not being able to support herself should not be the deciding factor in whether she stays or whether she goes. Let's all remember that I'd been a SAHM for 5 years and I found a job right away, and I bet there are other readers who have the same story. I have three friends, all who married in their late teens (and all to men who tried to control them and then cheated on them–are we sensing a pattern here?) and had no formal education, who found work based on their life experiences and are back in school (one finished school and is now an RN!) and are doing more than they ever thought they could. I know when you've been at home for awhile, wearing clothes covered in spit-up and thinking too much about diapers, that it feels like no one will hire you, but that's just not true. If you had a job before, you can find a job again. Your friend can, too.

The second thing I want to say is that no matter what happens with her marriage, your friend needs local support. She should make a concerted effort to meet people (baby groups are great for this because everyone wants to make friends) and cultivate friendships. Having local friends she can count on will make everything better. Everything. She doesn't have to be put together or have a perfect house or a perfectly napping child (in fact, it's probably easier to make friends if she's as disheveled as most of us were when we had infants*). She just has to get out there and keep giving out her mobile number and suggesting they meet for a "playdate."

And now to the elephant in the room. I, personallly, think her husband is a big lousy Gingrichian jackhole for cheating on his wife while she was pregnant. (Seriously, a real man doesn't do that.) But it's not my marriage, so I don't get to decide what she does about it. It's a huge red flag for me that he's continuing the emotional relationship with the women he broke his marriage vows with, as well as gaslighting your friend by making her feel like she's not adequate. It sounds like he's done with the marriage but wants to keep your friend in a subservient position so he can have things both ways. But again, it's your friend who needs to decide.

(I don't know if it'll be helpful to her to think about it in terms of aligned needs: Her need is to be in a marriage that's just her and him. If his need is truly to be in a relationship with someone else, or to be in a marriage with her but also have other relationships, then their needs are not aligned and they either have to figure out how to align their needs or end the marriage.)

What I do know is that for everyone I've talked to who actively participated in getting a divorce (including me), there was a point at which they knew. Before that point, it seemed scary and too difficult, even if they knew it was going to happen. Once they reached that point, though, staying became impossible and leaving was the only thing that made sense.

So your friend should work on improving her own life by making friends locally, and thinking about a strategic plan for going back to work (which she'll do eventually anyway). Whether she decides to continue in the marriage or not, these things will give her the backup she needs to make decisions out of strength, not out of fear and weakness.

You're a good friend, Jessica. Thanks for sticking with her.

Friends: Comments? Thoughts or advice or stories for Jessica's friend?

 

 

* I'm typing this in my ratty sweater that I was wearing yesterday when a new friend came over and hung out among the Legos and piled up papers. Apparently we all want to be friends with people who are interesting but not too together.