- This Little Mermaid Pool Party Collection Is A Summertime Dream Come True
- Tammy Duckworth Becomes First Woman To Give Birth While Serving In U.S. Senate
- Why I Hate School Portals And Digital Education Records
- My Husband And I Traveled For 3 Weeks Without Our Kids
- Why SNL’s ‘Raisins In Potato Salad’ Joke Is Spot On
- I See Through You, My Fake A** Friend
- How This Mom Is Helping Breastfeeding Moms Who Travel
- Why I’m Done Trying To Be A ‘Good’ Daughter-In-Law
Posted: 10 Apr 2018 07:48 AM PDT
This Little Mermaid pool party collection has everything you need this summer
Are you a fan of The Little Mermaid? Actually, it doesn’t really matter — this adorable line of pool party must-haves is drool-worthy whether you spent every recess period in second grade belting out “Part of Your World” from the tops of playground equipment (ahem — *slowly raises hand*) or not. Get ready to go freaking broke, no regrets.
The line is through Disney in partnership with Oh My Disney, an official fan site, which totally fits, because I’m fan-girling very hard over basically every single item.
Get ready to spend all summer rolling up to the edge of the pool for drink refills in this magical Sebastian float.
Obviously when swim time is over, all lovely mermaids need these sparkly slides to keep their feet safe from sharp clam shells.
And what pool party is complete without appropriately summery music blasting from this adorable Bluetooth speaker? You guys, it lights up.
Is there any other acceptable way of drying off your human body parts than with this perfect mermaid tail towel?
After the pool party, what all bright young women sick of swimmin’ ready to staaaaaand (sorry) need are these amazing mermaid tail leggings.
And what better to carry all your mermaid gear than this Ariel tote?
But if a sweet, red-headed, vocally talented mermaid isn’t really what speaks to your soul, there’s something for you too with this Ursula hoodie.
Of course you’re going to need pool day pics for the ‘Gram whether you’re an Ariel or an Ursula, so better add this waterproof phone holder to your cart.
Because you’ll definitely want to take 73 selfies while wearing this freaking precious tie-waist tank top.
And in the spirit of saving the best for last, behold: the only drink koozies you’ll ever need.
OK, now that you’re all out of money, sit by the pool and enjoy the goods.
Posted: 10 Apr 2018 06:43 AM PDT
Senator Tammy Duckworth welcomed baby girl Maile
Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth made history on Monday when she became the first United States senator to give birth while in office. Duckworth welcomed her second child to the world, a baby girl named Maile Pearl Bowlsbey.
The badass senator, who lost both of her legs serving in the Iraq War, is one of 10 women to have a baby while serving in Congress. The other nine ladies had their children while serving in the House of Representatives. But Duckworth has done that, too. She had her first daughter, three-year-old Abigail – when she was representing a suburban Chicago congressional district, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Duckworth and her husband, Bryan Bowlsbey, named baby Maile after another lady veteran in the family. “Pearl Bowlsbey Johnson was Bryan's great Aunt, an Army Officer & a nurse who served during the Second World War,” the Democratic senator tweeted. “He spent many summer months with her while growing up, we feel her presence still and are grateful for her service to our nation during the most challenging of times.”
Like a lot of families, the Duckworths had trouble conceiving. “We're also so grateful for the love and support of our friends and family, as well as our wonderful medical teams for everything they've done to help us in our decades-long journey to complete our family,” she tweeted Monday. The senator said getting pregnant the second time was "a struggle,” though her first pregnancy wasn’t easy. After trying various fertility treatments over the years, Duckworth became pregnant with Abigail via in vitro fertilization. “I've had multiple IVF cycles and a miscarriage trying to conceive again, so we're very grateful,” she shared with the Sun-Times.
And just like a lot of moms we know, Maile’s arrival didn’t follow the birthing plan Duckworth and her doctor created together. Her big sister Abigail had a cesarean birth, but baby Maile decided to join the world early. “It was such a rapid delivery that there was no time for a C-section or even to get across the river to the GWU Hospital,” explained Duckworth Communications Director Ben Gash Garmisa. She was born at 7:07 a.m. at the Virginia Hospital Center.
The senator has been in the news for her various bills that help parents. She’s made certain airports have places for breastfeeding mothers, and that student parents have on-campus childcare. She’s become known for her support of affordable child care, paid parental leave, and other family health issues.
“Parenthood isn’t just a women’s issue, it’s an economic issue and one that affects all parents — men and women alike,” Duckworth said in a statement. “As tough as juggling the demands of motherhood and being a Senator can be, I’m hardly alone or unique as a working parent, and my children only make me more committed to doing my job and standing up for hardworking families everywhere.”
Posted: 09 Apr 2018 06:00 PM PDT
Kids hate them.
Parents hate them.
Even teachers hate them.
No, it's not new common core math standards, or another dreaded science project. It's the dreaded school parent portal system we all have to use to keep track of our kid's school progress.
Technology has brought innumerable advances to education, and with it, has made many tasks for teachers and parents much easier and more efficient. Things like email have certainly streamlined communication between teachers and parents, and the ability to receive homework assignments online, and stay connected and aware of school events through school district websites are all things we'd probably be lost without.
On the flip side, we've also been introduced to online academic parent portals –– software which allows the tracking of our child's educational progress, and the permanent new home of all of our child's education records. We've long ditched paper report cards for the digital version, and although we're saving trees and a ton of red ink, we're also tip-toeing into dangerous territory.
How so? Well, because these online portals have the ability to notify parents of something our child does only seconds after it happens, we’re slowly growing accustomed to being notified of every little thing our child does in school — just about every single day. This does not bode well for any attempts to reduce our obsessive intervention into the minutiae of our kids' lives, and it also encourages a great deal of over-involvement by parents.
Just because we have the ability to find out what little Johnny scored on his spelling test today, doesn't mean we need to find out that day, lest we tell ourselves not knowing makes us terrible parents. Our infatuation with our child's school progress is now perpetuated by automated daily updates on everything from behavior, to how many minutes their multiplication math facts worksheet took to complete. What happened to patiently waiting several days for a graded spelling test to come back to see what our grade was?
It's not only parents asking that question, but teachers as well. Instead of spending their planning periods actually planning, they're frantically entering grade and behavior data into portals to keep up with demands for that information. Demands that are coming from parents and their own administration. And when they don't have grades loaded into the system at the unreasonable speed at which they're being asked to load them, you've got irate parents calling and emailing the school, complaining they're not being kept abreast of their child's progress frequently enough, or quickly enough.
All this makes for very anxious teachers and children. Recently, my son found himself pacing our home nervously because I had forgotten the portal login, and was unable to tell him what his current science grade was. (Forgotten, because I currently have three different ones to keep track of.) Was this my high school senior worrying about an AP Chemistry mid-term and the potential college ramifications? Nope. It was my fifth grader, tears welling up in his eyes because he was afraid he failed his last science test, and wanted to check his progress and see how badly it would affect his quarterly grade. Let me repeat that. A ten-year-old child was experiencing major symptoms of anxiety because he was unable to login into a parent portal to assess his school progress.
And the teachers? Just ask them what their thoughts are, and I would bet that the pain in the ass factor trumps the convenience factor quite heavily. Ask them what happens when the school's Internet goes down, and they're spending a huge chunk of their evenings and weekends hand writing plans and grading papers, and then having to repeat that entire process again by loading the same information into a software program.
It used to be kind of a big deal to wait until spelling test were handed back, then see the little scratch and sniff "Well done!" sticker pasted to the top, then safely tuck the test into your backpack so you could proudly present it to your mom when you got home. Then it would be taped to the fridge with all of your other graded papers — your teacher's perfect handwriting telling you how great you did, or what you need to work on for next time.
All of that has been replaced by sterile and impersonal portal spreadsheets that nobody has time to print out anyway, let alone want to display on fridge doors. If there was some way to scale down the grading parent portal technology madness a bit, all while easing teacher's tasks and keeping parents up to speed on their kid's progress, can someone invent it?
If not, just bring back the scratch and sniff stickers and red pens, please.
Posted: 09 Apr 2018 06:00 PM PDT
Family time. I get it, it's really important. I value it beyond measure. However, at 6 and 7 years old my kids can speak up for themselves when ordering in a restaurant, they can tell someone if they are hot or cold, and they can, in fact, just grab a sweater themselves. They can figure out their outfits for school in the morning, recite off their favorite breakfast foods, and tie their shoelaces. They know where I keep the extra toilet paper, and can read most school notices and tell the time.
All these were signs to me that it was finally time for us — me and hubby — to escape the routine, the structure, the endless thoughts and lists of laundry, dinner, floor cleanliness, and homework. My kids' childhoods have been pretty idyllic up to now. Despite living in a place with ridiculously cheap daycare (that’s 7$/day canadian, natch!), my kids never went because between my teaching and their father sommelier-ing (?), we had the best schedule for the kids. Let me repeat that, for the kids.
I get them up, dressed, and breakfast-fed, and most days I drop them off at school. Their father picks kid A up at 10:45 and kid B at 11:30 for lunch (we live a few blocks from the school), cooks their lunch, walks them back. Then he picks them up at 3:30 after cooking (all from scratch, trained at a high-class French restaurant, yummy!) the second meal of the day. Poor dude doesn't even get to eat that one as I come home soon after school and he leaves for the restaurant. Then I am all over the bath, homework, piano practice, re-heating dinner, story and bedtime. I get to housework and laundry at night after their bedtime, and hubby finishes whatever I don't finish the next day.
So, it's awesome for the kids. They get quality time with both parents, a short school day compared to all their friends in after-school care, a clean home, two home-cooked meals, and our focus on them … every… single… day.
But where are we in this picture? Hubby and me? We are a quick kiss in the morning as I leave, a lingering kiss in the driveway in the afternoon, and a sleepy discussion around midnight or later if I can stay up. And lots of texts and phone calls during the day, mostly practical with a handful of loving or sexting thrown in. Saturdays are sacrificed to the gods of swimming and judo classes. We truly catch up on Sundays, our one day that we spend as a family with no scheduled events, and often feel lucky that we connect that way because our schedule wouldn't help any couple.
We fell in love in a crazy, consuming way in our early 30s, and started to have our babies right away in booms-booms that were only 15 months apart. It's been unreal busy since then, but we still get along really well, we're amazing friends, sex is great, and we agree on almost all the parenting/house decisions.
Although we aren't in trouble in any way, we could be someday. We could get so busy that we drift, flirt with distractions, find other interests, start arguing, stop having sex and connecting. It could happen; we see it all the time among the parents of our kids' friends. It would be sad and regrettable, but normal too, in a world where our daughter's grade one teacher uses a smartphone app so she can send messages to both parents simultaneously because with so many split, blended, and complicated family structures, texting one parent is just not enough. And I don't want that for us.
So we took off for three weeks. We left the kids with the grandparents, 10 pages of various instructions, schedules, doctor and dentist numbers, health cards and the keys to the house and car, and little packets for the kids to open along the way. We backpacked through Cuba, no reservations, off the beaten path with little Spanish but lots of pantomiming. No cell service, and Internet only every few days. We slept on a beach, and went skinny dipping much to the amusement of the wildlife officer who ran across us.
We ate 60 cent pizzas and drank 5 cent coffees from the side of the street. We drank rum from suspiciously un-labeled bottles while wandering the famous Malecon at midnight in Havana. Nothing but a bus departure or a check-out time got us out of bed when we didn't want to get out. We went to museums that didn't need a cartoon character to keep our attention. We went snorkelling and hiking. We napped in public parks. I hung out and read books and books while hubby fished. We made love whenever the mood struck us, and it struck us often, as stress, sleep deprivation, and schedules were no longer issues. We not only got out of our house, but we got out of our comfort zone and our common languages (I'm anglophone, hubby is francophone).
At 40, we traveled like we were 20 again. And we had time to talk. We missed the kids, and talked about them. Then we talked about us. Then we talked about anything.
It is here, with my seven-and-a-half-year-old daughter with the splash of freckles and animal obsession, and my six-year-old ghostbusters-fanatic son, that I draw the line. I refuse to lose my awesome relationship because we give so much to our family life. I don't regret our choices, because I see how happy, healthy, smart and nice our kids have become.
But one day they will grow up and leave us, and giving them memories of walking in on hubby and me making out among piles of laundry or dirty dishes, or laughing so hard together that we start crying, is the best gift I can give them, because it'll give them #relationshipgoals to aspire to in the future. Because I want the kids to have what I have … a family life and a grown-up relationship that I would sign up for again, in a heartbeat.
Posted: 09 Apr 2018 06:00 PM PDT
Last weekend, during Chadwick Boseman’s hosting stint on “Saturday Night Live,” he performed in a “Black Jeopardy” sketch as his Black Panther character T’Challa. In the sketch, typical Jeopardy! categories are replaces with ones like, “Aw Hell Naw,” “Girl, Bye,” and as always “White People.”
Without giving away too much of the sketch, while T’Challa struggles in most of the categories, when he selects the category “White People” and is prompted with a question about Karen — a white friend bringing her homemade potato salad to a black barbecue — he makes the connection to the commonly-held belief that white people don’t cook the same way black people do. T’Challa notes that Karen would likely under season her food or add something strange, like raisins. Seriously, we’ve seen what you’ve done to things like cornbread and macaroni and cheese.
T’Challa’s realization had me thinking of other things that might fit into the category of “white people” on SNL’s ever-popular “Black Jeopardy” sketch. Not bad things like racism, of course, but simple things that are generally harmless and more a matter of personal/cultural preference. Like drinking white wine from a juice box during your kid's soccer game, for example.
There is nothing inherently wrong with any of the things on this list, but when you think of them, you can only ever picture a white person doing it. Now, before you read any further, please know that this list is meant to be a joke. So unclench your buttcheeks there, Brenda, it's not that serious. I don't hate white people — I just think a lot of the shit you guys are into is hilarious.
So, if you don't have a sense of humor, just stop reading now.
Seriously, look in one of those LL Bean catalogs, nothing but white people. Sweating messes with black women's edges.
Some will argue that this is a millennial thing, but it's a white millennial thing. Only white people will spend 12 dollars on toast.
Y'all just love being crammed in a car for days on end, visiting places like Death Valley and the World's Largest Ball of Twine and eating at every Cracker Barrel along the way.
I mean, I'm always down for Cracker Barrel though.
Only white people would use cloth toilet paper, claiming to be saving the environment. It's like when Sheryl Crow said she used two squares of toilet paper to wipe after a poo. That's bullshit…literally.
This I know from personal experience, since I used to be a receptionist at one. White women love to sip a mimosa while someone blows out their hair.
These are the whitest fucking sunglasses on the face of the earth, second only to aviators.
Get out the flower crowns, it’s time for Coachella or SXSW or whatever other ridiculous concert in a large outdoor space you can find.
Okay, confession time, I actually fucking love these boots. I live in Southern California, and I'm still buying a pair when they come to Target. But they remind me of traipsing through a field in England with my Corgi, which is soooo white. And every white lady with an Instagram has a picture of herself modeling these, while clutching a Starbucks cup.
Tied in to road trips, only white people would sleep in a tent on the ground, go fishing, and eat their dinner over a campfire with no indoor plumbing.
Merely existing is an extreme sport for black people, so we're definitely not jumping over cliffs attached to just a piece of fiberglass.
I have white friends who sell leggings, lipgloss, essential oils. You name it, white women are selling it. I even like some of it, but have you ever seen black people in any of the advertising. No. Why? Because, that’s not our thing.
Dressing Up Your Pets
This also applies to dressing up like your pet.
I mean, I love me some froyo, but it's so white.
Hip Hop Line Dancing
There are no words…
Yes, I know #notallwhitepeople. I already said that! So, don't clog up the comment section with your "I'm white, and I don't like any of this!” It's just the observations of a black woman (and I love some of the things on the list myself) with a ton of white friends who have a penchant for nonsense. Don't take everything so personally, Diane, that’s peak white people.
Posted: 09 Apr 2018 06:00 PM PDT
They say there are three types of friends in life: those who enter for a reason, those who enter for a season, and those who are there for a lifetime. But there is a fourth type — the type who doesn’ really fit into any of these categories, the "fake friend" type — and you, my dear, are the latter.
You are shallow, self-absorbed, and two-faced to the core, and I had to learn this the hard way.
Of course, I didn't know this when our friendship began. In the early days, you seemed genuine, compassionate, wholesome, and kind and I poured my heart out. I came to you when my marriage was failing, and I was struggling. I turned to you for advice when work became overwhelming. When I felt as though I couldn't make it through, and when I was deep in the throes of a depressive episode, it was you I turned to for an ear. For a shoulder. For a safe place to cry.
And you did the same with me.
We spent many days (and nights) having deep conversations via text. Over cocktails. And on the phone.
But then something changed. You changed, and our relationship began to splinter.
Scratch that: It shattered, and the shards that remained cut me deeply. To my core. Right through my soft and vulnerable heart. And I know why: you were never really my friend.
Well, you were never really a good friend.
Of course, I know that sounds harsh, and maybe it is, but highsight is 20/20.
Our time apart has allowed me to see right through. I have clarity now.
And you? I see through your facade, and it hurts. The lies hurt.
Make no mistake, you weren't intentionally cruel; that would have been better. Harshness would have been easier. Instead, you listened to me. Then, you lied to me. You lied through clenched teeth and with a crooked smile, and you did so while I poured my heart out on 42nd Street, nodding with compassion. With a shared sense of understanding and commiseration. Because the greatest lie you told me wasn't a manipulative one — it wasn't a he said/she said story about a mutual friend (though I had heard my fair share of those too) — it was the way in which you lied.
You smiled to my face, and offered your empathy, but whispered behind my back.
And I know because I have talked to others now. People who share my experience, and together, we have pieced this strange situation together. We know now that you aren't the loving, maternal woman you portray, but the mean girl most of us have long since left behind.
Make no mistake: I know why you act the way you do. You are anxious and apprehensive, unsure and insecure, and you are a people pleaser. It is part of your demeanor. Your personality. It is ingrained in your core. But your desire to be loved and accepted caused you to put on a fake front.
And when the lies began to unravel, like they always do, I was left wondering who you were.
I wondered what — if anything — about our relationship true and real.
But the hardest pill to swallow wasn't what you said, it was what you did.
It is what you failed to do.
You see, you looked in my eyes and told me you loved me. You told me you cared for me, and you held my hands and swore you'd be there for me. Anytime. Anywhere. All I needed to do was to reach out. To ask. That’s what friends were for.
But when I needed you most you were absent. My calls went unanswered. My texts were unread.
And get togethers? They failed to happen. You were always too busy. And that hurt. It still hurts.
Of course, I know the irony in writing this: in putting down these words I admit I've been lying. That I've been a fake ass friend too. And you're right, I haven't always been as upfront as I wanted to be.
As I should have been. I should have confronted you before now, and let you know how I feel.
And for that I am sorry.
Fake or not, you deserve better; we all do.
I can no longer listen to your lies — and accept them. I cannot play a part in your dramatic little game, and I cannot put myself in a position which makes me question my self-worth.
Which makes me feel anxious and insecure.
So, fake friend, this is my goodbye. I'm sorry I had to do it this way, but I couldn’t find a better way just yet. The wounds are too fresh. The pain is too new, and while we had good times — I will never forget the good times — the bad far outweigh the good and I need to step back for my own well-being.
I need to walk away.
And if you find yourself reading this, or you feel defensive as you recognize yourself in this post, please remember: good friends don't need to lie. Good friends simply step up. They show up, and they stick around in good times and in bad.
The best friends love you for you. Those are the friends you stick with, and never leave behind.
Posted: 09 Apr 2018 06:00 PM PDT
Any working/pumping mom will tell you that the struggle is REAL. Maintaining your milk supply while separated from your baby can be stressful AF—not to mention having to hook yourself up to that ghastly pump multiple times a day, finding a comfortable place to do it, schlepping all your milk home to your baby…the list goes on.
But things get complicated beyond belief when you have to travel for work as a breastfeeding mama. Not only do you need to make sure to plan in advance, pumping and stockpiling enough milk for your baby's needs while you are gone, but you have to pack your hefty pump, along with storage and transporting materials for the milk you will pump. Then, you have to make sure you have a way to store all that milk—i.e., a fridge or freezer large and reliable enough to hold the milk you'll need to store.
Then, on top of all that, you have to bring all that milk home to your baby. And depending on how long you've been gone, and how much you've pumped, that can be a lot of milk to keep cold enough and transport through airport security. (Side note: airlines are required by law to let you bring your milk on the plane, but we all know that airlines don't always make these sorts of things easy, as some mothers have reported).
SIGH. I swear, just writing out all the planning required of traveling, breastfeeding moms practically gave me an anxiety attack—and I am well past the years of having to even consider anything like this. Can you imagine the stress a mom has to face in order to pull something like this off?
Well, one mom who found herself in exactly this position realized that there had to be a better way, and she took it upon herself to solve it. Meet Kate Torgersen, a mom of three, who struggled with this very scenario back in 2014, when her twins were 8-months-old (yes, she was nursing and pumping 8-month-old twins, which already makes her a hero in my book).
Torgerson found herself facing a 4-day business trip—and hoping against hope that she would be able to make it through while maintaining the milk supply she had worked so hard to establish when she first started nursing her boys.
"I was committed to breastfeeding the twins for at least 12 months (as I had done for my first child)," Torgersen tells Scary Mommy. "For me, the business trip introduced some difficult trade-offs. To ensure that the twins continued to get breast milk (since they had never had formula), it would've been easier for me not to take the trip," she explains.
But she wanted to take the trip—both professionally, and personally. She just needed to make sure that her boys would get the breastmilk they needed while she was gone, which would amount to about two whole gallons of milk (wow!).
Torgerson soon learned that pulling this off was going to be no easy feat.
"I started troubleshooting the logistics of shipping my breast milk home and quickly learned that there were no turnkey services to help," she says. "To do it, I would need to find a way to freeze two gallons of milk in my hotel room — which was next to impossible in a hotel mini fridge. Then, I was going to have to cobble together daily shipments by sourcing shipping materials and a daily supply of dry ice to my hotel room without a rental car. It was just too much to do on top of the conference and all of the pumping I was doing!"
You can say that again. Torgerson eventually found a way to get through the trip—pumping like crazy before she left so she could leave enough milk for her twins; pumping while she was traveling; cramming her pumped milk into the tiny hotel fridge; and also managing to transport those two plus gallons of milk onto the plane (yes, really!).
But she thought long and hard about how ridiculous it was that she had to go through all that—and realized that there had to be a better way. That's when the idea for her business was born.
"I got back from the trip and was determined to create a simple solution to this complex problem," Torgerson said. "Over the next year, I worked on Milk Stork whenever I got a chance. Since I was working full time, that usually meant working on it during my pumping sessions, or at night when the kids were asleep."
This woman is a hero.
Milk Stork, the company Torgerson founded, officially launched in August of 2015. It's the first of its kind—a company that helps working/traveling breastfeeding moms ship their milk home for their babies. And it's totally awesome.
Here's how it works. The company provides the mom with everything she'll need while she's away to ship her milk home (except the boobs and the pump, of course). This includes boxes that come in two different sizes based on the mother's needs, as well as milk storage bags, shipping seals, and instructions. The boxes include a cooling system, and are pre-labeled with overnight FedEx shipping labels. The mom can either drop the box off at a FedEx shipping center or arrange for a pick-up at her location.
This video explains it all in more detail:
Yes, it's true that this system may not work for every traveling/pumping mom (the lowest priced box is $79, plus shipping, which is pretty reasonable, but not within budget for everyone). But it's a start, for sure. Sometimes employers even pay for the cost of the service, although clearly not all employers are willing to do this.
And yes, in a general sense, there is a whole lot more work to be done to make the life of a working/pumping/sometimes traveling working mom that much more manageable. That is the understatement of the year, actually! Still, it's heartening to see moms like Torgerson who are taking matters into their owns hands, and coming up with real-life solutions that make it possible for moms to reach their breastfeeding goals while working their asses off like the badass goddesses they are.
Posted: 09 Apr 2018 06:00 PM PDT
The cracks in our relationship started when I was pregnant with my first son. Before that, I'd worked my ass off to make my MIL love me as much as her other daughters-in-law. But I was fighting an uphill battle — they all live in the same town and we don’t (not coincidentally, she’s a major reason we don’t). But I did not let this stop me. I sent cards on pertinent holidays, and if my husband sent them instead, I made damn sure my signature was attached. I subscribed to the endless, annoying, unnecessary family text message thread. I cleared the table. I loaded the dishwasher in the configuration she had directed, which she always found a reason to rearrange in a faux-cheerful voice.
Still, I persevered.
But then, when I was pregnant with my son, I had to stay at her house for several days without my husband. I was suffering from crippling prenatal depression that led to me weeping for hours on end, staying up until 4 a.m. reading and sleeping until 3 p.m. I was also barfing pretty much constantly. She showed zero sympathy. Oh, sure, they fed me. My father-in-law, bless him to the moon and back, took me on a tour of their historic city and out for a lovely Italian dinner. But when I sat on the back steps and cried into my phone for my husband to come home now, they ignored me — then pretended it had never happened. No hugs. No pats. No "it's okay"s. Then when I found the first stretch mark on my boob, my first stretch mark ever (believe me, not the last), and raced upstairs on the edge of tears, my MIL frostily told me to get over it. "Everyone has them," she snapped.
And in that moment, something inside me snapped as well. I was done.
I stopped doing things just to please her. I kept up the social contract of politeness, but I didn’t go out of my way. She wanted to go to the museum with her grandkids? Well, I wanted to stop at Starbucks beforehand — and damn if I wouldn't. In fact, I didn't want to go to the museum at all, so pardon me if I stayed home with Dad (my name for my FIL) and read some juicy novel. Nope, I didn't want to eat at her beloved restaurant. We could go somewhere more upscale with better food, thanks — because if I'm not cooking, it best be worth my money.
I also gave up on the annual beach vacay. Before that, I'd expressed nothing but unbridled enthusiasm at spending two weeks in a smallish beach house with the entire extended family, wedged into a corner of the smallest room with the crappiest air conditioning. When I was knocked up, we graduated to a slightly larger room with slightly better air conditioning, which at least meant I didn't sweat through the sheets at night.
But as my number of kids increased, my enthusiasm waned drastically. Just because my MIL wanted it and had been going to this vacation spot since she was born, didn't mean I had to drag my family hundreds of miles to do the same thing. She did not understand this. But she did not need to.
So I dug my heels in. The first year, we didn't go at all. Since then, we've gone for less than two weeks. We don't always eat at the exact restaurant she wants to, because I don't eat seafood. Moreover, I began to insist that our spring break was our spring break, and we would be going on a trip with our own nuclear family — not a vacay with the in-laws, thanks. It was clear who was making these decisions. My MIL knew it. She thought I was keeping her away from her precious boy. Nope. I was keeping her away from me.
These days, we deal. We dance around each other. She once told me to take off my Obama shirt — which I'd just tossed on, unthinkingly, after a shower — because she’s a Republican. I changed, seething the whole time and setting our relationship back to frosty. My Christmas presents have definitely decreased in quality and quantity. Hers have gone to pics of the kids and kid-decorated ornaments. That's the beauty of kids: you can throw them in between any miserable familial relationship and, if both people are fundamentally decent, they cover a multitude of sins. My MIL is fundamentally decent. I hesitate to speculate on her character beyond that; after all, she did raise my husband, and he's one of the best men I've ever met.
Maybe it's because she didn’t like my hair or my dogs or my taste in books. Maybe I grew up too poor (she had maids and a nanny). Or maybe, most likely, she's just oblivious, wrapped up in her own self, and doesn't notice the way she affects other people. But, I certainly fucking notice, because her behavior and its affects fall on me and my family. And I am done with it.
I asked my husband to tell her not to get the kids giant-ass Christmas presents this year. She did anyway. I hid them as soon as they lost their shine and donated them once a month had passed.
Because I am so done. I realized I'll never stack up to the sugar-sweet daughters-in-law who live in town with her, whose children she watches every week (and won't stop comparing to mine), who join her for dinners at the local country club and take her advice on choosing everything from china to schools. I'll always be putting a foot wrong, wanting something different, and unwilling to compromise what I want for me and my kids for the sake of what she sees as hers.
Because I'm learning that, unlike her kids and their other spouses, I was never hers to begin with. And by now, I've become okay with that.
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