Can’t You Get These Things To Stand Up?

I recently read an article on the Huffington Post by Emma Gray titled, “23 Things Every Woman Should Stop Doing.”  Luckily, it was written by a woman because if a man tried to pull that off, the entire female readership of Huff Post would be hunting his ass down.  But no, this was written by one of our own, so I think we owe it to ourselves to hear her out.  A quick perusal of the article indicates that I’m doing many things wrong.  For example, I have flagrantly and repeatedly done all of the following: apologized too much, obsessively untagged every unflattering photo of me that ever existed online, felt like an imposter when I’ve accomplished something in my professional life (it took me years to be able to refer to myself as a lawyer without smirking), held on to toxic friendships (of course I’m not talking about you) and complained about my body as part of my constant mental monologue and, out loud, to others.

This last infraction is a big one, especially for those of us who are the parents of girls.  Much has been made recently about how a mother’s body image affects that of her children.  I know I need to be better about not putting myself down in front of my kids and I’ve been making an effort to do so.  However, Biggie and Smalls don’t read this blog (mainly because Mommy has a potty mouth) so I’m reserving the right to break the “rules” just this one time.

mom_tattooMany parents choose to celebrate their children by getting a tattoo in their honor.  Now, it’s no secret that I have a few tattoos.  So, occasionally, someone will ask me if I have a tattoo for my kids to which I invariably reply, “Hell, no!”  Those two darling girls have already branded my body in so many different ways, I feel no need to give up any more real estate to them.  And, luckily for you, dear reader, one of the things I do best (remind me to add this to my resume) is over-share.  My natural inclination, when I’ve done something wildly embarrassing is to, first, swear I will never tell another living soul about it and then, second, immediately post it to Facebook.  I just cannot hoard a good story, even at the risk of my own pride.

As most of you know, after having a child, no matter whether that child was conceived and carried by you or not, your body will never again be your own.  At the very least, it will be subject to the opinions of, and a running commentary by, a tiny person who should just mind his or her own damn business.  Which reminds me of a great story.  My friend A, was once taking a shower with her daughter who was about 4 years-old at the time.  Her daughter looked up, put a hand under each of my friend’s breasts and tapping them lightly as if she were trying to gently put them back into place said, “Can’t you get these things to stand up?”

So, in commemoration of my vow to stop publicly criticizing my body (trying to control my thoughts is a losing proposition), and in the spirit of Shit My Kids Ruined, here is an inventory of my body parts noting any damage caused wholly or in part by childbirth and motherhood.  My feet are bigger and my legs are more veiny.  The area north of my lady bits now bears a charming c-section scar, though I suppose that’s a fair trade off for not peeing on myself when I sneeze.  The things I was hoping would get bigger (my not-at-all womanly hips and my flat butt…curse you, Dutch ancestors!) didn’t and the things I really didn’t want to get any bigger (my boobs) did.  And, while my boobs didn’t shrivel up and fall off after a total of two years of breastfeeding as I had feared, like my friend A, they’re not exactly in the same position and it takes a little more effort (expensive bras) to get those things to stand up again!

My daughters also seem to feel that my body is here solely for their amusement.  (My husband does too, but that’s a whole other topic.)  The girls like to play with my boobs while I’m reading bedtime stories, jiggle my squishy belly and play “booty drums” on my arse.  Seriously, it’s like having a never-ending unpleasant date with a handsy college kid.

motherhood_barbie_dollWhich brings me to the two parts of my body most profoundly changed by motherhood…my brain and my heart.  As for my brain, well, let’s just say the old gray mare just ain’t what she used to be.  I walk into a room and promptly forget why I’m there, I have the concentration of a toddler, I can’t remember the names of people I see on a weekly basis and the stories I tell no longer necessarily contain a beginning, middle and end.  I would describe a conversation with one of my other 40-something, mom friends as more of a dusty, unraveling tapestry than a road map.  Granted, some of these things may be due in part to entering my 40s, but since these changes began at the same time as my first pregnancy, this is my story and I’m sticking to it.  When this mental downward slide began, I mentioned my concern about it to my psychiatrist.  He told me not to worry, that I was a busy mother of two young children and a swiss-cheese brain was just a natural side effect.  This gave me no comfort until he said, “If you’re aware that your mind is a little fuzzy and you forget things, all is well.  It’s when you start forgetting the things you’ve forgotten, then it’s time to worry.”  Luckily, I’m fully aware that I’ve become a bumbling idiot.  So I’ve got that going for me.  Which is nice.

It is, however, my heart that has taken the most shrapnel in the process of becoming a mother.  My favorite quote about parenthood is “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” (Elizabeth Stone)  It is the absolute best possible description of the transformation that occurred the moment I became a mother.  Like my stomach, my heart is now squishier and, like most of the rest of my body, my daughters have claimed complete ownership of it.  I am no longer the pragmatic law student who could help defend a medical malpractice case involving a baby without blinking an eye and even just the trailer of a movie about a child abduction now has me running to the lobby for more popcorn.  My newly squishy heart is also the cause of the Seven-Year War between it and my brain over whether to go back to work and seek my fortune out in the “real world” or stay home and bathe in every wonderful, maddening, hilarious, heartbreaking, mundane moment of motherhood.

All I can say is that, as the years fly by and my body becomes more and more of a science experiment, I will do my very best to give it the honor and respect that it deserves.  And if I ever hear of Emma Gray of the Huffington Post complaining about those extra 10 pounds or mentioning her budding jowls and chin hairs, that bitch is going to have some explaining to do.  (Sorry to call you a bitch, Emma.  I’m not a “professional” writer and sometimes I stoop to using expletives when I’m at a loss for words.  I hope we can be friends.)

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We’ll Be in Touch

My mom uniformThere are number of intimidating aspects of a job search for moms (and dads…but mostly moms, let’s just be honest here) who have been out of the employment market for an extended time while raising children. For example, trying to find an appropriate outfit when meeting a potential employer may be difficult.  Digging through my extensive collection of skinny jeans, boyfriend jeans and high-waisted flare jeans (friend to many a muffin-topped mom, myself included), I find not one pair of appropriate pants.  As for tops, I own just about every available color of this v-neck t-shirt from Everlane, but nothing “blousy” or even “shirty” that looks professional and doesn’t showcase my tattoos.  And my shoe stash consists mainly of flip-flops, Vans slip-ons, boots and sexy sandals for going out to fancy events, like preschool fundraisers.

But the single most frightening part of the job search has got to be the interviewing process.  Think about it.  You’re completely out of your element and not exactly set up for success.  The interview itself consists mainly of sitting in a room with another adult and having a conversation that does not revolve around your children, your children’s school, the neighbors or the irritating thing your husband does that’s driving you bat-shit crazy.  You’re meeting with someone who is already reluctant to even consider you as a potential candidate for the job because of the glaringly obvious Grand Canyon-sized hole in your resume and is probably just doing a favor for a friend-of-a-friend (a testament to your stellar networking skills at the kids’ weekend soccer games).

Little Biggie in Mom's shoesSince just forming a complete sentence is a challenge at times for a stay-at-home mom, coming up with intelligent, witty, informed and mostly truthful answers to interview questions is likely the biggest stumbling block there is when attempting to return to the job market.  So, I have done some preparation to work through my responses to some commonly asked interview questions and help give a leg up to other readers who may find themselves in the same predicament.  Please note that, while I suspect your answers to the following questions would be strikingly similar to mine, you really should alter them a bit to fit your specific situation.

A Stay-at-Home Mom’s Responses to Commonly Asked Job Interview Questions:

Q:  Tell me a little about yourself.
A:  Well, I am a graduate of X University where I studied art (just an example of my largely useless undergraduate degree. Yours may be something like marine biology or philosophy or Russian literature.)  From there, I went on to X University School of Law (or medicine or business…you get the drill now) where I graduated with honors (or at least in the top half of my class).  That led to an offer at a somewhat prestigious law firm in X world-class city (where I no longer live because I wanted to be able to afford a house and send my children to a decent school).  Blah, blah, blah, job successes, promotions, raises, etc.,…and then I had a kid and threw it all away.  (OK, maybe not in those exact words.)  I am now looking to reenter the job market.

Q:  What is your greatest strength?
A:  I am a very strong leader and have led teams of varying sizes with a number of successful projects.

Q:  Can you point to a recent example of when you displayed your leadership skills?
A:  Absolutely.  Just last year, I managed an unruly team of 20 preschoolers to develop a project that was sold at a hefty profit at the yearly school fundraiser.  I managed to get my group to act as a unified team despite a number of obstacles including needing to use the potty, a disagreement over who got the last of the pink glitter and a tantrum over having to take the blueberry Go-Gurt when all the strawberries were previously claimed.

Q:  How do you evaluate success?
A:  At the end of the day, I ask myself, are the children all still alive?  Has my husband officially filed for divorce?  If I can answer those two questions with a yes and no, respectively, I call it a success and pour myself a glass of wine.

Q:  Why are you leaving your current position?
A:  Because my employers are tyrants, the pay sucks, the working conditions are abominable and I haven’t had a vacation in 7 years.

Q:  Give me some other examples of times you used your strengths to solve problems at your current job.
A:  Well, more than once, I’ve used my chest or my cupped hands to catch flying vomit from an ill child in order to avoid having to try to scrub puke out of a white flokati rug.  I believe this shows my creative problem solving skills as well as my ability to sacrifice my personal comfort for the greater good of the organization, or at least its interior design.  Also, I have found food on the floor on various occasions when I’ve been in a rush to complete another project and I’ve just eaten the abandoned food rather than taking the time to walk to the trash can.  This demonstrates my impressive time management skills.  Lastly, when faced with an epic exploding poopy diaper situation, rather than pulling the soiled onesie over the head of a screaming child which would have smeared feces into every orifice on the child’s face further angering her, I quickly grabbed a pair of scissors, carefully cut the putrid article of clothing off the child, yelled “Fuck it!” to no one in particular, threw the onesie in the trash and dumped the kid in the tub.  Again, creative problem solving and, um, maybe multitasking?

Q:  How do you handle stress and pressure?
A:  A daily cocktail, varying somewhat, but generally consisting of Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Xanax and alcohol.

“Fantastic, thanks for coming in.  We’ll be in touch.”