We need to talk about the mental load

We need to talk about the mental load

Even if you’ve never heard this term, you know what it is. It’s the accumulation of all the small details you manage in your head that keep your family’s life running smoothly. It’s remembering who needs to be where and when, and that everyone is appropriately attired for Tacky Sock Day and Wacky Hair Day, and every other fake holiday invented to push moms over the edge because we don’t already have enough to manage.

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The cult of Leaning In

The cult of Leaning In

I was always the kid who shot for the stars. At any given point I wanted to be a Supreme Court judge, a NASA scientist, or an Olympic high jumper. While my zest for the law and astrophysics didn’t last, my ambition to do something big and important did. From a young age I was driven to collect accolades the way other kids collected stickers. National Honor Society, Cum Laude, MBA—nothing gave me more satisfaction than adding another title or set of initials next to my name. As I began my career, I was fiercely ambitious with my eyes always fixed firmly on the next rung of the ladder. Then I had a baby.

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Creature of habit

Creature of habit

I’m proud to be a creature of habit. This has taken me a long time to come to terms with. For most of my life, I wanted to be the fun-loving, free-spirited girl known for her spontaneity. Call in sick to work and go sky diving? I’m in! Adopt a puppy on the way home from dinner? Absolutely! As much as I wanted to be that girl, though, it just wasn’t me. Looking back, this should have been clear from the diaries I kept as a kid. In them are pages of daily, minute-by-minute schedules that include activities like “Play with Barbies” and “Water fight with neighbors”. Apparently, these things can easily slip your mind when you’re seven.

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Happy Galentine's Day

Happy Galentine's Day

Before I met my husband, I dated some amazing women. Some of them are still an important part of my life. We text on a daily basis, talk on the phone at least once a week, and every couple of months we spend a weekend together. They are strong, beautiful, and understand me in a way my husband never will. I’m grateful every day to have them in my life. What’s more, I know the only reason I do is because I’ve learned to treat my female friendships with the same care that I would a romantic relationship. So, I’ve learned to date my friends.

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Why I'm not a mess (and neither are you)

Why I'm not a mess (and neither are you)

I have a confession to make: I am not a mess. As a mom, this is apparently unusual. Moms who are a mess dominate social media. They have a dedicated hashtag (#hotmessmom) and their meme game is strong. Interestingly, though, when I scroll through their posts, their lives don’t look that different from mine. I have dropped my son off at daycare in my pajamas without brushing my teeth. I have lost my patience and yelled at him during a tantrum. I have worn the same outfit and gone without washing my hair for days. I have counted the hours until bedtime and opened a bottle of wine at 3pm on a snow day. None of this, though, makes me a mess. It makes me human. Which has me wondering, when did we start defining imperfection as “everything’s falling apart”?  When did we start billing a rough day (or week) as abject failure?

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Why I swore off parenting books

Why I swore off parenting books

When I was pregnant, the best advice I got was from a friend who told me to steer clear of parenting books and websites. Her point was that there was no way to plan for what was about to happen to  me, and so every parenting technique I highlighted in a book would likely be thrown out the window when baby arrived, anyway. Conceptually, I understood what she was saying. In practice, it sounded impossible. I am an information hoarder by nature, and a chronic over-planner. The idea of “winging it” gives me stress hives.

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Why is making friends as an adult so hard?

Why is making friends as an adult so hard?

I am good at a lot of things, ranging from crossword puzzles to packing for a two week trip in a carry-on. Making friends, however, is not one of those things. Don’t get me wrong, I have always had friends. From each phase of my life I have carried forward one or two precious people with whom I’m still close. When I reflect on the depth and quality of these relationships, I feel enormously lucky. When I look at the small number of them, I wonder if something is wrong with me.

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Why my husband was the best part of my baby's first year

Why my husband was the best part of my baby's first year

Looking back on my son’s first year makes me want to sob with that weird, nostalgia-tinged joy that is motherhood. The kind that makes you say “Slow down time!” and "How the heck is it not bedtime yet?” in the same breath. Already the hard moments from the year have faded from memory or become things to laugh about: the panic of coming home from the hospital and wondering “What the $%*& do we do with him now?”  Or how long it took us to put in the “easy install” car seat. I’m left with the highlight reel of his first smile. First steps. The feel of his little arms around my neck while I rock him to sleep. 

All these things fill me with joy and wonder. Yet the best thing about my first year of motherhood has nothing to do with those moments. For me, the best thing about my first year of motherhood has been my husband.

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The inconvenience of motherhood

The inconvenience of motherhood

My baby turns one today. Later I’ll probably post an adorable picture of him on social media and write something about how I never knew what love was until he came along and what an honor it is to be his mother. All true. This morning, though, I’m thinking about the moment in the hospital when they laid him on my chest for the first time. I looked down at his tiny body and puckered face and thought, “Well this is going to be inconvenient.”

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Why I'm canceling date night forever

Why I'm canceling date night forever

There is something about being pregnant that makes people you want to give you unsolicited advice. I had complete strangers make recommendations ranging from baby names to sleep training to what to do with my placenta after labor. However, the most frequent piece of advice I got was not about any of these things; it was about date night. Far and wide, people assured me that date night had the power to single-handedly keep my marriage thriving while my husband and I adjusted to the new norm of being sleep deprived parents with little time for ourselves, let alone each other. Little did I know that date night would be the cause of a marital crisis.

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Why I'm not making New Year's resolutions

Why I'm not making New Year's resolutions

I don’t need a special day set aside to make resolutions. I make them every damn day. Sometimes every hour. My stream of consciousness is filled with constant promises to myself to exercise more. Be sweeter to my husband. Be more present for my son. Make more money. Give more time to the causes I believe in. Eat more kale. Look less tired all the time. I tell myself that if I can just do all these things, I can finally relax and enjoy life because there will be nothing left to improve.

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Feeling bad when life is good

Feeling bad when life is good

In the past few weeks I’ve had the same conversation with so many friends. The script goes like this: Life has never been better—work is great, marriage is good, the kids are all right, things are fine financially—but I’m feeling depressed, or anxious, or angry and I can’t shake it.

These feelings follow my sweet friends around, turning what should feel like a beautiful life into a joyless existence. These conversations inevitably culminate in the same question: If my life is so good then why do I feel so bad?  To which my response is, because you’re paying attention.

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Why I'm done being nice

Why I'm done being nice

The only time I’ve ever cried at work was a when a former boss told me I needed to be more vulnerable. I’d gotten feedback that some of the people I managed didn’t feel they had a “good relationship” with me. This came as a shock, because likeability has never been my problem. I was born a pleaser. Raised in the Midwest where strong opinions about anything other than baseball and the weather are best kept to yourself, I steer clear of conflict whenever possible. Whether you cut in front of me at Starbucks or interrupt me in a meeting at work, I’m far more likely to silently plan your painful death than I am to confront you.

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The war on guilt: a report from the trenches

The war on guilt: a report from the trenches

I don’t mean to brag, but I’m really good at guilt. I’m not talking about the occasional, fleeting sensation of wrongdoing because you ate that second (or third) cookie or forgot to send your child’s lunch to school. That’s for amateurs. I’m talking about the crushing, constant feeling of not doing enough. This involves what I like to call the Guilt Archives. I turn to the Guilt Archives whenever I catch myself feeling generally good and on top of things. I’ll be waltzing through my day and BAM, I’ll remember that my grandmother got me the Barbie Dream House in 1986 and I never sent her a thank you note.

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An introvert’s holiday party survival guide

An introvert’s holiday party survival guide

The holidays are hard on us introverts. There are just so many things to do, and unfortunately most of them involve other people. Now, I know holiday stress impacts extroverts too; there’s plenty of it to go around. There’s the pressure to find the perfect gift, cook the perfect meal, or choreograph the perfect Christmas morning for your kids. Honestly, though, none of this stresses me out. I gave up perfection around the time Katie Holmes gave up Tom Cruise, and like her, my life is much better for it. No, for me the thing that stands out as the most stressful part of the holidays is the parties.

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Is there such a thing as too much gratitude?

Is there such a thing as too much gratitude?

What if there was one thing you could do to improve your health, mood, and relationships?  What if that thing was also incredibly easy to do?  Enter gratitude, the closest thing we have to a silver bullet for our well-being.  Tis the season to count our blessings, but I’m going to level with you: I’m struggling. Maybe it’s the overload of #blessed social media messages, or the onslaught of commercials designed to tug at your heartstrings as advertisers make the most of the season, but lately I feel like we’ve overdosed on gratitude.

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