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Blake Lively Reveals How She Lost The Baby Weight, LOL

Posted: 13 Feb 2018 07:53 AM PST

Blake Lively talks about losing the baby weight

I love Blake Lively. I love how she savagely rips husband Ryan Reynolds on social media and takes it in stride when he does the same to her. I also love her thoughts on motherhood, her adorable lifestyle photos, and stunning red carpet looks. I love you Blake Lively.

But I’m still LOLing a little at your recent post about baby weight.

Don’t get me wrong — of course a woman of any weight and size can have body image issues. An actress in particular, employed at least in part based on whether she’s a certain size or shape, has reason to be concerned about her appearance. And post-baby, every woman is allowed her bodily hang-ups. So much change, not all of it welcome, and not a lot of time to adjust while also learning how to be a mom and basically never sleeping again.

That said, Lively’s recent Instagram post about finally being back in pre-baby shape has me giggling. Just a little — all good-naturedly. Because look at this woman. LOOK AT HER. She’s a living Barbie doll. With a personal trainer. She’s married to Ryan Reynolds, which has no bearing on this topic, but still.

Instagram Photo

“Turns out you can't lose the 61 lbs you gained during pregnancy by just scrolling through instragram and wondering why you don't look like all the bikini models,” she writes. “Thanks @donsaladino for kickin my A double S into shape. 10 months to gain, 14 months to lose. Feeling very proud.”

As she absolutely should. Again, LOOK AT HER. In my 36 years on this planet I’ve never once looked that good. Despite being a regular gym goer my entire adult life, I have not ever and will never look like that. Not pre-baby, and certainly not post. Her “I lost the baby weight” pic is 12 million times hotter than any photo taken of me at any point in time for the whole of my existence.

Instagram Photo

Which is why, as a self-protective measure, I’m going to laugh at this post. This woman, wonderful though she may be, was never in danger of wearing her maternity pants until her second child was in preschool (SHUT UP, they’re comfy). It’s literally her job to look amazing and I doubt anyone ever questioned whether she’d get back into pre-kid shape. That said, she did the werk. She deserves to brag it up and part of me is legit inspired by her hustle.

The part of me that isn’t silently sobbing that I won’t ever look like Blake Lively, even a nine months pregnant Blake Lively.

Instagram Photo

It’s also incredibly comforting to note that even though she does look like a literal supermodel, Lively’s sharing that it took her 14 months to lose the weight she gained while pregnant, which is much closer to the five years it took me than most celebrity moms who lose all the weight in two weeks. While most of us mere mortals can never hope to achieve the level of fitness that she has, it’s very cool to see that Lively took a reasonable approach to getting back to her pre-baby self.

Blake, I adore you. I’m sorry you’re so perfect and also, very kind, and married to Ryan Reynolds. I have to LOL a little bit to handle it.

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As A SNAP Recipient, This Is What I Want People To Know About The Proposed Cuts

Posted: 13 Feb 2018 07:52 AM PST

I am not ashamed to admit that I receive SNAP benefits. As a single mother on a freelancer's salary, it's necessary for me to have that safety net to be able to feed my son. He's four, growing like a weed, and constantly hungry. I get enough in SNAP benefits to make sure we are never hungry, something we were (or rather I was) while we waited to find out if we were going to be granted the benefits.

Now, I am reading that the Trump administration has proposed a restructuring of the way the SNAP program works, and the main objective is limiting the options recipients have in terms of the food they use their benefits for.

As of right now, benefits are loaded on an EBT card (which is like a debit card) every month and you can go to any store that accepts SNAP benefits to buy whatever groceries you need. With this new proposal, however, any beneficiaries who receive at least $90 in benefits (according to NPR, that's 80 percent of those who receive benefits) will get a box filled with things like shelf stable milk, boxed cereal, and canned fruits and vegetables among other things.

Nothing fresh. Because apparently poor families don’t deserve fresh fruit, vegetables, or milk from the cold case. 

It’s all about money, of course. They say it will slash the SNAP budget over time and save taxpayer money, but let’s not be fooled. In 2012, the average American paid just $36 into the SNAP program. $36 per year. $3 per month. To help families keep food on the table.

The most fatal flaw in this new plan? The inability for beneficiaries to choose their own foods. For a political party that is generally opposed to how much involvement the government has, this seems quite contradictory to their core beliefs. In fact, it’s allowing the government into our daily lives in a very personal, controlling, and dehumanizing way.

According to USDA records for 2016, two-thirds of those who receive SNAP benefits are under 18, over 60, or disabled. My preschooler is a little boy who thrives on fresh fruit and vegetables. Any doctor will tell you the importance of providing your growing children with a nutritionally diverse selection of fresh fruits and vegetables. About 25 percent of my monthly grocery budget goes to buying him things like apples, cucumbers, strawberries and carrots. Taking away, or severely limiting my ability to purchase such things would be devastating to his diet. Just because I’m poor doesn’t mean I’m incapable of making a budget and planning for my family’s needs. And what the hell is shelf stable milk in the first place?

As it stands, there is no mention in this proposal of how they would address the growing number of people who suffer from dietary restrictions like allergies or intolerances. Boxed cereals could be damaging for people who have diseases like Celiac. People who are deathly allergic to peanuts, do not need peanut butter in their box, and it seems that all boxes will be the same. Beneficiaries are not allowed to choose what goes in the boxes.

Miguelina Diaz, who works with families finding food aid through Hunger Free America, notes another important factor that the proposal misses, “We deal with different people of different backgrounds. Limiting them by providing them a staple box would limit the choices of food they can prepare for their families,” she tells NPR.

Granted, this falls right in line with the current administration's stance on things like immigration and people of color, who are mostly regarded as unwanted, second class citizens. Limiting their ability to make the food of their cultures forces them to assimilate in a way even more basic than demanding that all citizens learn to speak English. There is nothing noting that cooking guides would be provided along with these meal kits. Blue Apron meals, they surely are not.

Like all things Trumpian, there are a lot of questions that aren't answered here. Like, how would the boxes be delivered? According to the budget, the states will  have the ability to create “substantial flexibility in designing the food box delivery system through existing infrastructure, partnerships or commercial/retail delivery services.” But, what about people who live in extremely rural areas? Will there be a delivery van that bring meals around from the city? Will they have to make a massive trip to a more centralized location, like a local welfare office to get their monthly box? If this is the case, low-income adults may have to take an entire day off work to stand in line and receive a box of food that may not be enough to actually provide much for their families. Not to mention the cost of transportation to get their meager offerings. And, what if they don’t have a car or insurance? Then, what?

Where is the humanity in this? Who is it really helping?

Furthermore, if this is all about the mighty dollar, how will this complicated, poorly planned reform save any money? The staffing, resources, and time needed to assemble, deliver, and account for these boxes is going to be astronomical. But, hey, if it prevents poor folks from having a banana, then it’s all worth it, right?

For someone who works their ass off to support their family, I find this whole proposal dehumanizing. “Removing choice from SNAP flies in the face of encouraging personal responsibility,” Douglas Greenaway, president of the National WIC Association told NPR. “The budget seems to assume that participating in SNAP is a character flaw.”

The current Republican administration has made it clear that they believe that being poor is a conscious decision; they are the same people who have the mentality that poor people can just "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" and somehow rise out of their poverty. The cost of living is constantly rising, while wages grow at a snail's pace. How are we supposed to pull ourselves out of poverty when at every turn we're being stymied?

The budget still has to pass Congress, and last year they ignored his proposed budget. There's a chance that they will do the same thing this year. We can only hope, because this is so out of control that I wouldn't even want to think about the damage it will do to the millions of families who depend on these benefits to keep themselves, and their children, alive and thriving.

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My Kid Is The ‘Stinky’ Kid, But It’s Not Because Of Poor Hygiene

Posted: 13 Feb 2018 07:00 AM PST

Sometimes my kid smells funky. Worse than B.O.

But don't jump to conclusions. It isn't poor hygiene or laziness.

He has an invisible disease you've probably never heard of. We don't like to bring it up in polite conversation because it quickly includes words like "anus" and "rectum" and "diarrhea." It's embarrassing for him—and no picnic for me, either!

My child was born with a chronic condition called Hirschsprung Disease. His digestive tract doesn't have the same nerve cells as yours and mine, so at birth his colon was 100-percent blocked, and he's suffered potentially life-threatening infections and complications.

Trust me, it sucks.

To you, he's a regular kid who looks and acts like a regular kid. Unless you see him at the beach, you'd never know about the scars crisscrossing his belly button from multiple surgeries, much less the rerouted plumbing underneath.

But occasionally he smells wicked bad. Even worse than regular-poo stink.

His stomach makes loud, uncontrollable rumbling sounds, and it's not because he's hungry.

And sometimes he bolts to the bathroom like his pants are on fire. Or he'll spend what seems like an eternity on the potty.

At 9-years-old, he’s still on the cusp of acceptable little boy behavior. But it won't be for long. I can only imagine the side-eyes and snubbing that await in fifth grade, seventh grade, high school, even the workplace.

We attempt to control his unique biology with medication and other interventions. But short of moving around his organs (again!) so that he poops through a port (MACE) or stoma/bag (colostomy), leaking a bit and smelling stinky sometimes is his best option right now. His normal.

And this normal-for-now hasn't come easy. My little man may seem like a carefree cutie pie, but he's suffered more pain than some of us do in a lifetime. He's endured surgeries, anal dilations, enemas, severe stomach cramps and awful, seemingly endless diarrhea. So just being smelly noxious on occasion is really the least of his problems.

While his condition is rare, lots of kids suffer from invisible digestive issues, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Smelling bad sometimes and sprinting to the toilet just come with the territory.

It's not laziness. Or hygiene. It's not poor planning or bad manners.

It's his life and the only body he's ever known.

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Instagram Is Telling People If You Screenshot Their Story

Posted: 13 Feb 2018 06:43 AM PST

Instagram testing notifications for screenshots of stories

My fellow internet sleuths, our days could be numbered. In a new test, Instagram is telling people you’ve taken a screenshot of their story. The notifications are just an experiment at the moment, but soon our lurking could no longer be secret.

We found out about the feature when specific users were notified about it in the app and shared the news. If your account is included in the test and you take a screenshot of a story, you’ll receive a notification that reads: “Next time you take a screenshot or screen recording, the person who posted the story will be able to see.” A lovely soul took a screenshot of the notification and shared it online, which you can see below.

Instagram told TechCrunch they were running the new screenshot notification experiment but didn’t give any details about how long the test is running, how many users are being targeted, or how many more days we have to creep on people’s accounts without being told on. “We are always testing ways to improve the experience on Instagram and make it easier to share any moment with the people who matter to you,” the company said.

I’m not sure why this level of transparency is needed. But I’m also old and forget things all the time, so my screenshots of stories are of boring things like books to read and recipes to try. But taking a screenshot of someone’s picture, story, or video and texting it to your friend is also a fabulous way to gossip in the internet age.

Prior to the new test, folks were only notified when a screenshot was taken of a private direct message. If Instagram rolls out the new feature, we’ll be able to see who took a screenshot of our story by clicking on an icon (people said it looks like a camera shutter) that appears on the story itself. Another kind soul took a screenshot of what that looks like and shared it (see below).

The alert wouldn’t show up in the main notifications area, and users would have to take a few steps to get to it. So, if you were feeling risky you could keep taking those screenshots and just hope people didn’t find the time to see who their lurkers were that day.

Many folks on the interwebs noted that the new notification is pretty much the same thing Snapchat does so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to people who use both social media sites. But still, who asked for this nonsense? Let us lurk in peace. There is hope: if people stop watching stories because they can’t creep on others, Instagram could cancel the new notifications before they even roll it out to everyone.

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Black-ish Is Nailing Modern Motherhood, And We’re Here For It

Posted: 12 Feb 2018 06:00 PM PST

Motherhood isn't always sunshine and rainbows. Anyone who is a mother knows this. But for some reason, many television shows and movies only show the good parts. And if they do show the not-so-good parts, the character is always seen as "wrong." If motherhood isn't coming naturally for them, clearly they're the problem.

This season, ABC's black-ish has been tackling motherhood head on, in a really honest, groundbreaking way. We know that they don't shy away from the issues we face in America, but to see Rainbow really struggling with motherhood is refreshing, and it shows women that there is no "right" way to mother.

In the second episode of the season, it is revealed that Bow is suffering from postpartum depression after the birth of the family's fifth child. If you recall, baby DeVonte was born prematurely at the end of the third season, and both his and Bow's lives were in danger. Obviously, they've both survived, but now, Bow is experiencing more than just the "baby blues." Her family is unsure of how to deal with her; they're used to her being the strong one, the one who holds it all together.

But finally, Dre steps up and takes her to see a doctor. He wants his wife back — the one who used to keep it all together. Of course, there are some comedic moments courtesy of Dre's ineptitude, but generally the entire episode was raw and honest. Mental health is something that isn’t spoken about enough in the Black community, and for the show to tackle it head on with such honesty proves why the show’s so successful and culturally relevant.

In the episode's most emotionally gripping scene, Bow finally confronts Dre's mother Ruby about the way she disrespects her. Ruby has somehow managed to get DeVonte to sleep, and when Bow asks how, Ruby reveals that she gave the baby a bottle of formula. Since Bow is exclusively breastfeeding, this is a huge misstep, and when Ruby insinuates that maybe Bow's antidepressants are effecting her milk, the line is drawn.

Breastfeeding is still a very complex issue in the Black community. In spite of the obvious health benefits, black women don't breastfeed at the same rate as other groups of women. The struggle between Black women who choose to breastfeed and their families is huge, because so often they hear "why can't you just give them formula?" They are accused of not producing enough milk, or something being wrong with their breastfeeding relationship, because of the severe lack of education about breastfeeding in the Black community.

It can be soul crushing for a Black woman to breastfeed, because many of the top critics are right there in her house or are her immediate family. The way Bow's face just drops when her mother-in-law delivers the news, shows the internal struggle that Black mothers who are committed breastfeeding face when they don't have a supportive family.

Another episode that will hit close to home for many of us moms is the episode where Bow returns to work. She is a woman who has always taken pride in her job and defines herself (in part) by her profession, so naturally, she is ready to get back to it. In a slightly typical television trope, Dre, having gotten used to having her at home, tries to convince her to continue being a stay at home mom and wife, so that his comforts are maintained. Of course, Bow sees this as insensitive (which it is) and reminds her husband that her career is important to her. She doesn't have to have either/or, she can have both. And, she is going to do it.

Obviously, life is way more complicated than that.

When she realizes how much time she is missing with her baby, and how life at work has moved on without her, she unsure of how she fits in at either place. When she comes home from work one day to find that the family has changed the baby's nickname while she is at work, she laments that everything is moving on without her. When Dre yet again suggests that she stop working, she has had enough.

"What do you want me to be? A lady of leisure? Sit on the couch and watch Ellen?" Though she may be using some stereotypes to make a point, we'll forgive her. "This isn't just a job for me, Dre, this is who I am!" Rebound, she nails it.

For many working mothers, going to work gives them a sense of purpose outside of motherhood. In fact, many of us will tell you that working makes us better parents.

These brutally honest portrayals of motherhood are dealt with in a way that only black-ish can. They're the perfect mix of reality and comedy.

There's another episode this season where Diane gets her first period, and this one is heavier on the comedy, but will have every woman nodding her head through her laughter over the awkwardness of having to wear the "backup pants," and then the embarrassment that comes from having to reveal to your parents that you've gotten your first period. Mom gets all misty-eyed in the maxi-pad aisle, and you just need someone to be normal about it. The episode also features Bow's mother, so you know it's bound to be funny.

There are many shows about parenting and family life out there, but so few consistently hit the nail on the head. Black-ish is consistent, and uproariously funny, while bringing to light real issues that need to be addressed in this country. I’m already looking forward to the next episode.

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Midwives Are Amazing, And Here’s Why You Should Consider Using One

Posted: 12 Feb 2018 06:00 PM PST

Both of my babies were born into the gentle hands of midwives, and I will sing the praises of these amazing woman for the rest of my life.

My midwives were highly trained, experienced, and educated (i.e., they knew their shit and based their practices on the latest medical recommendations). But besides all that, their kind, attentive bedside manner went above and beyond anything I'd ever experienced by an MD or other health professional.

I felt listened to, loved, and cared for on a deep level. I was treated like a real person whose wants and needs were valued. Everything that happened during my prenatals and births was explained to me in detail. Nothing was done without my consent. And yet, I was assured that if anything required more expertise than my midwives could offer, I'd be put under the care of an MD ASAP.

As you may have guessed, I was considered "low-risk," which was why I was eligible for midwifery care in the first place. Certainly, high-risk moms should be in the care of an MD. No compromise on that. We all deserve the best medical attention for our particular situation.

But I think many moms who might be looking for a gentler birth—or a birth with fewer interventions—may not realize just how incredible midwifery care can be. And it's not just for "crunchy" moms either. Most midwives work in hospitals, under the guidance of MD's. You can even get an epidural if you use a midwife, if that's something you want (and no shame in that!).

If you want further proof that midwives are a great option for low-risk women craving a less intervention-heavy birth, check out this new study that came out in the November 2017 issue of Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health. The study, led by researchers Laura Attanasio and Katy Kozhimannil, looked at the health outcomes of women who gave birth with midwives at New York hospitals over the course of one year.

What they found is that women whose births were attended by midwives had lower odds of experiencing two common labor interventions: C-sections and episiotomies. Not only that, but midwife-attended births were not associated with differences in severe obstetric morbidity or labor induction.

This is awesome news for moms who are considering midwifery care (as well as for the moms who have been singing the praises of midwives for years!).

"This study is contributing to a body of research which shows that good outcomes for women at low risk in childbirth go hand-in-hand with lower use of medical procedures," Attanasio explains, in a press release from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. "And, there is increasing attention now to overuse of cesarean and other procedures that are not resulting in better outcomes for mom and baby."

The researchers note that the number of births attended by midwives in the United States is actually quite low currently, and increasing that number is a goal we all should have in mind if we want offer less intervention-heavy birthing options for women. Among the 126 New York hospitals the researchers studied, about 25% had no midwives on hand. About 50% of these hospitals did have midwives present, but they only attended about 15% of the births.

But this is not the case in other developed countries around the world. As Attanasio and Kozhimannil point out, while midwives attend about 9 percent of U.S. births, in countries like Australia, France and the U.K., that number is more in the range of 66% of all births.

Big difference, huh? We've got to get on with fixing that, for sure.

And, as the researchers point out, midwifery care is not just about some sort of "feel-good" approach for moms (though that's important too), but fewer interventions lead to healthier outcomes for both moms and babies. Plus, they are good from an economic standpoint, as the births that midwives attend generally cost less, without sacrificing good, high-quality care.

"More midwife-attended births may be correlated with fewer obstetric procedures, which could lower costs without lowering the quality of care," say the study researchers. "This raises the possibility of improving value in maternity care through greater access to midwifery care for childbearing women in the United States."

Fantastic, huh?

So, what can someone like you or me do to increase the rates of midwife-assisted births in our country? First, if you've had a good birth with a midwife, shamelessly shout their praises from the rooftops. Encourage your low-risk birthing friends to hire a midwife. And tell your doctors that you'd love more options like that in your community.

Additionally, if your area doesn't have the option of midwifery care, you might want to contact your legislators to advocate for it. As Kozhimannil explains: "From a policy perspective, this study should encourage legislators and regulators to consider efforts to safely expand access to midwifery care for low-risk pregnancies."

AMEN. With an increasing awareness of the need for less medicalized and more women-centered births across the board, this study bring some welcome news, and we should all take note.

And to the midwives out there who are joyfully and tirelessly helping moms have the kind of safe and empowering births that they want, three cheers to you. Thank you for all you do. It doesn't go unnoticed.

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The Hell That Is A UTI, And What You Need To Know

Posted: 12 Feb 2018 06:00 PM PST

I have given birth twice without medication, and although I would never minimize the hellish pain I experienced while bringing my two sons into this world, I can say without a doubt that there were two other instances of pain that ranked right up there with my labor pain. And one of them is something that might surprise you.

The first is the tummy pain I've experienced as a result of IBS. That shit (pun intended!) has left me sweating, cursing, and writhing on the bathroom floor (and on the toilet, of course) in toe-curling pain. No freaking joke.

The other pain also involved my nether regions (they can't get a break!), and hurt like a mofo. Yep, I'm talking about the pain associated with UTIs. And I don't think people realize how very painful they can be.

Most of us think of urinary tract infections, or UTIs, as an annoying nuisance that makes us feel like we constantly have to pee. Many of us also know that there can be a burning sensation on top of that relentless urge. But did you know that the burning can sometimes amount to feeling like the pits of hell have taken residence in your pee hole and throughout the entire blazing wilderness of your pelvic region?

Oh. My. God.

I've only had two UTIs, but let's just say they've scarred me for life, and now whenever I get any sort of burning, nagging feeling like I have to pee, I start to freak the eff out, drink a gallon of water, and pray to the urethra goddess that I will never have to go that route again.

I got my UTIs while in college. It started with a nagging feeling like I had to pee ALL. THE. TIME. But when I went to pee, not much would come out. Instead, I felt a burning sensation deep inside. Soon, that burning progressed to a fiery pain that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

Finally, I went to the university health clinic where I was tested for a vaginal yeast infection and a UTI. Once they realized it was a UTI, they sent me home with the advice to drink a ton of water, start wiping front to back (which I still do to this day!), and to drink cranberry juice like it was my job.

I took the advice and things began to get better. But they didn't completely go away. That nagging sensation like I always had to pee was still there, though the hell-fire pain had dissipated.

When I went home for Christmas break, things went from bad to worse, very quickly. The pain returned, and now there was blood each time I wiped. Oh, and I'd started to get the nauseous, I'm about to die chills. It was awful.

My mom took me to the doctor, who, upon testing my urine, basically yelled at me, saying that I had waited too long to come and my simple bladder infection was about to progress to a full-blown kidney infection, which could be very dangerous. I was given antibiotics and sent on my way.

Well, those antibiotics cleared things right up in a way that dang cranberry juice just couldn't do. Thank heavens.

Determined never to go down that route again, I learned everything I could about UTIs.

Ready?

Basically, UTIs are caused by bacteria (you know, from your butt and anything else that makes contact with that region) entering the urethra/bladder region and multiplying. And because, as The Mayo Clinic points out, women have shorter urethras than men, the distance the bacteria must travel to reach the bladder is shorter as well, thus leaving us more prone to UTI's. Lovely.

And guess what? Sexual activity is one of the top ways that we acquire UTIs. In fact, after much searching (funny how neither doctor I saw mentioned this), I figured out that my UTIs were likely caused by the diaphragm that my boyfriend and I had started using. Those things are a breeding grounds for bacteria, and no matter how well I followed the directions and took care to wash after, I only stopped having UTI symptoms once I stopped using that damn thing.

As The Mayo Clinic explains, other risk factors for UTIs include: use of spermicidal lubricants (yep, we were using that too), a suppressed immune system, menopause (something to look forward to!), catheter use, uterine tract abnormalities, and just having sexual intercourse in general. Women are #soblessed.

But take heart: There are things you can to do to prevent yourself from getting a UTI. I do them religiously to this day and haven't had another UTI. Always drink of ton of fluids (cranberry juice if it suits your fancy, but there is no concrete proof that it helps); keep things clean in your downstairs area; make sure to pee right after sex; and wipe from front to back to keep poop bacteria out of your urethra.

In some cases, these treatments alone can clear up a mild infection. But you should always see your doctor at the first sign of anything serious, because antibiotics might be warranted. And you definitely want to catch things before they get so out of hand that you literally have blood coming out of your pee-hole and your on-fire pelvis is knocking on death's door.

Trust me: you do not want to go there.

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What You Don’t Know About That ‘Controlling’ Wife

Posted: 12 Feb 2018 06:00 PM PST

Growing up, our tiny childhood world is all we know. If you grow up with eight siblings, all you know is noise and crowded bathrooms and jostling for your parents’ attention. If you are raised by free-range parents, your reality is freedom to explore with few restrictions to confine you. For me, life seemed normal as I grew up in, what I realize now was, a household where addiction seeped through the cracks in the walls. A house where no speck of dust could be found. Where no messes were allowed. And where a little girl lived with perfectly symmetrical pigtails and equally proportionate bows tied to those pigtails. Never a hair out of place. Never a toy left out. Or a dirty dish in the sink.

This is the house you live in when your mother is trying to control her world—but she can’t.

Alcoholism isn’t always what you see in the movies. Alcoholics often go to work every day, rarely appear drunk, and live “normal” lives in suburban Minnesota, like we did. And often the person fighting the addiction plays the part of Dad, Mom, teacher, banker, baseball coach, having no idea they are an addict.

For many, if you call them out and use the term “alcoholic,” they’d laugh, shrug it off, or respond with anger and offense. Yet, the household in which that person lives feels the impact of his addiction every day. The unexpected binge. The paychecks gone missing. The anger at sitting down at a restaurant that doesn’t serve alcohol. The panic at arriving at the liquor store at 9:05 p.m. and finding it closed.

And it’s this lack of control that may cause others in the family, like my mother, to fulfill that need elsewhere. Because an immaculate house is something you can control when you don’t know if you can pay the electric bill this month. So it may take you two hours to get out of the house in the morning because every bed must be made (with military precision), and the kids must be dressed in ironed, matching clothes, and that one picture frame in the living room that was slightly tilted to the left cannot be left that way, and…the list goes on.

The struggle of addiction — the need to fill that void before all else — was not new to my mother when she met my dad. Growing up in the 60s with a father who drank heavily, occasionally didn’t come home (no questions asked, of course), and rained his temper down with fury if his dinner wasn’t hot and ready when he did walk in the door, living with an alcoholic was all she knew. Raised in a house of order, of accepting and following the rules, but also navigating the choppy waters when Dad drank too much, this life was her reality.

Even today, after more than 50 years of marriage, she doesn’t understand or acknowledge that my father — her husband — is an alcoholic. Just like she didn’t understand her father was an alcoholic. And she doesn’t think it abnormal that a dust bunny in the corner of the room paralyzes her from having a conversation or laughing at a joke her grandson says.

Growing up, I didn’t understand either. It wasn’t until a therapy session as a grown adult, during which I was describing my family and my childhood, that my therapist asked, “Is there addiction in your family?” He knew immediately. The need for order, for control, the OCD tendencies that I had carried into my own adult life, into my own marriage (the towels MUST be folded in thirds! That’s not the shelf where we put the milk!) were the markers for living with an alcoholic.

As explained in “The Dilemma of the Alcoholic Marriage” on al-anon.org, “If a man marries a woman because he was attracted by her warm maternal quality, as many alcoholics do, he is likely to be the dependent one. And she attracted to him because of her unconscious desire to mother someone, will be the practical member of the family. She may later bemoan the fact that he has failed in his role as head of the house, not aware that it was she who took the reins and did all the managing. And while she is managing him, the children, the household, and the finances, she's awash with self‑pity because of the big load she has to carry.”

Oftentimes, the spouse of an alcoholic will become a martyr—she’ll do all of the things. Because he does none of the things. And then she’ll passive-aggressively huff and puff around the house in anger, feeling overwhelmed and under-appreciated. Even though she took it all on so that she could have the perception of “control.”

American Addiction Centers explains that, as a result of living with an addict, “A pathological need for perfection and control may result in the formation of obsessive-compulsive disorder or a desire to seek the approval of others to the detriment of their own wellbeing.”

Which is exactly what my therapist saw in me. And I now see in my mother. It’s an ugly, nonsensical cycle that sometimes neither partner even knows they are in.

So when I look back on my childhood, what do so I see?

I see a woman doing her best. I see a woman holding on. I see a woman married to a man who often chooses his vices over his family. I see her wiping the table and scrubbing the baseboards and fixing the ribbon in my hair. Because if the outside world saw us as perfect, then maybe she’d be okay.

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