Mandy: college graduate, super-sinful unwed mother, narcissist, graphic artist by day, disillusioned writer by night, also super-sinful liberal, feminist (need I mention?); mixed bag, you know.

This is an Unsolicited Parenting Advice-Free Zone. I bitch; you listen; isn't that how blogging works?!

Drinks will not be served. But wouldn't it be awesome if they were?
Blissfully Unwed

Social Media: Area Ten Millions That Becomes More Different to Navigate at the Onset of Parenthood

image

Much like showering, sleeping and having money, since I became a parent, I’ve grown to miss having full autonomy over who I allow to be a part of my life, and to what extent.                                           

Of course, in theory, I still have the ability to control who will and who will not be involved in my business, but, in practice, the whole thing has grown infinitely more complicated. The pressure of parenthood means that, if I have a personal issue with someone, I have to decide whether or not that issue warrants limiting my child’s access to a friend or family member that may not have done anything to warrant their disengagement from his life at all. We’re a family, Graham and I, but we are not the same person, and the same people can affect each of our lives in drastically different ways.

Social media compounds this problem, as well. Before Facebook (and also before Myspace and even before AOL Messenger, for anyone else who remembers what a pain in the ass it was to decide whether or not to add so-and-so to your friends list before you had the ability to appear offline when you actually weren’t), avoiding involvement with someone you didn’t care for without causing a confrontation was relatively simple. As long as you didn’t have to see them very frequently, you could just avoid them as much as possible, make sure not to give privileged information to anyone who might repeat it to them, and carry on. One-sided or mutual dislike could be maintained subtlely and with few, if any, repercussions. 

Containing this kind of situation online, however, is another story. My particular focus here is one’s choice of their Facebook friends. I know that you can be friends with an individual and not allow them to see any of your posts, but, effectively, that is the same as “de-friending” or blocking them. Nobody who is intent on monitoring your life is going to fail to notice that you haven’t posted one thing since you accepted their friend request, or, worse, since you simply decided that you were tired of hearing, secondhand, of their disapproval. 

People use social media for a variety of reasons. I use this blog as a platform for my writing, and as a way to keep my friends and family in-the-loop about my life. I use Facebook to communicate with those friends and family on a more frequent, abbreviated and personal level (and as another platform for my writing, because, as a writer and a narcissist, I rarely fail to utilize an opportunity for self-promotion). What I do not use it for is as a holding pen for everyone who openly does not support the unity of my family or the choices I make for my us and for myself. Our family has been through far more than our share this year, and, at this point, any divisive force automatically sounds an alarm in my head that screams for it to be eliminated. 

But it’s never just that simple. Not like it was before Graham, when I could just say, “Weeellp, not gonna miss THAT family reunion!” Now, choices like these are riddled with guilt over how they might affect my son and partner, and how that person and others to whom we are both connected will react to the decision. Because, even if you do not communicate with someone via Facebook, even if you don’t communicate with them in ANY way, even if it is well-known that they look down upon you and your actions, ceasing to allow that person to view your online activity may and probably will be viewed as completely unacceptable to that party and probably to some other parties, as well. And, believe me, this use of the word “party” is pretty much the opposite of the way in which I generally implement it.

All this to say that, when I make a decision like this, I don’t do it without consideration (even the choice to write this blog was difficult, and I’m not sure that it won’t result in another volley of HOW COULD SHEs). This means that I don’t do it because I am angry or in an attempt to make the other party angry or hurt. I also do not do it to any friend or family member with whom I have a real relationship and feel as though confronting them personally might have a positive effect. It is also not an implied message that anything about any probably-through-clenched-teeth relationship that person has with me or my family outside of social media will change; those are decisions made by our family as a whole, and not just by me, as opposed to my self-governed online presence, because it’s, like, my Facebook and shit. 

Here’s all that blocking someone from social media means: it’s the removal of someone’s presence in an area in which I feel that they are being harmful, rather than helpful, to me and/or my family. Anyone who is looking on my Facebook for fodder for their judgment and disregard of my effectiveness as a mother, partner, or human in general, rather than, say, leaving encouraging feedback or even just neutrally hanging back, falls into that distinction pretty neatly. I’m not looking for a confrontation, a fight, an apology, or anything else from anyone whom I remove from the online aspect of my life. All I want is for my family and me to be left in peace. Maybe it’s not so complicated, after all. 

Hey, assholes: wash your cancer off before you touch my kid.

So, here’s something I’ve never really been able to wrap my mind around: cigarettes. I mean. What, exactly, is anyone getting out of this? I understand they’re addictive and difficult to quit, and some people say they’re relaxing, to which I always reply that there’s this thing called alcohol, but whatever, none of that explains why you ever decided to fill your lungs with carcinogens in the first place. I guess you thought it was cool? But, anyway. All that judging aside, as I’m probably not really cool to judge people for their bad and also nonsensical habits - smoke away, smokers. Oh, unless you’re going to be around MY ASTHMATIC KID. 

Notice that I said “going to be around,” not just “around.” This is because there are people who spend time around my child who, knowing that his asthma is triggered by cigarette smoke, feel like it’s totally cool to step out, bathe in a cloud of noxious fumes, then walk back inside and pick up my child like nothing just happened. 

Now, there are a lot of people in Graham’s life who smoke, but are responsible about it. They wash their hands/face, change their shirt, etc., and then don’t go back out and cover themselves in stuff that makes my kid’s airways close up before they’re done spending time with him - and that’s great. I’m totally fine with that. But, after his two-day hospital stay for an asthmatic episode earlier this year, I’m not really fine with everyone who brushes off my requests to not smoke if they’re GOING TO BE AROUND my kid. 

The main reason I’m bitching about this online is because it’s something I don’t have total control over in real life. I repeatedly ask people not to expose my kid to their cancer vapors, and to ask other people not to expose him to THEIR cancer vapors, but I don’t always know if someone smoked before they saw him or while they stepped outside. I’m also not with him 24/7 because I’m a working parent who values my sanity so sometimes I do stuff without him and that’s okay stop judging me this is about YOU. But I do find out when he starts wheezing on the way home, and it pisses me off, like, a lot. 

So, here’s to everyone who exposes my kid to their cigarette smoke: may your child catch a contact high off of people smoking marijuana nearby, which would actually be a lot better for them than my kid’s exposure to your toxic fumes, but would really freak you out and be really hilarious to me. 

Free Chapstick and NO

Now that I’m in front of a computer all day instead of wrangling a toddler, it’s about time that I start writing things again. 

Usually when I go to compose a blog entry, I have a specific topic in mind, such as bitching about anti-choicers, mommy-judgers or men (is it just me, or did I just sum up all of my posts, ever?!). Today, though, I’m just checking in. 

Graham has a massive vocabulary now, but still prefers the word “no” to any other, for some reason. Does he want a nap? A snack? A million dollars?! No, no, no, no, oh, nooo! 

I got a pretty awesome job, with a refrigerator full of free soda, so I’m probably going to gain back all the weight I lost from not eating due to the stress resulting from NOT having a job, which, now, has morphed into stress due to driving in helltraffic every day. 

Between getting free fajitas and chapstick at the Tenant Appreciation Party at Park Central (see above to verify fanciness of said building) and giving my kid things he says he doesn’t want, there hasn’t been much else going on. It’s all taking things one day at a time, rebuilding our family and finances, the latter of which may never happen because I’m about as good with money as I am with keeping a straight face in church. 

Now that I think about it, I think I’ll write a blog about people who insert themselves into other people’s families as an alternative to addressing the issues they have with their own no-good spouses. THAT’S going to be fun. 

Things That Will Totally Make Me Maybe Date You

Not that I’m blaming myself for any of the things that happened with Graham’s dad (I didn’t steal a few cool Gs from myself before deposing my son and I from our home, for instance), but I have been thinking that, if this experience doesn’t send me finally running to the other team, I might want to do some things differently. One thing I didn’t do before I started dating B, for instance, was look for specific traits in a man. It probably wouldn’t have worked, even if I’d tried, because I was in college and therefore generally too drunk to see any traits in the first place. But, anyway: I made a list.

1. No anti-drug dudes. I’m not saying this because I’m some kind of abscess-plagued hard drug aficionado who likes to drag dates from one crackhouse to the next all night; I just never really get along with teetotalers. I mean, at least be cool with smoking a little weed. Is that so much to ask? Oh, and definitely nobody who doesn’t drink; I look better naked with a buzz.

2. Must be good at sex. And, by “good at sex,” I mean “willing to do most or all of the work because I am lazy (but honest!).” And, also, the sooner you prove it, the better. No one likes to invest three dates in a sexual kindergartener who is going to be much more awkward to get rid of than they would’ve been after just one date. But that’s also why I don’t date dudes who wear Affliction shirts.

3. No dumbasses. Like, preferably, you have a degree, but, if not, maybe write an essay describing why you think we would have something in common even though you don’t have a piece of paper proving that we have at least both read books other than To Kill a Mockingbird.

4. Thick skin and a sort-of (ok, REALLY) bent sense of humor is a must. Like, you were able to read number 4 without squealing, “Stuck-up BITCH!” And throwing down your web-surfing device and crying.

5. But you can’t be a sexist douchebag Dane Cook wannabe who thinks you’re funny and that everybody else is just too sensitive because NO.

6. Realize that I am not your manic pixie dream girl and that you will never change me. Like, never, ever. At the most, maybe, someday, I will do a better job at picking up my dirty laundry, but even that’s iffy. This automatically rules out religious types who would like to “save” me, but, if you’re religious and cool with my attitude toward your beliefs, which is best described as *eye-roll*, that could work.

7. Understand that we will probably date for about eleventy-billion years before I agree to get any more serious than “Well, yeah, MAYBE I won’t sleep with other people.” I also reserve the right to go back on this one if one day I magically forget about that stolen money I mentioned at the beginning of this blog.

8. You must think my kid is the shit, but understand that my uterus is now out-of-commission for like, probably forever. Because, yeah… no.

9. No racial slurs, ever. I can’t believe I just said that, but this is the South.

10. Don’t say things that make me cringe. I can’t possibly categorize this list or write out every item, but, basically, I’m referring to things like talking like you’re black when you’re incredibly not-black, or using words like “yum-o,” which will send me running for the hills even if you are super hot and have TOTALLY read way more books than just To Kill a Mockingbird.

Ok, 10 is a good number, plus I think I covered all the important stuff. Oh, wait: it would be cool if you had a job and were attractive and taller than me and shit. There! Now everybody knows I’m pretty much intolerable.

In Which I Learn a Lesson… Sort of.

Above: Graham’s chubby chubby baby hand attempts to prize the book in question from my lap. He’s not so much a literature aficionado as he is really, really grabby.

In her own way of suggesting that my life can probably only be salvaged by divine intervention, my mom likes to occasionally buy me books about things in which I am interested, penned by authors with a sneaky Christian agenda. She says there’s no agenda, but there totally is. I read them, anyway, because hinting at my need for divine intervention is way better than the less-nuanced alternative of giving me a regular intervention.

The latest installation in this series of not-so-subtle hints is Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts On Life Unarmed by Glennon Doyle Melton, former alcoholic turned housewife turned blogger turned memoirist. I guess I’m flinging the word “housewife” around pretty liberally, since she did write a book, but she’s spilled much more ink over her husband and children than anything else in the half of it I’ve read so far, so it seemed like the best word to use. Not judging.

I’m usually not a fan of religious converts using accounts of their past sins to inhale some of the fumes leftover from their glory days, but Melton does a pretty good job of underscoring her ongoing struggle and of the importance of transparency, so I have to nod in her general direction as far as that goes.

This is her own narrative, of course, and, as with everyone else’s, with or without embellishment, it’s a valid one. What I keep asking myself, though, is, “What makes this special?”

Really, this author isn’t special so much as she is lucky. Lucky, for instance, that she seized upon the perfect, shiny, golden opportunity to transition from reveling in dudes and drugs and booze and fun and make the inevitable transition to grown-up life. Most of us either don’t get such a great opportunity at all, or we wait too long and lose traction on the path of Chances to Act Like An Adult.

Not all of us originate from strong, supportive families that help us go to college to get good at writing in the first place. Nor do we get knocked up by male models who agree to marry us and stay with us and even supply us with even more children. The value of an advantageous marriage is limitless, really: the free time afforded by not working multiple jobs or participating in any of the other activities necessary to keep a family afloat on the wrong side of the wage gap is a blessing that many single parents just don’t receive.

I will say, Melton isn’t oblivious to the fact that she’s fortunate. She realizes that she is, in her book, when she recounts mourning the dissolution of her sister’s first marriage: "I’d never done a productive thing in my life except get sober and make babies. She’d done everything, forever, by the book… You cannot earn yourself an easy life, or even a fair one." So, there’s that, at least. 

Struggle is relative, I know. But, still, for a minute there, as I read, I felt angry. I was pissed that someone whose life, past and present, didn’t seem all that problem-laden at all, was confessing about those problems and getting a book deal. Not that I’m angry because I don’t have a book deal (and not that I’d have a problem with a book deal - any takers?!); it just seemed ludicrous that anyone else considers these non-problems to be problems, too. They aren’t problems, are they? But, as I said, struggle is relative. Problems are relative. And, to someone else, my problems probably sound kind of ridiculous, too. That’s humbling, but it’s also a little comforting. I guess this is probably about as close to a divine intervention as I’m gonna get.

In Which We Revisit the Concept That, Just Because You Weren’t Born to be a Mom, Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Get Knocked Up

I’ve probably told you this story before, but, you know, I’m kind of notorious for that.

So, before I had a baby, my only experience with one was babysitting for a family who, fortunately, never figured out that, every time they left the house, I put their little cry machine in its bed so it could exhaust itself by screaming until it passed out - hopefully before I was done raiding the fridge. The sound of babycries totally spoils one’s appetite, which is why I understand when people are pissed when their fellow restaurant-goers bring one to dinner like it’s just another person.

When I was pregnant, every time I confessed to my utter lack of relevant experience to qualify me for the position of Mom, everyone told me not to worry; that, the first time I held my baby, I would fall totally in love and not ever want to party, go to work or even have my old vagina back again. I’m guessing that whoever who told me this didn’t even come close to sharing my enthusiasm for having fun, making money and having a lot to offer in the no-no square department due to a great deal of personality flaws.

Don’t get me wrong: I DID fall in love with my son the first time I held him, and I like dandling him on my knee and other stuff that people with babies are into. However, by no means did making a baby turn me into a different person, which is the way I was told that these things happen.

I can’t be the only mom like this. In fact, I know I’m not: one of my friends told me just the other day that she didn’t feel bonded with her daughter until she was about 6 months old. And, when I say, “like this,” I don’t mean the kind of parent that blows cracksmoke in their child’s face; I just mean women who don’t really have that, you know, mom thing. And just because it doesn’t come naturally doesn’t mean that we suck at being moms.

Maybe it’s not the best example, but, when speaking about a helicopter mom in one of her memoirs, Chelsea Handler says, "[She] was the antithesis of my mother. There was more adult supervision at the Neverland Ranch than there was in my house growing up. When, a week before my fourth birthday, my parents told me to play my own birthday party - I knew I was pretty much on my own." You may disagree, but I think that anyone capable of writing My Horizontal Life turned out pretty great.

The bottom line here is that, if you don’t have some kind of knee-jerk reflex that makes you want to turn on Disney Jr. or sing lullabies or whatever, it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad parent. As someone who marches almost every noise-making toy given to my child by well-meaning family members right back to WalMart to trade for store credit to buy underwear so I don’t have to do laundry OR listen to the same terrible song eleventybillion times this week, though, I guess my opinion might be a little biased.

Not Quite Divorce, or Rebirth by Force

This probably isn’t the kind of thing you’re supposed to talk about on the internet. When you post publicly about what your vagina is up to at least twice a week, though, you sort of lose your bearings when it comes to this shit.

Tomorrow will mark a month since my partner and I separated. An anniversary, I suppose, of sorts. We didn’t even celebrate the anniversary of the day we met this year, so, what the hell? Let’s reminisce now. I think I’m going to need a drink, anyway.

Anyone who passes on getting married in order to avoid the pain of divorce might as well go ahead and trot on down the aisle, because, listen, kids, I’ve been divorced before, and this separation has sucked insurmountably harder. I never understood, before, when people would say that a divorce is like a death, but, now, I do. Our family was its own entity. Like, you know, the holy trinity, without the holy part. I’m not sure when he disengaged himself from us. I couldn’t tell you the first day I got the sick feeling that there was a stranger in my bed (and not in the good way). But I doubt I’ll ever forget the exact day that he told me to take our son and leave.

This isn’t exactly one of those things you plan for, and, so, of course, it happened at the worst possible time in the history of worst possible times. The unemployment I’ve collected since losing my job is cool and all, but I wasn’t exactly putting a little back every week into my Divorce Fund. So, I’m sitting now at my mom’s, one eye on Graham and the other on job and apartment listings, with a broken-down car in the driveway. Broken car, broken family, broken heart. But, if divorce is death, then it must also be birth. Every ending is, after all, a beginning, and, as any woman who has given birth will tell you, it never comes without pain, no matter how many times you push the button to put more pain meds in your spine (which I still think is not actually connected to anything other than your OB’s desire to shut you up).

Everyone wants to know what’s next for us. Is this permanent? Have you “given up?” I don’t have any answers. As with any loss, I needed time to grieve. I took a month - a month of wondering how the hell I was supposed to eat; to shower; to get out of bed in the morning; to take another breath. But, when you have a child who depends on you, you don’t have the luxury of not doing these things. You have to figure it out, and fast. Now, it’s time to figure out the bigger things. I didn’t choose to start over, but how I do it is entirely up to me, and I’m gonna make this look GOOD (Men in Black-style; say it with me). Stay tuned in, internets. This could get scandalous.

I’m calling this one: “Things You Can Do When You’re Unemployed.” In addition to afternoon drinking, obvs.

image

Behold: the results of donating plasma, as seen on my right arm. This is the same arm, which, as you may recall, was abused last Thursday by an incompetent phlebotomist. Much as I’d like to give this dude a pass by assuming that Octopharma’s employees suffer from low morale due to less-than-competitive wages, resulting in work performance that looks like, you know, my arm, I’m pretty sure that’s not the problem. Given the fact that a second phlebotomist came to my rescue and drew blood from my left arm with technical proficiency that would’ve made a robot feel inferior, I’m pretty sure that the maiming of my right arm was done by an individual who is also known as as That Guy Who Definitely Smokes Something Before Work, But We Can’t Figure Out What.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s an experience I’m happy to tuck under my belt, especially since the $30 I made bought me a fat bottle of wine and several new additions to my job interview wardrobe at Goodwill (I’ll wear your granddad’s clooothes), where I also found a ribbed tank so gorious, I believe that its fibers were cured in Jesus’ tears before it was sewn together. Behold!

Donating plasma is just of the many activities that I didn’t have time to participate in before losing the extra weight of my fundie Christian boss who did stupid fundie Christian shit like never missing an opportunity to bring any actual work that might be taking place to a screeching halt in order to correct any employee who dared to shorten “Christmas” to “Xmas.”

During my time of unemployment, for instance, I have not had to turn one pair of underwear inside-out because I’d run out of clean ones for lack of laundry-doing. I’ve prepared home-cooked meals for my family. I have maintained trimmed and styled hair (you would not believe how phenomenal it looks when I actually brush it). I’ve developed an exceptionally-close bond with all the pets in the house. I have even whitened my teeth with something other than Photoshop. Best of all, though: I have the selfies to prove it. Shall we?

I am not ashamed to admit that I have also taken two of the greatest photos of my butt that have ever turned my cell phone into a liability. I wouldn’t be ashamed to post them, either, but what little propriety I possess is standing in my way. I know; I’m a little surprised, too.

Mother Plans On Spending Nothing On Her Son in 2013; is My Hero

Hattie Garlick and Johnny, two: 'People Ive never met have said theyll take the challenge with me

See this lady right here? We have a lot in common. Her adorable child bears a great resemblance to mine (thus the adorable), she has a blog, and she has resolved to avoid spending any money on her son this year. Why the stingy parent business? I’m glad you asked.

I grew up digging through sale bins at thrift stores and yard sales for Barbies with clothes, battery-operated toys with still-charged batteries, or - and this was solid gold - a Polly Pocket toy with the Polly doll still inside. This gave me the impression that low-budget childrearing was the norm - right up until I had my own child to rear. Then, I stopped ignoring the images crowding my social media feeds of the latest and greatest accessories that my friends were buying for their offspring - offspring that couldn’t even ask for a snack yet, let alone demand expensive toyage.

I get it: consumerism is a powerful force. Sure, many of us don’t all feel all that compelled to buy our children this year’s version of Tickle Me Expensive as a matter of necessity. Be that as it may, though, most of us still want to avoid being known as the Goodwill Parent. And, in today’s “pics or it didn’t happen” world, it’s hard to give the impression that you’re buying the shit without actually buying the shit. And, if you’re not buying the shit, what ARE you buying, you selfish asshole?!

In the end, this whole thing comes down to every parent’s weakness: our desire to give our kids the best of everything. It’s a marketing strategy particularly effective on frightened and uninformed pregnant first-time moms, which is probably why it’s so played-out that it makes Call Me Maybe look fresh and exciting. But is a $50 pair of shoes for a kid who can’t even walk yet really “the best?”

I’m not sure what my takeaway would’ve been, had my childhood been ruled by consumerism. I do know, though, that I wouldn’t have learned that commercials aren’t a very good source of information if my parents had bought me everything I saw on TV. A go-kart that wasn’t rigged with a tiller engine and pool mat seats wouldn’t have taught me resourcefulness. Buying new, name-brand clothes wouldn’t have been a lesson in how to spend a little money and look a lot awesome.

Most importantly, there is my mom’s mantra, “You didn’t need new toys; you had each other! You were happy with sticks and dirt.” Without it, I wouldn’t understand the importance of family, and how much more valuable it is than anything you can get at Babies R Us.

image

(Source: telegraph.co.uk)

Almost as good as Cheaters: undeniable evidence of my partner’s maaaybe-too-close bond with our “first baby,” Little Bear. Our trial run may have failed in the potty training department, but we are co-sleeping PROS. Obvs!

View in High Quality →

Almost as good as Cheaters: undeniable evidence of my partner’s maaaybe-too-close bond with our “first baby,” Little Bear. Our trial run may have failed in the potty training department, but we are co-sleeping PROS. Obvs!