Tuesday, August 12, 2014

9 Things You Should Know About Invisible Diseases and the People Who Deal With Them

Whether it is lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s, fibromyalgia, clinical depression, cancer, or any of the multiple conditions that are riddled with invisible symptoms, these diseases are, in fact, very real, and may be affecting someone you know, whether you see it or not. Like air, germs, or a person’s soul, just because you can’t see these diseases, doesn’t mean they aren’t there. These diseases with their invisible symptoms wreak havoc from the inside out, thus leading to many misjudgments because the person “doesn’t look sick”.

1.       Appearances Can Be Deceiving

Just because someone doesn’t look sick, doesn’t mean they aren’t. That mom you see at the park all the time, or the one who always volunteers at her kids’ school; the guy in your office who is always playing pranks and cracking jokes, or the one who coaches his son’s soccer team; the woman who attends yoga class 4 times a week, or goes out with her girlfriends every Friday night, all these people could have an underlying disease that you don’t see and would never guess they would have. Just because a disease is invisible, doesn’t mean it’s imaginary.


2.       They Don’t Advertise

When you do finally find out that the funny guy in your office or the woman who never misses a girl’s night out has a serious condition that you never knew about, don’t take it personally that they didn’t tell you sooner, or that you had to find out John, in Marketing. Most people with invisible diseases like to keep them that way – invisible. While they wish their friends and co-workers would be more understanding of why they seem to always catch every bug that goes around the office or school, or why they sometimes cancel last minute, people with invisible diseases would much prefer to keep the secret to themselves, rather than burden their friends and co-workers with their personal problems.


3.       Don’t Judge, Just Understand

Just because the friend that you thought you were close to chooses not to share their personal struggles with you, please don’t judge them too harshly and just try to understand. This is a good rule for everyone to follow, regardless of whether a person is sick or not. It seems to be something of the societal norm to always opt for the negative conclusion first and the compassionate one last. Just because someone cancels last minute, is always “busy,” or has a lot of doctor’s appointments, it doesn’t mean they are blowing you off or faking just to get out of something. Your friend may be dealing with something that you are unaware of and it should be your first instinct to give them the benefit of the doubt. If it becomes excessive, just be up front and ask.


4.       When in Doubt, Just Ask

If your friend seems to be bailing a lot lately, or the guy at your office is falling behind in his work because of all the sick days he’s taken and doctor’s appointments he’s scheduled, don’t jump to conclusions and assume the worst. Just ask. While most people with invisible diseases don’t like to advertise their condition, if you approach them as a friend and respectfully express your concern, they will most likely be grateful to have one person to confide in and tell you what is going on. Granted, they don’t want everyone to know, but they will be happy to have one person who will understand and have their back.


5.       Please be Respectful of Their Privacy

Your friend has finally told you her secret. That means she trusts you to be compassionate and offer support. It does not mean she wants the whole office, gym, or all of Facebook knowing her personal business. People with invisible diseases keep their secrets for many reasons. One of the biggest ones is they fear that people will look at them and treat them differently. They look healthy and normal on the outside, so people treat them like everyone else, they don’t want that to change and have their friends and co-workers avoiding them, or doubting the truth because “they don’t look sick”. So, please respect your friend’s right to privacy and remember that you wouldn’t want them to blab your secrets to everyone either.


6.       No One’s Symptoms are the Same

Many invisible diseases are multi-systemic, which means they affect multiple systems in the body: heart, lungs, liver, kidney, brain, etc. Even if you knew two people with the exact same disease, their symptoms could widely vary. One may be tired and weak fairly often, experience bouts of pain, and lose a lot of weight, while the other might have more energy, not eat very much while gaining weight, and have memory lapses. It differs from person to person and disease to disease.


7.       Symptoms Can be Unpredictable

Now that you are aware of your friend/co-worker’s condition, you begin to watch them for signs and symptoms that, before, seemed innocuous. You notice that his steadily increasing weight has not only ceased, it is dropping rapidly. This may sound like great news (I mean, who doesn’t want to lose some extra weight so effortlessly), but you also notice that he is more tired than usual and isn’t eating nearly enough food. Perhaps, instead, he is significantly gaining weight. Maybe her hair starts falling out, or it loses its luster; she become wan and pale, or red and feverish. With invisible diseases like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, cancer, and many more, symptoms can turn on a dime and change for no apparent reason (even to the person who is experiencing them). The best thing you can do is be there for them and offer them help in any way you can.


8.       Excuses are Not Given Lightly

You’ve been trying to get your friend to go to the museum, or a concert, or out for dinner and a movie with you, but the excuses start piling up. You begin to get irritated and that petty, negative corner of your mind starts whispering that she is using her disease as an excuse to blow you off. You are WAY off. People with debilitating diseases have a laundry list of symptoms that prevent them from doing a lot of activities. It irritates them way more than it irritates you. They hate not being able to go out and enjoy the weekend, or spend time doing fun things with their family. They become frustrated and angry with themselves and at their body for not cooperating. They wish, more than anything, that they could go to that museum with you, or just grab a quick drink after work, or even just manage to do some household chores. They do not back out of these engagements lightly. Your friend would much rather be out with you, than stuck at home in bed, or on the couch.  


9.       Don’t Try to Relate, Just Accept

Many times even relatives can’t understand, or relate to the overwhelming issues a person with an invisible disease faces. Family members, who live with the effects of the disease on a daily basis, can find it hard to cope. Some feel that if their spouse/parent/child tried a little harder, or toughened up a bit, they would feel better. Though, that’s not really what they are asking. They are asking that the person with the disease try a little harder so the family members feel better. It’s difficult for anyone to take care of and consistently be understanding of a person whose disease is largely invisible. They usually have to take that person’s word for it that they are in pain, or feeling exhausted, or having a terrible head or stomach ache. Unless the person vomits, passes out, or has a fever, it’s difficult to always take them at their word. Doubt creeps in that they are wussing out, or using their symptoms as a crutch to avoid helping out. It causes tension between both parties. Friends and family feel that they are being taken advantage of, as they pick up most of the slack. The person with the disease feels mistrusted and misunderstood, as well as feeling frustrated with themselves that they aren’t able to relieve their family’s burden. If you know someone with an invisible disease, don’t try to relate, don’t try to make their symptoms make sense, just accept that they are telling the truth and doing their best.



Invisible diseases come in many forms, with many variations. Some take years to diagnose, with numerous doctors’ visits, countless tests, and more questions than answers. Many patients even doubt their own symptoms in the beginning and sometimes question their own sanity, reliability, and objectivity. Feeling those mystery symptoms come and go, wondering if they were really as bad as they thought, watching people’s sympathy turn into skepticism, having numerous doctors shrug their shoulders and say they have no idea what’s wrong, counting out a myriad of hated little brightly colored pills and supplements every day; each of these obstacles in themselves can be daunting, but imagine facing it all while trying to keep your life as normal as possible. It’s hard, isn’t it?  


While you may not be able to relate, or even imagine what someone is going through, the thing they need the most is understanding and compassion. Understanding that says you will try to be supportive and not judgmental, even if it is sometimes difficult, and compassion that says you will try your best to listen and help them in any way you can. Whether it is an auto-immune disease like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, or a mental one like depression, or carcinogenic like cancer, all people who suffer an invisible disease ultimately need to know they are not alone in their fight.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Realization Can Be a Real Bitch

Self-realizations are like pimps, without warning they walk up and slap you in the face as hard as they can. Because truly seeing yourself for what and who you are can, at times, feel like you just got knocked on your ass. You stand there dazed by the harsh light of introspection and think to yourself, God, I’m a horrible person. We all experience moments like that, and I am no exception.

As a smart, educated women with two beautiful, healthy children and a successful and loving husband, I should be perfectly happy – right? That’s where you’d be wrong. I was not happy. In fact, I was miserable.

Over the past couple of years, I have had plenty of time for introspection, too much. With my husband’s career rapidly on the rise, I have had to uproot our family and our lives to move four times in three years. Two of those moves were cross-country…in the same year. We moved from the West Coast to the East Coast and back again. With each of those moves, I have had to give up my current job and begin again in a new state. And when you move that many times, unemployment stays with you like the houseguest that just won’t leave.

While I am fiercely proud of my husband’s accomplishments, the jealousy and resentment I felt fueled my sense of failure and crippled my self-confidence. I sacrificed everything for him to get to where he is, my career opportunities, my education, my dreams, all so he could achieve his dreams. As my reward I got nothing but half-smoked pipe dreams and the littered bits of barely started careers that reminded me of all the unfinished DIY projects in people’s garages that seemed like great ideas to begin with, but would never be finished.

My self-realization came in a flood. Thought after thought, emotion after emotion these realizations washed over me. Like waves on the shore, as one ebbed away, the next crashed over me. They kept coming on me until I was drowning in them. I was miserable and lonely, but too self-conscious to want to be around people. I resented my husband for the choices I made to support him. I was jealous of his overwhelming success and horribly disappointed with my own paltry accomplishments. I blamed him for damaging my employment prospects with constant moves and specific limitations (like no evenings or weekends or travel, or long commutes since he may have to fly out with little notice). I measured my sense of self-worth with my employment status and realized that, though I love my children, being a stay-at-home mom just wasn’t enough for me. Realizations can be a real bitch, but then again, apparently so can I.

Is that the sound of bitterness I hear? Hell yeah, that’s bitterness! Bitterness, resentment, flattened self-esteem, all topped off with a steaming dollop of self-loathing. Pretty, isn’t it? Self-realizations are never pretty. No one ever wakes up one day and realize hey, I’m kind of a wonderful person. Instead, your realizations humble you with the knowledge that you aren’t as nice, or as smart, or as great as you thought you were.

However, after all the shock and disappointment in myself wore off, I began to realize that even though these realizations were a devastating blow to my self-esteem, I actually came out better for it in the end. With my newfound self-awareness I learned to modify my expectations and reevaluate what I wanted from life and how I planned to go out and get it.

I confided all my dirty little realizations to my husband. Every. Last. One. Even though it nearly killed me to admit it all, my husband accepted my bitter confessions with all the generosity and understanding of any truly good and loving man. He didn’t judge or quibble about my feelings, instead he reminded me that they were my thoughts and feelings and I had every right to have them, but that perhaps I should cut myself some slack on the whole self-loathing part. I readily took his advice and forgave myself for feeling the way I did and for being human. Unburdening myself was cathartic and I am a better person for it. I am more accepting of my shortcomings and am learning (slowly, oh so very slowly) to be patient with my future.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sometimes Mom is a Four Letter Word | Mom's of the World, You Have Been Warned

When I became a mother for the first time, my mother gave me a book called “Motherhood is Not for Sissies.” After five years and two kids, I definitely get the joke…that is, that there isn’t one. The only thing that is funny is that it’s true, motherhood is not for sissies. Motherhood is a brutal battlefield and the kids fight dirty.

Being a mom these days is no easy job; even if it is your only one, it is enough. With the never-ending parade of diapers, bottles, snacks, toys, messes, and demands to contend with, being a mom is a baptism by fire. As soon as you think you finally have this baby thing figured out and can confidently change your child’s diaper while checking your email and updating your Facebook status, the little darling (and by darling, I mean jerk) changes all the rules and hurls toddlerhood right at your face. It’s a blindside and a cheap shot to your confidence when that adorably cooing baby snatches the bowl of pureed peas right out of your hand, chucks it on the floor…and the walls…and the cabinetry, and shouts “NO!” At that very moment, you know that it’s game on. The stakes are high, and your kids won’t pull any punches.

As moms in this modern age, we are already at a disadvantage. With the advance in technology, our kids get smarter faster, and too quickly learn how to outwit their parents. That leaves us with two choices: give in, or get creative.

Seasoned moms all know that giving in is not an option. If you think your kids are monsters now, just think of what little hellions they will become once they realize that mom has been defeated. Take the hard line, and don’t flinch; your kids will use every trick they possess to find the chink in your armor. Then they will use their little superpowers for evil and exploit it and overthrow your regime. As a battle hardened mom (and one who is highly in favor of self-preservation), I adopt the same policy as that of our own government – the United States of Mom does not negotiate with terrorists.

In order to fully embody the “no negotiating with pint-sized terrorists” policy, each mom has to fully commit. She needs to repeat her mantra to herself on an almost hourly basis: I am the iron mom. I rule over my kids like a major general over his troops. I don’t take lip, sass, arguing, bargaining, or mutiny. I am the queen of manners, rules, and discipline. I will make their lives worse if they make mine difficult and I will do it with style, creativity, and a lot of trickery. Because let’s face it, it’s Mom and Dad versus the kids, and a lot of the time mom has to hold the battle lines solo.

If you are one of those moms who doesn’t mind being overruled and overrun by your kids, or one that willingly and happily allows her kids to consume every waking second of her very existence, then this book is not for you. If you are the UberMom, the woman who lives for being a mom, who eats, breathes and sleeps everything mom, then stop reading now and give this book to that “other mom” in your play group, the one that you think needs a lot of help because she doesn’t breastfeed her kid until at least age two, doesn’t make her own baby food, doesn’t have an entire room in her house solely dedicated to overly complicated kid crafts, and doesn’t even come close to meeting your ridiculously and unobtainably high standards of Mom-dom.

For the rest of you, the moms who don’t mind a little high fructose corn syrup or processed cheese every now and then, or the moms who think the Disney Junior channel and the Sprout network are absolute life and sanity savers, or the ones who don’t have a near heart attack and break out into hives because your three year old just picked up the fork he dropped on the kitchen floor and stuck it back in his mouth, please read on, enjoy, and know that you are not alone.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Can't Fight This Feeling...Anymore

Okay, okay. Get it over with and insert snarky 80's power ballad reference here. Are we good now? Good.

As humans, we are all emotional creatures; we follow our gut instincts, choke back tears, fight down the ill-timed laugh or smile, and even make important decisions based on spine-tingling goosebumps or a clear case of the total heebie jeebies (yeah, I don't know if there is a right way to spell that, since spellcheck thinks I mean "hereby Jezebel." Fail).

As women, we are even more predisposed to lead with our emotions. Not simply because women tend to have a closer and more personal relationship with their emotions, but also because it is more socially acceptable for us to follow those instincts (ie: women's intuition). For men, they simply dress-down the term and slap some manly scruff on it by dubbing it "following your gut." Personally, it sounds like they are lending a little too much credence to overactive intestinal issues. C'mon guys. Call a spade a spade and just admit that you are listening to your (eww, yuck, gross) feelings. Okay, you can breathe now.

Whichever way you slice it, we all let our emotions guide us. Unfortunately, sometimes that leads to those same helpful emotions seizing the reigns and taking full control. After two years and three major moves, and numerous career restarts, I inevitably fell victim to the power of my emotional overlords: self-doubt and indifference.

With my husband on the career fast-track, we were constantly packing and unpacking boxes. I should have bought stock in U-Haul, since our numerous moves probably single-handedly sustained the company through the recession. However, because of the relentless relocations, I had to quit jobs I hadn't even held for a year, and then subsequently spend another six to eight months trying to get a new one in our latest location (only to quit that one to move again). This not only took a serious toll on my resume (which should have just screamed "unreliable job hopper" to anyone who opened the file) but it also took a major toll on my confidence, self-esteem, and feelings of self worth. My seemingly never ending job search left me seriously doubting my own (completely awesome, by the way) skills set, but my usually extremely effective method of BSing my way into a job that normally would have gone to someone with more experience. Put quite bluntly, I was just used to getting what I wanted in the job search department. That is, until the recession hit. Curse you, recession.

Post 2008 hit of the recession job hunts went more like this: 10 plus applications and resumes per week, 99.9% of which would garner absolute radio silence, about four calls per week from companies who will just about literally hire anyone with a pulse, zero of those jobs being ones that I would want to take unless I had a desire to hate my life even more than I already did (okay, a little dramatic, but essentially true), and the occasional call from a recruiter offering me a job with twice the workload and half the pay like it was the winning lottery ticket.

With the constant rejection, or sometimes worse, the complete lack of response, my self-esteem and self-confidence took hit after hit. I began to doubt my abilities and my self worth as a wife, mother, and a person. Worse than that, as time wore on and the jobs kept passing me up, I began to fall into the trap of indifference. Not the type where I stopped feeling motivated to find a job, but the kind where I stopped caring about myself...and for myself.

It started with sleeping later. I didn't have a job to get up and go to, so what did I care if I caught a few extra zzz's. Next came staying in my pajamas for the majority of the day, if not all day. If I got dressed at all, I would don a pair of yoga pants and a tee shirt. Essentially I became too lazy for real clothes. I stopped doing my hair or putting on makeup since no one would see me, and opted for the messy, sometimes three day old ponytail and bare face that not only looked pale and puffy, but decidedly more tired with each passing day. Sleeping and eating patterns changed since I stayed up later, but got up at the same time and my healthy eating habits I exceled at while I was working turned to indifferent picking at junky snack foods or skipping meals all together. My weight inched up and my health took a nosedive. I skipped pills that I needed to maintain my treatment of an auto-immune condition, I stopped taking vitamins, got less and less sleep, and watched my symptoms rebound from a relatively subdued and managed state to a full scale resurrection of my lupus.

I was spiraling out of control. I was no longer my own person; my emotions had taken over and were ruling with absolute authority. I felt bereft and rudderless. I had no motivation to do anything but apply for jobs and get back to a regular routine that would automatically force my life back into the path of normalcy and control.

For all my new found wisdom about my emotional state twisting my very personality, I did not come to this realization on my own. It took several long distance callouts from my mother that I was not taking care of myself and that looking after my own health and well-being should be on the top of my priority list. After several of these conversations, I began to look at my past behavior objectively, and a pattern emerged. Whenever I had to restart my career again and go through the arduous process of hardcore job hunting, my state of well-being slipped to the bottom of the priority list (if it even made the list at all). I found structure in the daily routine of work, travel, and home; it grounded me. Without it I felt lost. There was no routine, no reason to get up at a certain time, plan meals ahead of time, do my hair and makeup, be somewhere at a specific time, or go to bed at a regular time. Everything fell out of sync and my routine collapsed into a jumbled heap.

I knew that things needed to change and I needed to take better care of myself...or really just care, period. It was the getting started part that was hanging me up. So I began with the simplest step I could think of...taking my medication on a regular schedule. So far, it's been a success (if a whole week of doing something I'm supposed to being doing anyway can be called a success).

Everyone has that one thing that takes them from an organized, put together professional and reduces them to a listless, indecisive basket-case. For some it's stress or lack of sleep, for others it could be an overwhelming situation or a major life change. No matter who we are, there comes a point in our lives when we just lose all direction and can't figure out how to get it back. These overwhelming emotions begin to effect other aspects of our lives until they have moved in, made themselves comfortable, and refuse to budge. We all go there sometimes, but the key to getting back is knowing that things will get better and to keep looking forward.

For now, everything is happening in baby steps. Finding the motivation to keep going and commit to a well structured, self-imposed schedule will prove to be a continual challenge. But I think I am up to it.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Living With Lupus

Being a full time mom is a difficult enough job as it is. My job description boils down to project coordinator of laundry, dishes, and the toilet brush (among other household implements); senior accountant of household finances; gourmet chef (specialties include: spaghetti, chicken nuggets, & fish sticks); nurse; and cowgirl (otherwise known as toddler wrangler). Adding a full-time (paying) job to the mix make us less than sane people.

As a writer and a stay-at-home mom, I know I’m as crazy as they come, especially when my idea of finding some quiet work time includes locking myself inside my walk-in closet and hunkering down behind a stack of shoe boxes, praying the kids don’t find me. I willfully ignore the bangs, crashes, and shrieks that echo through the house, knowing full well that the mess will still be there after I finish my article (or at least start it). But add an auto-immune disease into the mix and this ball game just became a battlefield, Game of Thrones style. You fight for every inch of ground you gain.

Lupus is not only a difficult disease to live with, it is also a difficult one to diagnose. I was living with it for five years before I finally received an answer, rather than just perplexed looks, shrugged shoulders, and meaningless platitudes that all boiled down to “sucks to be you.”

For those of you who don’t know what Lupus is, I’ll give you the low down in layman’s terms. Lupus is a disease that starts with your own immune system attacking you. It mistakes healthy cells for stealthy intruders. Because of this skewed perception, your immune system attacks various systems in your body.

For me, the scaly skin rashes, super sunburns, circulation problems, and pesky hair loss are the least of my problems. Though it would be nice to have the long, thick, luxurious hair I used to have. (I chopped mine pixie style, just to hide how thin it had become). Aside from lamenting the loss of my pretty hair, I have bigger fish to fry. And that is just functioning on a daily basis.

Lupus not only causes the minor inconveniences I mentioned above, this wholly unwelcome houseguest lugs with it an entire collection of symptomatic luggage. Joint inflammation and pain, muscle pain, debilitating fatigue, headaches, diminished immunity, and a litany of other possible complications. Lucky me, I drew hearts. That is, heart complications.

In one respect I did get lucky. The type of heart problem I have is pretty much the one you want to have…if you actually have to have a heart problem.

Not that you really get a choice. If I had that option, I would politely say “no thank you” and quickly run the other direction.

Focus, Lindsey. Okay, back to the point.

Basically my complication boils down to my heart beats too fast now, and throws in some extra off beats, just to keep things interesting. If that wasn’t enough to be getting on with, several months ago I developed pericarditis, which means the lining around my heart muscle gets inflamed and irritated. Not particularly dangerous, but it can be pretty painful (if the feeling of someone stabbing you repeatedly in the heart with an icepick can be considered “pretty painful”).

So…yeah, simply functioning on a daily basis has presented quite a challenge, especially being  the work-at-home mom of two rambunctious preschoolers. But, after two and a half years of trial-and-error treatments, hundreds of pills, and several scary ER trips, I have become an expert at coping.

The most important skills to acquire are acceptance and an entirely new way of thinking. I know many people would consider acceptance as just another way of throwing in the towel, but it’s not that at all. Accepting that this disease will be your constant companion for life is an important step to coping. Once you gain acceptance, you can begin to move on and decide how you are going to live your new life. Herein begins the new way of thinking: adjusting you stamina and expectations, swapping a high impact workout for a low impact one, developing a close relationship with sunscreen, and learning how to sleep like a teenager again.

Finally comes the honest conversation with your kids. Tell them enough to make them understand, but not so much that you scare the pants off them (or prompts an overshare with every person that crosses their path). All they really need to understand is that sometimes mom doesn’t feel good and that in order to help her feel better, she needs her children to helpful and on their best behavior. Though they may not always be the perfect little angels you hope they will be, they will try their best to make things easier in their own way.

All in all it is an ongoing journey with plenty of bumps and detours, but with a little help and a lot of patience even a busy mom can manage to cope with this new (if unwelcome) adventure.

Operation Vacation

Flip-flops…check (as I extract the lone one from under the bed). Several changes of clothes (plus a few extra choices)…check. Sunscreen…where the heck is the sunscreen. Dammit, over 3oz. Guess I won’t be taking that on the plane, I think to myself as I chuck it into the reject pile.  Packing yourself for a well deserved vacation can be overwhelming at the best of times, but throw kids into the mix and your sanity can unravel faster than a roll of toilet paper with a three-year old at the other end.

Our family spends as much time as possible at the family lake house in the Cascade Mountains during the summer, but ever since we moved from Seattle to New York, our nearly every weekend trips have dwindled to one, big ten-day trip. Managing a bicoastal trip involves a lot of packing and unpacking and repacking. With a four-year old and a three-year old, preparations can start to seem like a monumental task. For some reason, when it comes to those adorable hard-side, 18 inch spinners decked out in Hello Kitty or Cars designs, my kids would rather forgo the clothes and opt for their suitcases being stuffed to bursting with cars, trains, dollies, and stuffies. I spend more time chasing after the little suitcase absconders trailing infrequent heaps of previously neatly folded outfits, than I actually spend packing.

I guess by now, I should probably learn to fold and pack all their clothes the night before we leave, but with last minute laundry loads, injured stuffies and ripped blankies that need emergency surgery, and the all important tasks of making sure the dishwasher is clean and all the garbage is out of the house (too avoid full on olfactory assault upon our return), I have no time left for stealthy nighttime packing subterfuge.

Airline ticket app and kid friendly ebooks and games downloaded, bags loaded, blankies and portable movie players packed in brightly colored backpacks sporting my kids’ favorite Disney characters, and mom and Dad running on about four hours of sleep, we plunge headlong into the melee of New York’s JFK airport. As we make it through security (thankfully without any meltdowns or pat-downs) we head to our departure gate, only to find that the previous flight is delayed, so our flight is in limbo for the foreseeable future. Tired, whiny kids in tow who, not only want us to carry all their stuff, but want us to carry them as well, we grab some breakfast and take a load off while my husband compulsively checks his JetBlue app for status updates. Forty-five minutes before our scheduled takeoff time, the app tells us that our gate has been changed to one on the opposite end of the terminal. Swell.

Schlepping our own carryon as well as the kids’ we start the arduous trek to our new gate. All I can say is, thank goodness for early boarding for travelers with small children. We jump the line and get settled on the plane, snagging prime spots for our carryon in the overhead bins, and immediately unpack stuffies and blankies to placate our increasingly grumpy children. As soon as the seats around us begin to fill, my kids snap out of their doldrums and fly to the other end of the spectrum…hyper. Groan. They excitedly babble, to anyone who will listen, their plans for this trip and begin their childish interrogation of their fellow passengers. I breathe a sigh of relief and a silent prayer of thanks for the tolerance and kind indulgence of the people seated around us and settle in for a mercifully uneventful flight.

Touchdown. We have arrived and I realize how stressed I am, as I shrug the tension from my shoulders and actually begin to enjoy the true beginning of our vacation. Camping, swimming, sun, family, and s’mores here we come. Viva la family vacation!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Temper Tantrums

There is nothing more frustrating, embarrassing – and yes – amusing about witnessing the core meltdown of a toddler, especially if the toddler in question belongs to you. However, as disheartening and emotionally trying as a toddler tantrum can be, sometimes they’re not the only ones who need to release stress by some good old-fashioned kicking and screaming. Even moms succumb to their baser instincts and just let fly whatever frustrations, stresses, or general craziness are upsetting their apple cart.

 As moms we hold ourselves up to incredible standards to be the perfect motherly specimen (the UberMom). We see the images of SuperMom on television, in movies, and in commercials; we strive to live up to the images of June Cleaver, Heidi Klum, and Martha Stewart all rolled into one. We push ourselves to be successful, attractive, fashion forward, creative, and the mom who makes sack lunches, heads up the PTA, creates fun and interesting art projects to fill the rainy days, and lays lavish home-cooked meals on the table every night of the week. No wonder the veneer begins to crack every now and again. We’ve packed so many must haves into our personality that we are bursting at the seams.

I am completely guilty of buying into the SuperMom image. I have accumulated numerous infractions, violations, and downright felonies of that SuperMom code of conduct. And yes – that includes temper tantrums. I have lost my inner SuperMom more times than I wish to admit. When surrounded with toilets overflowing with an entire roll of toilet paper, dry-erase crayon pictures decorating the carpet (courtesy of my daughter), all of my clothes & shoes cascading out of my closet and dresser, the dog marking the furniture, the kids screaming bloody murder at each other over who gets to rip the pages out of books or shred the resident holiday decorations and my sweet little boy pulling handfuls of flour and sugar out of the canisters so he can make it “snow”, I have been pushed so far to the edge that my inner self is screaming at me (over my yelling) to just throw myself on the nearest available surface and kick and scream and pound my fists, then get up and start flinging things around the room with all my might, until I feel better. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a mom sized tantrum. Kids have nothing on mom when she’s about to blow.

The good thing about being an adult (and the bad) is that you have the presence of mind to suppress the all-out rage and destruction part. Dammit. The thing that I have learned through the numerous encounters with my inner toddler is that that frustration and craving for a good old-fashioned kick & scream is completely healthy and normal. We need that release in one way or another.

My way is to write about it. That is, if the kids leave me alone long enough to fire up my laptop, let alone type actual words. However, when time and toddlers are not so obliging, a quick trip upstairs to my bedroom where I quickly lock the door and throw myself face first on to the bed to let out one, good, throat rattling scream, usually suffices until a little quiet time is actually attainable. When all else fails, a little wine can become mom’s best friend. Don’t look at me that way, you know it’s true.

So for those of you moms (or dads) aspiring to SuperMom (or SuperDad) status, failure is not only an option, it’s practically a job requirement. No one is perfect, and trying to be the perfect parent only adds to the pressure of simply trying to be a good parent. So give yourself a break and accept that you’ll never be perfect, and that your kids actually don’t want perfect. They just want you.