Alpha Mom » Kristen Chase http://alphamom.com parenting and pregnancy opinions and information Thu, 27 Nov 2014 03:23:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 On Being Sad http://alphamom.com/your-life/life-relationships/on-being-sad/ http://alphamom.com/your-life/life-relationships/on-being-sad/#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 16:01:48 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=35288

I’ve been sad lately.

My brand of feeling down often manifests as anxiety, which has been rearing its ugly head lately too, but this time around, my sads feel like actual sads.

It’s not all day long, mind you, nor is it anything that I find to be worrisome. I’m hyper self-aware, which is a blessing and a curse, but if I felt as though it was interfering with my ability to function, I’d be the first to head to my doctor to have a chat.

On the contrary, I’m finding my nightly sadness to be cathartic.

See, this is the first time since high school that I’ve ever actually been alone. As in, uncoupled, and I’m finding myself with more time and energy to focus on myself, which is awesome, especially since this is the busiest time of year for me at work. I’m finally knocking stuff off my to-do list, things that have needed my attention for months now, and really, truly enjoying the company of my kids.

But all this time also means I have more of it to think, about my broken heart still healing from a love lost, the mistakes I’ve made, the regrets I have, all of which surface in the still of the night.

It usually starts when I’m sitting in my nightly hot bath after my day is done and the kids are asleep. I sit quietly in the water and think about what could have been or should have been. I think of things that I probably don’t even need to think about, things that I have no power to change. Things that will always be.

But when you’re always moving and going, when your energy is always being forced out to help others, well, you don’t get the opportunity to mourn. To feel the hurt and sadness and anger and all those feelings you have, that I have, that have been taking up space in my head and my body for many years.

Some old, some new.

I don’t think they’re bad, nor do I wish they’d go away. For too long I’ve used work and men (my two vices) to distract me from feeling them.

And now I want to give them a chance to be heard so that they can be quieted, not suppressed.

These feelings remind me that I’m human. That I’m alive. That I made it through a whole lot of crazy.

After ten minutes or so, I hop out of the tub and into bed, falling asleep peacefully, awakening the next day feeling content and grateful, my puffy eyes the only indication that I’d been crying.

The funny thing is that I don’t expect to find any sort of resolution. There’s no magic salve or cut and dry answer that will help soothe or squelch them.

For now, I’m just letting them be heard and known in a safe place, hoping that giving them air to breathe will set them free once and for all.

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Why I Chopped Off All My Hair http://alphamom.com/your-life/life-relationships/why-i-chopped-off-all-my-hair/ http://alphamom.com/your-life/life-relationships/why-i-chopped-off-all-my-hair/#comments Sat, 08 Nov 2014 16:19:35 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=35183

I spent the entire day after getting my hair lopped off thinking of how to explain the decision to people.

I just don’t have time to do my hair every morning!

I love pixie cuts!

Lice! 

Because I did it on my weekend without kids, which I chose to spend alone in downtown Philly where no one had ever seen me before, I had time to wander the streets as the “new me” while I figured out how to answer the inevitable questions I’d face when coming home to where the “old me” existed.

I’d told no one beforehand, though I’d been planning the haircut for weeks — my hesitance, my two cancellations — all because I didn’t want to have to tell people the real reason.

And I get it. Why would a pretty girl with pretty hair who’s had it short a couple of times and knows it isn’t necessarily her best look chop it off?

But that’s exactly why I did.

I don’t really want to feel pretty right now.

Look, I know girls look gorgeous with short hair. Take Ginnifer Goodwin, Charlize Theron, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway.

But for me, it’s different.

I’ve spent most of my life feeling accepted and wanted solely based on my appearance, which isn’t hard when you’re a tall half-Asian (so exotic!) girl with long legs and a slender frame. Also not hard when that seems to be the only way you’re getting approval.

It’s old nonsense that haunts me when I stare in the mirror and decide I need to fit into a particular size pants even though there’s vanity sizing and no one really cares (or knows) if you’re in an 8 or a 10 except you.

All my energy for all these years has gone outside of me, yes on my looks but also in often times dysfunctional caring for others (my kids excluded because duh, they’re my kids).

And so over these past few weeks, as I remove myself from relationships and delete all the dating apps off my phone, I’ve made a decision to take care of my own business for once. To draw my energy in for now.

My hair, my looks, well, they give me a confidence that has, at times, bordered on unhealthy, and somehow altering it gives me a chance to breathe.

There are dentist visits and doctors appointments. There are cars that need tires rotated. There are budgets that need to be made and followed. There are a myriad other things in my own life that I need to tend to right now, not even including my four children and their health and well-being and livelihood, that in chopping off my hair I feel as though I’m able to force myself to focus on.

And really, I want to feel sexy and beautiful and hot and amazing and confident because of everything about me.

That’s not to say I haven’t had (and don’t still do) have relationships that are based on more than just my appearance. I know people have loved (and do love) me for who I am.

But the love for myself has been too tied up in what I show to the world, in both how I look and how I act.

This is how I’m choosing to start harnessing that energy for someone who really needs it before it’s too late.

And that person is me.

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Why I Don’t Want To Be a Happy Person http://alphamom.com/your-life/happiness-single-parenting/ http://alphamom.com/your-life/happiness-single-parenting/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 14:44:53 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=35112

“I’m generally a happy person!” I told my therapist last week. And it’s true. As hard as my life can be, I really, really like it. My job, my friends, my children, my home with its terrible green carpet and aztec-inspired border in the kitchen. All of it.

“I just want to be with someone else who is happy!” I continued, referring to a series of relationships over the last year with people who were depressed and broken and depressingly broken.

“No you don’t,” she replied. She paused, which let my mind race into all sorts of different directions, like maybe I’m not really happy or maybe there’s something I’m putting into the world that’s just drawing in sad people. 

Just when she saw the look of horror start to take over my face, she kept going.

“You want someone who’s content with his life. Like you.”

And then I realized that I’ve been going about it all wrong. I’ve been going about everything all wrong really. And maybe you have too.

See, we’re all so focused on being happy. And making others happy. And ensuring that our kids grow up to be happy people because that’s what you want for them (and a good job and a house or apartment please, just in case the universe is listening) when really what we should be focused on is contentment.

Am I the only one who had the two things completely confused?

Happiness is amazing. It’s thrilling and wonderful and invigorating but it’s also fleeting. It’s an emotion that we experience related to specific events or moments or happenings in our life. A gift, a party, an award, a dinner, an orgasm or six (ahem).

You can put your finger exactly on what would make you happy, and you can also put your finger on what might make others happy too. Well, mostly.

But contentment is a state of being. Stasis.

A place where your existence that just feels right. Where your mind, body, and soul are satisfied.

And importantly, something you can’t give to or be for anyone else.

Yes, there will be many happy moments (I hope) and perhaps many sad moments (I hope not), and lots of other highs and lows and plateaus but overall you’ve found a good, secure spot in this world.

You’ll stumble, you’ll get up, you might even leap and jump and soar. It might not be pretty. It might be insanely beautiful.

But whatever happens, you’ll land on your feet.

And that’s where I am. Really, truly content, without a moment passing where I don’t feel grateful.

It’s what I want in a partner. It’s what I want for my children. It’s what I want for my ex with the hopes that it will translate into better caretaking of our children.

Happiness is amazing. And I’ll definitely take more of it in my life. But it’s fleeting. It evaporates.

Contentment might be hard to come by, but it’s much more satisfying in the end.

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Spark http://alphamom.com/your-life/life-relationships/single-mom-dating/ http://alphamom.com/your-life/life-relationships/single-mom-dating/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 11:17:50 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=34969

“Would you mind it much if I kissed you?” he asked, leaning in, quoting a line from the play that we’d just seen together.

I imagine he thought it was pretty clever.

He’d grabbed at my bracelet and squeezed my hand the moment before and I knew what was coming next. I could smell it from the space between us slowly shrinking.

Instead of squeezing back and sliding closer to him, I leaned the other way, and unbuttoned the beaded chain from my wrist, unraveling it into one long chain, hoping his surprise at its construction would distract him from his intentions.

“Yes!”

I could see his surprise and disappointment.

“Um, I have a rule about kissing on first dates!” I exclaimed disjointedly, as if I were creating the rule at that exact moment.

I kind of was.

If only I had that rule so many other times when I’d kissed someone. Which led to fucking someone. Which led to babies. Divorce.

Okay, it wasn’t always like that, exactly, but I had always associated a good first usually-drunk kiss with him being a good person, when really all it meant that he was a good kisser. Maybe good in bed.

Or more accurately, that I was wasted.

“I got strep throat one time after I kissed someone and now I’m paranoid.” I just threw the words up right there in the cab and looked down as if I could actually see them on the floor.

He chuckled nervously, then loudly, proceeding to explain the illogical nature of that statement.

“You’re just as likely to get it on a 2nd or 3rd date too, you know?”

He realized how ridiculous that sounded as he said it, as if his rationale would somehow convince me otherwise. The special moment that he had imagined, now replaced with a discussion about probability. Truth was, if I had wanted to kiss him I would have just kissed him.

And really, he would have just kissed me without a stupid line I’d just heard delivered better, on stage, by Michael Sera.

He would have kissed me like he kissed the woman he’d gone out with the week prior, a story he’d insisted on telling me over the phone to sound funny, though even he said to me “I’m not even sure why I’m telling you this” but then proceeded to tell me instead of changing the subject to anything but his dates with other women, a few of whose ex-husbands were gay thus rendering them incredibly deprived of male attention.

He’d held one woman’s hand and kissed her because he felt bad.

“How can I know you’re not just feeling sorry for me?” I asked, reminding him backhandedly about his pity “action,” desperately trying to divert from the whole strep throat debacle that made me sound more neurotic then I had hoped.

I leaned back in the seat now facing him, confidently. Gloating.

The guy who kisses a woman who complains on her first date that she hasn’t had her hand held or her lips kissed in ten years will not spurn my completely illogical and yes, completely fake reason for not wanting to kiss.

“I knew that would come back to bite me!” he laughed. “But c’mon, this is different, this is…” his voice trailed off as I turned to watch the city go by outside my taxi window.

I’d been sick a lot lately, these past few months, dating someone I knew wasn’t good for me and every time I’d seen him the last couple of times, I’d return home sick.

I tried not to read into but it was hard not to.

“I got strep throat in Hawaii. Then a UTI. Then strep throat again…” It was all true, all of it, except it wasn’t from kissing but from the airplane ride and all the sex and then the sex while I had an infection. Then a cold followed by a series of poorly-timed bloody noses —which is to say “Is there really a good time for a bloody nose?” and I have to say after having one at the Target checkout counter alone with four kids, “yes, yes there is” — was enough for me to call it quits and make me rethink my whole approach to sharing fluids and body parts and my life so willingly.

Lately, it was starting to feel reckless.

We slid out of the taxi in front of where I was staying, and I offered to walk him to his car parked in a garage a few blocks away, still hoping to convince him that I was just a rule follower. Instead, I decided to ride out the neuroses.

“Don’t you have any irrational fears?” I asked, insistent on him believing my strep throat story. “I once went to a restaurant that was completely covered in dollar bills. The ceiling. The walls. It was disgusting.”

He looked over at me suspiciously.

“Money’s dirty,” I reminded him, nodding my head knowingly. “It didn’t really make sense to me but every time I think about it, I feel a little ill.”

I kept talking about money and the wires in his car and anything I could think of as he drove me back around the block to where we’d been dropped by the taxi, the walk and return delivery only extending the awkwardness.

I kissed his cheek and hugged him goodbye, sliding out of the passenger side and clamoring up the steps into the doorway without even looking back.

I answered a few of his texts, that night then the next day. He was nice and funny and sweet, and if anything I appreciated not having to plan one damn thing about that evening except what to wear.

“Yeah, nice is good!” I texted my friend optimistically.

But nice is just nice and nothing else. And I want more. I want it all.

If I had minded that night, I’d still mind the next time. And the next time after that. Maybe not so much the kissing as much as the asking, which is the most telling thing of all.

I’ve given my fair share of second chances, believing that it was nerves or quirkiness or some sort of excuse for the lack of connection. That he had a great voice and boy, he was funny, and maybe it’ll turn into something at some point. When really, you just know.

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Single Mom: I Don’t Owe You Anything http://alphamom.com/your-life/life-relationships/single-mom-i-dont-owe-you-anything/ http://alphamom.com/your-life/life-relationships/single-mom-i-dont-owe-you-anything/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 15:57:04 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=34826

I’m not quite sure when I created the rules that govern my daily existence but they’re there, mostly guilting me when I make questionable decisions that I’m coming to realize aren’t really that questionable.

They have pretty much everything to do with what everyone else thinks and how everyone else will perceive me, and not necessarily what I really want or need. Or better, what’s best for me.

I’m thoughtful and kind and respectful of everyone else’s feelings which takes away the tender loving care that I need.

But lately, I’ve been doing my best to change that. Case in point: I sort of pulled a Berger this past week.

You will get this reference if you watched Sex and the City, specifically the episode when Carrie’s on-again-off-again boyfriend, named Berger, broke up with her using a post-it note on her laptop, which drove her crazy, and her friends crazy, and pretty much all women in a America crazy.

HOW COULD HE DO THAT? HOW RUDE AND THOUGHTLESS AND AWFUL!

Now in my case, it wasn’t a boyfriend, or really, someone who I’d dated for very long. And while I felt like there was a connection, a friendship even, the signs were clear that not only was it not going anywhere but it really wasn’t healthy for me to continue on in it.

And so, I wrestled with doing the “right thing” and discussing it in person, or at least, over the phone (since it was a bit of a long distance relationship), and the rules I have about these things just kept hammering me over the head until I realized what do I care? So, I wrote him an email — a very short, to-the-point nice email — and that was it.

Even typing that out right now makes me feel like a terrible person or at least, an unkind person, and now I’ll be the girl that broke up with him over an email, but… so what?

Now Berger probably owed Carrie way more than I owed this person, but in the end, I suppose he did what he felt like he could handle. It was all he could muster and while it seemed sucky and wrong, maybe that’s what he needed for his own self-preservation.

I certainly don’t want to have some sort of reputation as being a careless, cold-hearted person. I know that part of who I am is thinking a lot about others, and treating them (and yes, even random strangers) with love and kindness and I don’t want to lose all of that.

But the energy I’m spending on worrying and thinking about what everyone else might think is sucking me dry.

And I need that energy for myself. And my kids.

If that means breaking up with someone over an email rather than causing myself heartache and pain trying to do it the right way, so be it. And really, what is the “right way” to break up with someone anyway?

These days, I’ve been doing my best to remind myself that I don’t owe anyone anything. I’m beholden to my dear friends (and business partners), my family, my kids, and myself.

I can’t control what other people will think of me, nor should I try.

Better, I’m going to use all of that energy to take care of the ones I love, including me, so that I’m a better mom, friend, and hopefully partner. They should get (and deserve) the best of me, and not a guy I only knew for a couple of months.

 

Photo Source: WhoSay

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Stories Don’t Mean Anything If You’ve Got No One To Tell Them To http://alphamom.com/your-life/life-relationships/stories-dont-mean-anything/ http://alphamom.com/your-life/life-relationships/stories-dont-mean-anything/#comments Thu, 09 Oct 2014 16:57:48 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=34765

I recently discovered that my ex-husband reads my columns here.

He never seemed to have much interest in my writing while we were married, save the times when I’d complain about him and it was brought to his attention by friends who thought they were doing him a favor by telling him.

I’ll still never live down the time he went to Paris without me and I bitched about the “I LOVE PARIS!” scarf and awful sweater he brought back.

“But you never mentioned the expensive jewelry!” he said to me.

“That’s because it was ugly and I didn’t want to sound like a jerk,” I replied. “And I didn’t want you to sound like a complete fool with no taste.”

(Okay, so a little hyperbole there, but pretty much accurate in intention). 

His ire about my writing only representing one side of my story was unrelenting, and even now that we’re divorced, it continues.

“You’re a phony. A public liar,” he texted me.

(Grammar and spelling corrected on his behalf). 

In this case, he was referring to my 6-day trip to Hawaii, which I wrote had been the first time in ten years that I’d been away on vacation without the kids. Apparently, this “lie” upset him greatly, and he felt the need to yell at me for it.

I still stand by my calculations, which doesn’t include business trips I took away from my kids as “vacations.”

And let’s be honest here, this is a very small, silly matter, at least to me, anyway. Especially when there are more important things, like say our children’s well-being, to worry about.

Hey, let me pick out that piece of sawdust out of your eye while I walk around with a giant plank in mine. 

(Yes, that’s a biblical reference. And one of my favorite ways to explain hypocrisy).

But I wonder, does it matter to you, Internet?

Of course, there is a belief by some that we bloggers embellish the truth or sometimes even make up stories and endings, maybe even beginnings, because they are more interesting and compelling.

We draw you in with our words that you believe to be 100% real, absolute fact as they happened because that would be awesome to read.

Can you imagine? 

I can only speak for myself when I say that my stories here (and everywhere I write) are true. They are how I see things and live them and experience them, not how anyone else does, because writing about how someone else sees me would be well, weird, and challenging, and pretty disingenuous.

Writing someone else’s experience is what I consider “fiction.”

This is my art, my creative self-expression. But instead of pencils or paints, my medium is funny words and adjectives and carefully-crafted sentences so that you’ll want to read to the end.

It’s knowing the nuances of what to share and how to share it.

I’m not here to make you think I’m any better or worse than I actually am in person. In fact, I’m not here to make you think anything about me at all. You can form that opinion on your own, knowing, I’m sure because you’re smart, that you’re only getting part of my story.

There’s only so much I can tell you in one column a week. Only so much you’d want to know. Only so much I’m willing to share.

These columns are my words strung together into stories about my life that I hope you like to read and that evoke something within you that makes you want to come back for more.

I don’t think that makes me a phony. Or a liar.

But rather, a storyteller, where the characters are the people in my life.

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Life is Like a Box of Lipstick http://alphamom.com/your-life/life-is-like-a-box-of-lipstick/ http://alphamom.com/your-life/life-is-like-a-box-of-lipstick/#comments Fri, 03 Oct 2014 15:07:13 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=34712

A solo trip to Sephora is like a spa vacation for me, except perhaps a bit more expensive due to my penchant for beauty products and their smart make-up artists-slash-sales people that somehow make blue shadow look so amazing on you that you have to have it right now. Is it the brushes? The fluorescent lights?

Oh to have their power but over my children at dinnertime.

Along with my adventurous eyeshadow purchases, I snagged another tube of my favorite everyday lipstick, matching the number of its holder with the number on the box then tossing it into my basket, then bag, not even opening it until this morning.

When I popped it out of the box, eager to slap it on my lips and head out the door to tackle some errands and work load, I looked down to discover that I had not purchased my favorite color.

No, it was not even close. And worse, it was this ridiculous bright pink color, as in “I’d never be caught dead in that pink” pink color, which made me loud sigh and toss it across my vanity.

Totally my luck.

Of course, it’s not like that Sephora was the only Sephora in the world, and really, there is something called “The Internet” which lets people do crazy things like order make-up right from their computer. And I probably have about four tubes of that everyday color tucked in handbags and clutches all over my house.

But the anticipation of opening that new one was sorely dashed by the awful pink.

After getting over my shock, I stared at it for awhile and realized that it looked a bit similar to a color I had actually tried on in the store, and had liked, along with the blue eyeshadow (which I also didn’t think would look that great) and maybe, just maybe, that pink wasn’t so bad after all.

Perhaps it was just the punch that I needed. A little change might be good.

And who knows, I might actually really like it.

Besides, just because I didn’t like the color in the tube didn’t mean that it wouldn’t look amazing on me. I’ve worn enough shirts and dresses to know that the way they hang on a hanger or a mannequin is absolutely no indication, good or bad, as to how they’ll be on your own body.

Or in this case, face.

So I decided I’d give it a try. And wouldn’t you know, it looked awesome. Well, at least, I thought it looked awesome. And so did my friend. Who is supposed to tell me it looks awesome but I really believe her.

I know life isn’t necessarily like a box of lipstick, or even chocolates, according to Forrest Gump, but it’s not a bad way to look at it. Sometimes we think we know what’s best for ourselves. We stick to what we like and are used to. Because it’s comfortable. Because it makes us feel safe.

But sometimes we need to step outside the box. Or in my case, be forced to open a different one and give something new a try.

You might like it or you might not. Or you might just discover that what you’ve been doing (or wearing) all along, wasn’t really the best thing for you. And that there’s something better awaiting you if you’re willing to give it a chance.

 

(The lipstick Kristen is wearing is Make Up For Ever Aqua Rouge in Fuschia 16).

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How To Have a Successful Outing With Your Kids http://alphamom.com/parenting/how-to-have-a-successful-outing-with-your-kids/ http://alphamom.com/parenting/how-to-have-a-successful-outing-with-your-kids/#comments Thu, 25 Sep 2014 20:12:14 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=34536

Even though I spent most of my married life as a solo parent, I am now truly a single parent, which means that more often than I’d like, I need to leave my house to run errands with all my four children.

I do my best to avoid this at all costs, but lately, with work and school and after-school activities and my own alone weekends away, I’m left to my weekends with the kids to get stuff done.

And that means taking them with me.

I find that my experiences out and about with them ebb and flow, with awesome outings and then the terrible ones where you feel like you’ve just handed out a lifetime pack of birth control to every single person in the store just by being there with your kids.

But lately I’ve become a bit of a master of it, probably because I need them to keep their crap together in order for me to keep my crap together, and really, we’re not going to be able to survive if I can’t leave my house with them.

Of course, writing this means that the next time I go out with them all hell will break loose, but I’m willing to risk it to help you become a master yourself, whether you’ve got just one child or four (or more) like me.

1. Timing is everything.
I have learned the very hard way that time of day really matters. If I go right after school or, on one of my not-so brilliant days, over dinner time, you have a little to no chance of succeeding. There will be breakdowns because little people are tired or hungry or both. Just imagine yourself when you’re tired and hungry and how much you really don’t want to be wandering around Target looking for a toothbrush holder and you’ll have a bit of empathy. And yes, I realize you can’t always plan ahead, but if you can, then be sure to pick a time where your kids are at their best. For me, it’s late morning or after dinner.

2. Give a good pep talk.
Before I leave the house, I sit all my kids down and give them the rundown as to what we’re going to be doing and what I expect of them. Let them know where you are going and what you are planning on doing, but also make sure they understand how you hope they will act. Will they be able to buy a toy? Will they be able to buy a snack? Address all those issues before you go.

Then, tell your kids that they’re awesome and that you know they can do it. And yes, I do offer them a small, cheap incentive (a small toy, a lollipop, a special treat after we’re done) or some extra marbles to earn as a reward after the trip because, well, it works.

3. Be prepared. With snacks. And more snacks. 
If your kids are like mine, they are bears on an empty stomach, so I make sure to either feed my kids ahead of time, or bring a lot of food with me. If we’re going out to eat, then I make sure to do that before I go anywhere else because we’re all just much more pleasant with a full belly. And even though you might think your kids have eaten enough, they always seem to get hungry when we’re out, so I pack them anyway. Or better, I make them pack snacks for themselves so there’s no whining or arguing when they disapprove of what I brought for them.

4. Make it fun. 
When I’m out with my kids, I do my best to make the outing as interesting as possible, even if it’s boring as hell. We do everything from photo scavenger hunts where the older kids team up with the little kids and take photos of certain items (I usually do the Alphabet Game), or we do a little race to see who can find an item first. I’ll even sometimes just task the bigger kids to go find me the items on my list.

And if we’re at a restaurant, I play old school games, like “I Spy,” or I just ask them to tell me one funny (or awful, or awesome) thing about their day.

Yes, this can involve some seemingly “inappropriate” store behaviors like being a little loud or letting them go off on their own, but my kids are well versed in store behavior (see #2 above) so that it rarely gets out of hand. In fact, I have people stopping me to tell me how adorable my kids are, which is better than the alternative.

5. Catch them being good. 
If you want your kids to be cooperative while you’re out, it’s super important to catch them when they’re being awesome. And not just when you reminded them or told them to do so. You need to be the sneaky good behavior detective and sniff it out during your trip. Maybe they’re just sitting nicely while you’re checking the calorie count on that cake. Or maybe they got through the check-out line without grabbing at the 400 candy bars. Whatever it is, no matter how small it is, compliment them! And be specific about what they did instead of the ubiquitous and pretty ineffective “GOOD JOB!”. Try something like “I really like how you’re sitting so nicely in the cart” or “I love how you kept your hands to yourself in the check-out line.” You’re reinforcing their good behavior in a way that will encourage them to keep doing it.

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On Motherhood and Marriage Regret http://alphamom.com/your-life/life-relationships/motherhood-and-marriage-regret/ http://alphamom.com/your-life/life-relationships/motherhood-and-marriage-regret/#comments Sat, 20 Sep 2014 16:38:25 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=34594

I never wanted to have kids.

This is always a surprising revelation to most people I talk to since I have four kids and actually enjoy it. Mostly.

Okay, sometimes.

In the grand scheme of things, motherhood is awesome, but I think we can all pretty much agree that the day-to-day of parenting, especially alone, can be extremely taxing. Sometimes dehumanizing.

But I was perfectly happy with my life as a Dual-Income-No-Kids (DINK) person. And yes, while I had my first child fairly young (at 28) and didn’t have the mid-thirties “I NEED TO PROCREATE NOW!” desperation that I hear some women talk about, I never felt like I was missing out or better, would miss out if I didn’t have any children.

Also, I really didn’t want to mess them up. I was good with books and papers and college students. But shaping small humans into responsible, loving, caring, ethical adults, well, that’s no slouch job.

That shit is hard.

So then why do we feel like everyone should want to do it?

We hear a lot about marriage regret but little about motherhood regret, probably because it involves small, innocent humans that we actually love deeply. And for them to hear that we regret the decision to have them could be a life altering one, or at least, one that will fuel therapy for years to come.

And somehow, because we all have a uterus and ovaries that we should want kids.

Look, I’m tall and have long legs and have absolutely no desire to play basketball, volleyball, or any other tall-person sports. And yes, comparing sports to motherhood is hardly equal, but when you break everything down to biology, it sort of is.

Also, since when are all people good at the same exact thing? Pretty much never.

To be clear, I don’t regret motherhood. At all.

In fact, it’s probably the one thing in my life I have no regrets about.

But I do regret marriage. I regret feeling as though I had to fit a certain mold and follow a societal norm that was created based on values and tenets I do not believe in.

I regret not listening to my gut.

Those feelings can apply to both motherhood and marriage.

Many of us grow up in non-traditional families, and live non-traditional lives, and yet we still feel this pull, an obligation almost to fit our square pegs into that round hole. And we pound and pound because it looks amazing and everyone’s doing it and I want a white dress and a big party with lots of booze and a gaggle of children to call me “Mommy” when really it might not be for us.

But really, when you have experienced a life that is vastly off the yellow brick road of normalcy well maybe Oz is not the end-all-be-all for you. Which isn’t a bad thing, because as we all know — as the divorce rates climb — not too many people can hack it.

I’m not saying this “Oz” of happy endings, awesome relationships, THE ONE isn’t possible for people.

It would, however, be lifesaving for so many if we just admitted that we all might get there in a different way, with stops and bumps and detours. A lot of detours. And that when we do get there (wherever “there” is), it might not be exactly what we expected. It might be worse. It might be better.

Or we may never get there at all. Sometimes it’s just the journey, right?

But when we give people (and ourselves) permission to pop this bubble of a happy marriage, happy family that we’ve somehow created like it’s cut right out of a fairytale book — no regrets, no guilt — my guess is that we’d all actually be happier.

Our kids. And ourselves.

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Along For the Ride http://alphamom.com/parenting/along-for-the-ride/ http://alphamom.com/parenting/along-for-the-ride/#comments Thu, 11 Sep 2014 23:16:36 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=34463

“You’re going too fast!” she screamed to me, popping up off the tire sticking out of the ground under the seesaw.

They never had those when I was a kid, and as one of the smaller and lighter children in my class, I’d end up getting smashed to the ground when the smartass on the other end hopped off, my back almost vibrating from the jolt.

She screeched as I held her high up in the air, then I did my best to lower her down as slowly as I could, my toes barely touching the ground as I straddled the metal seat, my thighs burning like I’d just spent 40 minutes on the stair stepper.

Why do I have that stupid gym membership? I continued to bounce, now in a rhythm as if I was finishing up my last series of reps in the weight room. Oh right, the babysitting service, which was mostly true. The $30 I paid to leave all four of my kids for three straight hours while I did important errands, like sipping my Starbucks coffee while getting my toenails filed, somehow made the monthly expense worth it, even though I rarely went for anything but the stair stepper and the childcare.

The thighs I was willing to pay for, but considering my kids usually brought home a few illnesses with their 217 coloring pages and half-eaten snack, I was starting think I could just run a few loops around the block, or maybe just hit the seesaw every afternoon instead.

Her legs dangled just over the wooden mulch surrounding the tire, the tips of her toes almost touching the ground, but not enough to allow her to push off on her own. You could tell it was beyond frustrating for her, but she played down her discomfort with a need for independence.

“I want to do it, Mama!” she pleaded, not realizing that she just physically couldn’t, because if I dropped her all the way down, allowing the metal seat to pretty much bang me, there would be no way for her to lower me.

I tried explaining it to her, even pointing to the ridiculous seat up my ass to prove the point of my inability to provide her with the smooth seesaw experience, plus what kid doesn’t want to be bounced up and down? That’s pretty much at the top of the human child job description:

Must enjoy being tossed and bounced at a very fast pace.

That, along with whining and drawing on walls.

“We draw on paper!” I would coach her, after finding yet another wall masterpiece, this time a “road map, Mommy!” which was actually a long line of pen starting at my bedroom and going along the hall and into her room. As if it wasn’t clear to her how to get to my bed since she did it just fine every single night, in complete pitch darkness.

I’d often catch her pen, or on the really good days marker, in hand, and even though she’d look me straight in the eye and tell me that pens were not for walls she’d have already created a scribble mural, like she was testing my cleaning skills.

She figured out the Sharpie but will she know how to get crayon off wallpaper?

Tired of the rhythmic bouncing, she practically threw herself off the seesaw, and ran directly for the merry-go-round, which is somewhat of an anomaly, at least these days, anyway, since it’s pretty much the death spiral of concussions and dental surgery. I thought all of these things had been removed from playgrounds, given our penchant for the health and safety of our children unlike our parents who basically kicked us out of the front door and crossed their fingers around a martini glass that we’d be home before dark.

But there it was, in all its completely unsafe glory. The green metal, faded on the bars where years and years of children have grasped while screaming, where parents have grabbed desperately as a means to stop the beast before their child was flung off or worse, puked.

She ran to it, then around it, pushing it faster until she jumped on masterfully, leaning back and whipping around, screeching, laughing and laughing as the merry-go-round kept spinning.

I felt sick just watching her. I reached out, almost instinctively, to slow it down.

You’re going too fast. 

But just as I reached the bars, she passed me, her face glowing, eyes twinkling. And I knew she was okay.

I knew everything would be okay.

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