Alpha Mom » Kristen Chase parenting and pregnancy opinions and information Wed, 24 Jun 2015 18:32:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 On Becoming The Yes Mom Tue, 23 Jun 2015 17:49:58 +0000

When certain things in my life felt like they were out of control, my anxiety would generally get the better of me and I’d find myself trying to get it back by at the expense of my kids.

That meant a whole lot of the word “no.”

No eating in the living room.

No, you cannot stay up late.

No glitter. Just no.

It felt good at the time, albeit momentarily, the act of sublimating my desire to say “no” or “stop it” or “cut it the hell out,” which wasn’t really meant for my kids but for other people in my life with whom I felt completely powerless.

But in doing so, in saying “no” to my kids, I didn’t really get any of the control back that I actually wanted.

Things just got more out of control.

And I just ended up feeling like crap.

So I decided to rethink this whole approach to my own feelings and to what was becoming a crappy parenting technique, because the power I so desperately want, the control that I want to gain back, well, that’s just not going to happen, at least when it comes to certain people because they’re people.

And I’m just not the boss of them.

I’m also not really the boss of my kids, either. They’re people too, small people and inexperienced in this world, but people with feelings and emotions nonetheless.

The only thing I’m really the boss of in my life are my own feelings and how I react to and interact with others. That means with other people, but to me, most importantly right now, my children.

I can allow myself to express my frustration — on the treadmill, in the quiet of my room, in my car alone where no one can hear me scream or see me cry — and then use it towards teaching moments with my kids.

“The last time you ate in the living room, you left your food on the coffee table. Will you remember to clean it up this time?”

“When you stayed up late last time, you were really grouchy. I think weekends are better for that.”

I will probably still always say no to glitter. And riding their bike in the middle of the street.

I have not suddenly become a pushover. They’re not eating four extra desserts or running loose in Target. Mostly, anyway.

On the contrary, I’m expressing the need for some sense of control and power in my life in a positive way. Quite frankly, the effort that it takes to say “Yes” or “Maybe, let’s figure this out” and having a meaningful discussion and exchange with my kids is less than it takes to say “No!” and then deal with the fallout. The tantrums. The anger. The apologies. Mine and theirs.

And they learn nothing from having their requests, their own feelings, their needs shut down without acknowledgement or explanation other than not to share them in the first place. Be seen, not heard. 

So I’m doing my best to be a Yes Mom. Because my kids deserve that. And the peace of mind, well, I deserve that too.

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Single Mom Dating: Skipping to the Hard Stuff Thu, 11 Jun 2015 13:31:38 +0000

I used to really love first dates.

There was something so optimistic about that encounter with someone new, the idea of starting fresh with no mistakes in it exciting.

I was good at them too, what I lacked in cleavage I made up for in legs, brain, wit, and charm. It was almost like a game for me. To win them over.

And I did.

But then I didn’t know what to do with the next part, which is why I found myself in a series of pretty crappy relationships that weren’t built on anything but lust and conquest. A couple of those lasted way longer than they should have.

Intimacy and vulnerability are scary things, more so when the only significant relationships you had in your life were lacking them, they’re to be avoided at all costs.

This realization didn’t happen overnight, of course, because if it had, I’m pretty sure it would have saved me a whole lot of heartache. And honestly, a lot of heartache for other people too.

Now that I know what I want, now that I understand what’s involved in making a long term relationship actually work, I’m starting to hate the idea of first dates. When before they were invigorating, now the idea of them sounds dreadful.

On the contrary, I’m looking forward to all the stuff that happens after the connection, the dinners, the coffees. The friendship with someone you love. The love with someone who’s your friend.

The stuff that’s sometimes not so pretty. The stuff I tried so desperately to avoid.

I do realize that in order to get to the next level with someone, I’m probably going to have to go on a first date. Oh the irony. And I know, I know. It can be fun to get snazzed up and go out with people and have dinner and drinks.

But when you know the end result, when you can see it so clearly, it’s just hard to have to do all meeting and flirting and side eye glances. The retelling of my story and how I got to where I am (the marriages, the kids, yes, they’re all mine).

Especially since my time and, let’s be honest here, my energy just isn’t what it used to be.

If anything, knowing now what I want and what I can have has made me pickier.

And hopeful.

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We’ve Got Each Other. And That’s All That Really Matters. Tue, 26 May 2015 13:22:06 +0000

So a few weeks ago, I found out that I am going to have to move. Well, unless I wanted to purchase the home I’m currently living in, which while has served me well and I was hoping would serve me well for a couple more years, isn’t something I want to actually own.

I’m perfectly happy renting a home, mostly anyway, which is something that seems to baffle most people, at least in the suburbs. I realize that real estate agents make no money off of finding someone a rental home, and it’s their job to at least ask if I want to buy a home, but after awhile, the question gets old.

But it’s hard to get the “why don’t you buy a house?” question, coupled with the guilt I’m feeling for having to move my kids, especially that it will involve a new school, even though we’re going literally 2 miles down the road (yes, I counted).

I am single, and I like the idea of just calling someone to fix things. Also, the idea of home ownership scares me, especially after having to pay someone a lot of money to take my home in Atlanta.

And so, renting it is for me right now, and perhaps for a long time, which also means there’s the chance I will have to move.

Hence the position I find myself in.

As you might guess, I tried, desperately, to find an option that kept my kids at their same school, then another option that would keep my oldest at the same school (if I could find a place that fed into the same middle school).

But where I picked to live isn’t much of a rental community, and so, after weeks of losing sleep and probably more hair than I already was (yay hormones!), I found a wonderful place that’s considered more “in-town.” We can walk to shops, restaurants, the library, you get the idea. And the new schools are just a hop, skip, and short bike ride away.

I’m finally excited. I think.

I’ve spent the two years since I moved trying to create a stable environment for my kids in a time that was incredibly unstable, and so, the hardest part of all this is not the inconvenience, the money involved, or any of that, but rather, the shift for my kids who have come to be in a good place in their lives.

I’ve also come to be in a good place too.

And then I’m reminded, by friends, dear sweet friends, that it wasn’t the house that did that. It was the family of five we’ve created, the routines and rituals, the traditions we now share, that brought us to the place we’re in.

I love my life and a day doesn’t go by that I don’t feel thankful for what life has afforded me, so much good — some given, lots earned — that this is really just a small blip in our lives.

It will be hard and there will be bumps, but we’ve got each other. And as cliche’ as that might sound, it is all that really matters.

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Single Mom: Family of Choice Thu, 30 Apr 2015 21:25:24 +0000

I got some tough news last week, which combined with taxes and a lost voice sent me a little bit over the edge.

(We’re all healthy and fine, thanks for asking, and, yes, I know it’s all relative, but it was, well, tough for me).

“I’m fragile right now,” I told my friend. And I was. One little push, heck, nudge even, and I felt like I might break into a bunch of pieces.

I am a worrier by nature, thinking through every possible outcome to most situations, jumping to the worst first, then slowly pedaling backwards. I act first, then think later, which can be as awesome as it is maddening.

To make matters worse, I tackle things alone out of habit, my ability to navigate what I can ask for of my friends (who I consider my family) skewed by a belief that strength comes from independence.

When you’ve never really felt like you’ve had a village, it’s hard to call upon one when you actually do.

But when you do, well, it’s clear why that saying is a saying after all.

I am fortunate, dare I even say blessed, to have people in my life, most of whom I work with on a daily basis, who get me out of my head, who snatch me out of the sky like a balloon floating up to space, and hold onto me when I can’t hold onto myself.

They’re the ones who think everything through before they act, which in some cases, like this, is more awesome than maddening.

They can tell you cliche’ things like “Maybe this is the universe guiding you in a different direction,” and you will listen to them. Mostly. At least after you say “Did you really just say that to me?”

They remind you, by texting “Everything okay?” at just the right time, by taking your kids when you need a little break from the high-pitched “MOMMY LOOK AT THIS!,” by telling you in an eery yet reassuring Godfather style that they will not let anything happen to you, that everything will be alright.

And you believe them. Your village. My village.

So much of what my life is right now is not at all how I imagined it. I coped with my sadness by creating a fantasy world, where alcoholic fathers apologized for what they had done to you before they died, and detached mothers suddenly scooped you up and saved you like you always wished they had.

Where husbands… well, you get the idea.

And so, instead of embracing my reality, my village, I just did it all on my own.

The truth is that my dad is dead. My mom is too busy saving herself to worry about saving me. And I’m not married anymore for a reason.

But I have an amazing family with whom I am not related to by blood. We’re related to each other by love and acceptance. By the ability to say what you feel and know you’re not going to get your head bitten off. To ask for help when you need it and know that they will do whatever they can to make it happen.

I understand now that these people are more than my friends.

They are my family. They are my family. They are my family.

And I will say it over and over and over again until it sets in.

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Finding Your Voice Tue, 14 Apr 2015 13:38:28 +0000

I have no voice.

Like I literally have no voice.

This happens to me about once a year, sometimes twice, usually in tandem with a bad cold, and for a few days I’m left sounding like cross between Bonnie Raitt and a seal.

It’s just as awful as it sounds. (The seal part, not Bonnie Raitt. When it’s just Bonnie Raitt I get asked to create peoples’ voice mail messages for them).

Losing your voice is pretty inconvenient for anyone, but wrangling four kids on semi-permanent silent mode? Well, that’s just downright cruel.

At least I thought it was until I realized that there’s really nothing I can do, and when you realize that you can only gesture, write things (haha, that’s hilarious, especially with two kids who can’t read), or what I’m doing, speak very minimally and quietly (though not whispering, promise), well, you find your life becomes a whole lot calmer, not to mention, quieter.

I can have my yelling moments, like any parent I suppose, so being forced to walk to your kids to speak with them, or requiring them to come to you — with a whistle or a snap — has been, well, eye-opening. As you might guess, having to do this has slowed me down significantly. There’s no yelling for someone upstairs, while running down the stairs to tend to someone else because no one can hear me. It’s been a lot of one-on-one conversations, a lot of face-to-face interactions, and well, I really like it.

Of course on the flip side, I’m really hard to understand on a work call, which is only made worse when it’s a conference call with ten people. I loathe those anyway so to not be able to do anything but squawk, and then have to repeat myself because only about three people could hear me at such a low decibel gets pretty frustrating.

And I have a completely silent laugh that almost hurts when it happens. Without laughter and the joking and the singing at the top of my lungs, I’m just, well, not myself.

These blips of time when I’m rendered silent don’t last very long. And I try not to be the one to read into every situation, every happening like it’s completely full of life meaning. Sometimes you just lose your phone for the entire day or you burn your finger or you just lose your voice because you have a cold-slash-allergies-slash-tax-week.

But I’m also one to take notice when stuff like this happens, at what’s going on around me, in my life, in the life of my kids, and I do take a step back to ponder and meditate, not because I believe that something needs to be resolved, per se’, in order for me to get my voice back. But considering how I tend to see physical symptoms of what’s going on with me emotionally, it’s probably a smart move to slow down and figure out what all this quiet really means in my life right now.




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Dear Former Self, Welcome Back. Tue, 24 Mar 2015 21:23:48 +0000

With my kids with their dad this past weekend, I spent some time with my single-no-kids friend and did all sorts of single-no-kids things.

Remember those?

We wandered aimlessly around New York City, then finally stopped for brunch around 2:30pm.

Yes, my first meal of the day was at 2:30pm.

We sat and ate and talked and ate some more. Absolutely no agenda. No plan. No list or responsibilities or obligations.

I still remember feeling so lost when I had my first child, mourning the loss of my former self, wishing and hoping there would be a time when she would be able to make an appearance again.

It’s not something people talk about because there’s a cute baby in the picture and you’re a parent now and well, you just have to suck up the mesh underwear and the lack of sleep and the cling-on attached to your boob.

I liked my work-filled days, 15-17 hours of them sometimes, my microwaved dinners, and impromptu trips to Paris or Japan. I didn’t like rocking a baby to sleep for 3-hours or wearing her on my body non-stop so I could just get a little peace and quiet.

I didn’t necessarily have some sort of “THIS IS GOING TO BE AWESOME!” expectation when I got pregnant, but I didn’t realize how much I would feel like a stranger in my own body and head.

I was a shell of my former self.

But she –me– has made a comeback, of sorts, with my kids no longer in diapers, all of them able to sleep (mostly), my hands the only body part involved in feeding them. I can crack jokes and poke fun and belt show tunes in my Ethel Merman voice, now for an underage audience who sometimes requires butt-wiping assistance.

I am feeling like Kristen, that Kristen, just now with four kids.

Yes, some of this is a product of divorce and having weekends where I don’t have my children with me so I can. But I think a lot of it is just my kids getting older, their needs changing and thus, my role changing.

Or maybe it’s me finally giving myself permission to be a little selfish.

I don’t know what it was that made me think that gaining a child meant losing myself, but I know that I’m not alone in that line of thought. I envy the women, as criticized as they often are, who keep some semblance of themselves after they have children.

If I could whisper in my own ear ten years ago:

Keep working. Get a babysitter. Find a hobby. Go on date nights. Ask for help. 

And be as much of yourself as you can muster. 

As wonderful as it might seem for you to be the mom you think you should be, your kids need the you that you actually are.

You might not be able to work 15-17 hour days, or take impromptu trips to far-off destinations. But that passion. That spontaneity. 

That’s what makes you their mother. Let them see that person. 

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Thoughts on the Underscheduled Child Wed, 18 Mar 2015 15:06:54 +0000

I’m not sure how I’ve avoided the siren call of extracurricular activities for so long.

Perhaps it’s that my ears have been plugged with memories of my own overscheduled past. Karate, drama, violin, ballet, tennis. Every week day schlepped, albeit happily, to something else.

Or the fear of my plate overflowing, as I’m just barely managing my son’s once weekly hockey practices and games.

And art therapy.

Though, I’m not sure I would count therapy as an activity because then it would be a whole helluva lot cheaper. But hey, there is art involved.

Whatever the cause, the result is that my kids come home from school, do their homework and then play or read or create gigantic messes with glue and cut paper. They hover over gadgets and watch television too. Sometimes at the same time.

I don’t think about it much until the change of seasons, when kids in the neighborhood pack up early for playdates of soccer or softball, ballet lessons or gymnastics and mine are left, again, to their own devices.

Literally and figuratively.

There’s certainly never a dull moment in my home, with Lego castles in constant construction mode and Beanie Boo cardboard communes taking over half the playroom. My oldest is an amazing artist and writer, who’s always creating something, whether it’s a Manga book or kid’s wine out of red food coloring and water.

But now with my younger girls getting older, I think it’s fair they be offered the opportunity to try something beyond chalk drawing on the driveway and scooter races.

It’s not for lack of trying, mind you. I’ve signed them up for ballet and gymnastics. There were violin and piano lessons. Baseball and soccer. They all did plenty of camps last summer. Just ask my bank account.

But nothing ever seemed to grab and hold their interest.

And honestly, I was sick of the managing and scheduling and driving, even in small doses.

When I look back at my own experience as a kid, I realize now that the activities game me a good life, a better life than I had at home. They were my savior from what was a sad, difficult childhood. They gave me the reassurance, the praise, the support, the outlet that I was missing from my family.

I actually think it was healthier for me to be dancing for 8 hours a day or playing in an orchestra all weekend long than being at home with my parents.

But my kids, well, they’re content. Happy.

I’ll always continue to offer them the chance to try something new. I might even give them a little nudge in a one direction or another if I think they might thrive in it. And I’m more than happy to encourage them in whatever it is they might choose.

But maybe for now, at least, they’re getting what they need inside their home.


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Soulmates Thu, 05 Mar 2015 16:11:35 +0000

It was just me and my brother growing up, so the whole big family thing is pretty foreign.

My four children and I are quite an anomaly these days, a spectacle, like a mother hen and her chicks running behind, bystanders pointing, giggling.

I suppose I’ve been too deep in the trenches for so long now, too exhausted and admittedly overwhelmed at times, to even attempt to step back and understand the culture of a big family.

I generally just nod at the hands full comments or I can barely deal with two comments because there isn’t a lot of time for reflection when you’re chasing after four kids.

There isn’t really a lot of time for anything.

But I hear things, from people who grew up in big families, who tell me that holidays will be fun! Think of all the grandkids!

Or like my former babysitter, and oldest of four kids, who told me how much she missed the noise and the chaos of her own family now that she was away at college, which you found the right place, my dear. Welcome to the jungle!

That all seems like light years away from what is my current reality, a tornado of Legos and smashed goldfish and shoes. Chex Mix inside my pillowcase and toothpaste in the bathtub, which I get is pretty much any sort of childhood, but when magnified times four and well it’s like Animal House.

As much as the general consensus among people from big families or who know big families or just feel like imagining what it’s like to be part of a big family is that it’s nothing short of awesome, this shit is hard. It is the best kind of hard, and individually, there is a whole lot of awesome happening.

But collectively, this motley crew of four can kick my ass.

There are rays of sunshine these days, though. Many of them, poking through and shining a light on what’s to come for me.

My youngest is four now, no diapers at all, not even hidden away in strange places for desperate times.

There are no more little blobs of whine (somewhat) and spit (mostly), but rather little people, with words that they sometimes choose to use, still with nearly unbearable tones of voice at times, but words nonetheless.

They cooked lunch the other day, all four of them swishing around the kitchen like little sous chefs, chopping salad, frying potatoes, then leaving me the dishes to run off to play Santa’s Elves, transforming my treadmill into a conveyor belt which dumped toys into boxes to be loaded in Santa’s sleigh.

Yes, oh yes, there is noise and chaos and ridiculous amounts of school papers. Just the thought of the orthodontic bill makes me shiver. And don’t even get me started on college.

But there is a deep, profound love, a need for togetherness that is emerging, something that I have never experienced or been witness to, really.

It is, quite simply, magic.

For the first time I realized that they aren’t just siblings living in the same house. Rather, they’re really, truly, the dearest of friends.


And as for me, well, I’m left to wonder what I did to get so damn lucky in this life.

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Who Cares For The Caretaker? Mon, 23 Feb 2015 19:05:52 +0000

This week was rough.

That’s probably the least poetic, least interesting way to describe what felt like the perfect storm, but it’s about all I have left right now.

I am a full-time caretaker in pretty much all aspects of my life. That means wrangling kids and homework and doctor visits and, well, all the things that comes with being a parent.

But that also means wrangling clients and colleagues for my business as well.

It’s certainly not a coincidence that I find myself in this role, being that I’m motivated by looming deadlines and schedules, satisfied with crossing things off a list. I always have been the one to get things done, the reward being not just the creation of an idea but seeing it through, my hands dirty in the process.

I am the rule-following, responsible one. The first-born child. The type-A personality.

Don’t get me wrong. I like it. A lot.

But juggling four kids and five schedules personally, not to mention running a business, there is a point where you just want, no, where you crave for someone else to take the lead.

I experience an almost palpable feeling of wanting to just be told what to do. Where to be.

Heck, tell me how to do something.

My friend joked that maybe I need a few sessions with a Dominatrix. She might actually be onto something.

The issue of self-care, particularly for caretakers is not a new one, but is certainly riddled with complications known as guilt and fear. That we’re letting people down. That we’ll be seen as selfish. That things won’t be able to function without us.

It sounds ridiculous when I hear people talking about those feelings when they’re trying to rationalize the the chair massage, the television binge-watching sessions, the Thursday happy hour because of course you need to take care of yourself.

Even typing it out seems lame to me because it seems like a universal truth:

A well-cared for version of you will be a better caretaker.

You can’t parent someone or work for someone when you’re laid up. Or, you know, dead.

But translating what you know in your head into action in your own life, particularly when there doesn’t seem to be a tangible end result is challenging.

You run or workout because you’ll be visibly fitter. You get your nails done or your hair coifed because you’ll look more put together.

Or let’s just say it: Prettier.

But what I find that I need on my weekends without my children is complete and utter decompression. I want to hide away in a quiet room with a remote control and just let everything go. I need a place where I don’t have to corral or wrangle or even think.

Where I am, for 72 hours, beholden to absolutely no one. Where nothing needs to get done unless I want to do it. Where I get to make decisions for myself because I choose to.

And maybe someday, it’s also where someone else does stuff for me.

There is no reward. No visible change. In fact, I probably look like I’ve been run over by a train.

But I’m becoming okay with knowing that’s what I need. And expressing that the best I can to the people around me.

Self-care isn’t just about treating yourself to something special. For many people, including me, it’s just giving yourself the simple, everyday necessities you don’t often get when you’re too busy caring for everyone else.


Photo credit: Len Matthews (via Creative Commons license)

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My 1st Single Mom Anniversary: Truth & Misconceptions Tue, 10 Feb 2015 17:15:52 +0000

I’m hitting the one-year anniversary of officially becoming single mom, which on one hand seems a little odd to commemorate, but on the other, well, why the hell not?

Because I spent much of my married life with kids alone anyway, I really didn’t think the transition from solo parent to single mom would be that challenging. And mostly, it wasn’t.

But what I didn’t expect were the perceptions, the misconceptions, and boy, the assumptions made on my behalf, a few most common of which I’m happy to clear up.

Yes, I tried to make it work but staying together would not have been better for the kids. Or me. 

I’m continually surprised by the assumption that single parents did not do their best to try to make their relationship work. But I’m more surprised that people continue to believe that people need to wreck themselves emotionally (maybe even physically) in order to do so. Let’s change the vernacular about divorce from “giving up” to “making a life-saving choice.” And as much as we all want to believe that trying to make a failing relationship work for the kids is the right thing the do, most often, it’s the complete opposite.

No, I’m not desperate to find a “new” dad for my children. 

I can assure you that I’m not on the prowl to find a replacement father for my kids. Hell, I’m not on the prowl at all. There was certainly a level of desperation that hit me because I had gone for so long without companionship, but once that wore off and I realized that being alone is much better than being with the wrong person, well, I was pretty content with deleting the dating apps and just enjoying my single life, which usually entails late nights doing laundry and catching up on “The New Girl” episodes. Plus, it’s going to take someone very special to even crack my “inner circle.” I can offer up my own heart to be broken but I will not do that to my children.

But hey, if you’ve got a cute single guy friend who you think is amazing, then send him my way.

No, I’m not rude. I’m just really really busy. 

I’m not going to argue with anyone about what “busy” means for different people, but suffice it to say that I’ve got a lot on my plate. Along with running my own business, I’ve got four kids to love and feed and manage and chauffeur and there’s just not a lot of time for much else. If there’s a mom’s night out or a neighborhood party, I need to get a babysitter and that costs money. I’d love for my kids to go to all the birthday parties they are invited to but it gets expensive not to mention challenging when you’ve got to be in two places at once. I really do enjoy being around other people, it’s just hard for me to juggle that with everything else I’m doing.

But I will admit that when I hear married people with a couple of kids complain about how crazy busy they are, I do cringe. Hey, I’m only human.

Yes, the kids are alright

I’m not going to lie. The adjustment to life with divorced parents was hard, even though my kids were used to me being their primary parent even while we were married. But with the crying and sadness (theirs and mine), there’s also been a lot of laughter and joy. I am so fortunate to have good friends, wonderful therapists, and teachers (seriously awesome teachers) who are so invested in their well-being. And well, I’m just going to pat my own back because so am I. Beyond any resentment or anger or hurt or confusion I might have had, their happiness trumps it all. Always.

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