Mom Stays in the Picture

She’s mean.  Sometimes, she’s super-crazy mean.  She can cut you to the quick and devastate your feelings in a heartbeat.  She can take your deepest secrets or your darkest fears and force them to swim up into the very forefront of your consciousness.  If left to her own devices, she can make you feel utterly, ruthlessly worthless.  If it were anyone else, you’d have washed your hands clean of her long ago and good riddance, too.

She’s the Little Voice Inside Your Head.  And she can be a bitch on wheels.

Maybe your Little Voice says you’re boring or ugly or strange or ungraceful.  Maybe she calls you stupid or thinks you’re too short or too tall or makes fun of your acne or thinks you have a mustache or weird boobs.

When my Little Voice gets loud, she calls me fat.

I’ve always been chubby.  I took to food as comfort at a very young age.  Childhood trauma taught me that in world that was sometimes inexplicably cruel, the constancy of chocolate’s deliciousness (for example) was incredibly soothing. Thus was born the emotional-eating monkey that would cling to my back for the rest of my life.

One of Little Voice’s favorite and most fecund stomping ground is in photographs.  How many times have I seen a picture of myself and heard Little Voice scream, “Look how fat you are!  Double chin!  Flabby arms!  Thunder thighs! You’re so groooooooooooss!!” This is probably the reason why I became such avid picture taker.  I don’t have to be in the picture if I’m the one taking it.  This has been a pattern for my entire life.  See a picture that makes Little Voice kvetch?  Just tear it up (I’m dating myself here) or delete it.  Feeling particularly large on a given day?  Avoid the camera completely.  Stand in the back.  Make sure you’re at a lower angle than the lens, don’t get shot from behind.  I know all the rules. And I adhere to them like they are commandments.

Then I had a baby.  Now I’m the chunkiest I’ve ever been and things are…um…droopy in a way they never were before.  Now I’ve got perma-circles under my eyes and my hair is rarely clean, let alone brushed.  My clothes are always covered in barf.  And did I mention that I’m the chunkiest I’ve ever been? Besides which, I’ve got the cutest baby in the entire world, so why bother even being in pictures when I’ve got such a beautiful subject and Little Voice doesn’t get mean about him?

And then it occurred to me.  In giving Little Voice the microphone, I am at risk of digitally deleting myself from the documentation of my son’s childhood.

LIGHTBULB!

When he looks through the pictures of this time, I want my boy to know that I was there.  I want him to look back at the pictures of his childhood and say, “There’s Mommy!” not “Where’s Mommy?” I want him to know how much time we spent together, that I took him on walks and tickled his toes and fed the ducks and read Brown Bear a hundred thousand times and sat under big beautiful trees and marveled at the beauty of autumn.  I want him to have photographic evidence of his homemade baby food, his ridiculously adorable outfits, his penchant for slobbery, double-handed face mushes.  I want him to leaf through photos of times he was too young to remember and realize that for his entire childhood, I was never far from him.  I was there, I took part, I was vitally present and involved in this very important time.

If I kowtow to Little Voice, then I risk losing all of that.  Plus, if I let Little Voice do the decision making, then I run the risk of teaching my son that a woman who could stand to lose a few isn’t worthy of attention, respect, or love.  If I don’t actively and demonstratively love myself, just as I am, then I am setting a dangerous example for him follow.  I want my son to love and respect himself, just as he is.  And I want him to love and respect women, just as they are.  I can hardly expect that of him when I don’t expect that of myself.

So, shut your face, Little Voice.  My son doesn’t care what I look like.  My son cares what I smell like.  He doesn’t care if I have a double chin, he nuzzles his face right in it.  He doesn’t think my curves are too curvy.  He thinks they make for the comfiest snuggle spot in all the land.  I think I’ll hand the mic over to him for a spell.  I could learn a thing or two.

 

All Little Voice can see in this picture is enormous face, double chin, gross upper arm.  Little Voice is so blind!  Look at that fucking kid!  And the look on my face says, "I am so proud of myself for producing the cutest kid on the planet and for dressing him as such."

All Little Voice can see in this picture is enormous face, double chin, gross upper arm. Little Voice is so blind! Look at that fucking kid! And the look on my face says, “I am so proud of myself for producing the cutest kid on the planet and for dressing him as such.”

Little Voice has a thing or two to say about this pic, too.  But it was Boyo's first swim ever!  I don't want to be absent from moments like these just because Little Voice is a raging bitch!

Little Voice has a thing or two to say about this pic, too. But it was Boyo’s first swim ever! I don’t want to be absent from moments like these just because Little Voice is a raging bitch!

 

 

 

 

 

A Call to Arms (Even the flabby ones!)

Wanna feel really terrible about yourself as a mother?  Make a decision.  Any decision will do.  There will be someone, some “expert,” some busybody, some article, some link, some tweet, some Anonymous comment, some neighbor, some friend, some family member, some part of your own self who will pack your bags and send you on a guilt-trip.

There seems no end to the list of forces that conspire to make sure we feel like the utter-failure-waste-of-flesh-shit-for-brains parents. From the almighty spanking-hand of Religion to the subtle, insidious raised eyebrow of the Total Stranger, to the Little Voice inside our heads that just won’t shutthefuckup, there hardly seems a safe haven from the “woulda-coulda-shouldas.”

Which begs the question, why aren’t we acting as one another’s safe havens?  Why are mothers writing articles entitled, “Homemade baby food Is best.  Sorry, busy parents, but it’s true.”   I mean, what is that?  A simple, “Why I Choose to Make My Baby’s Food” would make all the same points and cut down on the risk of guilt-tripping some frazzled mother who tortures herself every time she opens a jar of baby food.

It’s bad enough to feel judged by a faceless mom-snob, let alone having to endure the virtual stinkeye from a Facebook “friend.”  Friends of mine (and brand spankin’ new parents) just went through the hell of beloved pets not taking kindly to baby.  When they took to Facebook to put the word out they were looking for a good home for their fur-babies (heartbreaking!) someone had the audacity to admonish them for “abandoning” their pets when they became “inconvenient.”  I thought my head would explode.  I don’t normally throw in my two unsolicited cents into any Facebook arguement, but these days, I find myself pretty ready to spring to the defense of any new parent who is subjected to anything other than, “What can I do to help?”

Ladies (and gentledaddies,) why the hell are we judging one another on our parenting choices?  We are grown adults, not middle school bullies.  Do we really still have to tear down others’ choices in order to feel better about our own?  Your love for your Family Bed can just be that…love.  It’s doesn’t have to come with any nastiness towards folks who don’t co-sleep.  Be proud that you’ve Zumba-ed your way back to your pre pregnancy body, but don’t judge the upper arms of a mother who decided on different priorities.   So, breastfeeding is the best option for you and your child? Don’t lose sight of that fact that every time you “breast is best” another woman, you may pressing on her bruised sense of worth.  Excited that a strict “Cry-it-Out” policy helped your baby learn to self soothe? Well, the mother who just can’t handle the cries of her baby need not dampen your excitement.  Relieved you decided to get your tubes tied after having just one?  Well, that mother of five you just threw shade at might be just as relieved that her kids don’t have to grow up without siblings.

Let’s cut this bullshit guilt tripping, y’all.  There are a hundred thousand ways to raise a successful, healthy, vibrant, contributing member of the human race.  Let’s don’t try to pretend that we have it all figured out.  I mean, who the hell are we kidding?  We’re all just throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping something sticks.  Let’s raise each other up. Let’s celebrate the bravery it sometimes takes to make the choice that’s right for our families.  Let’s congratulate and support, be available and open minded, let’s ask questions and answer honestly, let’s root for each other and hold our breath for each other and wish upon stars for each other and pray for and with one another.  Let’s HELP each other.  Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt and the respect we KNOW we all deserve.  Let’s be grateful that we get to raise our children exactly the way we want and need.  Let’s be kind.

And then, let’s have a drink.

 

You are a super hero. Don't doubt it.

You are a super hero. Don’t doubt it.