Unfiltered Mommy

An honest view of parenting in today's world

Have I lost my umph?

When I was younger I was very outspoken. I was not afraid to be who I was and I did not take shit from anyone. I wore what I wanted ; which ranged from short pink patent leather skirts with teeny tank tops to ultra baggy Jenko jeans and oversized concert T-shirts. I got decent grades and stood up for victims of bullying. I was in the Marching Band and Drama Club. I stayed out late and had friends from all walks of life.

I grew up in  a conservative family in a very nice (and… Conservative) community north of Detroit. The kids at my high school were mostly WASPs, and kids who caused trouble were sent off to alternative schools or to the Fox Center, never to be heard from again. I got into my fair share of trouble at school and made my parents less than proud on a few occasions, but overall I was a good person with a good heart and I knew that once I got the hell out of there, I would be able to “find myself” and be me. You see, in a small town like ours, there was no getting away with things. People knew my parents and I lived in fear that they would tell my parents if they saw me doing something, like smoking cigarettes. The fear of disappointing my parents was the worst. I could never imagine having to tell my parents I was pregnant or calling them from jail to bail me out so this fear kept me out of a lot of trouble.

When I moved 2000 miles from home to attend Arizona State University, I was so excited to be away from all the people I had known my whole life. The kids that thought they knew me and I was grateful to have a fresh start. I made a lot of friends from the Mid-West and also had some pretty crazy roommates. Actually all of them. I learned about love, life, and heartbreak. I dated the wrong guys and made some not-so-good decisions. But I always stayed true to myself and I always spoke my mind.

But somewhere between here and there I lost that part of myself. Maybe it’s because I grew up or maybe it’s just being too tired to care anymore, but somehow I stopped being that version of me. I stopped being the me who loved to go out on the town and dance the night away. I lost the part of me who loved to get dressed up all fancy and accessorize new outfits. Ok, ok, so having two young children is probably why I have no time or energy to invest in my looks or social outings anymore, but what about my spunk? My umph?

Some would say that I still pretty outspoken. Being a Social Worker requires me to step up and advocate for others and to fight oppression. I still cannot sit in silence and watch others be degraded or taken advantage of but I feel like my tolerance for ignorance has changed. I remember that I noticed a distinct shift in myself a few years ago when I started working at a new hospital. I was working in a very wealthy area of San Diego and I’ll never forget the day when we had a patient who was a meth addict who was on a ventilator and on death’s door. I cannot remember all the details of his case now but he had numerous brain aneurysms and some other medical issues. His family was all Spanish speaking and I had contacted them in Mexico to have them come and speak with the doctor regarding his situation. The nurse taking care of him that day said “Uh, I don’t know why I even have to take care of this guy.” Standing there in shock, I said “Well, because he is our patient and he is very sick.” “Yeah well this is (name of our hospital), we don’t get patients like this here!” she said. My reply, which was the only thing that came out was “Well, we do now, and we will be getting a lot more of them from now on.” Now, old me would have just laid into her about respecting the dignity and worth of the person and helping her understand that addiction is a disease and that although he was not a US citizen, he was still a human being. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t see how doing in to this much detail with this particular nurse was going to make one ounce of difference so I chose not to.

For the next 3 years that I worked there I tried my best to speak out and be a good advocate, but when you are working in a company steeped in “Good Ol’ Boys” charm, and working with patients who run multi-million dollar companies, you have to mind your Ps and Qs. I learned to bite my tongue and choose my battles. I decided to bide my time until something changed and promised myself that I would not expend any more energy than necessary. After all, I would get nowhere, and I knew it.

After having two kids and after finishing enough hours to apply for the LCSW license, I was finally able to quit. I quit, for multiple reasons but I never told them how I felt about the corporate bullshit there or the way that walking into that job everyday made my heart sink. I never told them that despite the fact that they were constantly telling us how “lucky” we were to work there or what a great place to work it was, I secretly hated it.

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Keeping Up in North County

I live in what is considered North County San Diego. It is a beautiful collection of quintessential beach towns stretching up the Pacific Coast from La Jolla to Oceanside. It is a wonderful place to live and raise children. The weather is perfect and the scenery is gorgeous. For the most part, people here are pretty laid back. There is a strong surf culture, and the area is also a big vacation destination. I actually credit the move here with helping us conceive our oldest since we struggled with infertility for four years prior to moving here. Despite all the wonderful things about this area, we still have our fair share of judgmental assholes. I encountered one just the other day at a local Rubio’s. I was there with the two girls when my youngest was about six weeks old. Ms. Judgey Eyes, as I like to call her, was there with her husband, daughter and son. I was looking at her son’s hat because it was from one of the schools that I was researching for my oldest. After ordering and settling down at a table, I noticed that Ms. Judgey Eyes was staring at me from across the restaurant. I took a quick inventory: nope, everything seemed to be in order. My oldest was safely strapped into her high chair. My youngest was sleeping peacefully in her car seat/Snap-n-go contraption and all my clothing was zipped, tucked and covering all the right places. I wondered to myself, “What in the world is she staring at?” Being a social worker, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. It’s a little something we learn in school called Strengths Based Perspective. We look for a strength to focus on rather than looking for a weakness or some kind of pathology.

Judging by the clothing that the Judgey Eyes children were wearing, and the fact that they attend this very elite school, I am guessing they are pretty well off. Now I like to think that my husband and I earn a pretty good living but I am also quite frugal. Especially when it comes to buying baby items or clothing that our children will use for a short time. I don’t buy $50 shoes for my toddler and I am always looking for ways to save a few bucks by shopping sales and using coupons. I want my kids to look good but cannot justify the overinflated cost of designer clothes that my kiddos will outgrow by the time the credit card bill comes. If Ms. Judgey Eyes wants to buy overpriced items for her children, that’s her prerogative. Maybe she has more disposable income, owns a children’s clothing boutique or has a passion for fashion. Whatever the reason, I was uncomfortable with the way she was looking down at me.

This experience got me thinking about the pressure to “keep up appearances” in today’s parenting world.  Whether it is having the hippest clothes, fancy stroller or attending the newest trendy preschool, there are a lot of things that can make a new mother feel like she is not doing enough for her kids even though none of this really matters. Let’s face it, children don’t know if you bought their clothes at Juicy or Goodwill. They don’t care if the stroller you bought was $75 on Craigslist or the new Bob with the $600 price tag. What they will remember is the love and time you spent playing with them. Why is it that moms feel the need to judge one another? Can’t we just support one another? It always seems strange to me since we all belong to the same “club” and we all know how hard it is to be a mother. I really wanted to go up to Ms. Judgey Eyes and call her out on her snooty-ness, but I didn’t. I bit my tongue and forgave her. After all, she did look pretty unhappy as her husband as his guzzled his beer at 11am

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