Sisterhood of the Traveling [Maternity] Pants

I am never doing this again.

 I can do this. I’m never doing this again.

This was my mantra during the brief hours of labor with my second child, our daughter, Juniper. It was a strange second birth, preceded by my water naturally breaking at home, and a day spent watching HGTV while waiting for labor to start. It was strange in that it was very unlike Milo’s birth, which was preceded by a week of cyclical back labor and long nights of pain and fatigue. I know I’m in good company when I say that, though they were different experiences, I'm glad both are over.

As I mentioned, by this point Craig and I had already decided that after this we weren’t going to be trying for more biological kids. (It's the plan, anyway.) So, in those hours of labor, I found some slight relief in the idea that this would be my final act of uterine madness. No more screaming, crouched in the hospital shower. No more mortar-and-pestle pain in my hips. No more counterpressure. 

No. More. Counterpressure.

Though labor was in many ways, exactly as painful as they say it is (whoever they are), through it I became the recipient of an extraordinary gift. 

You might expect me to list my children here, but you’d be wrong. My children are undoubtedly two of the most incredible and overwhelming gifts I’ve ever received, but the gift I’m referring to is something I didn’t expect:


I have been given the gift of moms. In fact, I have been given the Flying V of moms. 

It is a grand understatement to say that this has surprised me. Before having Milo, I was so unversed in the language of parenting, of children and really, of empathy, that I was blind to the cause of mothers, even if I already counted them among my friends. I could love and appreciate my own mom and mother-in-law, and I could respect my peers who had children, but I put very little effort into understanding the hard work, long-game strategy and deep value of what they were investing in as parents, and specifically, as moms. I should really go around and ask the forgiveness of every mama I’ve ever known, because I was just so terribly lazy in my friendships with them. Their interests weren't mine. The kids were noisy. The diapers were... diaper-y.

Note that this is my story as an individual, and has no – read: ZERO – bearing on how others relate to parents. For example, I am awestruck by how so many of the people who we’ve gotten to work with over our years in the camp industry, whether age 15 or 50, have been perceptive and intentional and kind in how they have befriended me as a mom, all with what seems to be genuine warmth and interest. This wasn’t my way. 

I wasn’t nearly as gracious.

And yet, despite my under appreciation and lack of effort into really knowing mothers, I currently find myself completely surrounded by an astounding group of these women. I wore their pants while I was pregnant. My children are clothed in their children’s clothes. I have snort-laughed at their texts at three in the morning, and found relief at their stories of pebbles being crammed up little noses and daughters eating paint chips and overstressed relationships in the violent wave-pool of kid-dom. They have been some of the most encouraging people I’ve ever encountered, many of them all the while running their own ever-changing, ax-swinging gauntlet of parenthood. 

This is my Flying V. They are transparent, strong, honest, forgiving and have a killer instinct for when toddlers are up to no good with the toilet paper roll. And they are diverse. They are ten years younger than me and ten years older. They are mothers and they are super-mothers, who’ve already done the dance once and are now grandparents. They are liberal and conservative. They are urban and rural. They are single, married, and divorced. They are like me, and they are not like me. 

And yet they hover and protect.

And yet they fly together.

This weekend, I celebrate you mamas. I sit and think about your impact on not only your families, but on the other parents and caretakers who share your world. I know that many women who desperately desire to have children aren’t given the chance or don’t have the opportunity, but, oh,


I would wish on them a tribe like you. 


More is Less

Over a year ago, I gave up my smart phone (ok, I smashed it on a tile floor) in lieu of an old Motorola (now an LG) that allows me to send/receive phone calls and texts, as well as the occasional (read: regular) message full of twenty-five rectangular boxes instead of alien face and poop emojis (Sorry, Jenn). 

Fast forward to Christmas 2015 when I instated my own version of Cyber Monday, which means that I only use the internet  that one day a week.  There are, as you probably guessed, exceptions to this rule (finding recipes; printing GoogleMaps directions for lack of a smartphone, just like I did in college; paying bills; giving in to the absurd desire to check my email; losing myself in Pinterest “research” for the bathroom project).  If you are one of the few who know I have been doing this, you’ve likely received a message from me on Facebook or seen me like a photo on Instagram on a Friday and thought, “AHA – For all her strong talk on a technology purge, look who is weak and lacks discipline and scruples and can’t resist a photo of someone’s dog doing something amazing?  Who’s weak now??!

Me.  This girl.  Whenever I dance with the devil, he wins.

Anyway, I made the previous choices for a few reasons. 

1) My cell phone bill is now $29.58, which in a rural area (I’m looking at you, Verizon), is astonishing.  We save an obscene amount of cash from just this one change. 

2) I read Last Child in the Woods this past winter, which I recommend (bleeding hearts, you’re welcome), which challenged me to think about how much time I have “lost” (read: willingly handed over) to social media and getting distracted while doing tasks on the internet.  As Craig and I say, the internet is exactly like an online mall, with those pesky kiosk employees always reaching out and smearing Dead Sea salts on your face, even though you are loudly pretend-talking on your phone as you walk by them in order to get to the Genius Bar and back without losing your everloving mind.  What, you don’t do that? 

You will now.

3) Milo.  I have only one kid, which I feel like I am always apologizing for, because he is absurdly fun, and yet this one, absurdly fun child has sacrificed at least an hour a day in his first year and a half because I was spending 5 minute chunks of time checking to see who won 5 gazillion rubies on Jewel Thief.   This was the come-to-Jesus moment for me.  Not only am I am losing in this way of life, but he is losing.  Craig is losing.  No one is winning.  We are all losing.

And for what?

Somehow, in the case of the mall, I wholly, vehemently despise every intrusive, time-sucking, you-need-this-homemade-crystal-neck-warmer distraction, but in another, I seem to have a limitless tank to fill up with cat memes and hiking routes and the host of wildly-colored running tights that inhabit my dreams.  What gives?

Why would you waste time on the internet when there's a pile of books to run over, I mean, stuff to do?

I have bounced through life pretty passively, with abhorrence for confrontation or making waves, but I am learning that this whole time I have been living in a choose-my-own-adventure story, and I need to begin make more intentional choices, because the pages just keep flapping by while I’m not paying attention.  On a recommendation from my friend Heidi, I am partway through a book called 7, An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, by Jen Hatmaker, on – you guessed it – simplifying and being mindful, and have been challenged by an idea ingrained in both this book as well as Last Child in the Woods which is that to change our behavior is of secondary importance to changing our way of thought, but that to change our behavior is often the most important method through which we can change our way of thought.  Do I need new towels for the astonishingly beautifully bathroom we are renovating?  For a hot minute, I thought I did – or rather thought that, of course, it’s a new bathroom, so of course, we ought to have them (“ought” = entitlement, but that’s another vice for another day).  So I went out to TJ Maxx and I bought some.  And then, 4 days later, I returned them, because guess what?  I already have the perfect towels.  In fact, I’ve had them for five years, but since our latest move they have been sitting in my linen closet, waiting for the perfect time to come back out into the spotlight.

So what do new towels and smart phones and the Athleta website share in common? 

Lies.  That’s what. 

Lies, and me, a girl who has bought into them. Every lie is only as good as the person who believes it, and I have thrown myself hook, line and sinker into a culture of more is better: more stuff, more friends, more information, more recognition, and more quickly, while you’re at it.  Chop chop.

But there is a flipside.  There are a host of things that are better as a result of reducing my technology addiction.  Here are a few*.

-I figure that I have at least one extra hour each day to spend at the park with Milo, catching up on a project, cleaning, doing yard work or reading (my favorite indulgence).
-I feel less critical of myself, my parenting, and my purpose, because I am not constantly comparing myself to others.  This is a big win.
-I get outside more.
-I fall asleep more easily, because I read before bed, rather than scroll FB until ridiculous-o'clock in the morning.
-My unstructured time feels longer and less distracted because I can’t instantly grab my phone to check fill-in-the-blank App.
-Freedom from something you once felt necessary feels amazing.  Another big win.

*Unless it’s Monday, during which all bets are off, and you’ll find me liking every hilarious animal video/new baby announcement/beautiful picture on the whole worldwide web. 

As a disclaimer to all of these things, I acknowledge that I am a stay-at-home mom, and that giving up computer use, or even surrendering a smart phone is not something possible for every man or woman out there.  Also, your vices are not the same as mine.  In writing about this, my goal isn’t to guilt anyone, but to spark some healthy curiosity.  What if I could transform my thinking from a position of want to a position of contentment?  What changes can I make toward that end?  For me, a good start was to change my relationship with technology, but that certainly doesn’t need to be the end.  In fact, I hope it isn’t.  I hope it is just the beginning.

But for now, it’s Monday.   See you next week. 

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