Did you know that boys can wear pink if they want to?

We were having dinner the other day as a family. My kids were talking about what they were gonna do when they grew up.

My son said, “When I’m a daddy, I’m going to go to work!”

My daughter chimed in, “YEAH! When I’m a daddy TOO, I’m gonna work!”

My son corrected, “NO! You can only be a mommy, cuz you’re a GIRL! And mommies stay home, they don’t go to work!”

My stomach gave a lurch.

I interrupted them – both my husband and I did – and we together explained that some daddies stay home and some mommies go to work. And that me, this Mommy, used to work, and that someday soon, I will again. And that we know mommies who work!

I totally understand that kids his age are very concrete, very black/white, right/wrong, what have you. They need to categorize in order to understand the world, and all those shades of gray can be confusing. Girls do this, boys do that! Easy-peasy. Plus, my kids have never seen me work. Why would they think any differently? To them, whatever our family does is familiar, natural, expected, normal.

I’m just very quick to point out that gender stereotypes don’t have to be followed if we don’t want to. I don’t want my kids feeling like they have to be put in a box, act a certain way, be a certain way, in order to be liked, accepted…whole.

One time, I took my son to get some rain boots. I was going to pick them out myself, but I figured I’d let him choose because then he’d be more likely to actually wear them. I was going to pick out some dark-colored ones from the “boy” section, but when I led him to the kid rain boot aisle, I made sure to motion to ALL the rain boots, the “boy” ones and “girl” ones. He looked at some pink ones, put them down and then mumbled that oh, those are girl ones.

How do you know that? I asked

Because they’re pink. He replied

Did you know that boys can wear pink if they want to?

(Pause.)

And you can choose whatever color you’d like.

Okay.

He still chose some “boy” ones, and that’s fine (they were freaking awesome, actually. they were green alligators with fucking sunglasses on, that’s how cool they were). I just want him to know that 1) there actually are boys who choose pink and mommies who choose to work, that there are many shades of gray and they are all okay, 2) he has the choice, for real, it’s not just lip service, and lastly, 3) he has my support whatever his choice.

I just hope that, if I say it enough, my kids will hear and understand. But it’s so hard when they’re mostly seeing family and friends and a world that strongly encourages and rewards adherence to gender norms. Because if they can’t see it, they can’t be it.

Hopefully I can help them see it.


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The Gremlins Are Not Pleased

I’ve always had a fairly decent sense of self-esteem.

In general, I like who I am. I’m capable, I’m dependable, I am worthy. I am enough.

But nothing – I mean NO-THING – has tested that like motherhood. Especially being a mom to demanding toddlers.

I am not a people-pleaser, generally. Yes, I like praise and I like to be liked, but I usually don’t bend over backwards juuust so that people will like me, or to try and make people happy. But gosh-freaking-dammit, some days there is no pleasing my kids.

They’re bored at home, or they tear the house apart, and so I plan to be out of the house for hours. That requires packing lunches and snacks the night before. And then I have to pack water, hats, swim suits, towels, change of clothes, sunscreen, flares, a hunting knife, the kitchen sink, etc, etc.

It’s a struggle to even get out of the house. My kids’ bowels let loose milliseconds before I try and get them in the car. And of course when I’m trying to get them to leave, they want to stay.

We get there, and they want to play but my daughter’s poopy AGAIN and I have to literally drag them both to the bathroom. I discover I only have one wipe. I finish the job with toilet paper, assuming I’ll be ok as long as I replenish before the next outing (**foreshadowing alert**). After that ordeal, they no longer want to play. So I grudgingly give a snack (string cheese, in an effort to scare their poop back up into their intestines for several hours), even though they practically just had breakfast.

I have to convince them to go play and leave me the frick alone. By convince, I mean I yell at them and get the side-eye from a neighboring mom. Then my son is too cold, or too hot, or too wet (too wet. at the splash. pad.) or bored, or wants to go home, or wants to eat more.

I finally give in and start breaking out the lunch and they WON’T SIT TO EAT IT. Suddenly they’d rather play. Mother of god.

Then, after smearing peanut butter all over my waterproof mat and daring the nearby honey bees to sting them, they gradually eat every morsel of food I brought, while I normally have to BEG them to eat a proper meal when I feed them at home. I actually stopped eating food meant for me and gave it to them instead. And by “gave it to them,” I mean they basically intercepted it on its journey between its container and my mouth.

Of course, they want to keep playing the second I declare we’re packing up to go.

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But guess what, my kid has a poopy diaper YET FUCKING AGAIN (I swear, I’m never letting my kids go berry picking unless they’re gonna be exclusively in someone else’s care 24-48 hours afterward), so eleventy minutes later, after scraping off a layer of buttskin trying to get my daughter clean with translucent, public bathroom tissue paper, we’re trudging to the car.

My kids scream for water and snacks the entire way home. I turned up the radio and swore silently in my head.

When I asked them, they both confirm they had a marvelous time. Hello, do I know you? Were we all at the same place, having the same experience? Because days like that make me feel like I can’t do anything right, like it doesn’t matter what I do – everything still blows up in my face, like I can’t win, like I’m not enough, like parenting is a buttload of work, and why do I even put forth all that effort to leave the house? Seriously, is it even worth it?

Depends on the day.

 

Tolerating Sadness

I think about this older post of mine quite often, and I’d like to share it again. I hope you enjoy it.
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NaBloPoMo Day 20

Psychobabble

In my experience, sadness is not tolerated well or at all.  It is not given much room, and it is not given nearly enough time.  It is shamed.  It is seen as weak.  It is hidden and dealt with privately, or not at all.  Often times, it’s covered up and comes out disguised as another feeling altogether.

Has anyone ever told you to: Cheer up!  Look on the bright side!  Everything will be ok.  Don’t cry.  You need to move on.  Get over it.

I don’t know about you, but when I feel sad and someone tells me something like what I listed above, it makes me feel even worse.  It makes me feel like there is no room for my sadness.  My feelings are not ok.  Not only that, but that you (the person invalidating my feelings) cannot tolerate my sadness for some reason.  A person’s reaction to another’s…

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Happy Blogiversary to Me

I don’t know what to write today.

Usually when that happens, I write a poem. I scrape together some stream of consciousness and parse it into lines of prose.

WordPress reminded me that today is my blogiversary. I’ve been blogging since 2011. Six whole years. That’s nuts.

I am a very different person now than I was then. That was before I became a licensed therapist. Before getting engaged, promoted to running the therapy department at my old job, married, quit job, moved, pregnant, house, baby, then one more baby. I wonder if all that is reflected in my writing? It’s hard for me to tell.

But I’m still here and I’m still me.

I’m proud that I’ve kept this up for so long, and through everything that’s happened. It’s sad that the vast majority of the little blogging community I was a part of when I first started has disappeared. I miss them. I miss reading other blogs and getting comments and feedback from them. I felt like I knew them. I wish them well, wherever they are and whatever they’re doing. I wonder how long the average blogger lasts?

Here’s a pic of yours truly from 2013, in California, post licensure, promotion, and engagement, but pre-wedding and everything else. I was reminded of this pic when I wrote my poem from yesterday (except it’s totally not raining, I know, but the way I felt was the same), but in my haste to post I forgot to search for the picture to accompany. Enjoy.

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aaaaand now it took me so long to find the picture on my computer that it’s after midnight so I technically missed posting for Day 11. FML.


NaBloPoMo Day 11 because I say so, dammit.

Things Motherhood Has Brought to My Attention

  1. My patience (though it runs short at times), overall, runs deeper than I ever could have imagined.
    • Sure, I lose it and blow up at my kids. Just this morning I stomped on the floor and yelled when my son spat out cereal onto the floor. But, for that one time of losing it, I experience at least 50 more times when I’ve stuck with it, dug deep, and kept my cool beyond what I thought was possible of myself in that moment. And I have no idea how that happens. That’s a lie; yes I do.
  2. Being a mom has brought my and my family’s mortality into sharp focus, causing me to make decisions based on whether or not I’d have regrets on my deathbed.
    • This may sound horribly morbid, and while it is morbid, I don’t think it’s horrible. Watching my kids grow up like weeds before my eyes reminds me how short and precious life really is, and this just shoves all the important stuff front and center.
  3. I don’t have control over anything. Like, at all.
    • While this is easy to type and easy for my intellectual brain to grasp, my emotional core is still working on accepting it. I have a feeling I’ll always come back to rage-cleaning the kitchen when I feel like my life is more out of control than normal.
  4. Working with a partner to try and raise two healthy, happy, fed, (mostly) clothed, well-adjusted kids is the hardest thing ever.
    • What threw me on this one is that I thought the hardest thing ever would be staying at home, by myself, with these kids all day everyday. And yes, when Daddy is home I get the physical help with the child-wrangling. But, when he’s not here there’s no discussion about what there is to be done (unless you count the one constantly running through my head) – I just do it. There’s no need to communicate, “Ok, you do this and I’ll do that” I just do it all. There’s no need to scream at the other person, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! WE’RE LATE!” because, during the day, it’s just me. Often, the effort it takes to try and work together and delegate and communicate (read: scream to each other over the din of also-screaming children), is so exhausting that it feels easier to just bare down and do it all. (Does anyone else feel this way? I feel like I did a shit job of explaining what I mean, because I am in NO WAY ungrateful for the job my husband does raising our kids and keeping the household together. There’s no way I could do this job alone and stay sane.)
  5. I can do more on little sleep than I ever thought possible.
    • I don’t function well on little sleep. I turn into a rabid zombie chainsaw killer. While I still suffered (still suffer-ing, actually) with each kid, there’s just something amazingly tender and potent about your chillins that make you want to do the opposite of kill them, even on scary few hours of sleep.
  6. (Going along with the previous point) Never underestimate the power of naps.
    • Naps come from heaven. Naps are good for all involved. Covet them. Create time for them. Force them if you have to.
  7. I need free time to feel like myself.
    • This wasn’t obvious to me when I had a whole shit-ton of free time, but it sure is now.
  8. I have a feeling that raising these kids is going to be my life’s most important work (with therapy a close second).
    • My kids will be kind, thoughtful, compassionate, productive human beings if it’s the only thing I do.
  9. I am really good at this mom gig. Like, I kick ass at it.
    • Seriously. As hard as it is, even though I constantly make mistakes and lose my cool. I learn from those mistakes, I model how to say sorry and repair the damage. I remember doctor’s appointments. I know where 90% of the toys are in my house at any given time. I keep my house more than bearably clean. I can get two kids diaper changed, dressed, fed, potty, shoes, socks, jackets, car seats, out the door in 45 minutes. You heard me! I get fairly good sleep. I make my bed everyday. I help keep our cat alive (wait, we have a cat too?!). I pack for vacations and camping trips and beach trips and walks to the park…and I remember 99% of all the things we could ever need in case of the zombie apocalypse. I do the laundry AND FOLD IT. AND PUT IT AWAY! Sometimes that only takes a week to complete. I remember to buy toilet paper. I remember birthdays and parties and shopping for gifts for said parties. And wrapping the damn present for said said parties. Not to mention remembering to BRING said wrapped present to said parties. I kiss boo-boos and give hugs and make lunches and clean up. I clean up all fucking day.

…and then, after all that, I get up and do it again the next day, and the next, and the next.


NaBloPoMo Day 7

Choosing to suffer

A friend of mine recently posted a video on Facebook.

This video seemed to be some kind of veterinarian (Dr. Andy Roark) speaking at a veterinarian conference, about veterinarian things.

Only, those things were applicable to all of us and I found that his message really stuck with me.

He began by speaking about the different between joy and happiness.  That joy is fleeting; it’s unsustainable.  It’s an amazing feeling, and it’s often why we do the work we do, but it’s just a glimpse.  And happiness is “full of pain.”  He said, “Buddhist philosophy says that life is suffering.”  It made me think of the far more lighthearted quote from The Princess Bride.

 

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It’s true.

But I had heard all this before.  The part that got me was that he said, “The best thing that we can do is choose how we suffer.”  He went into an example of losing a beloved pet, and how much grief and suffering that caused him.  But it was suffering he chose, and would choose again.  He said, he could have chosen not to get a dog to avoid the suffering of eventually losing him, but he would’ve suffered a little each day coming home to an empty house.

And that’s when I got it for me.

Right now, I’m suffering.  I’m struggling.  Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m happy…but, by this guy’s definition, this is happiness.  It’s not JOY all day every day, (which is what too many people think happiness should be) but that wouldn’t make for a very meaningful life, for without suffering there is no joy.

There was one time when I was really breaking down about what a shit time I’d been having slogging through mommyhood, and someone said to me, “…but you’ve chosen this.  You wanted this.”

Yes, I’ve wanted to be a mom pretty much my whole life.  I wasn’t sure I could physically be a biological mom for an entire decade, but miraculously, here I am.  I planned this, I actively participated in building this life.  And man is it HARD.  Did I want all the suffering that comes with this?  Of course not.  I don’t want it and I don’t like it, but I chose it.

I chose it over the suffering of not having kids.  Feeling like there was something profoundly missing in my life.  Feeling like my family was incomplete.  Grieving the loss of kids not here.  Having a house that was too big, too quiet.  Too clean?  (Maybe there’s no such thing as too clean.)

Make no mistake, though: just because I chose the suffering that comes with raising kids, that doesn’t mean I don’t get to do just that…suffer.  Complain.  Lament.  Break down.  Have regrets.  Be human.  So yes, I did choose this.  But I get to own it, too.  Just as I get to own the glimpses of joy that peek through.  The hugs, wet kisses, sleepy bed-head faces.

I need to keep reminding myself that joy and suffering are not mutually exclusive.  And I need to keep reminding myself why I chose to suffer this way.

How do you choose to suffer?

 

 

 

 

Saying Goodbye Really Sucks

Since we’re moving in a few weeks, we’ve been saying goodbye to things and people.

I still need to say goodbye to my favorite burrito.  I’ve been told they only have burrito-like things in Portland, so I had better stock up now.

Therapists get to say goodbye a lot.  Working with the population I do, often times I don’t get to say goodbye because I never know that this session will be the last time I’ll see a particular client.

When I first started this work, each time a client stopped coming or stopped returning phone calls was really jarring to me.  I worried about the client.

Was she ok?  Why wasn’t she coming? 

I also found that my feelings were hurt, even though I knew it had nothing to do with me.

Was I a horrible therapist?  Did I offend the client?  Was it something I said or didn’t say?

Lastly, I realized just how strongly I adhered to the value of expecting people to keep the appointments they make, to have a sense of accountability (even though I get now that, for my clients, the issue is much more complicated than that).

Eventually, with practice, I got used to it.  Clients come to our agency in crisis with many priorities other than therapy.  Clients are allowed to stop therapy for whatever reason at whatever time, and they don’t have to inform me if they don’t want to.  Ok, I can understand that.  Fair enough.

Under ideal circumstances, I get to plan out my goodbyes with clients.  A central theme in therapy is that I am supposed to model what a healthy relationship looks like, and a huge part of that is in saying goodbye.

Goodbyes are hard.  They suck.  They’re sad, they’re emotional, they’re bittersweet.  I’ve spent the past week and a half saying goodbye to a good many clients and it’s exhausting.  I feel horrible, and I’ve even apologized to some.  It’s true that I am used to saying goodbye to clients, but I’m rarely the one doing the leaving.  That’s what feels different here, and that’s what is adding an extra layer of yuck and guilt to these goodbyes.

I’ve often said that the good and the bad part about being a therapist is that when I go on vacation or leave the job, I am not just leaving a desk and a computer – I am leaving people.

People handle goodbyes in different ways.  I’ve had several clients stop contacting me after I let them know I was leaving, and while I understand that sometimes goodbyes are just too painful to face, I still feel sad and somewhat hurt.  In those cases, I feel like we’ve lost an opportunity for growth.

I try to honor the different parts of saying goodbye.  Yes, it’s an ending, but in therapy (like many things), it’s also a beginning.  It marks the beginning of the client going out into the world to use the skills she learned in therapy.  It marks independence.  It celebrates the hard work the client has done by attending sessions with me.  It’s a graduation of sorts, since my job is one that seeks to put itself out of business.  My goal, in that sense, is to get to the goodbye point, to make it so that my clients no longer need me.

One thing I like to do when ending therapy is to tell the client to take me with them.  After therapy is over, and you’re facing a situation that we talked about in therapy, if I was there with you, what would I say?  Would I have judgement for you?  Would I be your cheerleader?

Clients often take me with them without any prompting.  Some have reported facing a particularly hard scenario, or they’ve felt triggered, or they’d had to go to court, and they’ll come back and told me that they heard my voice in their head.  Not in a creepy, you need to be locked up kinda way, but in a very sweet and touching way.  In such a way that lets me know that this client is really working in therapy and is going to be just fine.

One time I asked a client, “When you heard my voice, what was I telling you?”

She rolled her eyes and adopted a semi-mocking tone.  “You told me to think about it differently.”

And I beamed.  So I really was doing a good job.  And I don’t really have to say goodbye.  Because my clients take me with them, and they stay with me as well.

~~~

Like Psychobabble on Facebook, so that we’ll never have to say goodbye.  And so you’ll also hear my voice in your head.