Conference stuff

I just gave a presentation entitled "Beyondthe Good Mother/Bad Mother Dichotomy: Bridging the Reality of the
Relationship and Jobs of Motherhood Using Economic Theory" at the Communicating Motherhood conference in Toronto. I'm still working on the ideas but will share when it all shakes out correctly.

Toronto: I'll be at the Pilot tavern (22 Cumberland St) at 6 pm tonight (Monday) and hope to see you there.

Everyone, click through to look at this installation by Monica Bock called "Maternal Exposure (don't forget the lunches)." I laughed so hard when I saw this, and then I felt so tired for all of us. Here's part of the note on the piece: "Inspired by the daily ritual of exposing one's children and one's
nurturing skills to public scrutiny, this piece consists of 418 lead
sheet bags embossed with school and day camp lunch menus packed for two
young children in the course of a year."

Comments and thoughts? If YOU were going to do an installation called "Maternal Exposure," what would you do?

Picking up the pieces, and single parenthood

I had a conversation the other day with a long-time friend whose life is not turning out the way she thought it would, and she asked me to share her story.

After a few years of marriage, she told her husband she thought she was ready to start trying to have a child if he was. He told her that he didn't want to have a child, wasn't in love with her anymore, and wanted a divorce. She was still in shock by the time the dust settled and the papers were filed, and it took a few years for her to get back on her feet (her job was on track, fortunately, so she was ok financially, but emotionally she was devastated). In the several years since she's dated, but hasn't found anyone she wants to be with and can trust.

She just found out that her ex-husband has gotten remarried and his new wife is expecting a baby. Although she has processed the divorce, the fact that he didn't want to live a specific life with her but is now living it with someone else is cutting her to the core. She is in the middle of a grad school program to advance her career, and has started getting serious about her health and fitness. But this news about her ex has brought up thoughts she's had for awhile of trying to have a baby on her own. She's 42, so she doesn't even know if she can at this point, but she's thinking about it. She's always wanted to have a child, and felt like she needed to be married, but that doesn't look like it will ever happen.

I think there are two things to talk about in this story. The obvious one (to me) is that I think that if she wants to be a mom she should be a mom. Most single parents didn't grow up thinking we were going to be single parents, but now that we're here it's fine. Would we want an engaged, loving partner to parent with? Of course. But I think the vast majority of us would rather be single parents than single non-parents. (If you disagree, please speak up in the comments.)

There are all sorts of ways to become a parent, of course, so she may have more time than she thinks she has, depending on what ways she's willing to consider to become a mother.

The bigger idea in her story (and the reason she wanted me to tell it) is the question of how you move on from the destruction of the life you always thought you were going to have. That's a topic that's near and dear to my heart, as I am not living the life I thought I'd have, either. I think what makes my story and her story different, though, is that I chose to get off the track I was on when it became too painful for me. I had to form this vision of a new life that I could love more than the life I'd thought I was going to have (but wasn't actually living). She didn't choose to get out of her marriage, and the rejection still hurts. She didn't know that she wasn't in a happy marriage until he wanted out, so the divorce felt like the end of that life, and she didn't have a new vision to replace it.

So how do you build something new that you love, when you still wanted your old life? If she'd felt the destruction of her marriage as it happened and had been living in an unhappy situation it would have been easier to move on. But her experience was being in something good, and then suddenly it was gone. How do you get over something that was stolen from you?

I'd love all your thoughts on moving on and transitions and making a new life, and rejection and rebuilding. And on being a single mom, too, if you have thoughts about that.

Twin Cities and Toronto and Writing Through Your Divorce

I've driven 1200 miles since Saturday morning.

Twin Cities: We're meeting at the playground at Lake Harriet today! I'll be there from 4 to 7. Bring your kids or come alone. I'm wearing a navy tank top and khaki-colored shorts and black flip-flops.

Toronto: I'll be there next week for a conference. Meetup Monday, June 24 at 6 pm at the Pilot tavern, which I'm told is off the Bloor stop on the Yonge line of the subway. Who's in?

Today's the last day for the early bird pricing of the Writing Through your Divorce workshop. Price goes up tomorrow.

 

My kids are both at sleepaway camp right now. It feels a little strange that even the 8-year-old is there. How old were you when you went to sleepaway camp, if you went? Have your kids gone yet and how old were they?

Fathers Day Vent Here Safely

Today can be painful, annoying, hurtful, resentment-inducing, orjust plain disappointing. Put it all here safely. You know the deal: No
Misery Poker. Everyone's pain is valid. If you have any extra to spare,
support someone else.

Comment anonymously by putting in a fake name and then a fake URL such as www.fake.com.

A hug to everyone.

Writing Through Your Divorce

The big announcement:

Deesha Philyaw and I are opening registration this morning for our new online workshop Writing Through Your Divorce!

If you're anywhere in the process of divorce (from pre-paperwork to years after finalization) and you'd like to use the discipline of writing to both process and create written pieces you're proud of, this workshop is for you. It starts July 8, and we're giving an early-bird discount for registering by June 19.

Everything you need to know about Writing Through Your Divorce is here.

If you're not in this place right now but you know someone who is, please pass this along to her!

Braindump for me and Primal Scream Thursday for you

Wow, I don't even know where to start. But here's a braindump:

1. I'm opening up a new workshop tomorrow with a collaborator that I love on a process that I adore and I'm super-beyond excited about it.

2. I'll have a vent post up for Father's Day (Fathers' Day) on Saturday at noon EDT running through Sunday, for anyone for whom this weekend is hard or irritating.

3. Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning. Our kids are all going to pools and lakes and the oceans in huge numbers and knowing what to look for could save someone's life. Please, please read this for the actual signs of drowning.

4. Julia from Mom Meet Mom is helping to put together help for Anon with the 6-year-old and twins from last week. You are all amazing for wanting to help, and I'll let you know what's happening when I know.

5. I'll be in the Twin Cities next week. Anyone want to do a meetup? I'm thinking Wednesday 4-7 pm (so people can come with kids after naptime or from work with or without kids) but we need a location. LMK if you're in (with or without kids) and if you have a location suggestion. I won't have my kids, fwiw.

6. The last week of school is grueling.

7. Too much work is way better than not enough work.

Now, Primal Scream Thursday for you. Release the hounds!

MoxieTopics

MoxieTopics are PDFs on specific topics, each one sold for $5. Each topic has usually been covered partially in various posts, but never put together in one document covering all angles of the topic. Collect the series!

 

Tension Increasers and Tension Releasers

Explains the whole theory behind why some kids fall asleep crying and others won’t cry themselves to sleep, how to tell what’s what with your kid, what to do about it, and what it means for your child as a bigger kid.

US$5




After you pay, you’ll get an email to confirm. Click through that, and you’ll get the link to download the PDF. If you use Gmail, the emails may be in your Promotions folder.

Feeling that “tug” and responding to it?

I'd been having a bad interaction and was feeling a little bruised about being on the internet, when this email from Andrea landed in my box:

"I just wanted to thank you for bringing "Waiting To Unfold" to our attention.

I have a friend in labor right now (seems to be a week long process, so I
told her to quickly read the pregnancy posts!) with her third girl. Her first two girls have had some medical issues, and they don't know yet if this third child will, so the idea of waiting for a child to unfold is strong.

When I read your review of the book, I felt a little tug, and I'm
starting to learn to listen to that, so I ordered it and was able to
deliver it today, on the heels of a neighborhood girls' night out for
her.

It's so easy to get busy in my own life, with work and school and baby
turning one soon, and the laundry and things that are not getting done,
that I forget the struggles of my good friends. Then I realize that even
they have amazing support compared to so many, like your recent post.

So i'm going to do my best to listen more to that tug that tells me to
reach out to someone. The same tug that suggested I donate my son's
clothes to my former student, unwed and twenty, having a boy the same
month mine was born. Easy to think, but I need to take the next step and
act on it.  I know people of different faiths have different theories
on that tug, whether it's God or some other force. I don't know if I
need it to have a name, as long as I learn to listen to it.

So all that to say thank you for providing a way for me to listen and reach out and do something small for someone special."

This hit me, hard. First of all, what inspired Andrea to send me that email exactly when I needed to hear it? She must have been listening to the tug in order to send it.

Also, I've started trying to pay attention to the tug when I hear it in my own life. I feel like sometimes I'm afraid to put my neck out or to overstep my bounds, but inevitably when I do follow the tug it opens up something or I find out the person really needed it.

I thanked Andrea, and she responded:

"I was thinking about times that I haven't responded to the tug…
They really stick with me. Like something so small, but I was behind a
young mom at the library and they told her she had fines that had been
sent to a collection agency and I wished so badly I had my purse so I
could cover her fees. I still try to remember the name I heard so I
could go back and give the money, it was clearly a tug I should have
listened to.

Definitely safety concerns and a
general social awkwardness come in to play when the tug is related to a
stranger. It's A lot easier when I get the feeling a friend could use
dinner or flowers or a break from their kiddos. It's harder when I don't
know the person and feel weird about even walking up to them to see if I
can help.

Would love to hear people's thoughts
on that, and on balancing the desire to teach our kids to listen to the
tug, while maintaining the basic safety rules and stranger guidelines
we want them to follow."

Yeah: Do you know what Andrea and I are talking about with "the tug"? I wouldn't describe it exactly as a feeling of obligation, but more of just an opportunity, an opening, and the thing that makes sense is to fill that opening. Whether it's a small conversation with someone, or handing someone a twenty dollar bill, or giving someone a ride, or anything that helps someone else in a concrete way.

And, how do we respond to it? In some ways, I feel like it's easier for me to respond when I'm feeling like I have fewer personal resources. When I'm feeling like I have more to spare, I don't seem to notice the tug, or there's more resistance to answering the tug.

Thoughts? And also, what about Andrea's concerns about safety and modeling for our kids?

Q&A: What do you do when you feel like you just can’t do it anymore?

Anon writes:

"I'm a single mom of a 6-year-old and 2.5 year old twin boys. I got
divorced right after the boys were born and I've been doing it alone the
whole time. My 6yo is helpful but is having some very serious
behavioral issues right now, in the form of tantrums, acting out, saying
she hates everyone, etc. Her best friend's parents (my friends) have
even instituted a "break" between my child and theirs because her
behavior is so out of control. (Not physical, nothing dangerous. More
like a simply time out ends in 2 hours of screaming bloody murder from
her room). I think her behavior is due to the fact that her
horribly-unreliable father hasn't seen her in months and doesn't have
any plans to, despite promising for months that he'd be taking her for
the summer, as is written in our parenting plan. (He simply says he
can't, because he has to work and can't afford sitters for them.) I've
given her individual attention, I get sitters for the boys and take her
out alone, I've tried talking to her and truly listening (she says she
doesn't think anyone likes her and her dad doesn't want her), we do a
TON of fun stuff, I go to every school function.

The
thing is, I'm at the end of my rope. I'm so tired of being told that
she hates me, and her brothers, and doesn't love me, and wants her dad.
The boys ask for him all the time but don't have the resentment and
anger (yet). I don't work (I live off my child support/alimony, just
barely) because I can't afford childcare with the wages I'd make. So I
have no break. My friends and family are only
supportive in the "that's a bummer" way, not in the "let me help you
out" way. I wish they'd step up, because I think my daughter could
benefit from having another figure in her life who isn't stretched so
thin. Alas, there's no one here.

I just don't
think I can handle this. As we all know, the highs are high and the lows
are very low in parenting, and sometimes I do ok. But overall, I'm just
spent. I just don't know if I can keep this up. I'm on antidepressants,
I have anxiety meds, I have sleep medication (which I can't take,
because I'm solely responsible for these kids and can't be zonked out).
Still, I'm having heart palpitations and "losing it" a little more than
I'm comfortable with. I'm genuinely getting worried about having a
nervous breakdown. I exercise, I have friends, I hire sitters about
twice a month to get a break, I'm doing what I'm "supposed to."

I
just don't want to hate my life, and
constantly fight with my kid. I've tried a zillion methods of
parenting, but God, I'm just so tired and overwhelmed. I just can't
figure out how to make it work. I love my kids, of course. That's a
given. But it's so constant and monotonous…and the fighting, and the
screaming, and the tantrums, day in and day out times infinity.

All
I can think to do is drop the kids off with their father, just so I can
get a break. Legally, he should have them this summer. But I'm not sure
that's actually best for them, despite their longing to go. (Not to
mention, if he can't work because he takes them, he stops paying me.)

I
keep hearing "suck it up" and "dig deep" kind of comments…but I just
can't. There's nothing left to dig from. Please don't think I'm
overdramatic or whiny or whatever. It's not like I'm about to turn them
over to the state or anything. I'm just out of ideas for how to make
this work. It's not
working."

I'm really sorry people are saying "suck it up" to you. That's both clueless and cruel, and I'm guessing it's coming from people who aren't alone with their kids 24/7 and who don't have a child who's acting out constantly.

I asked Anon some follow-ups questions, and it turns out that her kids' father lives 500+ miles away. So she can't just give him the kids for a weekend or after work. He says he works six days a week, and is uninterested in seeing the children, although Anon is willing to let him stay in her house to visit the kids while she stays someplace else. He doesn't want to see the kids.

So.

Everyone: This is the fallout that happens when parents don't take their responsibilities seriously. I know it can be really, really hard to have to deal with an ex, but if you don't keep pushing to see your kids whenever you can, your kids are going to bear the pain of that. I know there's someone out there right now who's wondering if they can really keep dealing with an ex to be able to see their child: YOU CAN. You can do it, no matter how much it hurts you, because the alternative is hurting your child. Your child needs you.

Now, to Anon: Your daughter's hurt is more than you can deal with on your own. For one thing, you can't really comment on your ex to your daughter. And for another, you don't know enough about the grieving process in kids. You need someone who has experience with grief and separation to help your daughter through this. I would search for a divorce support group for kids for your daughter. If you can't find one, look for a counselor who has experience helping kids with grief. I'd call her school counselor or social worker as a starting point to find someone.

Once you find someone to help, you'll have that other adult who will understand enough about the process to be able to talk about it with you honestly and give you the feedback you need about how to help yourself deal with it.

In the meantime, I wish I lived across the street and could just tell you to send your kids over to play with mine and @jenunexpected's in my front yard while you spend some time alone. Not being able to afford to work is serious, and real, and happens to way more of us than people in different employment markets imagine. The good news is that eventually all your kids will be in school and you'll be able to work for pay. The bad news is that that's a few years away.

If you felt like you could, you could email me back and tell me where you live, and we could see if we could find more support for you, whether that was just finding a few like-minded moms to hang out with who would understand your stresses, or more substantial childcare or employment help.

What I do know is that even though you think you can't do it, you ARE doing it. I just wish the tunnel wasn't so long so it was easier to see the light at the end of it.

Who has words of help for Anon?

Survey request from Moxite: Looking for parents who have lost babies

Please read and pass this on, from a long-time Ask Moxie reader:

My name is Kelly Leahy and I am pursuing a Master of Social
Work degree from Tulane University. As part of my professional project, I am
investigating the availability and impact of bereavement options and ritual on
parents who have experienced the death of an infant. Below is the formal
announcement for the study:

I am seeking participation from parents over the age of eighteen who have
experienced the death of an infant less than one year old or fetal demise at
greater than 22 weeks gestation and 500g in weight, to complete a ten-minute
online survey on interment and ritual options available to them when they lost
their child.  Survey responses are
anonymous and confidential.  Participants
must be proficient in English.  Please
visit http://www.noibf.org/survey/ to complete the survey.

If
you have any questions about my project, please feel free to contact me at kleahy@tulane.com. Thank you for your help.