motherhood

  • A #SoGladTheyToldMe Twitter Party and Social Media Blitz

    Many of you may have followed Stephanie’s viral post, “I’m Glad They Warned Me,” and the resulting social media campaign that we announced a few weeks ago, #SoGladTheyToldMe. We were absolutely blown away by the support and feedback from readers, and we want to thank all of you so much for supporting the social media movement and the efforts to change the cultural dialogue about motherhood by sharing your own photos and stories. We’ve received almost a hundred photos from mothers sharing their #SoGladTheyToldMe messages, and more keep coming every day!

    Since the campaign’s launch, Stephanie was interviewed by The Chicago TribuneWGN RadioThe Huffington Post, and was on live TV with 9 News Denver. Websites in Australia, Canada, and the UK have featured their own stories on So Glad They Told Me.  We have been genuinely moved and inspired by all the women who have come together to share their truth and present a broader, more realistic view of motherhood, all while providing support and compassion to other moms.

    To celebrate, we’re having a big social media blitz on Tuesday, February 17th. We’re inviting moms everywhere to take photos of themselves with their signs and share them all over social media that day with the hashtag #sogladtheytoldme. Post your messages (you can just share your sign without being in the photo yourself, if you prefer!) on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. To make an even bigger impact, change your profile picture on Facebook on the 17th to show your support and raise awareness.

    We’re also having a Twitter party on the 17th at 9 PM EST where moms can share their photos and their stories, and bloggers can share their own #SoGladTheyToldMe blog posts. The HerStories Project will be giving away an Amazon gift card AND announcing our next book topic and call for submissions. Don’t miss it!

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     To participate in the Twitter party, follow @HerStoriesTales and @MommyIsForReal and use the hashtag #sogladtheytoldme. It’s easiest to use TweetDeck and make a column that follows the hashtag! We can’t wait to reveal our next project and call for submissions!

    You can find all the media links and updates on #SoGladTheyToldMe right here. We hope you’ll join in on February 17th by making your own sign and sharing your photo! Here is a photo gallery for inspiration!

     

  • How to Publish a Book With Toddlers

    When Jessica and I began the submission process for My Other Exeach of us had a two-year-old at home. By the time we’d published the book, our kids had turned three, an age I maintain is even more challenging. Any veteran parents out there know the woes of raising toddlers and can attest to the impact they have on one’s productivity. Frankly, it’s shocking that we got any work done at all during the hours our children were conscious. Somehow, we pulled it off, and looking back on the whole experience, there are a few, um, memorable aspects that stand out.

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    1. Phone conversations are less than professional. To anyone who doesn’t know, Jessica and I live dozens of states away from each other and have never actually met in person. Which means that daily emails and weekly phone calls are absolutely essential for us to stay organized and on top of things. Often, one of us would cover the mouthpiece to urge our offspring to go ahead and watch one more Daniel Tiger or to remind them that no, it wasn’t Daddy on the other end of the line. Or Grandma. Yes, have another bowl of Goldfish. But there was one epic phone call when both our children were at home and awake. Mine was upstairs in her bedroom, supposed to be napping, and she was hollering, singing, and banging the wall, all the while strumming a plastic guitar with her foot through the slats of her crib. I’m dead serious. As the two of us attempted to engage in a coherent conversation, both of our children could be heard screeching, whining, and bellowing demands in the background. It sounded as though we were conducting business in a lunatic asylum. Which, we kind of were.
    2. Mommy’s “office” gets very little respect. When we were in the thick of the book mailing process, the floor of my toy storage area living room office was littered with boxes, envelopes, books, and those annoying little adhesive label pieces from the back of the mailers. My toddler insisted on wrapping every single last one of those strips around someone’s wrist as though it were the 21-and-over bracelet slapped on hipsters at the entrance to a seedy nightclub. This was the delightful era in which she, if left unsupervised, would poke holes in any and all pieces of paper with a pencil. Thus, she literally poked holes in much of my work, including the address labels I had printed to ship books. Paper was wasted. But that wasn’t the worst of it…
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      Boxes, mailers, address labels, those fun “wristbands” strewn about… and of course naked baby dolls and discarded dogs.
    3. Bodily functions and fluids played a prominent role I know. We’re grossed out, too. One of our children, whose identity shall be protected, actually pooped on his/her mother’s book notes. That may have been the same day in which he/she dumped a toddler potty full of urine into the heating vent—it’s hard to say. The day that I stopped by the hip indie bookstore to meet the owner, schedule a book event, and drop off a copy of My Other Ex, I had to bring my daughter with me. Being the stellar parent that I am, I of course bribed her with a lollipop for good behavior. And she was downright charming while we were there. Except for when, in the middle of our conversation about my book event, she loudly announced that she needed to poop. Poop happens– what are you going to do? Not bring your toddler on professional meetings, for one, but such is the life of a work-at-home mom with limited childcare. Of course, the biggest doozy of them all occurred at the actual book party. Everything was going beautifully … until my three-year-old vomited all over my husband. At my book release party. It’s true. Fortunately, after hearing her weakly proclaim, “I don’t feel well,” he hurried outside where she promptly threw up on him, avoiding contaminating the bookstore itself and preventing me from scoring any future book gigs with them. They managed to catch my brief reading and thank-you to my family and friends (Incidentally, I thanked my daughter for not throwing up on me), but pretty much missed the party.
    4. Snacks, Netflix, grandparents, and preschool are absolute necessities. Oh, and husbands help, too. Those hours when our children are being cared for by other family members or were at preschool were golden. During those magical windows, I often had to force myself to step away from my laptop to use the bathroom, as I was bound and determined to make every second count. Due to the nature of publishing, there were times when our kids were home and there was still work to be done. Enter aforementioned parenting crutches. Sure, we don’t recommend planting your child in front of the television with a handful of juice boxes and Uncrustables for hours on end(although it does sound tempting), but there’s no way we would have been able to have a phone call, return an email, or get all that editing done were it not for the miracle of the uninterrupted Netflix children’s series. Yes—even Caillou. Sometimes we choose the lesser of two evils: constant interruptions and shirt-tugging or the muted soundtrack of a whiny bald kid? Desperate times.

    Although the presence of two- and three-year-olds is less than desirable when attempting to read submissions, edit essays, and publish a book, we’re here to tell you: It can be done. Our first book about women’s friendship came out exactly a year ago, when our kids were two, and we can’t wait to see what the next publication experience will bring with a couple of three-and-a-half year olds and a new baby for Jessica!

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    **Remember! Our deadline for submitting to Mothering Through the Darkness, our upcoming anthology about postpartum depression and struggles, has been extended to January 1st. Submit an essay here.

  • We Have a Big Announcement!

    We have exciting news, and we are thrilled to finally share it with our HerStories community today! Last week, we signed a contract with She Writes Press to publish our next anthology, Mothering Through the Darkness! We could not be happier about this. Have you heard of She Writes Press? In the publishing world, many people refer to them as a “hybrid publisher.” In their own words, this is how the She Writes team describes their business:

    She Writes Press is unique in the world of publishing because we’re neither traditional publishing, nor are we self-publishing. We have begun to bill ourselves as a “third way” and we proudly occupy the gray zone, a much-needed alternative in a rapidly changing publishing landscape.”

    She Writes is an independent publishing company that gives writers more control than a traditional publisher; they provide high-quality services as well as a positive community experience.

    Jessica and I have had a great experience with self-publishing our first two books; we particularly found our groove with My Other Ex. But we are very much looking forward to publishing with She Writes—from working with their cover designer, to their editing team, to being part of a community that helps promote women writers and their work.

    For more information on She Writes Press, their services, and how to submit your manuscript to them for consideration, visit their website. Right now, our book is slated for publication in fall 2015! We are so excited; we’ve been steadily receiving submissions, and we look forward to receiving more in the coming weeks. If you’re thinking about submitting an essay but you’ve been on the fence, we hope you’ll take the plunge.

    On that note, we are happy to share that we will be extending our deadline for our call for submissions and writing contest for Mothering Through the Darkness. The deadline for submissions is now January 1st, 2015. For more information on the anthology, the guidelines, the contest, and how to submit, read this post. And you can submit your essay directly by following this link.

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  • Teaching Our Daughters About Friendship Breakups

    “Mommy, Olivia and Claire are sitting right over there!” my seven-year-old daughter announced excitedly, tugging my arm. “Let’s go talk to them!”

    I shot a pained glance at my girlfriend, seated across the table from me, and sighed. “Honey, Mommy is not going to go say hi to Olivia today.” My daughter looked confused. When we had made plans to meet friends for pizza that evening, it hadn’t occurred to me to be prepared for this conversation. Why would I expect them to be here? Perhaps I’d hoped I could entirely avoid ever bringing this up with my oldest daughter.

    Taking a deep breath, I explained, “Mommy and Olivia had a fight. We aren’t friends anymore, and I’m not going to go talk to her. But you are welcome to go say hello—I know Claire would love to see you.”

    “But why aren’t you friends anymore? Why did you have a fight?” my daughter persisted.

    “Honey, that’s a grown-up problem and I’m not going to explain it to you right now. But I do want you to know that just because Olivia and I aren’t friends, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be friends with her, and with Claire.”

    “Can Sophie and Claire still be friends?” she inquired, referring to her toddler sister.

    “Of course,” I lied, having a slightly deeper understanding of the parentally-directed social practices of the under-two-year-old crowd.

    She trotted away happily to greet themand I exchanged glances and sighs of relief with my girlfriend, the third side of the friendship triangle gone wrong. Olivia and I hadn’t drifted apart. To say that we had fought was not an exaggeration—it was an ugly, uncomfortable blowout that had bled into other relationships and had even affected my job. It was awful, and I was never, ever going to be friends with her again. So how did I expect my second grade daughter to grasp such intricacies? Especially when I repeatedly coached her to mend fences when she and her own friends had argued?

    My daughter was no stranger to friendship drama; sadly, even in kindergarten she had struggled with unkind friends, gossip, rumors, and the ever-awkward dynamic of three little girls attempting to play together. I knew she had years ahead of her filled with hurt feelings, exclusion, arguments, lies, and eventual breakups. But what I wasn’t sure of was how to begin teaching her about the realities of those inevitable hurdles and subsequent friendship loss. As I reflected on the many conversations we’d had about friendship, I realized we had already covered a lot of ground about how to navigate social challenges.

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    • Openly share your own childhood friendship stories—this is so important to little girls. My daughter loves to hear me share my own tales of trying to balance my friendships with my two best friends who didn’t get along with each other, birthday parties gone wrong, and what happened when the “new girl” came to town and took away my best friend. Knowing that I too had problems, and more importantly, that I overcame them, helps my daughter to feel less alone. As you discuss your own experiences of hurt, anger, and loneliness, you become a more reliable confidante—when children sense that their parents can genuinely empathize, they are more likely to share their feelings, and more likely to listen to your advice.
    • Listen without judgment when your daughter tells you about the friend who wronged her. Whenever my daughter shares a story about an alleged mean friend, I am always tempted to jump in and point out contrary pieces of evidence, offer a solution, or even get angry and “feel her feelings” for her. Women often get irritated when, instead of listening, their husbands try to “fix” their problems—it’s the same with our daughters. Before we can help them sort through their friendship problems, they have to feel heard. Reflecting feelings back to our children often helps them to sort through their complicated emotions.
    • Role play with them. My oldest child loves this, and it has been a positive tool ever since she was in preschool. Whenever she would struggle with a friend who was being mean, rude, or (gasp) bossy, we would practice what we wanted to say to the friend. We took turns playing each role, which helped prepare my daughter for potential retorts and responses. It was so empowering for her to find her voice, her confidence, and stand up for herself, even if that meant walking away from a friend. As she gets older, she may want to involve me less and less in her role-playing, but I’d like to believe that she is developing skills to assert herself, set clear boundaries, and articulate her needs—those skills can last a lifetime.
    • Help her find out when it is time to walk away. Throughout the past few years, my daughter and I have had numerous conversations about one friend in particular; these two girls have split up and come back together too many times for me to count. It is painful for me to refrain from shouting, “Kelly is not a nice friend! You should not put up with this kind of treatment!” I’m afraid the same rules apply to both friendships and boyfriends: often, if a child senses her parent disapproves, it only makes her more determined to make the relationship work. I am mindful not to vilify her pals, but I am very firm and clear when I discuss with my daughter what type of friendship behavior is unacceptable and not to be tolerated. I have had the most success with helping her focus on other friends rather than “banishing” the unkind friend; encouraging my daughter to pursue new friendships has been the most effective way to help steer her away from girls who repeatedly hurt her.
    • And help her cope when someone has walked away from her. Rejection, perceived disapproval, and alienation are extremely powerful and painful experiences for young girls and teens. OK, fine, and for adults, too. Many women carry the pain of an unwanted friendship breakup for years. Remind your daughter of her strengths, of the qualities that make her beautiful and unique. In many ways, losing a best friend is just as painful as losing a romantic partner, an experience that will likely happen multiple times throughout her life; it helps to reinforce the fact that not all relationships were meant to last forever. Help her to reflect on the fun times that were had, the lessons that were learned, and focus her attention on other positive forces and friendships in her life. This is another time when it helps to share your own stories of loss and friendships gone wrong—tell your daughter how you felt, why it hurt, and most importantly, how you got through it. She may not fully understand it for years to come, but you can help to share your perspective that friendships ebb and flow as we grow and change.
    • Teach her when—and why, and how— to stick around and fight for a friendship. Sometimes it may be your daughter who has wronged a friend. One afternoon at the bus stop, my daughter tearfully told me that she and her best friend weren’t friends anymore. She then confessed that she had shared a secret—she had told another friend the name of her BFF’s crush. This is tantamount to ultimate betrayal in second grade. I was chagrined. My daughter felt deeply ashamed, and I convinced her that she had to make things right with her friend. It is humbling to apologize and admit when you were wrong—for children and adults alike. These perceived betrayals will only get more complex as our daughters get older, and as their mothers, we can help them find the clarity they need to make things right when a friendship is worth fighting for. We can help them brainstorm ideas, write apology letters, and support them as they apologize to friends; we can also stand by their side as they find the courage to confront friends who have hurt them, intentionally or unintentionally.

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    There are myriad resources available to couples who are looking for help to save a broken relationship, but there seems to be a distinct lack of support for women (or men) who want to fix a troubled friendship. While most people (theoretically) practice monogamy in their romantic relationships, the same concept does not apply to friendships, which perhaps sends a message that friends are expendable and easily replaced. However, much like romantic relationships, finding a new partner doesn’t always mean that unhealthy patterns have been broken, and the same problems often play out again and again. Teaching our daughters about friendship is both complex and essential. As mothers, we can give our daughters the emotional and communicative tools to repair damaged friendships, identify when they need to assert themselves, and help them cope with the pain of loss.

     

  • Forty, Pregnant, and Failing at Friendship?

     

    The term “geriatric pregnancy” no longer makes me wince.

    Neither does the “AMA” (advanced maternal age) stamped on my chart at my OB/GYN’s office. I no longer panic when I read about all the increased risks of pregnancy among the “older” set: chromosomal abnormalities, stillbirth, pre-term labor, gestational diabetes, and on and on. My doctors don’t seem to find my pregnancy to be in any way remarkable so I’m trying not to either.

    First days of "geriatric" motherhood
    First days of “geriatric” motherhood

    I was 36 when my three year old son was born, and I’ll be 40 this fall when this baby (a girl!) is born. I don’t feel like an old mom, but then again I have no idea what it feels like to be a young mom. Compared to my last pregnancy, I need more sleep at night, get more tired during the day, have more leg cramps and leg pain, am more irritable, had worse morning sickness during the first trimester, and feel generally more uncomfortable. Is all of this because I’m older now? Or are these  just the inevitable side effects of raising a toddler while pregnant?

    If the physical aspects of pregnancy at 40 have been relatively easy and predictable, I’m having a little more trouble coming to terms with the social and psychological dimensions. As a younger adult, I never imagined myself adding to my family at 40. During my first years of teaching, I taught with a woman who had her first and only two children in her forties. I remember how strange that seemed to me. In my mid-twenties, my co-worker seemed ancient to me, way past the age that seemed “normal” to me to be caring for infants. I mean, wasn’t her hair almost entirely gray?

    Most of all she seemed out of step with the rest of our co-workers. Among the other women in their forties, mostly worried about kids with new driver’s licenses and getting seniors into college, my friend didn’t fit in. But she didn’t fit in with the other teachers who were new moms either, mainly in their late 20s and early 30s.

    That’s sort of how I feel: out of step. Doing the same things that I’ve observed my friends and family go through — adding siblings to their brood, buying double strollers, juggling multiple school schedules, making the decision to trade in the sedan for an SUV — but just a few steps behind.

    My friends — old co-workers, classmates from high school and college, neighbors — are mostly done with the baby stage. My writing friend Allison Slater Tate wrote a piece for Scary Mommy about turning 40 (she turned 40 just a couple of days before I did last weekend!). She wrote:

    “Forty is walking into a baby store and realizing that I know very few people that might have a need for sleep sacks or pacifier clips anytime soon. After over a decade in the ‘baby zone,’ I have graduated; by this time next year, none of my children will even have a need for diapers.”

    Yes, most of my friends have graduated out of “the baby zone.” And it feels a bit like a divide. It makes me feel like a follower, and some part of me is afraid of being left behind for good. The weddings and baby showers have mostly stopped by this point, and now my friends talk about elementary school homework, soccer teams, dance recitals, and their “Frozen” fatigue. (I’ve never seen the movie.)

    I know in the big picture it’s silly to be worried about whether my friends will be sick of talking or thinking about breastfeeding struggles, infant sleep cycles, and baby milestones with me, when these concerns still dominate my everyday life. Will my concerns feel as irrelevant to them as living in studio apartments, applying to grad school, and finding a boyfriend (the trials and tribulations of our twentysomething babysitters) feels to me?

    JessicaSmockI do know that I’m not alone. There are lots of us out there, figuring out a new way to be fortysomething. I know that there are endless ways for a woman to turn 40: single, married, divorced, child-free. Many fortysomethings are hitting their strides in their career, reaching milestones that they’d dreamed about for decades. Others of us are embarking on new adventures and new career paths.

    I know that in so many ways it’s a privilege to turn 40 today. I have choices and opportunities — in fertility, employment, family structure, education, technology — that women even a few decades ago could never have imagined. I can add to my tribe of friends, join new tribes, and rejoin others later.

    That doesn’t change the fact that someone needs to come up with a better name for mothers over 35 than “geriatric mothers.”

    How old were you when you became a mother, the first time and the last? Did your age ever bother you?

  • Hands-Free Friendship

    In the HerStories community, one of the most popular topics of conversation has been online vs real life friendships. Both of us, and many of our contributors, have written about the value of online friendships, how they differ from “real life” ones, and discussed the importance of face-to-face quality time vs. the convenience of connecting via technology.

    • We shared our slightly tongue-in-cheek tips for how to make online friendships with other moms at Scary Mommy.
    • Our contributor Kate Hall shared why she considers her online friendships to be real.
    • Contributor Vicky Willenberg reminded us how important the real-life interactions are, and why we should stop texting and really connect with our friends.
    • I argued that online friendships are just as deep and important at Irene Levine’s friendship blog.
    • And contributor Jennifer Swartvagher shared her story of how her online friendships became real life ones.

    Jessica and I both recently read Rachel Macy Stafford’s new book Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters!, and it inspired us to consider how we might become more hands-free, not just with our families, but with our friendships.

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    As much as I adore the convenient and effective pick-me-ups of a quick text to connect with a busy fellow mom friend, or a snarky Facebook message exchange with my blog pal, I must admit there is something unique and inimitable about quality time spent face-to-face with close friends. I recently enjoyed a rare impromptu afternoon getaway with two close girlfriends to the Hot Springs. We spent several hours together in the geothermal caves, soaking in the incredible, restorative hot pools. Even the drive up and back was exhilarating; we passed dark chocolate pomegranate bites back and forth and gabbed about parenting, marriage, and our careers. When I returned home to my husband and two daughters, I felt renewed.

    This type of spontaneous getaway (really, how often can moms be spontaneous?) is definitely hard to come by, but when the chance for a girlfriend escape arises, one should seize it! These same two ladies and I celebrated a milestone birthday in a mountain condo last winter—for two days, it was just the three of us talking, eating, and drinking. We really did very little- we stayed up late talking after a fantastic dinner out the first night, and the next day we didn’t get dressed or leave the condo until 5:00 pm. For three moms of young children, it was heavenly.

    During these early childhood parenting years, getaways are few and far between- even a regular Happy Hour may not seem feasible. Whenever possible, try to establish some rituals that are meaningful to you and your friend(s).

    • Retreating somewhere beautiful—like the mountains or Hot Springs—to enjoy some solitude and outdoor time together can be rejuvenating. One of my best friends and I have a special lake that we like to walk together as often as we can.

    • Exercise together. It’s so much more motivating to hit the gym or snag a lunchtime yoga class if you get to combine friend-bonding time with your fitness goals.

    • Indulge in a favorite treat. My girlfriend and I celebrate fall together with the first caramel apple cider of the year at Starbucks. We have done it annually for over a decade. Another mom and I look forward to our favorite food and wine pairings at a local bistro—without our toddlers.

    • Carve out a regular, purposeful meeting time Five years ago I formed a support group of sorts with other new moms. We are still meeting monthly to ask questions, brainstorm, vent, and sometimes just laugh about our lives. Our monthly “meeting” is important to all of us, and we make it a priority.

    • Take what you can get. In our busy lives juggling work and family, time spend with friends can seem scarce or even impossible. A dinner together, weekend away, or even hour-long coffee with your best friend may not be manageable. So take less-than-ideal circumstances and make it work. My friend and I combine family time with friend time by having regular evening dinner-playdates—affectionately known as “Crappy Hour”—in which we take turns cooking dinner and surviving the Witching Hour with our toddlers. The kids play, the moms drink some wine, our husbands relax with a beer, and it seems to make chaotic family dinners more tolerable. And even though we don’t get to enjoy our standard soul-baring conversation with our families around, it’s better than nothing.

     

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    Sometimes all it takes to feel connected is a quick text, phone call, or Facebook message. But every so often,  see if you can find time–whether it’s a half-hour coffee, a night out, or an entire weekend– to recharge your friendship batteries with a kindred spirit, with your heart open and your hands free.