Tag Archives: moms

Forget “Having It All,” Parents Need “Good Enough”

goodenough

Ever since Anne-Marie Slaughter posited “Women Can’t Have It All” in 2012, every group out there has been asking themselves if they do/can have it all. Including parents.

Can moms have it all? Can dads have it all? Can working parents have it all? Can stay-at-home parents have it all? Can all the kids of parents trying to have it all possibly end up having it all themselves? Frankly, between talk of “having it all” and “leaning in,” I’m a little put out. I mean hey, I appreciate quality discourse as much as the next guy, but have you really stopped to think about the question of having it all and what it is we’re really asking?

I did. And I believe merely entertaining the notion that we can possibly have it all is arrogance of the highest order.

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Why I Let My Son Fall & Fail

will_playgroundWill loves the playground. And not just because it’s a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon, but also because it’s challenging.

The one by our house has a cool plastic climbing structure that really makes Will work. It starts off vertical with holes throughout for hands and feet, before it twists down horizontally and then back up again before reaching the platform on the other side. It not only forces Will to think about where his hands and feet go, but also whether he wants to traverse the top portion or go underneath.

The result is many attempts that fail spectacularly.

As you can see in the picture, slips and falls are guaranteed as he learns the best ways to make his way along the structure. When we went yesterday, he fell off close to a dozen times before he finally made it. As you can see, the highest distance he can fall from is roughly 4 feet, and the entire ground is soft mulch that makes for a cushioned landing. So while I offer him plenty of cheerleading and advice when he asks for it, that’s the extent of my involvement. Because as long as you make sure they’re safe (which Will was), I think it’s important for parents to let kids find their own way without babying them.

Today there were a bunch of kids there with their parents. One mother of a boy who looked to be about 2 years old caught my eye, mainly because she couldn’t take her eyes off Will. Each time he fell she winced and looked disapprovingly in my direction. I’m used to that, as overprotective “playground moms” are unfortunately pretty common. But I did not expect what happened next.

Will tried to go on the left side to climb, got halfway there, and thought twice about his decision. So he attempted to go back to the platform to start over, then slipped but caught himself. The end result was him hanging from the top with one tippy-toe on the platform as he struggled to make it back to where he started. He whimpered a little bit and called out for me, but I told him he was doing great and he could figure out on his own if he stayed calm.

And that’s when “Playground Mom” decided she had enough because she walked briskly over to him and said “You need help sweetie? Give me your hand.”

I was furious but not exactly shocked since I had seen it building to that point for the previous 10 minutes. But I still wasn’t about to let it go without addressing it.

“Excuse me, but he doesn’t need your help and he’s fine. I’m his dad and I’m right here.”

“Well clearly he does need help because he’s about to fall,” she said in full condescending mommy tone.

“Maybe, maybe not. But either way he’ll be fine. I can parent my own kid.”

Then, just as she looked like she would blow her top, my boy came through big time and shut her up in the best way possible. Still hanging there, he politely said “No thanks, I can do it myself!” and proceeded to climb his way back to the platform without help from anyone.

“Imagine that,” I muttered with a victorious smirk as Mrs. Know-it-all Mommy McMommerson huffed away, no doubt to get more bubble wrap to insulate her poor son from every bump and bruise on the horizon.

Look, you can parent however you want but I have multiple problems with what happened. First of all, it’s just another in a long list of examples that show some moms think they know everything — especially compared to dads. To openly step in and insert herself with me — the kid’s actual parent — right there? Maybe she would’ve done the same to another mom, but I doubt it. It’s a shitty attitude and I’m unbelievably sick of it.

Second, we are raising a generation of kids who know nothing about taking risks. Even on the monkey bars and playgrounds of America, the minute they hit some turbulence and adversity mommy and daddy are there to rescue them — and give them a trophy in the process. It makes me ill. My son won’t be great at everything, but he’s going to try his damndest. Because every attempt ends in failure until it doesn’t. Every fall builds determination to finish. Every setback is a lesson learned that gets you one step closer to your goal.

I let my son fall — and fail — so his future accomplishments will be that much sweeter and well-deserved.

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The Most Important Thing?

work_life“Is this the most important and impactful thing I can be doing right now?”

That’s the fundamental question we all ask ourselves at my day job to figure out which projects should be prioritized. There are lots of things that need doing, but working on a little bit here and a little bit there leaves us scattered and unfocused. So whenever we get spread too thin we stop, ask that question, and then get back to work on the most important thing.

Unfortunately it’s not so clear-cut when you’re a parent — especially a working parent.

An average day for me consists of leaving the house at 7 a.m. just after my son wakes up, and getting back around 6:30-7 p.m. which is an hour before he goes to bed at 8. That’s thanks to long hours and a really shitty commute that averages roughly 80-90 minutes — each way. And I really love my job. I do. And not just because the salary I derive from it keeps our family afloat. I love the people I work with, I get to write and edit every day, I’ve learned countless new skills switching from print to digital and I’ve grown personally and professionally because of it. I hope to stay and thrive there for many years and I enjoy immense satisfaction from almost every part of it.

And yet as much as I love work, there’s a little voice chirping in the back of my head: “Is this the most important thing I can be doing?”

I come home and I see arts and crafts projects MJ and Will have done together during the day. I see Facebook pictures throughout the day of places they go and things they do. And when I get home I listen to them talk, close as can be with inside jokes and things that can only be had from spending all that time together. MJ knows the intricate details of what’s happening on a daily basis at preschool, which friends Will is having a problem with at the moment, whether Batman, Power Rangers or Transformers is currently his Favorite. Thing. Ever.

These things might seem insignificant, but they’re not. In fact, I think these little nuggets are the things that really make parenting worth it. They are quite literally the most important thing a parent can be doing.

Working parents know this. We do. We know we’re missing out on so much good stuff, and yet there’s almost nothing we can do about it. Because the simple fact of the matter is our salaries from our jobs keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. Sure we can try to work from home or cut back our hours, but that comes with risks too. Fair or not, the truth is people (men especially) are punished for missing work, and often thought of as lazy for asking for leave or time off related to family.

Being a working dad is a constant battle for me. I’m trying to advance my career so I can better provide for my family, while also remaining present enough as a husband so my wife doesn’t feel like a single parent, and as a good enough dad so my kid still remembers who I am and doesn’t see me as a novelty.

It’s an absolutely exhausting tightrope walk in hurricane force winds, and all too often you end up feeling like you have one foot in each world and you’re not performing well in either role.

While I’m not sure if I could hack being a stay-at-home parent, I do envy them in one big way. I really do believe that while their job is immeasurably difficult, they can comfort themselves with the knowledge that they are absolutely doing the most important thing they can be doing by raising a quality human being every single day. It doesn’t make the work itself any easier, but the peace of mind that comes with it has to be a relief.

Meanwhile working parents are left with a paycheck that never seems to cover all the self-doubt when trying to figure out if we’re doing the most important thing.

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13 Things Men Need to Know About Pregnant Women

angry_pregoWhen it comes to handling pregnant women, I’m no expert. Hell, I haven’t even figured out how to deal with women in general. In fact, I’m the antithesis of an expert. Luckily for you, I’ve made just about every single stupid mistake and placed my foot so far in my mouth during MJ’s pregnancies that I’m overqualified to speak to you about things you need to know to avoid getting knocked out by the knocked up.

Here are the 13 most important things to remember.

1. Feed Her Constantly
Everyone knows food is important to pregnant women. But what the uninitiated might not realize is that time is of the essence. The bottom line is when she says she’s hungry, she means it. Feed that woman immediately or she will eat your fucking face. Know that “I’m hungry” doesn’t mean she’s looking forward to the dinner plans you have in an hour. It means give her a snack before you leave for the restaurant. And then again when you get in the car. Failure to give that woman snacks will result in extreme bitchiness at best, and bodily injury at worse. Just turn yourself into a walking, talking vending machine for 9 months and you’ll be fine.

2. Food: What’s Yours is Hers, What’s Hers is Off-Limits
You’ve likely been married or together a few years now, so it’s perfectly understandable that you bought into all that stuff about togetherness and sharing a life, etc. And while some of that still applies, all bets are off when it comes to food. If you eat food that’s hers (or food you bought for yourself but she somehow claimed it as hers), she will cut you. Not physically perhaps, but by the time she’s finished excoriating you you’ll wish it was just a knife wound you suffered. I ate some of MJ’s chocolate once and when she went to find it during a craving and saw that it was gone, she flew into a rage that was one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen. Just don’t do it.

3. Get Ready to Gain Weight
Notice how all the topics so far have involved food? That’s no mistake. Ultimately at some point she’ll have cravings. When MJ was pregnant with Will she wanted pizza, Kit-Kats & grapefruit. This time around it’s nothing but fruit salad. But whatever the craving, one of the unmentioned side effects of pregnancy is YOUR weight gain. Yes, the guys gain weight too. Mainly because we inevitably partake in her cravings and all the extra junk food results in a spare tire. I gained 25 lbs during MJ’s pregnancy 5 years ago, just a shade under the total amount she gained — WITH THE BABY! So watch your step.

4. Don’t Point Out How Big She’s Getting
My Boston sports habit notwithstanding, I’m a fairly logical person. I knew MJ was pregnant and pregnant women gain weight. That’s why I thought absolutely nothing of pointing out my wife’s really cute swollen belly. In my mind it was just nature progressing and running its course, and there was nothing more beautiful. But after the first 2-3 times I said it, she snapped on me. “STOP TELLING ME I’M FAT! I KNOW I’M FAT! I DON’T NEED YOU POINTING IT OUT!!” It didn’t matter that in my eyes she never looked more beautiful or that she was SUPPOSED to be gaining weight. Which leads me to my next point…

5. “Pregnancy Brain” is Very Real
I know it sounds like some sort of cutesy, media-created term. But it’s not. Pregnancy Brain is legit. It starts with everyday occurrences like looking for her glasses while they’re on her head, which is kinda cute. But it soon progresses to things like leaving the basement door open in 5-degree weather and freezing the entire bottom floor of the house while simultaneously leaving us susceptible to a home invasion. And in a fit of irony, I just asked MJ to give me more examples of Pregnancy Brain, but she couldn’t — because she can’t remember.

6. Goodbye Sense of Humor
The good news is she’s gained a baby. The bad news? There wasn’t enough room for the baby AND her sense of humor. If you’re a smartass like I am, this is especially troubling since I show affection by giving people good-natured shit. Unfortunately, my pregnant wife does not appreciate my unique brand of humor whilst carrying our little parasite around in her stomach. The results are often me firing off (what I consider to be) beautiful comedic quips and zingers, which don’t just fall on deaf ears, they fall on potentially homicidal ears. You’ve been warned.

7. Say Goodbye to Sex
Listen to me carefully — you’re about to be sexually frustrated. The first trimester is by far the worst. It’s when she’ll be going through the most changes and feeling the shittiest. It’s everything she can do to avoid throwing up every morning (and sometimes at night), so you feeling unloved and “backed up” doesn’t really register. So fire up the porn and give yourself a hand, because you’re now a sex camel my friend. The only silver lining is you’ll have sex two times during the pregnancy. You have a 1-2 week window where her sex drive returns early in the second trimester. Enjoy that, because it’s not happening again until very late in the pregnancy. Right at the end she’ll be so desperate to get the baby out of her that she’ll use you in the hopes that sex will send her into labor. It’s slightly awkward, but after the drought it’s a welcome relief — as long as her water doesn’t break right then and there.

8. Yes Her Boobs Are Bigger, No You Can’t Touch Them
While we’re on the topic of sex, let me tell you about one of Nature’s cruelest tricks. When a woman is carrying a child, it’s a beautiful thing. That “pregnant glow” you always hear about is real, mainly because she’s carrying around a few extra pints of blood which does wonders for her hair, her fingernails and — her rack. A becomes C, B becomes D and C becomes Hallelujah Thank You Jesus! They swell up to gargantuan sizes, literally breaking bras at the seams and popping off her chest in a fit of Playboy glory. The only problem is you’re not allowed to touch them. It’s like going to the pet store and seeing the cute puppies behind the glass but not being able to pet them. They’re adorable and you want to take them home and keep them forever, but if you try to motorboat her puppies she will slap the shit out of you. Trust me.

9. Your Dick Can’t Won’t Hurt the Baby
Speaking of sex, let’s get this one out of the way right now — your penis will have no effect on the baby in your wife’s womb. Got that? I don’t care if you’re on par with Ron Jeremy or not, your dick is not going to scare the kid and it’s certainly not going to poke him in the forehead. Not only that, but any suggestion to the contrary will send your pregnant wife into hysterics. And there’s nothing more demoralizing than a conversation that involves your penis and hysterical laughter. So I’m told…

10. You Will Be Replaced by Pillows
Did you spend a crap ton of money on a mattress? Some sort of memory foam or pillowtop deal that makes you feel like 1,000 little angels are massaging you as you fall asleep every night? Well I hope you spent money on a comfortable couch because that’s likely where you’ll be sleeping for a decent part of the pregnancy. And it’s not so much the increased space your pregnant wife takes up either. It’s the pillows. Yup, that’s right. You become increasingly irrelevant as the pregnancy wears on, but the 37 pillows — including that godforsaken full-body pillow — become absolutely vital nighttime companions. And when push comes to shove, you’re getting the shove to the sofa.

11. Don’t Treat Her Like Glass
Many men — myself included — feel very protective of their wives as is. But when it’s our baby growing inside of her, that suddenly ratchets up several notches. I try not to let MJ open doors, carry groceries, pick up heavy objects, etc. And for whatever reason, that sticks in her craw something fierce. It’s not that I don’t think she can fend for herself, I just feel it’s more important than ever to keep her safe and to make sure the heavy lifting is kept to a minimum. And that’s when I get the “I’M NOT MADE OF GLASS, STOP TREATING ME LIKE A PRINCESS!” retort. Oh well, husbands/boyfriends of pregnant women are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

12. Pregnant Women Are Lazy
This one is VERY touchy. After all, they’re carrying new life around inside of them. Their bodies are growing, stretching and changing to accommodate said life. But the fact remains, pregnant women are L-A-Z-Y. Case in point, a disturbing trend has emerged in the Daddy Files household the last few weeks. MJ has not only stopped doing dishes, she’s no longer even attempting to put the dirty dishes in the sink. Instead, she brings them into the kitchen and puts them a foot away from the sink. Moreover, all of the coffee cups are half-filled and every bowl has a ton of soggy cereal remaining in it. I don’t mind doing the dishes, but I do mind a counter full of crap. How hard is it to empty the dishes and move them ONE MORE FOOT into the sink?? But you can’t gripe about this because…

13. You Can’t Complain
All these things I’ve listed? You can’t mention any of them to your pregnant wife. Because even if she’s lazy, not giving you any, won’t let you touch her boobs, can’t remember a thing, sleeping with the Pillow People, making you crash on the couch, putting on massive amounts of weight, and eating you out of house and home, it doesn’t matter. She’s pregnant. She’s carrying your child. Which means she’s got the trump card and all your complaints are hereby dismissed. Seriously, just think about you complaining and what her response will be. Something like “Dishes? You’re complaining about dishes?? I’m growing a human being in my stomach the size of a watermelon that I’ll eventually have to push out an opening the size of a lemon. NOW WHAT WERE YOU COMPLAINING ABOUT AGAIN?!?”

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Hung Like a 4-year-old

Sexting has been in the news a lot the last few years. And now it’s hit far too close to home. I was at work earlier this week when I received a disturbing phone call from MJ. Here’s the transcription:

MJ: “So we’re gonna have to have a talk with your son.”

(I knew Will was in trouble because every time he does something wrong he’s my son)

ME: “Uh oh, what’d he do now?”

MJ: “Well, apparently he was using the digital camera and one of his pictures was…inappropriate.”

ME: “Of what? Did he sneak up on you while you were sleeping, or get a close up of the dog’s butthole or something?”

MJ: “No. He, ummm. He took a picture of his, uhhhh…”

ME: “Spit it out babe, I’m at work. What was the picture of? I’m sure it’s nothing.”

MJ: “His penis.”

Now I admit, I’m seldom left speechless. But I had nothing at that moment. Apparently Will was walking around in the buff and decided to take pictures of a bunch of different things. The TV, the wall, the coffee table, the dog — and his junk.

It really shouldn’t come as a surprise since he’s been more than a little preoccupied with his package lately. He pulls on it like taffy and he’s been creatively aiming it when he pees in the toilet. Most recently he asked me in a very annoyed tone why, every time he poops, his penis gets really big. He told me in no uncertain terms he does not like this and wishes for it to stop.

Yikes.

But being a good parent, I decided to turn the whole thing into a teaching moment when I got home from work.

ME: “Will, tell me why you took a picture of your penis.”

WILL: “I don’t know Dada. Is that bad?”

ME: “Look buddy, your body is nothing to be ashamed of but you’re too young to use the camera to take a picture of your penis. If you’re going to do that, you have to wait until you’re older — at least 12. And don’t use a camera, use a cell phone. Otherwise you’ll have no way to send it to that older girl you’re crushing on. Try to use an untraceable burner phone and don’t have anything in the background that can incriminate you. We don’t need another Brett Favre situation on our hands and we don’t want her identifying you like Tiger Woods. After all, this is what sports stars exist for — to teach us valuable life lessons. Got me bud?”

WILL: “Got it Dad.”

OK, so that last part was made up. In reality we told him our private parts are just that — private. And that neither he nor anyone else except for a doctor should be taking pictures, looking at, or otherwise touching his private parts. We explained how someone could steal the camera or look at the picture accidentally and see his private parts, which is not something that should happen. He seemed to understand.

Yet little did I know, the most humiliating part was yet to come.

After Will went to bed, MJ and I were up talking about the whole ordeal. We laughed, shook our heads in disbelief, and generally marveled at what a bizarre, roller-coaster ride parenting is at times. And then this conversation happened:

MJ: “You know, when I first saw the picture I was REALLY mad at you.”

ME: “Me?!? Why the hell would you possibly be mad at me for our son taking a picture of his dick??”

MJ: “Because when I first saw the picture, I thought it was you.”

Boom. Game, set, match to MJ.

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