I was three years old when my parents split up. I still remember the day my dad left. I didn’t know what was going on at the time, but I remember following him around the house as he packed things up and handing him random odds and ends. I remember him saying goodbye to my older brother and myself at the end of the driveway. He kissed my forehead and one of his tears spilled onto my cheek and then he was driving down the road in his Dodge Shadow. After that I can recollect seeing him at random intervals, and it was often in different places because he moved around a lot. I was discussing this with my mom the other day, when I have these flashes of memory, they rarely include my father, but I can clearly see the place the memory happened. My dad was not super present in my life. He often didn’t pick us up when it was his turn for visitation, and when he did, there wasn’t a whole lot of interaction. He worked third shift and we spent most of the visit playing quietly while he slept. None of this really registered with me until I was older. In fact, it didn’t hit me that I had an absentee father until my 16th birthday. My mom had remarried at this point and we lived in North Carolina with my step-father. My dad was suppose to drive up from Florida to pick us up to spend the Christmas holidays with him. He didn’t show up and he didn’t call until New Year’s Eve, my birthday. I remember sitting on the living room floor talking to him and wondering in my head why he didn’t even mention his reason for not picking us up. When we got off the phone I broke down and I was sobbing into my mother’s arms asking why my dad didn’t want me. This was a defining moment for me, it was the moment that I stopped making excuses in my head for why he wasn’t there, and it’s when I stopped seeing him as my dad.
I had another father figure in my life. My mom remarried when I was eight. He was a very different kind of man than my father. He had a hard work ethic and he did his best to make up for my own father’s shortcomings. He taught me how to cook and introduced me to new food. He used to take us on these amazing cross country trips every summer. I got to see and experience most of our country and Canada because of him. We went camping and had barbeques and we looked like a nice perfect family. He had a lot of physiological problems and it ultimately led to his company forcing him into retirement. This did not sit well for his mental health. He became agitated and sullen having to sit at home and the man we used to know faded away. I had begun rebelling and getting into drinking and recreational drugs use at around 17 years old. Two days before my 18th birthday he kicked me out. I stayed with a friend for a while and then ending up moving to Florida with my dad. I got a phone call from my mom a few months later telling me that my step-father took his life. By this time my mom and he had moved to Texas for the drier climate. I flew out there to be with her and we began repairing our relationship.
I made a lot of questionable decisions in my life and a lot of them had to do with these two men in my life. Most of the bad decisions I made involved getting into equally turbulent relationships with men who were horrible to me and ignored me. I was borderline obsessive with trying to make these doomed unions work because I didn’t want more men to leave me. I was convinced there was something wrong with me that made the men in my life leave and I was determined to fix it. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I sought out other broken men because they (have you guessed it by now?) reminded me of my father. I became stronger and I developed a voice for myself. I’m still not “fixed” by any means, but I am working on it.
I still have some contact with my father. I see him about once a year, but he is still very much the same person he was all those years ago. I wanted my children to have the opportunity to know the man who aided in my conception, but I do my very best to make sure that they will never know the hurt and the pain, and that they will never have to seek his approval. They have a wonderful father to look up to and I am so grateful for that. They have a strong mom, like I did, to shelter them from the worst of it and I have faith that they will turn into reasonably well balanced individuals who use their formative years for personal growth rather than attention seeking.
There is so much controversy on the subject of breast vs bottle in regards to feeding babies. If you find yourself meandering through any mommy group online, you are bound to find a heated discussion on the topic. Nothing else in the parental community gets them more riled up than a good old discussion on how other people feel you should be caring for your children.
When I had my first son, I was 20 years old and the thought of breastfeeding made me very uncomfortable. I didn’t even attempt to do it. As soon as he was born, I didn’t even acknowledge the nurses fluttering about asking if I wanted to try nursing my new bundle. I stopped them, and asked for the bottle. My son did great, he gained the appropriate amount of weight and did not have any adverse effects to the formula. He is a strong and healthy seven year old who very very rarely gets sick.
It was a different scenario when my second child was born. I was 27 this time around and more comfortable with the idea of breastfeeding. Plus it would save us tons of money. My goal was to make it at least six months on the boob, but I was secretly hoping I would make it the full year. When he was born, he latched on really well when I was in recovery for my C-section. I was hopeful. We got into our regular room and it became apparent over the next 48 hours I was there that he didn’t like my nipples. We tried different positions and nothing was working. We moved to the pump and the little bit of colostrum we could get out we fed him with a syringe. On my last day there this heavenly lactation consultant came in the room and introduced me to the breast shield. For those of you that don’t know, it’s basically a silicone pad that fits over the breast with a nipple on it. It makes it easier for the baby to suckle if you, like me, aren’t equipped with long enough nipples. We tried it and immediately he latched on. I was so excited to not have to pump every meal. The elation didn’t last long, I had a very hard time getting my supply up. I was power pumping and eating right and dancing naked in a bowl of snails during the full moon. Nothing was working and my supply was rapidly dwindling. After much frustration, I made the decision to switch him to formula. I was estatic. He was getting full, and in turn sleeping better and was in a better mood in general. He, too, is also a very healthy child.
The point here is, what works for some, doesn’t work for others. And hell, some women just don’t want to breastfeed. That doesn’t make them selfish. As long as their babies are receiving the proper nutrition, who gives a shit? Let other people raise their kids how they see fit and don’t be a sanctimonious ass hat.
I started my journey to motherhood on March 25, 2009 when I found out I was pregnant with my first child. I had so many emotions. I was 20 years old and set to marry my husband two months later. Fear was the largest feeling by far and large. As time went on, that began to fade into excitement. My sweet little boy was born in November and while I was battling some demons within myself, I was so in love. Being a mom was the most exhausting job I had ever taken on, but it was so worth it to watch this little human I had literally made from scratch inside my body, flourish and grow before my eyes. Shortly after he turned six, I found out I was carrying my second little boy. If I thought the first time around was a beautiful and humbling experience, it was nothing when I watched my seven year old son look at his newborn brother with such love and adoration.
With all that being said, I am by no means a perfect mother. I have no clout to give anyone advice on how to be a good parent because I am learning every single day how to do that myself. I falter every step of the way. I am sometimes short tempered and irritable. I don’t always have the energy or the want to sit on the floor for endless rounds of board games or Legos. But I try. Sometimes when I’m so bleary-eyed from being up at all hours with a 14 month old who still doesn’t want to sleep through the night, I want time to speed up so they are both in school and I have time to be an adult again. But in the very next moment both of my gorgeous boys sit on my lap and hug me so tight I want time to stop all together. So I want to say this to my kids: while you may think that I nag and harp and make you eat too many vegetables or don’t give you enough time to play video games, please know that everything I do, I do for you. I go without simple pleasures or time to sleep in because I am too busy molding you into men that are going to do great things in life. Men who are going to treat women well, and handle your business and do whatever it takes to be successful and happy in life.
In parting, the one piece of advice I feel qualified to give to every single parent out there is to cherish your children. Hold them close and enjoy every single sticky, messy kiss, every squeal of Glee, every tantrum and fit, and everything in between. Childhood is over before you know it and your kids are out in the real world and living their own lives and we, as parents have to take a backseat at that point to their new experiences. Soak it all up while you can so you have something to remember when they are grown.
It’s 8pm on a Sunday and I am bleary eyed and irritable. Never in my life have I been more excited to be woken up by my alarm in the morning because it means Spring Break is finally over. Let me preface this by saying that I love my seven year old child unconditionally. I would move mountains for that boy. He is the one that made me a mommy and I will be forever grateful. But damnit, I’m exhausted. I’ve been a mother of two now for a little over a year and I know it’s work having both of my kids, but I forget just how much work when I don’t have a seven hour school day to break up the chaos that only two little boys can bring. When my kids are together for extended periods of time, they just feed off each other’s insanity whilst simultaneously leeching every ounce of energy my poor body possesses. And dear god the sheer amount of food my 50lb bean pole can stuff in his skinny little tummy is astounding. I really thought other moms of the world were exaggerating when they said their boys ate them out of house and home. They are literally human garbage disposals that feed off of goldfish and pizza rolls.
I tried to be proactive this year and did some research on activities to do in the home to entertain my son while on his break from school. They all include a shit ton of glitter, slime, or uncooked pasta. Wanna guess who was interested in any of that shit? Not my kid. Instead I was met with, “okay, mom, obligatory craft time is over, can I go play Ghost Recon now? Or watch other children play with toys on YouTube?” Fine. But that only occupies him for an hour. When I tell him screen time is over and he has to amuse himself with his collection of toys that would put Toys R Us to shame, I’m met with deep gutteral sighs and massive amounts of eye rollings. When did kids stop liking toys? Insert cliche statement here: when I was his age I played outside until the street lights came on and only had a rusty can and some string to play with; tetanus was just a happy bonus! So I would get down on the floor with him and his various action figures and army men and listen to him tell me for 20 minutes that I’m playing “wrong” until I finally get so frustrated I want to chuck Darth Vader across the room. This has been my life on an endless loop for the last week. Not to mention caring for the 14 month old who must investigate everything myself or his brother is doing and cry if I’m not within a five foot radius of him. It’s been a real special time.
Do you want to know what has gotten me through this trying time? Gin. I whole heartedly recommend my method of therapy for all you mom’s out there who have just had enough at the end of the day. And if nothing else it makes clean up time after the kids are in bed much more enjoyable.