Divorce FAQ

A list of the most common questions I face when I tell someone about my divorce.  (Can I go ahead and state that I HATE the “D-word”?)

Yes, all of these have been asked.

Most of them by acquaintances I knew in passing.

No, most of them should NOT be asked.

 

What happened?

Uh.  We are getting divorced?

Did that not answer your question?

I hate this question.  It’s so personal.  A marriage doesn’t end over one event, you know?  Well, usually it doesn’t.  Mine didn’t.  It was a tangled, complicated mess that took all my time and energy for months to even begin to work through.

And you, borderline stranger, want to know what happened?  You want me to sum it all up into a sentence?  No.  Just.  No.

Are you okay?

Some days it hurts like hell and I mourn with passion.  Some days I dance in the backyard with my son and sing off-key at the top of my lungs, celebrating freedom and new life.

That’s not what you want to hear though, is it?

Yeah, I’m okay.

When?

This is like asking when a person falls in love.  Or out of love.  It happened over months and months.

Do I give the date it was first seriously considered?  The date that I asked him to move out?  The date he told me he no longer wanted to work on it?  The date I filed?  The date the judge signed the papers?  There’s not a single day it all unraveled.  It’s not like a marriage anniversary, a date that you can recall at-will (usually).  Or a first date or the first time you say “I love you.” It’s a process and sometimes I can’t pinpoint the specific dates.

Did he cheat?  Was he abusive?  Was it drugs?  Was it the Mormon thing?

Fuck.  Off.

Can we only ask appropriate questions?  “Divorced” does not mean “zoo exhibit.”

I believe that any problems in a marriage can be worked through.  Did you try to work through it?

Cool, thanks for the support.

Can we go ahead and agree that one doesn’t have to justify their divorce?  Sometimes people demand I give them a reason.  Trust me, I have my reasons, and I don’t owe it to people to explain those reasons.

Are you keeping his name?

I am keeping my name.  He happens to have the same last name.  I will not go back to my maiden name, a name I have not identified with in years, a name I last held at the age of 19 just because of how I happened to get my current name.

I like my name.

My son has that name.

And, honestly, I really don’t want to go through the hassle of changing all my damn legal paperwork again and retraining everyone (including my students) on what to call me.  That seems like a giant hassle and I already have one of those in the form of a two-year-old.

What about your son?

Um.  What about him?

He’s absolutely wonderful and we are both insanely grateful he is in our lives.

Who has custody?

People who ask that don’t have a clue how custody works.  We both have custody. Legally we both have the right to make choices for our kid.

What people think they are asking when they ask about custody is about parenting time and visitation.

And unless you’re a close friend, I’m not interested in discussing the details of that arrangement.  Suffice it to say that we see our son at levels that are agreeable to us both.

My parents are divorced and I hated it.

Cool story, bro.

Was the legal stuff bad?

I mean, legal stuff is never good?  Talking to a lawyer was a damn hard choice.  And we both had moments in that process that we are not proud of.  But overall we did an excellent job filtering through our own emotional bullshit in order to take care of our son.

Do you hate him? 

What kind of asshole question is this?  No.  I will never hate him.  For many reasons, not the least of which being that darling boy, who deserves his parents to get along.

Are you dating?

Sorta?

Is he dating? 

Where is he living?

Somewhere else.  Not with me.

… What, do you want an address?

What does your family think?

That they love me and want me to be happy, whatever that looks like.

Do divorced people’s families NOT support them?  Like, is that a thing?

I was supported.

What does his family think?

That they love us and want us to be happy, whatever that looks like.

I am extraordinarily blessed to have a great relationship with his family.

Did you pray about it?

Do you know me?

How did you cope?

Mostly well, with a touch of stupid sometimes.

I have a damn good tribe of humans who helped me out in every moment that I desperately needed it.  I am so grateful to them.

Do you need anything?

Do you actually mean this question or are you just trying to do “the right thing”?  I could use a baby sitter sometimes.  Otherwise, thanks for your pseudo-show of support.

 

FOR FUTURE REFERENCE: Here are the BEST questions to ask someone going through a divorce:

  • Do you want to go out this weekend?
  • Do you want to vent about it?
  • Are you taking care of yourself?
  • Can I babysit?
  • Do you want me to punch him?**

**(Don’t actually do this.)  ((Yes, people asked this and yes, I though it was hilarious.))

 

The Bisexual Mormon

I realized I was bisexual while an active member of the LDS church.

I had crushes on girls.  I remember one in particular from Girl’s Camp, my first year.  If you aren’t familiar with “Mormonland,” Girl’s Camp is an annual camping trip for LDS girls ages 12-17.  I was just twelve or so, and for the first time in memory, a girl made my stomach woozy.  I didn’t know her name or which Ward (AKA “congregation”) she was part of.  She was one of the camp leaders, probably about sixteen years old.  She had reddish silky hair, I remember that clearly.  And I remember that she was freaking hilarious.  I giggled at everything she said, like any girl with a crush does.  At night, laying in a sleeping bag and listening to the campground sleep, I would think about her and smile.  I wanted to be around her, I was too shy to talk to her, I just wanted to know her.  I had this feeling before.  Except… always with guys.  Never with a girl.

I brushed it off as admiration, not attraction, and went on.

Girl crushes popped up but I always explained them away.  I knew I liked boys.  Trust me, little Molly in kindergarten would chase down boys for kisses.  I liked boys.  So the way my eyes drifted to the heroine of a romantic comedy… or the fluttery feeling if that one girl in gym class talked to me… It’s just because I admired the female body, right?  Aesthetically, it’s just better, right?  And that one girl was just really nice and popular and… it was just exciting to talk with a potential friend, right?

Right?

I repeatedly explained it away.

Mormonland doesn’t hate the gays.  They will insist this up and down, with the same veracity they use to insist they are Christian or that polygamy isn’t part of Mormonism.  But here’s the deal.  Technically, they preach love and acceptance of a person, but they are free to condemn a person’s actions.

Let me use The Book of Mormon the Musical to explain.  Elder Price, the main character, says this:

“Well, Elder McKinley, I think it’s okay that you’re having gay thoughts, just so long as you never act upon them.”

The song titled “Turn it Off” basically insists that the best way to be Mormon is just “turn off” anything that doesn’t directly align with the church.  Fear?  Grief?  Gay thoughts?  Just turn it off like you would a light switch.

[Side note: I cannot express how much this song encapsulates the culture of the Mormon Church.  Plus, it’s hilarious.  Listen to it.]

So Molly’s gay thoughts?  I turned that shit right off.  If I couldn’t explain it away, then I would ignore it and avoid it.

I wasn’t scared of the idea of gay.  I had gay friends in high school.  And two of my favorite people in the world, my aunts, have been together for almost my entire life.  I didn’t think negatively of any of them as people.  And frankly, I didn’t think their sexual orientation was any of my business.

As far as the teachings of the Church regarding the LGBTQ community; I would like to say that I wholeheartedly opposed any discrimination that the Church pushed, but that would be a lie.

When Proposition 8 plastered news sites, I remember our bishop reading a statement that members were to oppose any and all legislation that gave gay couples the right to marry, as it would diminish the “sanctity of marriage.”  I stayed neutral.  If they asked us to vote right there, I wouldn’t have raised a hand on either side.  Later in the week our church building was vandalized, likely because of the Prop 8 controversy, which actually pushed me to support.  If the “other side” was willing to vandalize my sacred space, then clearly I needed to shore up my defenses.

When the Mormon teenagers made fun of gay kids or feminine boys between or before Church classes, I stayed silent.

Someone I admired taught a lesson where he stated that all gay people were either molested as children or had hormonal imbalances, and that’s why they were gay.  It wasn’t “normal.”  I was the girl who argued with everything the teacher said.  But not that day.  I said nothing, and worse, for a time, I believed him.

In a particularly low moment, I argued with someone that gay couples should be allowed to marry, but not to adopt children.  I rescinded my position shortly thereafter, but I to this day I am embarrassed to admit that at one point I held that belief so much that I tried to convince another of its validity.

In college, my feelings grew past the point of denial.  Keep in mind, at this point, I was at my highest church activity.  I was preparing to go through the temple, I was attending church with zeal and regularity, praying and fasting and tithing.  I attended BYU-Idaho in Rexburg, Idaho. Literally, 91.54% of the residents of Rexburg Idaho are LDS, and 99.76% of the students at BYU-Idaho are LDS.  ALL MORMON ALL THE TIME.

Somehow, it was here, in the ultimate Mormon echo-chamber, that I couldn’t avoid or ignore my feelings.  It was here, the epitome of Mormonland, that my gay dreams became regular and unavoidable and that they surfaced with extreme regularity, despite my avoidance, my explanations, my shame.

I liked boys.  But… I also liked girls.

Wait for it ya’ll, there’s a term for this.

Ready?

Bisexual.

I am bisexual, meaning that I am romantically/physically/emotionally attracted to both sexes.

Which was like… shit.  I mean, how do you reconcile this realization where you are in one of the most oppressive LDS communities around, a community that you believe in and support and love?

Plus, I think I forgot to mention that at the time I was MARRIED.  To a dude.

How do you tell your “Peter Priesthood” husband that you like chicks?

Well, I blurted it out in a Dairy Queen drive-thru.  If you’ve been to Rexburg, you know the one.  Right off 2nd street.  Between ordering our ice cream and actually getting it handed to us, into a moment of silence I said, “I think I’m bi.”

Bless him and bless his response.  That man glanced at me and said, “I know.  Do you want anything else?”

I gaped at him.

He said, “What?  I thought you knew.”

I still gaped.

Casually, he asked, “Are you going to cheat on me?”

“No,” I said, a little confused.

“Then it’s not a big deal,” he said and he handed me my ice cream.

We are no longer married (for reasons that have nothing to do with my sexuality), but I am so grateful for that response.  It’s not a big deal.  And it wasn’t.  Most of the time, it still isn’t.  While I was at BYU-I, I happened to be married to a man. Which meant that I could safely explore my thoughts and considerations without the burden of wondering how to act on them.  Which is a huge first step.  I tend to think things so far through that I get anxious about the end result.  Exploration without action allowed a considerable amount of acceptance and processing.

Not a big deal.  I stopped worrying about my attractions and started just acknowledging them.  I noticed girls that were attractive the same way I noticed boys that were attractive.  I just noticed it.  I stopped worrying about what to do about it and just let myself feel it. I didn’t have to worry about what to do about it, or what to say about it, or what others might think about it.  It was just me and my thoughts.

Since that marriage has ended, I have had the freedom to explore ideas and situations with others.  I have become far more open with others about my sexual orientation where it is relevant.

As far as the Church stuff goes, fuck them.  Fuck them for encouraging me (directly or indirectly) to “turn off” what I consider to be an important aspect of myself.  And a bigger, louder, finger-wagging exclamation: FUCK THEM for the harm they have inflicted on countless other individuals who are struggling to come to terms with their sexuality.

It’s not that big a deal to be bisexual.  It just is.  It’s like the shape of my fingers or the color of my irises or the texture of my hair.  It just is.  It’s a part of me.

Being gay is only as big of a deal as other people make it.  Fuck the Church for making it a big deal and acting like it was somehow their business.  Bless the husband who said, “It’s not a big deal.”  Fuck the Church kids who made fun of the effeminate.  Bless the many, many individuals like myself who have struggled and sought for their identity in the areas they were forbidden to explore.

Anxiety Looks Like…

Anxiety looks like sitting perfectly still, eyes far away.  It almost, deceivingly, looks peaceful.  Except those far-off eyes are a little too wide and the hands laying in the lap are curled into fists.

Anxiety feels like a storm on the inside, a rushing wave, impending and yet also happening at the same time.

Anxiety sounds like a train coming around the corner.  It’s loud and pressing and demanding, yet your focus remains on the outside.  Have to look a certain way, have to look like you feel a certain way, have to actually feel a certain way, have to have to have to.

Anxiety steals the touch of the sun and the softness of your child’s skin and replaces it with concern about sunburn and fear that you’ll somehow hurt that child and also did you forget to turn off the stove and is that person upset with me and how will I get through today and tomorrow and the day after?

Anxiety smells like something is burning, when you can smell at all.  Your senses collapse into each other until all you can do is thinkthinkthink, trapped in a spiral of imaginary acts and words and possibilities, drowning in what the COULD be and what SHOULD be.

Anxiety feels like questioning every moment of the day, every interaction, every movement, every phrase and breath and glance.  It’s wondering if you scratched your nose at the wrong moment.  It’s feeling fine about a conversation until you are driving away, and then you replay every detail of that conversation and wonder where you messed up.

Anxiety is a constant battle between reality and head space.  A teetering between what is real on the outside and what is real on the inside and a forceful contest convincing the two to meet.

Anxiety looks like me.  It looks like me when I am smiling, it looks like me when I am confident.  It looks like me when I am crying in the closet, and when I am shouting to my music, and when I am furiously texting for help.  It lives in me, my constant companion, a part of me.

 

When The Dream Breaks, We All Will Survive

When I started this blog, I assumed that nothing about my life would be off-limits.  That was part of my depression: the encompassing feeling of alone-ness.  To fight it, I wrote openly about the “hard topics.”

Turns out, there is a topic too hard for me to really cover.

In fact, this topic came up loud and clear about the last time I published a post.  You may have noticed: I took a blog hiatus.

So here it is.  An explanation of my absence, and maybe the only time I touch on this particular topic (at least for now).

My marriage has ended.

I’m not interested in going into the details of the why and how.  It wouldn’t help and it certainly could hurt a lot.  But I will pen this post, as an homage to my pain and a declaration of my future.

I am getting divorced.

I hate even typing it.  It sounds so… I don’t even know.  I started to write the word “final,” but that’s not quite it.  It sounds the way a gavel sounds, slamming into a desk as a judgement is made.  “Divorce” sounds like a sentence.  It’s a label I never wanted, a future I fought against heart and soul.  The word is heavy both in my mouth and on the screen and I despise it.

I’ve come to despise a lot of words lately.

“Ex” is another word I hate.

Any word that smacks of the legal aspect of all of this, “custody” in particular; hate it.

And I hate writing this blog post.

Amy Poehler once wrote a painfully accurate chapter on divorce in her book Yes Please.  It’s honest, but not overly-detailed.  The chapter cuts to the heart of the matter and also makes you laugh and I highly recommend it to everyone.  I read it years ago, before marital issues were even on my radar; even then Poehler changed my perspective on the issue.  Two quotes in particular lodged in my mind:

“I don’t want to talk about my divorce because it is too sad and too personal.  I also don’t like people knowing my shit”

It’s fucking sad.  And it’s fucking personal.  And I don’t like people knowing my shit. She goes on to add,

“I don’t think a ten-year marriage constitutes failure.”

And my seven years should not be completely undone by how it all ended.  It just shouldn’t.  I don’t want it to be.  I’ve been married my entire adult life, since I was nineteen.  I refuse to believe that those seven years were wasted.

Divorce is a grieving process.  Most of the time, my struggle is not the grief on looking behind (although I certainly have and will continue to experience that), but the grief looking forward.  I mourn the life I thought I would have.  Some days I feel like that dream has been stolen from me and stolen from my boy.

My dreams have been crushed.  And yes, some of those dreams were unrealistic.  But they were my dreams and I held them extremely close.

This whole process has taken my heart and soul, it has re-framed my entire world.  It has made me feel both powerless and powerful.  It has narrowed my viewpoint of myself but also expanded my horizons.  It has forced an inner perspective that I often fight and sometimes abhor.  All of it just doesn’t make sense and yet it is all real and somehow mine.

It will be okay.

I will survive.  I am surviving.  I have a tribe of beautiful humans surrounding and protecting my son and myself.  I am facing myself in new and hard and awful ways, but the kind of awful that forces a person to grow.  I am growing more than I thought possible, and healing more than I knew I needed, and I am grateful for that.

I’m actually grateful for a lot of things, lately.  I am incredibly provided for.

And so is my son.

And we will continue to be.

Even though that part of the dream has broken, we are all surviving.  We will continue to survive and thrive and yes, hurt.  But move forward in our hurt onto better and healthier things.  The dream has died and I will mourn that.  But we all will survive.

Spencer Holdaway: The HIGH Standard of Society

This post was guest-authored by Spencer Holdaway, a dear friend of mine. When he sent me his thoughts in written form, the feminist in me wanted the whole world to hear them.  I settled for publishing them here.  Spencer is an active member of the LDS church, a lens that colors part of this post.  (Used with permission.)

 

Ever since I was little, I can recall being attracted to bigger women. If I was speaking to someone like Freud, he might have pointed towards some facts in my family that might suggest that, because of my upbringing and those I was around, I have the attractions that I do.  Needless to say, I highly disagree with many of Freud’s claims.

Whatever the case, I find a woman that looks like this:

FAR more attractive than someone like this:

Now, why is that important?

Because the world is under the insane impression that beauty is if you are as thin as a rod, show off a great butt, and all that junk. I like to use Michael Bay’s movies for a prime example of how the world views women and how disgusting that is for someone like me. Bay, and indeed MANY in the movie industry, naturally assume that all straight men are into this sort of woman…so they cast them as the lead’s love interest and make any other girl who might be buff and big a lesbian, a dumb-as-rocks comedic character, or otherwise. They try and make those types of women look comical in some perverted effort to install their own views into the minds of their viewers that THAT is not the kind of woman any sane, straight man or boy would want to date.

That’s where I fall, however. Because I do. I would LOVE to date a girl that’s 6’0”+, that would just be so beautiful and wonderful…not saying that I wouldn’t date anyone shorter! I just feel…perhaps not as comfortable with it? I’m not being picky, it’s just part of who I am now. My eyes naturally fall upon those girls who, quite literally, stand out in the crowd.

Of course, we need to talk about my anxiety and depression for a moment.

My anxiety likes to try and point out a few things to me, they are as follows:

  1. You’re not attracted to sexy women like Megan Fox or thin models in bikinis? Oh, you must be gay then!
  2. Freak
  3. You’re attracted to women who are large, big, muscular, etc., who could probably bench you? Oh, you’re just secretly a closet homosexual because everything you find really attractive in certain women are only acceptable in men (pixie cuts, sportswomen, women in the armed forces, etc.)
  4. Freak
  5. You are attracted to a woman who could hold you in her arms, that would require you to get on your tip-toes to kiss? You must REALLY like those dominatrix women then, huh? Sicko.
  6. Freak
  7. Is this a “fetish?” Is it not? Some of your friends think it is, some of them think it’s not – What is it then? There is absolutely no clear definition on this either
  8. Freak
  9. You just view women as meat, you sicko.
  10. Freak
  11. What’s the Church’s stance on this kind of attraction? It certainly makes your heart flutter and gets you excited. Sinner.
  12. Freak
  13. You would rather cuddle up in the arms of a big, strong woman like a girl would to their big, buff football boyfriend? Huh. Wonder what that makes you then
  14. Freak
  15. You really do like those girls that have “junk in the trunk”, huh? You pig.
  16. Freak
  17. Why would ANY girl who is taller would want to date you? Don’t you know? Tall girls don’t LIKE shorter boys. Might as well get a cat now and die alone, weirdo.
  18. Freak
  19. Why would you EVER like a girl with arms as big as your chest? That’s disgusting, you’d never fit in with the other guys
  20. Freak
  21. What would your parents and family think if they ever found out? Gee, you’d be an outcast FOR SURE.
  22. Freak
  23. Did I mention freak?

 

These honestly are some of the things that have come into my mind as my anxiety locks me down.

There are some good things, that I’ve come to find though…thanks to some wonderful friends of mine.

1. There is NO commandment that says: “Thou shalt not like women bigger than you”

2. Are you sinning? NO.

3. Are you a worthy priesthood holder still? YES.

4. Quoted from a friend: “In some ways it makes you more masculine because you are not afraid of girls like that. A lot of guys would feel intimidated by dating stronger girls but you admire it! It also kinda makes you humble because you recognize that you need to be held and that you too need to feel safe in a relationship.”

5. This world is increasingly more understanding than my anxiety wants me to think.

6. The cuddle value of a big woman? Heck yeah, spot on

7. There are FAR weirder things out there to be attracted to, such as dead things and children…I think I’m doing pretty okay if I’m still attracted to women (albeit 6’5” ones…)

8. Who says that ONLY women are entitled to wanting that security that is found in a bigger significant other? Am I not free to want that as well?

Also, if anyone gives us crap? She can TOTALLY beat them up, and I’d be perfectly alright with that ❤

 

And the end of the day, it’s my choice, isn’t it? Yes, I am attracted to big woman; women who are strong, well-built, tall and even very tall. Is that normal? Eh, not really. But hey…it’s MY vision of beauty, and as the beautiful, wonderful Gwendoline Christie once said:

MORAL OF THIS POST:

I’m worthy, I am not a freak, I am a wonderful guy who just has slightly different taste in women. And ya know what? That is OKAY. So, you have your attractions and tastes…

…and I’ll have mine.

I’d Rather Be a Shitty Teacher

When I was a student teacher, my cohort group would meet every couple of weeks.  Our coordinator (the liaison between the university and the middle school) was this tough old woman with the kind of zeal for education that anyone would find enviable.  She also had a resume the length of my arm: teacher for a billion years, assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent, HR coordinator.  Unwilling to completely retire, she guided the fresh faces of the student teaching program.  She walked slowly, vocally despised driving of any kind, and her nails were always perfect. I loved her.  She was experienced, she was direct, and she answered every little question with brutal honesty.

And she looked shockingly like this stock photo woman

One day, us student teachers were talking about the work load.  Let me stress: the work load for new teachers is immense.  It is overwhelming at best, and burn-out worthy at worst.  Linda, the coordinator, leaned back in her chair and glanced out the window, which overlooked the staff parking lot.

“When I was a principal, I hated seeing teachers leave late.  Every school has a couple who do that.  They come before everyone else, when it’s still dark.  When they leave it’s dark too, and they’d often be lugging stacks of papers and carts of projects.  I knew they were going to go home and keep working on school stuff.  I hated that.”

We all looked at each other and looked at her.  Isn’t that a hallmark of a good teacher?  The kind of person that goes early and stays late?

Linda sighed.  “In this profession, you have to take care of yourself.  You can’t give 100% to your students every day.  Give it to them when you can, sure.  But if some days, you have to give them 70%, so that you save your sanity, do it.”  She looked at us.  Leveled with us, the kind of honest gaze that people of a certain age can just lay on you.  “It’s better to give 70% and still be in the profession in five years.  Your students will be okay.  You need to be okay, too.”

I clung to that advice like it was a ship mast in the middle of an epic sea storm, because that’s what student teaching feels like.  I worked my ass off most days and some days… I didn’t.  Some days I rested or ignored school, or let papers sit for a day or three extra.  I left student teaching excited about teaching, not scared of it.

My last day of student teaching.

I continued to set boundaries with my teaching.  I refused to take work home (except essays.  Essays almost always come home.)  I came early many days because I liked it and I felt productive, but I often left exactly on time.

We glorify teachers who ruin their lives for teaching.  Take Freedom Writers, that Hilary Swank movie.  In the movie, the selfless teacher slaves for her students, going so far as to get a second job to support her classroom supplies, so that she can be everything and more for her students.  She works heinous hours.  Her marriage falls apart.  She about loses her mind.  And yeah, she helped those kids.  And that’s great.  But at what price?

I mean, yeah this is ideal. Sure. But sacrificing everything for this? Nope.

I work with a phenomenal teacher who consistently amazes me.  He is a department head, his lesson-planning is superb, he coaches like three different sports, is working towards administrative positions, and volunteers all the time.  One day I was asking about his personal life.  He told me that he had a girlfriend.  When I asked about kids, he kind of shrugged and said that he didn’t really have time for them.  From his tone, I felt like he was implying that he wanted kids.  When I inquired further (because I suck at boundaries,) he admitted that he didn’t think he could be a good father because of all the stuff he does at school.

I am not the end-all be-all for my students.

My students are not my end-all, be-all.

I am not their friend.

I am not their counselor.

I am not their parent.

Point of fact, I am someone’s parent.  He is not my student.  As of this publishing, he is 20 months old and happily asleep in the next room.

I want to take care of my students.  I want to give them 100% on the days that I can, because I like to and they need it.  But more than that, I want to remain in the profession.  And more than both those things, I want to be a good mom.  And yeah, sometimes I have to choose between being a shitty mom and a shitty teacher.  And I can promise you, when it comes down to it, I would rather be a shitty teacher than a shitty mom.

Right now, I am the end-all, be all for my kid.

And in many ways, he is my end-all.

Good teachers go home on time.  Good teachers take care of themselves.  Good teachers work to balance their home life and their professional life.  I don’t always get that balance right (in fact, I often fail,) but at least I know what my priorities are and I work towards them accordingly.

Three Reasons the First Year of Motherhood is the WORST.

I’ll say it.  I don’t care anymore.  The first year of my child’s life sucked royal dick.

Those first twelve months? Hell.

Don’t get me wrong.  I loved that little boy with everything inside of me.  And.  I hated that first damn year.  I often brooded, “What the hell have I done?”  Because no one told me I would hate the entirety of that year.  No one told me how much I would resent everything about it (except the little boy, I promise I really did love him).

No one told me I wouldn’t enjoy this part.  I kind of figured I would just instantly love motherhood and everything that came along with it because, I dunno, sacrifice?  I feel like I was fed this line about how everything that is hard and frustrating becomes okay because you’re a mom.  As though all the negative things in life kind of wash away because of the great glory that is motherhood.  I bought it, hook line and sinker and I SUNK.  Holy shit did I sink.

And I’m not just talking about my post-partum depression.  That was certainly part of it.  But if I look back on my son’s first year rationally, three things stick out that objectively made everything about it just the Worst. With a capital W.

 

#1: Sleep deprivation.

There is no way to overstate the exhaustion of motherhood.  Like, parents try to explain it before you birth those little babies, but… There’s just no way.

When you have a baby, if you are breastfeeding, you have to feed that child at least every three hours.  Every.  Three.  Hours.  And every three hours from the moment he starts to suck, not the moment he finishes.  So if you have a slow feeder (mine took 45 minutes to an hour) that means that you get two hours, then an hour of feeding, two hours, then an hour of feeding, two hours, then an hour of feeding.  And in that two hours you have to do all the following: change the baby, bathe the baby, feed and clothe and bathe yourself, plus whatever household/work responsibilities you have.  Oh.  And sleep.  Literally sleeping in two hour increments.

And then.  He gets a little older.  And his feeding shortens, but he still eats all the damn time, so now you have two AND A HALF hours.  Which is a big bonus, trust me.

And then you get four hours and it feels like HEAVEN ON EARTH.  Seriously.  I never thought four hours of sleep could feel so good.

But that was basically my maximum for twelve months.

So I spent twelve months of my life extremely sleep-deprived.  Extremely.  And, to be honest, sleep is number one of my list of priorities before I had children.  I’m a nine-hour-a-night sleeper, minimum.  So this four-hour thing?  Absolute.  Hell.

Sleep deprivation fucks with you.  It messes with your emotional capability, your processing ability, your socializing skills.  I regularly experienced sleep deprivation so real, it mimicked intoxication.  Like, no.  All the no.  Just no.

My son did not sleep through the night until he was fifteen months old.  I swear, motherhood got so much better when I could sleep a whole night.  Before that?  It was damn hard.

#2 Everything is in transition.

Think back on the last big transition of your life.  Moving?  Job or career change?  Relationship shift?

Nobody really likes change.  We all struggle with the transition, finding our “new normal.”  Motherhood is the single biggest transition I have ever gone through.  All my normal was turned on its head.  And because babies grow incredibly fast, once you master one skill, they hurl another thing at you.  And babies require a million skills of you for basic survival.  A LOT of skills.

Like, diapering and cream and bathing and feeding (bottle or boob, it’s a giant pain) and daycare and sickness and different cries and sleep training and OH MY GOD STOP.  Full disclosure: I babysat constantly through my teens, including little babies.  It was helpful, yes, but it NEVER taught me the full range of skills my child required.

Remember the way you fumbled through your first “big girl” job?  My entire first year of teaching felt like a big clumsy series of missteps and anxiety and frustration.  Motherhood is no different except 1.) you’re sleep deprived and less able to handle your shit correctly, and 2.) there is a tiny human literally dependent on you for survival, and 3.) you never get to clock out.  Pressure’s on, bitch.

Plus, your relationships turn upside down.  All of them.  Suddenly you don’t have time for friends the way you used to, and sleep deprivation makes it difficult to form a complete sentence, and all you can talk about is diaper cream brands anyway.  Not to mention the relationship with your spouse.  Want to know what kind of hell that goes through?  Husband and I needed rehab and counseling just to begin to work through that shit.

#3 Babies are boring.

In perhaps the most ironic twist of it all, babies are boring as shit.

Let me repeat: I love my son.  I enjoyed going through all the milestones.  I enjoyed watching him grow.  I enjoyed all the snuggles and bonding.

Let’s get real, though.  Babies don’t do anything.  Especially at first.  They literally cry and eat and shit and piss and sleep.  They don’t smile.  They don’t hug.  They don’t say thank you.  They barely raise their arm.  IT’S DULL.

And yeah, as they get bigger they interact more.  But.  Is laying on a mat and smiling really interacting?  I didn’t know what to do with my son.  I felt like I was “supposed” to stimulate him or teach him or… something.  Leaving him just to sit and stare at the wall?  That seemed so barbaric.  Insensitive?  Cruel?  I don’t know.  But I didn’t have a clue how to interact with him.

Eventually I decided to just talk at him, which probably proves my own minimal degree of sanity and predicts his, but whatever.  It was still boring.  And sleep-deprived boring?  Fucking torture.

Cute, but boooooring.

 

When my son turned one, it was like the clouds parted and sunshine bathed the land.

BOOM. Personality and interaction!

While he did not sleep through the night until 15 months, by 12 months he was only waking once a night.  I could handle that.  I didn’t like it, but I could handle it.  The clutter of my sleep deprivation cleared and I started to think and feel clearer.

At about a year, the transition settled (mostly) and I felt far more secure in the world of “Mom.”  It wasn’t always easy, but I had a clear idea of my expectations.  I felt like MOST (not all) of the literal and figurative shit he threw at me I could handle.  Or.  I at least knew which Mom-Friends to call and ask for advice.

And the best part?  The very best part?

My son is now the most interesting human in the world .  He has a personality that totally sweeps me off my feet and restores my faith in humanity.  He is gentle and snugly and determined.  He loves our little dog and giggles uncontrollably when he gets to pet her.  He likes to say “Bye!” to everyone anytime we change location (including, yes, strangers).  He loves to blow kisses and give hugs and name things.  All of those things are SO EXCITING and I love seeing the world through his fascinated and happy eyes.  None of these wonderful aspects of him existed, at least not obviously, in that first year.

 

Hang in there, you first year mamas.  It gets better, I promise.