Ex Files: Dating Crashers

Dating Crashers

I’m at a local bar on a first date with Ryan. Ryan, 29, is a software developer, pursuing his masters and has a winning smile. He’s not terribly tall (kind of a bummer), but we share a similar background: he’s an accidental dad to a two year old toddler. We have pleasant conversation, first about the pitfalls of online dating and then about our kids. I can’t say that we have immediate chemistry. He doesn’t appreciate my sarcastic nature. I have to repeat myself a few times. Then again, I’m “meh” about most of the men I date.

In my peripheral, I see a beanstalk. He’s easily 6’6 feet tall. Hard to miss. I also notice his lack of chin covered by a thick and unruly beard. He’s a few feet behind Ryan, swigging away at his beer. And he’s looking at me as if he knows me. He does. I see him lean over to a blonde, plump woman with a huge, glittering rock nestled between her knuckles. She’s listening, stealing glances at my table and flipping the ring with her thumb and pointer finger. In the corner of the bar, a light bulb dims and casts a shadow on the pair.

It’s Bobby and his wife Jennifer. My ex’s best friend. I went to their wedding about a year ago, five months pregnant.

Bobby grabs his coat and a pack of cigarettes. He’s heading this way. I brace myself.

“Penny?” he says, less as a question and more as a statement.

“Bobby?!” I feign surprise.

Bobby smiles and surveys my date. I can feel the chilly breeze of judgement pass between us. Or maybe it is the cold night air rushing in as the door is pulled open by other patrons. Either way, there is a nefarious aura settling into the empty seat next to me.

“How are you doing?” he asks.

“Great! How’s married life?” I say, trying to divert attention.

“Good. Good,” he says. “I saw Andrew a few weeks ago. He’s getting big.”

Bobby waits for the revelation to side-swipe my date. Ryan doesn’t flinch. I am NOT going to introduce them.

“Yeah, he really is,” I agree. “Well it was great seeing you.”

“You too…take care,” he says with his perma-grin, sans chin. Because I couldn’t differentiate Bobby’s smile from his neck, he resembled the Cheshire Cat, disembodied and fading into the background of the bar. He was always an odd duck. Bobby opens the door wide and lets a whoosh of cold air blast our table. I peer out of the window and see him feverishly texting while sucking in smoke.

Ryan looks at me, waiting for an explanation. When I don’t offer one, he asks, “Well that was weird. What just happened?”

I shoot him a sly smile. “My ex’s best friend.”

“Ohhhh,” Ryan says knowingly. We don’t discuss it further.

Let’s get one thing straight. Bobby and his Pollyanna wife never liked me. They sent SH one wedding invitation due to “seating arrangements.” Clearly a cowardly move. SH threatened to boycott the wedding so they reconsidered. Jennifer, always condescending, didn’t want SH to bring another one of his “girls” who would “fuck up” her wedding. She viewed me with disdain and categorized my accidental pregnancy as “drama.” I am a strong believer of karma- a sort of cause and effect energy transference. Without lifting a finger or sending her a knowing smile, the wheels are already in motion.

Bobby is a despicable character; another psychopath. To illustrate, at his bachelor party he slept with a prostitute. I wish I could say this was an isolated incident. It’s not. SH could be lying, something he did effortlessly, but Bobby’s Cheshire-Cat smile tells me otherwise. Ice princess probably knows her husband is a philanderer. Bitchy, materialistic women like Jennifer, who “wouldn’t accept anything less than four carats,” turn a blind eye for a reason. She’s a camel — KMIL — or Keep Me In Louis [Vuitton].

And believe me, she’s covered in a whole lot of Louis…

5 Baby Shower Etiquette Tips I Learned


I went to a baby shower disguised as a Thanksgiving pot luck. It was a surprise shower with members of Thursday’s softball team. My friend Mel was 5 months pregnant and they just learned the L.O. is a girl. The organizer decided to throw a pot luck and asked everyone to gift according to a sports theme. What happened next was a shower with few, practical gifts for a new mother among well-intentioned supporters. Half our team showed. The whole thing was kind of depressing…

So, after being to more than my fair share, including my own shower, here are some helpful tips:

1. RSVPing “Yes” Means You Actually Have to Show Up.

There is something about accepting an Evite or Facebook invitation that makes commitment effortless. People don’t realize that an RSVP of “yes” actually means…yes, I’m attending. Case-in-point, my team had 20 “yes” responses, 4 “no” responses, and 2 stragglers who didn’t know to click the Evite link. Of the 20, we all listed the pot luck item we were bringing to decrease the chance of duplicating Thanksgiving dishes. Because 12 were no-shows, we had a SAD Thanksgiving. No mashed taters. No candied yams. No mac n’ cheese. No salad. A tiny green bean casserole meant for five. Too many damn pumpkin-themed pies. Three incarnations of cranberry sauce. Two types of stuffing. We did, however, have a turkey, compliments of the host. Had our no-shows been honest, our pot luck wouldn’t have been so lopsided with sugar and sweets.

If you can’t make it, please reply “no,” especially to a pot luck. People plan the shower’s food and activities. Not showing is just plain rude for any party. Also, send a nice note if you can’t make it via snail mail. A personal touch means the world.

2. Gifting is Personal. Give Your Guests Options or Leeway.

So, I completely went against the etiquette of a sports-themed shower with the gift. I wrapped my present in soccer balls, basketballs and baseballs, but the actual gift wasn’t themed. I got my friend bottles, a breastfeeding wrap, cute owl onesies and matching socks. The look of disappointment from the organizer was priceless. She pointed out my faux-pas in front of the baby maker and her husband. The organizer is childless and having been in my pregnant friend’s position, I knew how important it is to contribute newborn essentials. This gift was personal to me. It was a show of support. Knowledge passed down.

If you are going to do a theme for a baby shower beyond “baby” or gender stereotypes, give your guests some leeway. As the title states, gifting can be a personal thing. You don’t get to control what type of generosity a guest wants to bestow on their friend. Additionally, if a guest has a cool gift in mind that isn’t part of the registry, lighten up! If the organizer is kind of a tyrant, bent on themes and conforming to a registry, find themed wrapping paper and get a cheaper registry item to pair with your (much cooler) gift. If all else fails, get a gift card. New mommies LOVE gift cards.

3. If You Can’t Make it, Send or Deliver the Gift.

Beyond the no-show attitude of my fellow softball teammates, most of my childless friends won’t think to send a gift. You are being included in an important chapter of your friend’s life. A little person is being cooked up! This is worth a measly card and/or gift to show your support.

If you can’t make it, send or deliver a personal touch — it goes a long way. Even if all you can afford is a card, just freaking do it! With a cornucopia of hormones, pregnant women are sentimental, emotional and anxious during this time. They need all the support and well wishes they can get!

4. Remind Preggo You Are There For Her.

Sounds like a no-brainier, right? Not so fast. You’d be surprised how many people drop off the map after you’re with child. Just because she’s having a baby it doesn’t mean the aftermath should be treated as a funeral. She is still that silly, sweet and kind friend you knew in college. The only difference is the baby attached to her hip will be cooing while you recount the latest sex-capade or fight with hubby.

Remind her in a card or with a hug, that you’ll be there through her pregnancy and beyond. Share in her joy. Invite her for a drink after breastfeeding is over. Invite her for dinner if she doesn’t drink. Sometimes a mom feels depressed when her relationships with others change suddenly. Don’t forget her. 

5. Don’t Leave Out Hubby or Daddy-To-Be From the Fun.

Guys can be just as excited as their wives or girlfriends to celebrate the new baby. We live in a culture of “Boys Are Not Allowed” when it comes to baby showers. Now, if he’d rather gouge out his eyes than participate, it’s completely acceptable to make it family and friends only. I’d err on the side of being inclusive, lest he feels overlooked or devalued to not share in the excitement. A guy might not express it, but he’s secretly peeved he doesn’t get a little fanfare as a new dad.

Invite daddy-to-be. What could it hurt? Worst case he ouuuuhs and awwwwwhs while he’s checking football scores or reading the news on his phone. Best case scenario, he wins pregnancy trivia and all the baby games. Don’t rob him of the fun! Also, think about inviting non-traditional guest according to your friend’s relationships and network. If she has a really good work friend, consult her on inviting coworkers. If she prefers to do a smaller, more intimate shower with her family, respect her wishes and keep this shower to friends. This is about HER and her new family member. Watch “Bridesmaids” the movie and apply the lessons to baby showers.

Single Mommying Is All About Organization: Scientific and Not-So-Scientific Musings

OrganizeI received inspiration from The Lone Mothers blog about single parenting being “hard.” In short, she was asked by a well-intentioned women if single parenting is difficult. Her assessment was no; she enjoyed all the rewards of parenting plus the ability to make decisions for her child she deemed in the best interest without objection. I completely agree with her. I aim to expand with a more existential view.

A recent comment from my best friend echoed the curiosity of the nice lady in The Lone Mothers blog. She stated, “I don’t know how you’re doing it!” It was a compliment, but the unsaid question was “How are you doing it?”

I answered her with a scientific explanation, as I believe science teaches us more about the human condition than we realize. Like me, she appreciates science and studies, with a dose of emotional intelligence. Note, I am NOT a scientist, just a reading enthusiast. I explained to my friend that atoms are moving and interacting particles floating throughout the universe. When they are fused and organized at the right time, with the right conditions, either by nature or by intelligent design, they become a glass of water, a lightening bolt, a chair, a laptop or a strand of hair. This is the basic premise how life began. A cosmic — and sometimes cataclysmic — rendering of scientific principles colliding and creating. Single parenting is part art and part science.

Yes, I know I’m likening unfeeling atoms to emotive mothering, but bare with me. Single parenting is all about organizing time, resources and priorities in ways that enhance your life and enrich your child’s life. It’s about doing more with less. You compensate for what you don’t have through effective organization. Not enough money to take Johnny to Disneyland? You create your own Disneyland through time, attention and creativity. Little Johnny is disappointed that Dad had to reschedule for the fifth time? You pool resources to go to Disneyland over the summer. A single mother’s attention to detail is as vast as the universe. We watch every twitch of disappointment, every giggle of delight, and we can predict with 90% certainty that a tantrum is around the corner. By organizing our lives with the methodical detail of atoms fused into car frames, we can accomplish our goals, create our children’s dreams, and have plenty of other time to wash the dishes.

Implying a question of “How are you doing it?” evolved from a conversation about grad school. I go once a week, all day, on Saturday. I work full time, drop off Andrew at daycare every morning and afternoon, clean, walk the dog with Andrew, cook, play softball on Thursdays, and date fitfully on the weekends he’s with Dad. I do my homework at lunch. I work from home once in awhile. I pool my paid time off for doctor’s visits or “me” time or “Andrew” time or “us” time. I rely on my parents for emergency help. I pay for emergency help. I get a bit of child support. I participate in “Mommyandme” groups. I grocery shop while Andrew tries to lick a cereal box. I shut down all TV, laptops, and electronic devices every day to spend time with him before bed. I research “life hacks” from mommy blogs. I contribute to the dialogue when the day is slow, if I feel inspired during “me” time, or when Andrew is taking a nap.

The above looks like a garbled list of tasks. But they are choreographed like a dance. Andrew and I are dancing through life. We learn together. We cry together. We laugh together. I work in organized chaos and if I’m lucky, the plans fit into place. Sometimes the factory’s car frame has a crack or two. It’s not always perfect. But you mend the cracks or redesign the frame.

Before I was a single mother, I lived a life without a meaning I could call home. After becoming a single mother, my life not only has a new, inspirational meaning, but I am more creative as a writer and artist. I see feminism in a new light. I am learning to “own” what society calls undesirable.

And I’m doing it all with a fucking awesome day planner.

Breaking Up With A Toxic Friend

HAZMATIt’s bizarre breaking up with a boyfriend, let alone a close friend. I came to this decision when I noticed the boundaries between helpful advice and directives start to blur. My friend, Alexia often babysat for Andrew while I attended graduate school one day a week. This was a paid arrangement: $150. I blame myself in large part because I failed to set boundaries. I failed to let her know upfront that day excursions to the bowels of Virginia were unacceptable. Andrew is barely a year old. Does he really need to sit in a car for four hours round-trip so Alexia can visit her father? My conclusion was no. So I made other arrangements with my parents. This infuriated her. I dared to stand up for my parental rights and question her care giving skills.

Pained that I caused my friend to feel judged, I apologized, but remained firm. If she was going to babysit, it was to be treated as a paid job. You wouldn’t expect an employer to pay you during vacation even if it meant you’d work remotely? If it doesn’t work for the employer, you take time off. This was my logic. Alexia didn’t see it this way. She took it personally. Note to self: never mix money and friendship.

Throughout my early parenting, Alexia would dispense advice on what clothes, toys, and feeding arraignments were appropriate. She’d buy Andrew things without asking because in her opinion, they were necessities I failed to provide. An example was buying Andrew a winter jacket in the warm month of September. I hadn’t the chance to shop yet or peruse for back-to-school sales, but Alexia had. I appreciated her foresight, but in the back of my mind I wanted to do so. The jacket was okay, but not one I would have chosen. It was too big and hard to get in and out of. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. So I continued to stay silent. Lesson learned.

Alexia didn’t just dispense advice on what was tangible, she often directed me during her visits. I know when Andrew is hungry and when he is full- it’s part of the maternal bond. Alexia would insist on continuous feeding or make comments about his nails needing a cut. I’ve got this! I thought. But there was nothing I could do right.

It came to a head this past weekend. After another fight where Alexia insisted on making another trek to visit family while I was at school, I put my foot down. I didn’t want Andrew two hours away. Period. The character assassinations flooded my text message inbox. I simply responded that I didn’t feel comfortable. I would ask my parents to watch him for the day. This enraged Alexia, to the point of calling me a neglectful and selfish mother- a baseless accusation. The fact that I was taking a stand as a concerned mother is the antithesis of selfishness. I told her we should end our conversation before she said things she would regret. She didn’t heed my warning. After another five text messages in rapid succession, I stopped responding.

I really didn’t want this to ruin a three year friendship. I apologized for not setting expectations upfront. But this only encouraged more vitriol. I finally had to respond, “if this is how you really feel, then maybe we are better off not being friends.” I was dumbstruck at the level of anger she possessed, but I shouldn’t be surprised. Throughout our friendship, she’d tell stories of jilted lovers, show me her text responses, and thus a pattern emerged. Alexia was not just over-sensitive, she displayed the type of borderline traits of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. To illustrate one example, once Alexia found out her fiancee was cheating on her with a married woman, she copied all of his “sexting” messages and sent the log to the mistress’ husband. She called him and tried to talk him into divorce. She tried to hold her ex’s expensive ski equipment as ransom so that he would see her.

Now my peace is being held for ransom. She is threatening small claims court for the gifts she purchased for Andrew. She is demanding a check. I don’t pay extortionists.

A book from my childhood, If You Give A Mouse A Cookie is a powerful story about appeasement and boundary setting. The mouse, asks for a cookie. The boy gives it to him. He then asks for milk, a straw, and on and on. The mouse is never satisfied. He’s somewhat of a little con artist, using the system of good nature to his advantage. The asks are small, innocuous at first. But in the story, the boy ends up giving the mouse more cookies, more milk, and so on. Before you know it, what you stand for is given up to “your” mouse for the sake of keeping the peace.

Even though I was close friends with Alexia, cried on her shoulder, called her at all hours of the night with anxiety, I know now that she is just another mouse wanting a cookie. She thrives on personal control, even if it involves someones kid. Her word is gospel, and frankly, I don’t need more warriors to battle.

Life and mothering is a formidable warrior in and of itself.

You’re Not Crazy. #MommyBrain is Real.

I just sent my boss an email. The same exact email I sent her on Friday. Verbatim.

I get an email back with a “?”

“Mommy brain!” I quip in my response.

Crickets chirping. I know this isn’t an excuse. But like my post declares, #mommy brain is real.

As mothers and/or caretakers, our mind is constantly juggling 50,000 thoughts, feelings, ideas and tasks. Yet, we must be on top of it 100% of the day with no excuses.

Some day, a genius innovator will sell an implantable microchip, a second brain. It will be intuitive enough to think for us and control voluntary and involuntary movements so that EVERYTHING gets done each day. They will smartly market to moms. Build it and they will come.

Until then, I will get an eye roll for my #mommybrain excuses. I don’t do well with check lists. I make a list as a symbol of empowerment. I WILL do XYZ today. Inevitably, it goes to shit, a crumpled ball in my coat pocket.

A 2010 study found:

“In the first months after giving birth, the study found, parts of a mother’s brain may actually grow. Even better news, doting mamas who gushed the most about how special and perfect their babies were showed the most growth.

The parts of the brain that grew are involved in motivation, reward behavior and emotion regulation. That suggests that, by reshaping itself, the postpartum brain motivates a mother to take care of her baby, and then feel happy and rewarded when she does.

But studies in mice, rats, and other mammals have shown growth and other physical changes in the brains of new mothers. These changes appear to prepare the animals for their new roles. And the mothers’ brains remain altered for the rest of their lives.

To see if the similar changes might happen in people, Kim and colleagues scanned the brains of 19 mothers a few weeks after giving birth and again three to four months later. Their results, published in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience, showed a small but significant amount of growth in a number of brain regions, including the hypothalamus, prefrontal cortex and amygdala.

These are the areas that motivate a mother to take care of her baby, feel rewarded when the baby smiles at her, and fill her with positive emotions from simple interactions with her infant. These brain areas are also involved in planning and foresight, which might help a mother anticipate her infant’s needs and be prepared to meet them.

In other words, basic changes in the brain might explain the unconditional love, constant worrying and snack-packing habits that many people call a “maternal instinct.”

The researchers speculate that pregnancy hormones prime the brain to be open to reshaping when a newborn arrives. And while it’s not yet clear whether changes in a mother’s brain stimulate her to care for her child, or whether caring for a child changes the brain, the study showed a clear relationship. What’s more, mothers who talked most positively about their babies underwent the biggest changes.”

Uh-oh. Am I not praising Andrew enough? Am I too negative with this whole “mommy” thing they call parenting? If my doctor did a before and after brain scan, would my before brain look robust and healthy and my after brain resemble oatmeal gruel?

Alas and alack, the “not good enough” mommy thoughts return. Cue controversial topic… is it wrong to still want to be myself when I was pre-baby? I still love to learn, write, work and have me time just as much as I did before. Clearly my hormones didn’t change that. Also, is it wrong to play a little Godsmack when junior is sleeping in the backseat? Or view my previous 20-something-lifestyle photos while making Andrew’s snack?

I don’t think that gushing about your baby 24/7 is the healthiest thing for mommas. I think this study tries to reassure parents that new mother anxiety is normal, but I can see societal norms influenced in this study-  a dangerous and slippery slope. Yes, this study is grounded in scientific testing, but is it truly causative? I can’t prove my questions are valid, but it makes me wonder Carrie Bradshaw-style: Does a bigger brain make you a better mother?

Parent Marketeering- Insane Baby Products That Make Every Parent Feel Guilty

Yes that’s right, I’m creating a new word. It’s a combination of “marketing” and “racketeering,” on the belief that marketers are leveraging our parental anxiety to sell products. A lot of the marketer’s strategy hinges on overstating a problem. This is dangerous because your doctor should be the consultant, not a baby product. Racketeering is defined as “a service that is fraudulently offered to solve a problem, such as a problem that does not actually exist, that will not be put into effect, or that would not otherwise exist if the racket were not to exist.” – Wikipedia

Baby and parent marketing is starting to resemble a racket. They read our “mommy” blogs and use our community to create focus groups or understand product reviews. They listen to our anxiety. They extort our cash for a false sense of security.

I’ve found some examples of this searching the internet.

Stokke Stroller: $1,249


“The Stokke Crusi Stroller is a multitalented connection stroller. Stokke Crusi lifts your child closer to you helping you explore together and grows with your child. The Stokke Crusi stroller’s multiple talents include a durable chassis with soft suspension that transforms into the widest range of stroller options using the following interchangeable Stokke quality components: Stokke Xplory & Crusi Seat, Stokke Crusi Carry Cot (sold separately), and Stokke Crusi Sibling Seat (sold separately).

The Stokke Crusi Stroller Features:

  • 2 way rear and front facing seat and 5 seat positions from resting to upright high chair position
  • You can adapt the foot rest position as the child grows
  • Highest quality textiles with opening for ventilation of the hood to prevent your child overheating

My analysis: Okay, you don’t NEED a $1200 stroller. There are great products for $300 and below that do similar things. Pay close attention to the keywords: multi-talented, lifts your child closer to you, and prevention of overheating. This description communicates safety and bonding with your child. And, AHHHHH the dreaded overheating! It makes the careful parent cringe at the term in light of the media bonanza on HLN with car overheating deaths.

Tortle Repositioning Beanie: $19.99


“Tortle is an FDA cleared knit beanie that helps prevent and treat mild to moderate Flat Head Syndrome. Tortle makes the job of repositioning newborns safe and easy. It is recommended that all newborns wear a Tortle for the first 6 months of life to support healthy development. Tortle works by gently deflecting your baby’s head from side to side while they are lying on the back of their head.”

My analysis: Flat Head Syndrome sounds AWFUL and SCARY! But FDA-approved? I’m in! What they don’t tell you is that this is completely normal and resolves within about six weeks. It’s not PROVEN that this product will resolve fat heads. “It is recommended” by whom? A doctor? The FDA? The Tortle product development team? There are some flat heads out there that need more than a silly beanie that makes your baby look like he/she is ready for a hair treatment. There must have been a ton of flat heads walking around in the 1800’s because I’m pretty positive they were unaware of “treatment” for this “syndrome.” As always, consult your doctor first. My son had a slight misshapen head from birth and I never had to employ repositioning treatment. As he grew, this was not permanent. Simple repositioning during nap time can help.

“Many vaginally delivered babies are born with an oddly shaped head caused by the pressure of passing through the birth canal. This usually corrects itself within about six weeks. But if your baby’s head hasn’t rounded out by age 6 weeks – or if you first notice that your baby has a flat spot on her skull after 6 weeks of age – it’s probably a case of positional plagiocephaly.” http://www.babycenter.com/0_plagiocephaly-flat-head-syndrome_1187981.bc

Tommee Tippe Bottle Warmer: $39.99


“Heat everything from breast milk to baby food while preserving essential nutrients with the tommee tippee Closer to Nature Electric Bottle and Food Warmer. Just place your bottle or food jar (sold separately) in the warmer and adjust the temperature dial according to the included guidelines.”
My analysis: You’re a new parent and you clearly cannot be trusted to warm a bottle naturally without burning your poor baby. Doing so will also ROB your baby from the nutrients they need. Pay close attention to the guidelines… we know you need the help! Good job on the Closer to Nature moniker… nature requires more bottle warmers and less breastfeeding…
Summer Infant Lil Luxieries with Whirlpool Spa: $64.99
“Give your precious little one a relaxing bath with the Summer Infant Lil’ Luxuries Whirlpool, Bubbling Spa and Shower. The motorized water jet helps make bath time fun by creating vibrations and bubbles, while the ergonomic shower handle provides a gentle flow of water and is easy to hold. The large, double-walled tub is insulated to help keep water at the right temperature. Suction cups allow the removable spa/shower unit to attach to a tub wall for extended use, and the newborn cradling sling with a plush bolster can be used in the infant tub or in an adult tub or sink to help make bathing your bundle of joy simple and safe.
My analysis: When you think babies, you think spa! Duh! Full disclosure, I have this tub, given to me from a well-intentioned relative. Truth is, Andrew could care less if there was a whirlpool. The only person getting a kick out of this contraption is me. In fact, it really should be marketed as a foot massage. Andrew loves to make bubbles and splash, so this Lil Luxury was completely lost on him. In his little mind, I’m sure he’s thinking that the fun is when he creates the bubbles. Nobody needs to do it for him.
RaZbaby BPA Free Keep-it-Kleen Pacifier: $4.99
“Keep-It-Kleen Pacifier closes when dropped! Nipple stays clean. It’s true design genius- stylish, comfortable and ultra functional. The closing shields are attached to the pacifier, no more lost pacifier covers
My analysis: Oh the dreaded, linty pacifier! It evades the best baby wipes and soap cleaning (BTW baby wipes for boogers do the same job as normal baby wipes).  BPA? Oh-my-gosh-BPA-causes-cancer-right?
“The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said that BPA is safe at the very low levels that occur in some foods. This assessment is based on review of hundreds of studies.”
BPA fear mongering kind of upsets me. Until we have a concrete, scientific study or test that tells us what’s going on, don’t profit from our ignorance or scare us silly. That’s just mean.
Also, what’s with marketing departments incessant phonetic-spelling of products? Do they think it makes the product “smarter” because it resembles baby-speak? Parents want to feel connected to the English language after 24/7 “babba” babble. You don’t need to pander.
So, my favorite marketeers, you don’t need to overstate safety, hygiene, or scare us with your marketing ploys for us to buy your products. We are already alert and terrified enough. The smart parent, who is probably a loyal follower if you play your cards right, will stick to a smart product. If you’re looking to market to overzealous grandparents however, then keep on keepin’ on! That’s a different post altogether.

#SuperMom or #SuperBitch?

I’ve been in quite a few “mommy and me” groups. Some were informal and others required a nominal, monthly fee. I’d like to think I export a brand of free-expression parenting I learned from my parents. Now, I’m not one to preserve stereotypes, especially for women and mothers, however there are some undeniable and shared characteristics in many of the groups. A lot of the women formed high school-like cliques. Some were gracious enough to introduce themselves. One conversation went along the lines of this:

Mom: “Hi, I’m Nancy. How old is your L.O.?” ( mommy-speak for “little one”)

Me: “Hi, I’m Penny. He’s almost one.”

Mom: “That’s great! He’s adorable. My second one, Natasha, is 9 months.”

Me: “Aw, she’s cute!”

Mom: “Thanks, isn’t she? So are you one of the working moms or stay-at-home?”

Me: “Working mom.”

Mom: “Me too! Ugh, it’s so rough. Is your husband a nurturer or an authoritarian? Mine’s a little of both.” (cue nervous chuckle).

Me: “Nope, it’s just us.”

Mom: “Just you? Oh. How do you do it? I can barely remember to shave half the time!” (cue an awkward laugh).

Me: “Um, well I have plenty of help. We make due.”

Mom: “That’s just SO great!”

Me: “Yea…”

Then the nervous-Nellie kind of wraps the conversation with where Andrew is in development. She finds an excuse to leave and goes back to her clique. I see the gaggle murmuring. I can’t help but hear (or imagine) “single mom” in their conversation. I’m not very popular.

Once in a while I meet another working, single mom. Some of those clearly define themselves as “single mom by choice,” as if it were a built-in defense mechanism.

For humor’s sake, I’ve created a cast of characters from experience. Some are straight bitches. Others are good-intentioned souls. This list characterizes my experience. Every mommy group has at least one of the below in the DC area. But trust me, they do exist abroad in some incarnation. Everyone believes they have a supermom power. Some powers are better than others:

Susie-Q Stay-at-Home: She is either impeccable or a disheveled mess. I usually only see her once in a blue moon on the weekends as she does mommy and me groups during the week day. She is married and either complains that her husband burns the midnight oil or extols his virtues. She loves being a mom. It’s her life’s purpose. Superpower: Clairvoyance.

Yuppie Working Mummy: She is a worker bee and makes it known. I see her in the afternoon groups or on weekends. She is incredibly proud of breast pumping for six months at work. No one understands her, least of all her spouse or family. She talks less about her kids and more about work and interests. She has every electronic device known to man in her diaper bag or purse but she can hold a conversation without missing a beat when the baby pukes on her neat Ann Taylor dress. She has a dedication to her kids’ education and well being. Superpower: Shape-Shifter.

Single Mother By Choice: A woman who marches to the beat of her own drummer, she is relaxed and plays it cool. She usually has one child or two and she is usually older. She takes time off of work to spend time with her kids. She is interesting, engaging and exceptionally compassionate with her children. She makes you wonder why she hasn’t ruled the world yet. Superpower: Magnetic Force Shield.

Divorcee Mommy: She often looks tired and a bit lost. Sometimes she is an amalgam of either the Yuppie Working Mummy or Susie-Q. She often talks like a single gal in her 20’s, and sometimes she is. She is undergoing a rough or long divorce. There is never enough time and time-sharing makes her depressed. Superpower: Regeneration or Energy Manipulation.

Working Single Mother: I kind of fall into line with her and the Divorcee. She usually has never been married or was married a long time ago. She is just as tired and as lost looking as the Divorcee, although she usually worries about child support and visitation matters more than the actual court process. There is wisdom behind those tired eyes. She is used to doing more with less. Superpower: Elasticity.

Boho Part-Time Working Mother: She is a free spirit and likable. She is often married, feels a greater purpose in life, and still likes the challenge of working a couple days a week. She is into organic everything. She dispenses advice from every mommy blog that is “green-friendly,” because she has the time. She alternates daycare with home care. She is a nurturer and a helper. Superpower: Healing.

Tiger Mom: #SuperBitch. She barks orders at her kids who act like perfect angels. I don’t get her. At all. She is always talking about what accomplishment is next for Johnny or Pamela. Working or not working, it doesn’t matter- her demeanor is off-putting regardless of circumstance. She looks down on those like the Boho, Divorcee, or Single Working Mom. Sometimes she is disguised as a Susie-Q or Yuppie Working Mummy. She is the ring leader of her clique. Superpower: Laser Vision or Mind Control.

Absentee Mom: She is immersed in work or her iPad/iPhone/e-book. She doesn’t pay too much attention to her kids or bothers with group conversation. She acts like the play group is a check mark for the week. She is just too busy. You see her kids screaming “Mommy look” all the time. She will look for a brief second, smile, throw a thumbs-up and go right back to her phone conversation. Superpower: Invisibility.