I have always been proud of being a strong woman. Even when I was young I was described as “tough” and “no nonsense” (while sporting the most feminine of lacy pink frocks – I was born tearing down that juxtaposition it seems). I have been called “fierce”, a “shit kicker” and a “bitch” with both approval and disapproval in equal amounts. These monikers feel like a perfectly tailored cocktail dress – they fit me and I wear them well. They are family heirlooms and I shine that badge of not taking anyone’s crap with pride.

I equally take pride in my physical strength. I’ve been weightlifting for about six months and I absolutely love it. I can deadlift 20 lbs more than I way and that makes me feel like Wonder Woman and Xena had an amazonian warrior princess baby and that baby was me. My kids marvel at my ability to do pull ups. Friends ask me advice about lifting. It is all glorious and rewarding.

However, my body does not always live up to the “tough lady” persona. I have struggled with anemia in one form or another since I was born. Actually, that’s not quite accurate, it was not a struggle. My parents had to feed me liquid iron when I was an infant, I am told I eagerly awaited each metallic drop that hit my tongue (a fact my grown up palate can’t quite accept), but for the majority of my childhood and teenage years it did not affect me in any noticeable way. My parents were strict about the steadiness of Flintstone’s Vitamins that I took and occasionally I would have to take an extra supplement. I was a normal healthy teenager who played soccer and ran and swam. I did not think of it.

As I grew older and had my children, the anemia started to pop up more often. It was always mentioned and monitored during my pregnancies and I had to take iron supplements on top of the prenatal vitamins to keep my levels up. I was miserable, mostly because I am not what one would call a “glowing” kind of pregnant person, and I was tired, but I worked out of the home right up until the end of gestation without issue. I had to watch what I ate but with diet and supplements it was utterly under control.

In the past five years things have worsened steadily and the verb “struggle” is very real these days. When my levels are low I am exhausted – ran a marathon and then swam for hours level of exhaustion. I get dizzy if I push myself too hard. I have horrible stomach issues and I get muscle aches in my hips and legs. When it is severe sleeping is difficult and the act of eating soup is so physically draining I have to lie down afterwards. A few years ago I got the flu when I was anemic and I was bedridden for a week. My doctors thought I had mono.

Last week was a bit rough, my levels bottomed out. I took it easy, upped my supplements and skipped the gym. I had been feeling better, not quite 100% but better and I decided I could tackle arm day.

I looked at Fitocracy and saw that I had bench pressed 80 lbs before I was anemic. Usually I tack on five pounds every week, but since I am still recovering from feeling so bad I decided to keep it at the same weight. I loaded up my barbell and did one set of four. It was much harder than the last time I did it but I got through it. I took my normal 60 second rest and then went at the second set – off the rack, down and up “one”, then down and slight panic. I could not get the bar back up, my arms were too weak. The dude who was casually spotting me asked if I was okay as I dumped my weights. My cheeks felt hot and I muttered something about just not “cutting it” today. I sat there for a moment, remembering how I crushed it two weeks ago. I had even done an extra set for fun, with the same weights that were littering the floor around me. Memes about how your arms don’t give out, your mind does flashed through my head. I thought about how the people who write them have no idea.

Perhaps, because I have been gifted with such a strong personality it makes it more difficult to swallow when I am physically weak. I feel unbalanced, like I’ve accidentally gotten the wrong physical form.

It has taken a lot of time for me to readily admit that sometimes I am weak.

It has taken a lot of soul searching to accept my body.

And the most colossal effort to be kind to it and listen to what it is saying, no matter how much I don’t want to hear: slow down, take it easy.

Today, I physically could not do what I did with relative ease two weeks ago.

Today, I did something that took more effort than a bench press – I  listened to my body, took a step back and replaced the weights minus five pounds.

I did not give up. I did not feel defeated. I modified my workout, finished arm day and then ran intervals.

I did not get a PR today, but I have no doubt that I am strong.

Kids Aren’t For Everyone or How the Myth of Total Motherhood Hurts Everybody aka Parents: Treat Yo’self

Have you ever been asked when you are going to procreate? Or when you are going to bring a sibling into the world to join your current child? Or asked why you haven’t gotten pregnant yet? Or if you are trying? Or why the hell you have so many kids already? Or if you are going to ‘try for a girl/boy’?

If you have lady parts of any configuration of one or more of these questions have likely been put to you at some point in your adult life. That is because “motherhood” is an assumed part of being a woman. More to the point, what goes on in your personal uterus is considered part of the public domain. In general society, these questions are considered “normal” rather than extremely invasive, presumptive and rude.

This is something that needs to change, but it is going to take time, generations of time. We unfortunately have no control over other people. We can answer politely, give them a big ol’ “Nun’ya” or simply walk away, but we can’t stop them from continuing to ask every ovary owner the same jerk questions. We can’t stop these people from assuming motherhood is what all females regardless of race, class or area want to participate in.

Something we can control is ourselves. We can control the equally pervasive ideology that goes hand in hand with “mandatory motherhood” and that is the concept of “total motherhood“.

Total motherhood is the assumption that all child rearing responsibility rests solely on the mother. That once a woman begins the raising of a child she absolves herself of any and all worldly pleasures outside of said child. She alone must bear the weight of choices regarding the human she is in charge of. That any choice she might make will be the end all be all of her worth as a human, including but not limited to: feeding/sleeping/dressing/educating and cleaning the child.

In short, “total motherhood” is the philosophy that in order to be a good mother one has to be a martyr.

That, my friends, is complete bullshit.

Having children is not a walk in the park. It takes sacrifices. One must give up their time and boat loads of money for the care and keeping of kids. You have to be ready to give up sleep when your baby is awake in the middle of the night – depending on the child this could last for years. You have to be willing to cancel plans at the drop of a hat because your child becomes sick unexpectedly. You have to be able to show up when they need you.

Also: kids are grody and you are going to have to be okay with dealing with ALL of the bodily fluids…on your couch, bed, floor, bathtub AND person.

Considering all of that, is it really so shocking that a good portion of women would like to opt out?

Yes parenting takes sacrifice, but the cult of “total motherhood” when internalized takes it roughly one hundred steps too far.

I have heard mothers say they haven’t been out of the house without their child since the kid was born (and their child is four years old).

I have heard parents judge anyone who sends their child to daycare because they should be “raised by their parents, not strangers”.

Moms who skip taking care of themselves.

Parents who don’t go on dates.

People who literally give up every facet of themselves in order to focus their entire lives on the small being they are caring for.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”? My experience has certainly shown this to be true. I tried the whole total mother/cult of domesticity thing. My only joy came from my child, his milestones, his giggles. However, I felt trapped, alone and miserable for a good portion of the time. And I spread that misery to the rest of my family.

This is not to say one can’t stay at home and be happy. I also found happiness being a stay at home parent, after I quit martyring myself.

I am one of the lucky ones, I figured out early that if cared for myself, I could do an exponentially better job for others. When I took time to recharge my child had a lot more giggles and I could handle tantrums without feeling quite as frazzled.

For me writing, yoga, sewing and running help my overall life satisfaction. Sometimes it is as simple as reading a book, drinking a latte at the coffee shop while it is still hot or taking a walk alone with my dog. The ability to be a person who is not in charge of another person, if only for an hour, is enough to remind you of who you are.

Everyone needs space to think.

Self care is important because YOU are important.

So reach out, build a village. If you have family just *dying* to watch your little one, let them. Coordinate with other parents to swap childcare every other week. Hand the baby to your partner and take off for the grocery store (go on and stop for a coffee and a cookie to eat on the way). Let the pre-schooler veg out in front of Thomas the Tank Engine or Frozen and watch a movie OF YOUR OWN CHOOSING on your computer with headphones.

Find a way. Find yourself. Your kid will thank you.

They probably won’t thank you until they are thirty or so, and then it will probably not be a thing they say to you, but trust me.

Oh and while you are at it, tell everyone to lay off your sister/cousin/friend who is child-free, because that is the most understandable decision a human could make.

Why I Don’t Hit My Kids

I know, I know, we’re all disappointed by the lack of creative title but this particular post is written to forsake artistry for honesty, cleverness for clarity and I intend to be as straight forward as the title suggests.  (Now to see if my intentions prove themselves truthful).

I don’t hit my kids and when I say that I mean I do not: spank, swat, switch, tap, pop, smack or otherwise raise a hand nor any other instrument with the intention to cause them the sensation of physical pain.

(Now immediately I’m going to head off the objection that people who spank their children are not intending to cause them physical pain, but to correct behavior. The act of spanking is an attempt to correct behavior through the motivation of avoiding the repetition of physical pain.

That is what it is.

If you can not resolve yourself to this plain, technical fact of the matter you and I have something in common. The fact that I can not reconcile myself to hurt my children purposefully, even a little bit, is a main reason I don’t favor this form of parenting.)

My main reason, aside from the one addressed above is: hypocrisy.

Every single day, from the day they gain control of their limbs until they day that they fully grasp the concept I remind my boys, “We don’t hit.” or “Be gentle.” In my opinion the “Do as I say and not as I do” method of teaching is ineffective.  Children model their behavior after the adults they see around them – it’s the reason why my two year old likes to sweep for example.  Smacking Jimmy for whacking Suzy in the back of the head is only going to teach him that hitting another kid will get him hit- it doesn’t teach him that hitting is not okay.

Which of course comes to another point: hitting is not okay.

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