Being a Stay At Home Mom

Frustrations from the Cooking Mama…

I love my kid, but…I think I’m ready to go back to work.

I have been a stay-at-home-mom to Goose for 20 months now (longer, really, if you count the time I spent lazing around after I was laid off from my job halfway through my pregnancy). During the newborn days, the idea of going back to work was just inconceivable – Goose nursed around the clock and my body didn’t respond to a pump, even the giant, scary hospital-grade one we rented. I never slept and between the exhaustion, constant feedings, and the fact that my adjusting hormones were making me feel a little homicidal (mostly toward my husband, but others felt my hate vibes too, I’m sure), I just couldn’t imagine trying to function at a job. Truth be told, I was also really burned out on all of the BS, drama, and boredom that comes with a typical office job, and I was sure I’d never miss it. I’ve worked a few jobs since college but nothing I’ve ever loved, so I figured I wasn’t committing career suicide by not working for a while. I knew staying at home wouldn’t be easier, but it would be different. And more than anything, I really just wanted to spend all the time I could with my beautiful little scream machine.

Let me say right off the bat, I know how lucky I have been to stay home with Goose. We live pretty frugally in order to make it work (and don’t own a home yet, and drive one old crappy car), but many families cannot afford to lose one partner’s wages. So yes, I recognize the immense privilege there is in even having the choice whether or not to work outside the home. I also realize how special it has been to witness all of my baby’s firsts, cuddle and kiss her whenever I want, and just enjoy her cuteness every single minute of the day. A lot of moms would kill for that opportunity. But a lot of moms would also be frustrated and/or bored to tears spending all day with their kids, and I get that…boy, do I get that.

Now that Goose is older and is extremely independent, I find myself ready for a change. I want to have a conversation wherein there is no mention of poo, naps, or Yo Gabba Gabba (although I do love musing over a good Muno-centric episode). I want to wear something other than Old Navy yoga pants and Mossimo boyfriend t-shirts from Target, and I want to actually use the vast collection of makeup collecting dust in my bathroom! I want to sit at a desk or in a coffee shop and eat one freaking meal that isn’t cold when it’s supposed to be hot, or warm when it’s supposed to be cold, or splashed in my hair/flung to the floor because my toddler didn’t find it pleasing to her ever-changing palate. I want hobbies beyond reading a book for a few minutes in bed before passing out at night. I want challenges beyond potty training and temper tantrums! Sometimes I want to be valued for something other than my skills as a wife and mother! AM I YELLING? SORRY!

I know motherhood and these wants are not mutually exclusive. Lots of stay-at-home-moms have it together, look presentable, and have fulfilling social lives outside of playdates. I’ve definitely let myself fall into a rut and become the stereotypical frumpy, boring mom and I have no one to be pissed at but myself. I used to be cool! I used to be interesting! I’d just really like to find some sort of happy medium between Stepford Mom and well, me. I know it exists because all of my mom friends seem to live there. Can I get some sort of how-to guide?

I also want to always be available to my daughter. I want to snuggle her and be two steps away when she’s upset or hurt. I don’t want to miss any important moments. But as we are reminded daily, moms can’t have it all. If I go back to work, I sacrifice time that could be spent with Goose. If I stay home, I sacrifice some of the the things I want and need as a woman. Is it even possible for me to find a healthy balance? How do working moms do it without going nuts? Am I up for it? Is Goose up for it? (I strongly suspect yes) Will I regret going back to work, or will I be a better mom for it? I have a lot of questions and no concrete answers, and that’s hard.

Give Yourself a Break

Has this happened to you?

Since I became a mom, one of the reoccurring themes I keep hearing from other moms is the constant worry of failure. Am I good enough? Why does every other mom seem to have a better handle on things than me? Why can’t I keep the house cleaner? Why can’t I get my kid to behave like the other kids? What if my fears rub off on my child? Will my mistakes scar my child for life? Should I feel guilty for not wanting to be with my child every second? The list goes on. 

No amount of schooling prepares you for parenting and you don’t get glowing peer reviews to reassure you of your worth. For anyone who had a successful career before staying home with children, this is a particularly difficult adjustment. I know what I am missing and even though I am happy with my decision overall, there have been days of self-doubt. One former career woman I know jokingly remembers that she was “a god” at her company. People came to her for the answers. She had them and it felt great. When you are up to your ears in poopy diapers or dealing with a sassy toddler on a daily basis, it is all too easy to lose confidence and long for the days when you really did have the answers. 

To all of you who feel this way – give yourself a break. Just as everybody plays the fool, every mom makes mistakes. Swap stories with other moms (or dads) and you will see – there simply is no exception to the rule.  

Please share one of your mishaps so others will see that this is true. (If you are on our homepage, you have to click on the big black quote mark next to the title to leave a comment.) One of mine was when I left my toddler alone with the diaper bag. He found some Tums and proceeded to chow down. My doctor made me call poison control (yikes, there is a record of this somewhere) but, fortunately, it was nothing to worry about. Funny but my mom remembers me doing the same thing with Bugs Bunny vitamins!

The Librarian

Confessions of a Feminist Stay at Home Mom

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That’s right. I’ve said it. I am a feminist AND a stay at home mom. Thankfully, I surround myself with enough like-minded people that I don’t have to defend that statement anymore. I have a B.S. in Women’s Studies and have been defending the term “feminism” for a long time. I have a t-shirt that best sums up my views on the subject: “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.” SO, my choice to be a stay at home doesn’t run contrary to that notion. It is a choice I made, and I have the power and the strength to make that choice. (AND, a very loving and supporting husband who doesn’t nag me or beg me to go back to work outside the home.)

But, I have 2 daughters, 2 future women who will learn a lot about being a woman from me. How do I deal with that pressure? They are very young (both under 3), but I already like to let them feel empowered to make their own choices. But, they’re toddlers. They’re going to make their own decisions regardless of what I – or anyone else – have to say about it!  I wouldn’t let anyone buy them a toy vacuum until my oldest actually asked for one. The fact that she’s in girl in no way means she has to have a toy vacuum. In fact, in our house, Dad is the one that vacuums. And, The Big Cheese is afraid of vacuums. And, yes, we’re potty training, and The Big Cheese wanted Cars panties. They don’t make them. So, we have a set of Cars briefs in her drawer, along with Dora, Tinkerbell, and Hello Kitty.

Am I doing it right? Doubtful. Heck, who is. But I am trying my darnedest to raise 2 strong, independent women. And anyone who has met The Big Cheese knows I must be doing something right!

The Legal Eagle

Totally 80's. Again.

Red Dawn cast

Original Red Dawn cast

The 80’s are in again. Sort of.  At least the inspiration is there.  The proof is in the movies being made and/or released soon. Yep, Gen Xers are headed towards middle age and now there are all these 80’s remakes in the works.  Clash of the Titans is out now (heard it’s not so good) and Karate Kid, the A-Team, Nightmare on Elm Street and Red Dawn are headed our way.  Really?  Red Dawn?  How can that be good again without the fear of a Russian invasion?  Well, guess what?  This time we are being invaded by the Chinese!  What could go wrong with this premise?  And it’s just not the same now that kids have cell phones and internet.   21 Jump Street is going to be made into a movie as well as Poltergeist.  21 Jump Street without Johnny Depp?  Good luck.  Oh and live action Smurfs. Good God. Neil Patrick Harris, I know I’m going to love you as a guest on Glee but as a Smurf?  Just say no.

The New Karate Kid

Karate Kid 2010

Karate Kid will star Will Smith’s son Jaden.  When you go from Ralph Macchio to Jaden Smith, it’s got to be totally different right?  Also Jackie Chan will replace Pat Morita and it takes place in China.  So why keep the name?  Like we aren’t smart enough to figure it out?  And how could anyone outdo Billy Zabka’s villain in the original?  I’m just sayin.

I’ve been hearing for years that tinsel town wants to redo Adventures in Babysitting.  Does anyone remember that one?  Actresses once considered to reprise Elisabeth  Shue’s role were Miley Cyrus (gag) and Raven Simone (huh?). The latest is that it will be called The Sitter instead and star Jonah Hill from Superbad.  So technically a different movie just paying homage to the original.  I can deal with that. 

Then there’s Hot Tub Time Machine which I just saw and it’s pretty funny .  Thankfully, it’s not a remake, just a movie with lots of 80’s references.  A bit gross and over the top at times (think Farelly Brothers) but all in good fun.  Seems we are not the only ones who like reminiscing about our youths in the 80’s.  What a great decade to make fun of, so distinctive from the others!  For sure.

But please don’t let Hollywood butcher the original John Hughes movies with lousy remakes!

The Librarian

Rambling Thoughts

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What’s up with the few (ahem) gray hairs standing at attention every time I get out of the shower? I am trying to resist putting chemicals in my hair but they are not helping!  This is perhaps the one and only time I’ve ever wished to be a natural blonde.  I mean, it’s got to be less noticeable if you are blonde than if you have dark hair, right?

Why does it take me so long to get anywhere these days? Like the Scriv, I’ve only got one child.

I swear I was never so absent-minded before I had a child. Does this wear off ever?  I always start with the best of intentions, organizing my day and getting everything I’ll need ready. Yet somehow when I get to the place where I’m going to return something, I inevitably neglect to bring that very something. Or I lose the coupon I so carefully printed off the web that morning that was the reason for me visiting that particular store. Twice I’ve forgotten to take my child’s mitt to t-ball practice. And I never seem to have whatever club card I need. I try not to switch purses much for this very reason!

Where did my 4-year-old learn how to charm me into giving him what he wants? He makes things sound so reasonable.  “How about if you just let me spend a little while on the computer and then when you tell me it’s time to get off and do something else, I’ll do it right away AND I’ll eat that fruit.  Does that sound good, Mommy?”  Aha.  Wait, what did I agree to?  I know darn well he’s probably fibbing.

Ugh.  Bedtime.  Another typical battle with a boy who hates to fall asleep.  “No, I will NOT close my eyes because I am NOT sleepy!”  Snore.

Napping at Disneyland

Disneyland - One of the few places my boy still naps

I used to like Star Wars until I was forced to talk about it twenty-five times a day.  “Do you like the part when Anakin Skywalker turns into Darth Vader?  Did you know that Luke and Leia are brother and sister and Darth Vader is their father?  Did you know that, Mommy?  Anakin used to be good but then he turned to the dark side…”  Thanks, Daddy.  Couldn’t you have waited until he was older?  I have to confess I kind of miss the Wiggles.

Okay, I force myself to go to the gym for about an hour at a time and it does feel good to have some energy and stay trim BUT I still don’t love to exercise and there are these super toned women (moms even) taking several classes a day plus gym time that seem to eat it up. Is there something wrong with me or is it them? And forget about the dieting part. There are simply some things I won’t give up unless the doctor says so.

Why does every other kid seem to love veggies but mine? Are these moms lying to me? And how about the moms who say the kid potty-trained herself in 3 days at age 2? Or the ones whose preschoolers take long naps willingly, go to bed on time AND remain in their own bed every night?  Did I miss something? 

Ah well, here’s something to brag about. My son taught himself to write at 3. Ha. No joke. He loves letters/words. TAKE THAT, MAMAS OF VEGGIE EATERS AND GOOD SLEEPERS!  Who cares if he took 4 ½ years to potty train?  He can write his own random thoughts.  Take today’s tidbit.  “I make chairs”.  Brilliant, eh? (I just got back from Canada, can you tell?)

The Librarian

Mommy Guilt

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Let’s talk about Mommy Guilt. You know, that little voice inside your head, or often coming from other people, that tells you that no matter what you do, it’s not quite enough. We all live under the specter of Mommy Guilt. Because let’s face it–sometimes we moms just can’t win.

Take the working moms vs. stay at home moms (SAHM). Working moms–what terrible people! If they loved their children, they’d eat ramen noodles every day and stay home to nurture their children in the way only a mother can! And moms who actually choose to work–you know, so they don’t lose their sanity–well, that’s even worse. What’s wrong with you??? And those SAHM’s–how beatific, the self-sacrifice in order to surround your child with your love and care 24/7. What do you mean when you say you’re bored and would love some adult conversation that didn’t involve discussing sleeping problems or food, both on the way in and on the way out? If you loved your children, you’d leap with joy for every precious second. Why on earth would you say something like, “I’d kill for a little time for myself”? Don’t you know that there are working mothers out there who would love to be in your position? What’s wrong with you???

Like I said–working or not, we just can’t win. It’s that Mommy Guilt at work, and the key word in Mommy Guilt is should. Working moms, you should stay home with your children. SAHM’s, you should be grateful and not complain. Working moms, you should do all of your parenting yourself, not at daycare. SAHM’s, you should put your children in preschool or a group setting, lest you raise some kind of weird, unsocialized freak who can’t make friends or get along with anyone else.

And of course it’s not just working vs. not working. This Mommy Guilt is pervasive. Just sit and think for a moment about your kids. Count how many times “should” or “shouldn’t” pops up. Right now I’m on the couch with my laptop while Mouse is in the Pack ‘n Play gazing rather dumbly at the sturdy carrying bag that came with some expensive blocks (which he just threw out of the PNP in favor of the bag). See that dull, rather unintelligent look in his eyes? Shouldn’t you be reading to him or practicing rolling a ball back and forth, which the book says he should be able to do but can’t, probably because he spends a great deal of time in the PNP playing with the sturdy carrying bag that accompanied the expensive blocks? I’m getting ready to feed him some lunch (although I should have started that already). When I throw stuff on his tray, it really should be fruits and veggies I grew myself, organically, in our back yard. I also should engage him with eye contact to work on his language development skills instead of taking the opportunity to fold some laundry or do the dishes (which really should be done already). Oh, and did I mention that Mouse doesn’t eat with a spoon very well? Why? Because he makes such a mess of it that nearly nothing goes into his mouth and it all ends up either in his hair or his sleeves or the floor or inside the dog. Of course, if I take the time like I should be doing and teach him this valuable skill, he’ll be far less likely to go to college eating like a caveman.

Wow, seven shoulds that I probably won’t do all lined up for the next ten minutes of his life. A+ Mommy!

Now honestly, I can’t bring myself to feel terrible about each and every one of those things. He’ll get it eventually. Much of the time, we moms are very good at managing that Mommy Guilt, recognizing it for what it is: total crap. But there are other times when the Mommy Guilt stays with us. When it really does make us feel like we’re not quite enough. This can be devastating. It can be positively paralyzing for moms. Did you know that you can have post-partum depression for a full year after your child’s birth? Nothing feeds depression like a big old dose of Mommy Guilt.

Where does all this Mommy Guilt come from? Well, the easy answer that every well-educated person gives is “society.” It’s simply a part of American culture, that no mom is ever quite enough. But it also comes from our own heads. Again, think about all of your shoulds and shouldn’ts. If we recognize that Mommy Guilt is crap and we are good enough, smart enough, and gosh darnit, people like us, why do we still carry all of this around inside? And what can we do to get rid of it?

Let’s talk about Mommy Guilt. Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

And yes, Mommy–you are enough.

The Scrivener


You know that little voice inside your head that scolds you when you do something wrong? The one that questions why you just did what you did? Mine used to say things like “Duh”, “Hope no one was looking” and “What was I thinking???” But once my child started talking regularly, my internal voice became drowned out by the external sound of my toddler. Some of those things I used to say only to myself were suddenly being spoken out loud by him. Many of my actions were being scrutinized and questioned. If you’ve ever had a little one, I’m sure you can relate. To the parents of a toddler to be, I give you fair warning. Be prepared to have everything you say or do observed and/or commented on. The good, the bad and, unfortunately, the ugly.And they remember.

Like once when I inadvertently opened an emergency exit door in a McDonald’s playground. Bells started to ring and it was a bit embarrassing but basically no big deal. To me that is. It left quite an impression on my boy.Two years later, his little voice still gives warning every time we’re out and he sees a suspicious looking door with a sign on it. “MOMMY,” he says, “DON’T OPEN THAT DOOR, IT IS ONLY FOR EMERGENCIES.” Should I venture just a little too close for comfort, the voice becomes increasingly frantic. “MOMMY, NO! DON’T OPEN THAT DOOR, YOU ARE GOING TO SET OFF THE ALARM LIKE YOU DID AT MCDONALD’S!

If I knock over a display at the grocery store (something I am prone to do), no longer can I non-chalantly walk away and pretend it didn’t happen. No, I can always count on an announcement to be made on the spot. “MOMMY, WHY DID YOU KNOCK THAT STUFF OVER? YOU SHOULD PICK IT UP, WHAT A MESS.” Sigh. Things that you might think but would never say out loud are just put out there like “MOMMY, THAT IS A REEEAAALLLY BIG PERSON, ISN’T IT?” Uh, sorry lady.

Then there is the parroting. Sometimes I hear myself in a positive light. “ABSOLUTELY MOMMY. IT WOULD BE MY PLEASURE TO DO THAT FOR YOU.” Sometimes not so much. “MOMMY, I TOLD YOU THAT BEFORE! WHAT DIDN’T YOU UNDERSTAND?”

Lately there has been a big push by children’s programming to make kids aware of environmental issues. So the little voice alerts me every time I leave a light on, leave the water running or leave the refrigerator open too long. Somehow we are also personally responsible for picking up every tiny piece of trash we see at the park. Thanks, Sesame Street. Too bad your lessons about eating your vegetables were a complete failure!

Should I want to be spontaneous and spend a little extra on lunches out or a new item of clothing, there is no hiding it from my spouse. As soon as he walks in the door there is a full report waiting. “GUESS WHERE MOMMY TOOK ME TODAY? WE WENT TO CHIC-FIL-A! AND WE WENT TO KOHLS. LOOK WHAT WE GOT!” Rats. The following week it’s “MOMMY FORGOT HER HOUSE KEYS AT THE YMCA AND WE HAD TO GO BACK AND I DIDN’T WANT TO”. Just yesterday he reported that “I PLAYED BY MYSELF THIS MORNING BECAUSE MOMMY DIDN’T WANT TO GET UP”. Fortunately, I am not the only one who hears the voice. He comes back from time with Daddy with similar news. “DADDY LET ME EAT TWO DONUTS TODAY” or “WHEN DADDY WAS DRIVING HE SAID **** “

Watch out if you say you are going to do something and don’t follow through.
“WHY DID YOU SAY NO TV AND THEN YOU LET ME? WERE YOU KIDDING?Just looking for a few minutes to myself.
“YOU SHOULD NOT LET ME HAVE ANOTHER COOKIE BECAUSE I HAD TWO ALREADY”. I didn’t catch that one, just go with it son. It’s tough getting called out by a pre-schooler.

And then there’s the thing I waited a long time to hear yet makes me cringe when he says it loudly in public. “I POOPED AND PEED IN THE POTTY! MY BODY MADE A NOISE AND THEN IT CAME OUT!

At the end of the day, however, it is that same lovely voice that gives me my pick-me-up. Rocky is always singing to me and smiling. He is extremely cuddly. Hugs and kisses abound. Clearly I am his favorite. “YOU ARE THE BEST MOMMY I EVER HAD”, my little one declares. “I LIKE YOU. I LOVE YOU. YOU ARE BYOOTIFUL. DOES THAT MAKE YOU HAPPY?” he asks. Indeed it does, kid. Indeed it does. I really am going to miss that voice some day.

The Librarian

***The Gen X Moms are no longer writing as a group (too many scheduling conflicts) but you can continue reading about my adventures with Rocky on my new blog at:

Making Friends

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Let’s face it–making friends is hard. And making friends as a stay-at-home-mom is even harder. It’s not that I didn’t have friends before Mouse came along. I have friends! I have a best friend…who lives 400 miles away, despite my most fervent efforts to get her to move into the house on the next block that’s been for sale for months. I have local friends too. They have jobs.

They also don’t have children. Which isn’t so much of a problem, except for the parts where it’s a problem. You often hear child-free people say things like, “We used to be good friends but I don’t want to hear all about Bobby’s poop or Janie’s 6-month checkup weight percentile. Why does that suddenly become all women talk about when they have kids?” Well, I have a kid now, and here’s the answer: we don’t have anything else to talk about. Chances are really good I didn’t see that movie that just opened. No, I didn’t catch last night’s episode of [insert tv show]. I’d love to read a book but those few precious hours my kid is sleeping, I’m doing glamorous things like shaving my legs for the first time in two weeks. That restaurant sounds fabulous! Hey, did you know they make chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs? Dinosaurs! Isn’t that great? Hello? Hello?

Which brings me back to my first point: making friends is hard. I’ve realized that most friend-making happens by proximity. Being in high school together, for example, or college. Or sharing a workplace. But as a SAHM, your child or children are your workplace. And that movie that just opened? They haven’t seen it either. So how to SAHM’s meet other SAHM’s? Excellent question.

I met some more moms through groups, but I will admit, it was very tough for me. Not because I didn’t meet nice moms. They were all very nice, sweet moms. It’s just that getting out and meeting other moms brought up so many issues and insecurities of mine it was paralyzing for several months. I’m normally an outgoing, social person, but for weeks I lamented on my therapist’s couch about how lonely and isolated I felt (definition of therapist: a really good friend you only get to see for an hour a week whom your insurance may or may not pay for). So what was the problem?

As a first-time mom, I was completely unsure and insecure about being a mother. And being a Gen X mom made it even worse. I had a career and a job for fun afterwards. I was the expert. Everyone came to me for advice. I could solve all kinds of problems other people had.  I was well-respected, appreciated, and valued. I worked hard over a number of years to be in that role of esteem, and I’d grown used to it. But here I was as a new mom. I felt like a high schooler starting out her first minimum-wage job. Except that this job was really, really important because it involved a helpless baby. What if I screwed up???

And worse–what if other moms saw me screw up? Me–the expert? HA! What are other moms going to think as they watch me struggle trying to open a door and get a stroller through it at the same time–something every other mother seems to be able to do with ease? What are they going to say if I spend 20 minutes in the bathroom changing my son’s outfit because he poo-sploded everywhere and I can’t get the snaps lined up on the clean sleeper? I knew on some level that nobody would understand my ineptitude better than a group of other moms, but I still had a very long and very vocal negative tape in my head:

You can’t get a stroller through the door? Every mother can do that simple task!
Diaper rash = Mommy FAIL!!!
A good mom should be able to get out of the house in fewer than 30 minutes.
I’m obviously completely deficient if my child cries in a public place and I can’t make him stop.
What kind of mother forgets to bring a freakin’ bottle with her???
Motherhood: You’re doin’ it wrong.

I was convinced that if other people saw my ineptitude, then all of those negative things in my head would be in their heads too, leading to the inevitable outcome: Shelby is a Bad Mommy, and it’s too bad, because her kid’s pretty cute.

So there I was with my insecurities and fear of judgment or embarrassing myself, and all those other mothers who knew more than I did? Well, most of them are younger than me. Me–the older, wiser expert. Asking a person over a decade my junior for advice that I really felt like I should somehow know. It felt…weird.

And I also had a hard time connecting with a lot of other moms. I spent 7 years in college and graduate school, and I was meeting moms who had 2 kids in the amount of time it took me to get through school, not to mention the decade following. It was really isolating, feeling like my life experiences were so different from the other moms I was meeting that there was really very little we could talk about. I liked having a life. I liked being really important to people other than my husband and my child. I was embarrassed that at this advanced age where I pretty much had everything else figured out, there was a whole gigantic thing in life–motherhood–that I knew nothing about.

Add to that the traveling we did and that I severly injured my knee, needed major reconstructive surgery, and spent 2 months completely out of commission for rehab, and at the end of my son’s first year I felt like I only had a small handful of other mothers I felt comfortable around–mothers who had experiences similar to mine. That was when I started to get active in the group that ended up starting this blog. It’s not that I’ve cut off ties with the other moms I met. They’re some great people. I just feel so much less embarrassed and insecure around my Gen X moms.

So making friends? My advice is to put yourself out there first and foremost, and second, try to find moms who have similar life experiences to yours. That second part is the key. When you have similar experiences, you have more to talk about, and it much easier to open up and not feel like people think you’re an idiot. Whether it’s through, another mom’s group, library storytime, or whatever–just start feeling people out and being authentic, and keep looking for moms who you don’t feel awkward around. They’re out there–I promise! It’s working pretty well for me so far!

The Scrivener