Real Talk from a Working Mama.

Originally featured on Elephant Journal January 23, 2019

Some motherhood real talk:

Last Thursday was the first time Littlest One went to daycare and joined Biggest One. It was gut-wrenching, but not nearly as bad as the first time I dropped off Biggest One at daycare. That day, I sobbed for about half an hour and welled up again as soon as I ran into a friend and she innocuously asked, “How’s it going?”

Thursday wasn’t so traumatizing, because I’ve been super lucky to have a friend nannying Littlest One in our home, while I’ve been working part-time for the past few months.

Although now, it all feels rushed. After dropping them off, I felt bereft. And free.

Being a working parent is like peeling and cutting a pungent onion. There are lots of tears, it overwhelms the senses, and if we’re not careful, we may be at risk of losing some precious flesh. Talk about the many layers of complicated.

These arrangements are nothing new. I mean come on, I just watched the original “Mary Poppins” tonight. Being a working mom is nothing new. But damn, it’s hard.

I love my job. I love the people I work with. I love what we do. I also love these two little firecrackers who have my eyes and their daddy’s mischievous smile.

I spend nights calculating childcare hours and worrying if I’m doing this parenting thing right.

These are the moments when I feel most tired. Not the all night nursing sessions, or fending off my sliver of bed and rumpled sheets from a marauding toddler, or…

Read the full article here.

You Missed the Best Bit of Television Today.

Originally featured on Elephant Journal January 3, 2019

If you missed it, today, the best bit of television happened on C-SPAN.

This afternoon, the 116th Congress opened and the United States House of Representatives voted on the next Speaker of the House.

Unsurprisingly, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi will again take the helm in Congress.

Watching the camera pan around the packed chamber may seem like the most boring bit of slow TV you could find—even Netflix wouldn’t pick it up. I mean, come on, it’s C-SPAN.

But that camera revealed more than just a lugubrious roll call vote.

There were the faces of the rising stars on the left, names you’ve probably heard plenty about. Maybe even follow on Instagram. Ocasio-Cortez. Tlaib. Davids. Omar. Haaland. Pressley. Escobar…

Read the full article here.

10 Things Not to do When Traveling with a Toddler.

Originally featured on Elephant Journal December 18, 2018

Not long ago, my husband, toddler, and I dropped everything to fly around the world for a family emergency.

First and foremost, toddlers are little bundles of entropy, with sweetly redeeming giggles and grins. And they can be little demons in squishy fluid-oozing bodies. They make for exciting traveling companions.

We previously considered—and ultimately decided against—the same leisurely trip to visit family, because: toddlers. The variability of toddler moods on a good day can be crazy tempestuous, not to mention while traveling. Since we were forced to make the 48 hour journey from Alaska to Ireland anyway, we learned a few enlightening lessons along the way.

My husband and I have done a lot of international traveling. He’s originally from Ireland and I’m from Alaska. We met in India seven years ago and before baby came, we covered a fair portion of the world and racked up the airline miles to prove it.

But parenting and traveling? It’s newish territory for us.

Mostly, everyone we met while crammed into tin cans in the sky were sweet and accommodating. Traveling internationally tests all of us, especially those of us who are parents.

I once sat next to a mother on a nine hour flight with an infant who cried for approximately eight hours and 45 mins of the journey. Another passenger kept coming up to our row of seats and offering to take the mother’s little one to give her a moment of respite and each time, the mother politely declined. Finally, after hours of this, the other passenger came up, grabbed the baby from the mother’s arms and walked away down the aisle. The baby stopped crying immediately and all the passengers around us let out a collective sigh. The mother put her face into her hands and…

Read the full article here.

He’s not My Son, I’m His Momma.

Originally featured on Elephant Journal January 31, 2018

A few months ago, I dropped off my son at daycare for the first time.

He was excited by all the new toys and playmates, while I frantically tried to hold onto my hot tears until I stumbled out the door.

Nothing really prepares us for the shocking separation between a momma and newly independent child. It’s heartbreaking, exhilarating, and traumatic all rolled into one great big pile of sleepless nights, changing roles, and soggy tissues.

I also learned a painful lesson in ownership. My son isn’t mine.

Biologically yes. My body grew his sturdy frame and beautiful eyes. And I most definitely gave birth to him.

By creating prolonged physical space between us for the first time, we both learned (well, I relearned) that we are both functioning individuals on our own. Radical! Often this is shocking for new moms. We know it intellectually, but it’s incredibly easy to let our sense of self be defined by parenthood.

Our language feels so woefully inadequate to describe our deepest bonds—what we say aloud creates the relationships that we live.

Too often, we parents approach parenthood with ownership. My child, my daughter, my son, without ever analyzing the power dynamics, expectations, and relationships we create with our words.

I don’t feel pride in saying my son, I feel pride in being his Momma. This slight shift of perspective can fundamentally change how we approach parenthood and hopefully how our children grow into independent…

Read the full article here.

Trump is making it Hard for my Immigrant Family to live a Normal Life.

Originally featured on Elephant Journal November 30, 2017

Like many working people, my husband and I want to take a mortgage out on our house.

There is only one hiccup—my husband is an immigrant.

How many of us take the inner workings of normal daily life for granted? How often do we ignore the news, keep our noses to the grindstone, and watch too much reality television because what’s out there definitely doesn’t affect me here?

Until it does. I didn’t pay much attention to United States immigration policy until I fell in love with an immigrant. Then my whole world changed.

Falling in love while traveling abroad sounds romantic, but in reality it means years of sometimes heartbreaking long distance dating and the perils of immigration. Skype calls, thousands of dollars in plane tickets, digital anniversary cards, constant explanations of “yes my boyfriend is real, he just lives in another country,” and loneliness.

True, there are the romantic getaway destinations, the excitement of absorbing a new culture, and of course, love.

But love doesn’t get us far with immigration.

Read the full article here.

Feminists Don’t Do This.

Originally featured on Elephant Journal August 21, 2017

When I run into former colleagues, I dread the inevitable question, “So where are you working these days?”

I take a deep breath, lengthen my spine, and with defiance and a touch of embarrassment, I respond that I’m currently staying at home with our little one—and that I unabashedly love it.

Their eyes always widen and I imagine the internal judgment. The same judgement that I used to give, unsolicited, to those I knew who gave up their jobs when a little one came along.

To begin, let me apologize to all the women I judged for not being working moms. And the ones I judged for working too hard. Being a parent is a radical choice. We try to make decisions that benefit not only our children, but ourselves.

We’re all just trying to get along in this messy, imperfect life. 

People who know me well are unsurprised to hear how judgmental I can be. Until recently, my Myers-Briggs personality rated incredibly high on the judge-y scale. I grew up with a very clear sense of right and wrong, and little tolerance for what I perceived as wrong.

This translated into my personal expectation of feminism.

Of course I’ll be a working mom. Of course I’ll juggle all the things and be all the people. Of course. Of course. Of course.

Parenthood kicks ass—both in the “yay I totally dig being a parent” and the “my ass is being kicked” varieties.

Becoming a parent not only reaffirmed my commitment to reproductive justice, equality, and access for all, it forced me to re-evaluate my assumptions about what it means to be a feminist.

And the conclusion I came to?

Choice.

Feminism is choice. It’s the choice to be the best that we can be in the circumstances we find ourselves. It’s the choice to determine our own destiny. To be, to do, to create a life that is authentic and true. When we are able to make the decisions that are best for us…

Read the full article here.

One Simple Thing to Get Rid of Stress (& It’s Definitely Not Baking a Unicorn Sparkle Cake).

Originally featured on Elephant Journal June 10, 2017

Every yoga and meditation teacher worth their salt will remind us to breathe.

The good ones will also give specific body cues. The really astute ones will gently remind us to release our jaws.

Why?

Like most of us, I spend a lot of my day convinced that I’m busy. All day, every day, it’s something—and it’s exhausting.

We’ve convinced ourselves that we need to constantly be:

productive

successful

making something

buying something

learning something

doing something

busy

busy

busy…

I can’t be the only one who gets stressed seeing all of the short video clips of recipes, DIY projects, hairstyles, and children’s activities constantly cropping up in my social media news feed. Like angrily stressed.

Of course I should have the time to make a unicorn sparkle cake with five different colors and confetti that rains down over everything and is impossible to clean up, while teaching my baby to sing the ABCs in seven different languages after I put avocado on all the things.

Geesh. I’m exhausted just writing that all out.

I’m also guilty of losing sight of the present moment. While nursing my little one, I think about making breakfast. While in the shower, I wonder if I really want to go to law school. While getting dressed, I remember that I need to take out the recycling. While taking my little one for a walk, I try to avoid imagining the mountains of laundry spilling out of the dryer. While eating dinner, I calculate how much time I’ll need to attend my upcoming board meeting. While falling asleep, I worry about all the people I forgot to text back.

We’re all guilty of it. While it may look like multi-tasking, what we’re actually doing is deflecting and feeding the monkey mind—that little voice that distracts us…

Read the full article here.

How the Deepest Massage of my Life Brought me Back to my Body.

Originally featured on Elephant Journal March 28, 2017

A month ago in Dubai, I had the deepest massage of my life.

As the massage therapist stretched, pulled, and pressed on my sore exhausted flesh, I immediately knew this massage was different.

Like so many of us, I often walk around somewhere up in my head and barely notice my feet meeting the earth. This tendency to live in my mind is what compelled me to play competitive sports as a child, then find yoga and dance as an adult.

Although my habit is to live up in my comfy cerebral space, my body craves being lived in. Sometimes vigorously, but mostly just actively, even if it happens in fits and spurts. I’ll spend days not doing much intentional movement and then I’ll get the itch and dream of running—sprinting down my street. Or I’ll get the taste of cobwebs on my skin and I need to move. Now. Jump. Stretch. Shimmy. Climb something until my chest heaves and sweat makes dusty rivulets down my legs.

I love massage and I’ve had my fair share of them—in seven different countries. I adore the ritual. I crave the therapeutic benefits. I need the relaxation. I cherish the self-care.

My mother introduced me to the magic of massage when I was a teenager. After getting professional massages together as a birthday treat, my mom decided on a whim to buy a massage table. Her intention was to give me and my brothers all the benefits of massage from the comforts and ease of home.

I can remember one sunny summer day she set the table up in the grass of our backyard and gave each of us a sugar scrub rub that ended with a run through the sprinkler. Unfortunately her dream was…

Read the full article here.

Mindfulness in the Pediatric Ward.

Originally featured on Elephant Journal Feb. 2, 2017

Being in the hospital gives me PTSD.

Like actual PTSD. My breathing is shallow and fast, I start feeling trapped and claustrophobic. I sweat. The really smelly kind of sweat. My mind fills with a torrent of fear that drowns out all other thoughts.

And to my horror, when I get angry at not being heard, I cry. When the tears burn down my face, I become even angrier that I’m crying and less able to speak up. 

This is why when I told my husband a year ago that we were going to have a baby, I also told him I’d like to have our baby at home. He was already familiar with most of my hospital traumas, including the discovery that I’m allergic to two common medications—after they were pumped into my IV. Twice.

I’ve been rushed into emergency surgery 3,000 miles away from home and I’ve spent a week as a medical test subject. I also have the type of veins phlebotomists dread. It takes three sticks on average for a needle to find a suitable spot. I once sprayed a two foot stream of blood across a wide-eyed nurse. 

After a month or so of petitioning for a home birth, he finally agreed and we found the most extraordinary midwife. We had a healthy pregnancy and a dream birth at home. Six hours of calm in a safe space with no medical intervention and full-on mindful breathing resulted in a healthy, happy, eight pound, 15 ounce bundle of joy.

All of our intentional avoidance of hospitals has now flown right out the window. 

Today is my second day in the pediatric ward hovering over my three month old son as he struggles to breathe. It’s taken me two days, two long exhausting days to wake up. Entering the hospital through the Emergency Room is like being placed on a…

Read the full article here.

Why Does My Baby Smell Like Tapas? And Other Absurd Questions of Motherhood.

“So how’s being a mother?”

To be fair, I’m guilty of it too. Making small talk is awkward and it seems like a harmless question. I know I’ve asked it without any real idea what I was asking.

It’s really an absurd question. Each time I see someone for the first time since having little one, it’s been close to the first thing out of each person’s lips. I don’t blame them. Maybe it’s me. I never know how to answer. I get a goofy smile on my face and say “I love being his momma!”

Which is completely true. I don’t know how I feel about being a mother in general yet, but I love being my little one’s.

After that, I don’t know what to say. I kind of wrap my arms around myself in an imaginary hug of our son, or if I’m actually holding him when they ask, I look down, smile, and give him a squeeze.

Then I sort of wait. Because how do you explain motherhood in a handful of sentences in the same manner as discussing the weather? Most of the time, I get a smile and a “oh that’s wonderful!” Sometimes I get a quick peek into someone else’s crazy postpartum experience. Raw authentic words that cut quick to the heart of the transition from being Not A Mother to being A Mother. Then the moment is gone and we’re back to discussing the actual weather.

It’s absurd.

It feels like a quick dip into the swift underground river passing under all of our feet. Motherhood. We don’t like to get too deep and be whisked away-just enough to feel the force of the river and then back to solid ground. Now that I know it’s there, it’s hard to ignore.

I’m extremely fortunate. I had the dream labor and birth that we planned. A quick, safe, transformative experience. We have a happy healthy (barring colds-damn you colds) little boy. I haven’t experienced any trauma postpartum or PPD. I know a lot of women do. I’d like to find a better way of honoring their experiences with a better question. And the time to actually hear their answers.

So far, motherhood is full of absurd questions. Like, “is the milk stain surrounding my entire nipple area and half my boob super noticeable?” Or “why doesn’t this outfit come in my size?” Or “did you pee on me again?” Or “why does my baby smell like tapas?”

I found myself saying this last one out loud a few weeks ago. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why little one smelled like a hummus platter. I hadn’t eaten anything nearly so delicious for longer than I could remember. So it wasn’t from breast milk. That also means I couldn’t have accidentally spilt anything on him.

The smell slowly dissipated and I forgot all about it. A few hours later the smell came back while little one was practicing jumps and kicks in my lap. He was warm and I was starting to crave flatbread and small plates.

It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize what was causing the smell. Little one loves bath time. Sometimes I almost think he purposely has poo explosions to get back in the bath. After each bath, I make a nest of towels and give little one a baby massage. With olive oil.

Each time he was getting warm, the olive oil was too. Mystery solved. Go figure. If it’s good enough to eat, it’s good enough to put on the skin.

I blame the delayed realization on the absurdest question of all:

“Is your baby sleeping through the night?”

Bwahahahahahahahaha.