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Winter 2015: Our newest issue features essays ranging on topics from childbirth and the clashing of cultures, to the joy of breastfeeding – until you don’t anymore, to a daughter’s stolen bicycle and what it means. Feature article: Going Home: Why Some Mother’s Choose Home Birth. Debate: Should we make our kids say I’m sorry?

Fall 2014: Our Fall 2014 issue features essays ranging on topics from when mother friends move on, to a single mother facing a school project, to a father’s story to his baby-to-be. Feature Article: A Child’s Grief: Helping our Children Grieve. Debate: Should you co-sleep with your child?

Summer 2014: Our Summer 2014 issue features essays ranging on topics from Emily Rapp’s essay on losing a child, to confessions of a stay-at-home mom, to summer camp with your child — and your mother. Feature article: A Surrogacy Journey: Stories of Surrogate Mothers. Debate: Should we encourage our children to believe in the tooth fairy?

Spring 2014: Our Spring 2014 issue features essays ranging on topics from finding a new vocabulary for family, to a mother and her son with Asperger Syndrome, to understanding the origins of fear (by Catherine Newman). Feature: Pregnancy Brain: Ladies, We Give You Permission to Forget. Debate: Should you find out the sex of your baby before birth?

Winter 2014: Our Winter 2014 issue features essays ranging on topics from multicultural mothering, to mothering without a mother to a mother’s day in the Israeli Army. Feature: Third Culture Kids: Parenting from Between Cultures. Debate: Is competition healthy?

Fall 2013: Our Fall 2013 issue features essays ranging on topics from troubled teens, to adoption vs. in vitro, to parting with an invisible friend. Feature: Quiet Riot: Celebrating Introverted Kids in an Extroverted World. Debate: Should you let your child use electronics?

Summer 2013: Our Summer 2013 issues features essays on topics ranging from skin color and motherhood, to two pregnancies 40 years apart to a child’s intense love of nature. Feature: Blended! Stepfamilies with Young Children are on the Rise. Debate: Should you force your child to read over the summer?

Spring 2013:  Our Spring 2013 issue features essays on topics ranging from an adoptive mother’s reaction to a stranger’s angry glare, to adventures with the class turtle, to a new friendship between two new mothers. Feature: Conversation Starters: Talking About Child Sex Abuse Prevention. Debate: Should we let our kids quit?

Winter 2013: Our Winter 2013 issue features essays on topics ranging from babies and BMI, to the teenage brain, to weighing genetics in the search for an egg donor. Feature: Playing God…Or Not: Do Kids Need Religion? Do We Have to Decide Right Now?

Finding Peace as a Working Mother

Finding Peace as a Working Mother

By Laura Henry

working mother

Every morning, I leave the house with my computer bag, my purse, my lunch bag, my bag of papers to grade, a bag of library books to return, a bag full of things to return to others or take to and from work, and usually a bag of miscellaneous. Not one of these bags is organized the way that it should be, and so I take them all for fear of losing or forgetting something. I pack all of these into the trunk of my economical Toyota and leave before my children are awake. I don’t carry around little trucks, or dolls, or mittens. No diaper bag. No book bags. No bags of extra clothes or snacks or drawing tablets. The only sign of my children is the set of car seats in the back of my car, littered with so many goldfish snacks that I could own an aquarium if they were alive. It is my husband who will drag the children and their array of necessities out the door in the morning.

I leave every morning, in the dark and alone. I leave my husband who is making lunches, feeding the pets and ironing his shirt—often while watching Sports Center, the weather or Tom and Jerry. I leave without kissing my children goodbye and I leave without a hug, or a smile or a sticky Cheerio on my face from them. My mom-side leaves. My work-side comes out.

My job requires me to be there early—to teach, instruct, and care for the children of others. I squelch periodic thoughts of what my own kids are doing. Is it nap time for my three-year-old? Is it circle time for my daughter’s kindergarten class? Occasionally, I get to take a Mommy-break during work—to schedule a doctor’s appointment, or order pictures or shoes or a ballet tutu, or a bike or a prescription. Sometimes, in order to make a connection to my children, I email my daughter’s teacher, to shamelessly find out about her day. I can’t be there, so I want to know what someone else can see—to be my eyes and ears.

After work, I load up my bags in my economical car and travel not home, not to daycare, but to another job, another place where I have to be.

On my drive, I often think of my own eleventh grade students. When did their parents stop feeling guilty about working? When did they feel okay giving up a sense of control? I had to give up that control when both kids were eight weeks old, but is it the same for everyone? I look at my students and think that their parents are giving me the best they have—all of them sitting in front of me.

“Your folders are on your desk, did you need anything else?” my manager at the tutoring center asks. It is bright here with a lot of organized files, drawers and compartments.

There are so many responses that I want to give. There are many things I need. I need time, money, patience, a snow day, my children. But for this question, I respond, “No.”

A text from my husband arrives asking where the kids’ Valentine’s money is. I quickly respond that it is in the glass jars tucked away. The kids are going to a local restaurant for a PTA fundraiser. It’s the end of a pay week and there is no cash around. I want to eat a cheeseburger and look at my kids putting French fries in their mouth to pretend that they are walruses. I put my head down and keep working. I tutor, and explain and instruct and enjoy what is around me. I have a warm and inviting job with great people. It helps.

I leave this job and drive my economical car home quickly. It’s thirty minutes until bedtime.

Bedtime is the same in most homes—the end of the day after pickup, playing, dinner, crying, bathing, snacking and resting. All of those compartmentalized sections of a child and parent afternoon and evening are gone before I can even blink. I miss those times four days a week, and I often find my mind running through the thoughts of how to change this. But, for now it can’t. I’ve been told that I’m selling my children. I’m selling their childhood for money.

I know all of this. But the questions from the concerned pour in like scrapes and scratches:

“Don’t you think you are missing their lives?”

“Don’t you think that you should be home?”

“Don’t you think that your kids miss you?”

To all of these, I would respond, “Yes.” My husband and I know what I miss, but we quietly don’t mention it—the elephant in the room. In fact, he is the most supportive person I know. He has seamlessly taken over the household duties during the week so I can go back to work at night.

We look at the plan. We have a plan. We follow the plan. In a few years it will be different. In a few years, we will have saved enough money to get a bigger house. In a few years, we will have the ability to take our kids on better trips. In a few years—it’s always a few more years until the elephant in the room will be gone. It will be long gone and I will then be able to live my life like a mother should—attentive, entertaining, creative, present. Present. It’s something that I strive to be. But that can’t happen now. Mommy has to work a lot. Mommy has to be somewhere else.

Sometimes I cry in the shower and I hide how I feel. I’ve been doing this for three years—since my youngest was four months old and we couldn’t pay a round of bills. I will buy them unnecessary things to “make up for” what I can’t give them of myself—presence. Mommy is great at bringing home cookies and treats and books and new crayons. She is a master of all holidays and never misses a beat with birthdays. But on a day-to-day basis, Mommy is something different. I miss things. I miss them. But, this morning when I opened up my workbag (one of the seven strapped to me in the morning) I found a hand-drawn Valentine. On the front it said, “Mommy, you are the best. I love you.” It was scrawled in six-year-old writing, with a smattering of odd spaces and misspellings. On the inside was a picture of me in blue pants, a yellow skirt, and big red earrings. I was holding hands with a little girl and there was a heart in between us. I blinked and saw the picture for what it was. Admiration. Gratitude. Love.

To have a sense of peace as a working mother, I pack up my bags every morning, look at the sleeping faces, kiss my husband and stick to the plan. Our plan.

Laura Henry is a working mother of two, and teaches high school. She lives outside of Baltimore with her husband, two kids, dog and cat.

The Richest Person in the World

The Richest Person in the World

By Adrienne Jones

Jones_BMMom! I have an idea for Valentine’s Day. Let’s get candy coins. You know, those chocolate ones? Then I’ll give them to everyone because I have so many people to love and that makes me the richest person in the whole world. Get it? I’ll give them candy money because I’m so rich!


Mom? Is that a good idea?

Mom! Why are you crying?!?

I’m about the least sentimental person this side of Spock, but those words from my 11-year-old son’s mouth hit me right in my middle. I’m the richest person in the world because I have so many people to love from any child would be wonderful. From this particular little boy, it is miraculous.

Carter was born the very unhappiest baby who grew into the very unhappiest toddler and the very most anxious preschooler. By the time he started school, he had a list of diagnoses as long as his arm, none of which seemed precisely right, and although some of those diagnoses were very big, adult, and scary, they didn’t quite capture the long crisis our lives had become. A few months before Carter turned 7, I had begun to lose hope that he would ever experience any happiness more meaningful than the momentary excitement of a new toy.

What we know now but didn’t then was that Carter suffered a prenatal hypoxic brain injury that impacted his brain from stem to stern. He has a sleep disorder so severe that, when unmedicated, he sleeps every other night, only succumbing to slumber when his body is finally powerless against overwhelming exhaustion. He has hypotonia (low muscle tone) and is weaker on the right side of his body than his left.

In spite of all that, the most arresting reality of life for Carter and all of us who love him was, he was miserable. He suffered seizure-like rages during which he begged me to kill him or have him arrested. He tried to throw himself out of the car on the freeway. I restrained him when he tried to hurt himself and dragged him off of other children when he tried to kill them. My husband and I slept in shifts so we could supervise our wakeful, terrified son. Carter lived like a dervish: never playing, never sitting, rarely smiling. He was a blur of disorganized, frenetic activity, terrified of everything and enjoying nothing.

These days, Carter gives me full permission to tell the stories of those years in any way I like, but he rarely discusses it himself. He can’t bear to think about it. By that fall, he had developed psychotic symptoms, we had removed him from public school because the staff wouldn’t stop punishing him for crying all day, and finally, we got an appointment with a pediatric psychiatrist.

That pediatric psychiatrist was Dr. S, and we had a good many more chaotic months and terrifying experiences ahead of us, but it was a turning point nevertheless. She was not the first professional to listen to us and take Carter’s problems seriously (though there were plenty who scoffed and dismissed me as an over-anxious mother), but she was the first one who took us seriously who was also qualified to help. It took months to find a drug combination that helped Carter sleep and eased his psychosis and rages, but knowing Dr. S was there, working with us, caring about Carter, and available by phone gave me hope.

Then came D, a new therapist, a young guy who looked at my son and saw not a diagnostic puzzle to be solved or a series of symptoms to be squelched, but a child with whom he could develop a relationship. Carter, always a cautious soul who loves his inner circle completely but is very careful about who he allows into that circle, trusted D in a matter of weeks. D was the one to break the news to me that Carter was delusional and hallucinating, and he was the person who stayed on the phone with me for an hour while I cried over this information. Through the fall and winter of 2009 and into the early months of 2010, he answered my questions, lent me books, and lit up with genuine happiness when he greeted Carter. He assured me over and over that, should we need to hospitalize Carter, he would spend time with him every day, and while we never did have to admit our little boy, the knowledge that D would be next to us if that happened was immensely reassuring.

As we began the slow, uncertain journey to stability (an improvement we were never quite confident about until Carter’s illness had been receding for over a year), we were gradually adding new people to our lives. First came a small support group for parents of children with serious mental illness (never underestimate the power of the presence of people who understand your experience). Next, a new school for Carter, a tiny community of children with special needs and their dedicated teachers where my son feels safe and confident enough to learn, and where he has developed his first genuine friendships. Finally, a new faith community, where most people don’t really understand but everyone is willing to listen. Soon, we’ll embark on a brand new adventure when Carter becomes a Special Olympics athlete.

Perhaps all of that sounds a little flippant, like an old fairy tale where everything was dark and scary and suddenly the sun came out and surprise! Everything is wonderful again! In fact, the road to the relative stability we enjoy has been bumpy and profoundly difficult. Our lives are, and will remain, more challenging than they would have been had Carter’s brain not been injured. In spite of all that, Carter really is the richest person in the world because he has so many people to love.

Well, maybe he’s the second richest person in the world and I’m the richest, because I get to be his mom. I got to help him buy chocolate coins and make Valentine’s cards for all the people he loves and who love him in return, and for the mom of the boy who was once filled with little except fear and rage, well…

I think I have something in my eye.

Adrienne Jones lives in Albuquerque with her husband and children, and in the early hours of the morning, just before dawn, you can find her at her desk in the little office next to the kitchen, writing stories. She blogs at No Points for Style [].

Love In All Sizes

Love In All Sizes

couple w valentine w gray and redLike all long-term relationships, Valentine’s Day and I have had our ups and downs. But, we’ve made our peace with each other and I’ve decided I’d rather have it around than not.

In the beginning, a brown paper sack full of pre-printed admiration and sweets was enough to make my heart beat quicken. I loved everyone and embraced the opportunity to show it with heart-shaped doilies emblazoned with my best crayon signature.

Eventually, love grew more complicated. I thoughtfully selected the sentiment that best communicated my love for that year’s crush from the four feline themed options in the box from the drugstore and signed it with care (though not so much care as to be impossible to dismiss as random if he thought the third “r” in “purrr-fect” and the heart dotted “i” in my signature was over the top). The factory valentines never had the right mix of messages to match the mix of children in my class, so I employed a complex triage system in which the most (and least) lovely children were identified and matched with the appropriate talking cats first, followed by the second most/least lovely, third, etc. The kids in the middle of the pack sometimes received a more generous or stingy compliment than I would have preferred based on the remaining stock.

In junior high, Valentine’s Day became an angst-filled competitive awards ceremony. Egalitarian recognition was no longer a priority. Existing no longer secured your status as a receiver of valentines. Receiving a valentine required attracting the attention and admiration of a member of the opposite sex. How boys could have missed me in my neon ensembles or failed to admire the gravity defying height of my bangs is an unsolved mystery. But, they did. Other girls paraded through the hallways with chocolates, balloons, and flowers while I carried only my textbooks. Other girls snogged against lockers long after the bell while I walked to class for another on-time arrival.

My high school boyfriend was admirable March through January but February highlighted his weaknesses. He was not prone to grand gestures, was seemingly immune to the traditional Valentine’s Day trappings, and preferred swapping spit in my basement to public displays of saliva. I pretended to be enlightened enough not to need roses to be sure of his affection but I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed that I finally had the missing ingredient but still wouldn’t be one of the girls arriving late to class with a combination lock shaped indent in my back.

My Valentine’s Day experiences have varied since then. I’ve bitterly shunned the holiday. I’ve embraced stag events with gusto. I’ve eaten fondue in an evening gown. I’ve been proposed to on a beach. I’ve gotten pregnant. I’ve enjoyed a homemade dinner by candlelight with a toddler. I’ve gone to a comedy show. I’ve spent the wee morning hours gluing together Pinterest-worthy valentines for preschoolers. I’ve watched a chick-flick alone while my husband took the kids to story time at the public library.

On balance, I’ve spent more years than not joining the chorus of cynical voices that dismiss Valentine’s Day as a Hallmark Holiday. The first Valentine’s Day with a shared bank account, I cringed at the cost of the flower/vase combo delivered to my office. But, I’ve come around to the idea of overpriced flowers in mid-February. Not ridiculously overpriced florist flowers, but slightly overpriced grocery store flowers.   

My husband and I have been together more than a decade. I haven’t taken a formal survey, but anecdotal evidence suggests he is more thoughtful, kind and patient than the average husband. Fatherhood only magnified his charming qualities. I feel truly, deeply, and completely loved.

When I think about his loving gestures, I think a little about the mushy cards tucked in my sock drawer and about the flowers that arrive home at intervals just irregular enough to be delightfully unexpected.

But mostly I think about chocolate. And coffee. And sack lunches. And socks.

The love that sustains our relationship isn’t showy love. It’s a late night trip to the grocery store to satisfy the other person’s chocolate craving. It’s packing the kids’ lunches to make the other person’s morning just a little easier. It’s a pot of coffee brewed exclusively for the other person before leaving for work. It’s volunteering to be the one to go into the creepy basement to switch the laundry. It’s not pretending to be asleep when the children cry in the middle of the night.  It’s allowing your belly to be used as a foot warmer. It’s crossing the finish line together even though one of you is significantly slower than the other. It’s cuddling on the couch and pretending you didn’t already watch this episode of Homeland. It’s bringing home a Jane Austen movie for that day in the 28-day cycle. It’s intertwined fingers on a walk to the park. It’s being the one to fill the car with gas when the tank gets low. It’s putting your socks in the hamper. It’s being the one who responds to “I need a wipe!” It’s not making the sound the other person hates when you turn the pages of the newspaper. It’s making breakfast while the other person sleeps. It’s returning the wanting kiss even though you’re tired. It’s not telling a single soul that the other person secretly loves The Bachelor.

Little love—small but frequent acts of kindness, consideration, and compassion—sustains us.

But, little love can’t carry all the weight. We still need big love. Over-the-top, frivolous, cheesy love. Junior high hallway love.

Today is a day for big love. Mushy cards. Fresh flowers. Dark chocolate. Passionate kisses.

If I had to choose, I’d choose a pot of coffee made just for me on a random Friday in May over a dozen red roses on a specific Friday in February.

But, I don’t have to choose.

I can snuggle on the couch tonight watching terrible television with my husband, surrounded by a sock-free floor, eating chocolate cake. And then, we can snog like teenagers in the flickering shadows cast by our unity candle and the mushy cards on our dresser.

Illustration by Christine Juneau

The Lost Love Language of the Mixtape

The Lost Love Language of the Mixtape

NinaWith Valentine’s Day around the corner, I’ve been thinking about declarations of romantic, familial, and platonic love. Although I have no problem writing about how I feel, I stumble when speaking heartfelt words aloud. Even with my husband, I giggle, blush, or make jokes while trying to convey anything more profound than “I love you.” I say those three words easily and often, but when explaining why or how much I love him, my skills fall short.

Likewise, if I’m overcome with gratitude for friends and family, then I’ll make a point to tell them, but I usually end up prefacing my gushing with a formal announcement. “I’m going to be sentimental now,” I might say. I don’t know why I get so awkward when all I’m trying to verbalize is some form of “thank you,” or “I appreciate you,” or, “this time we’ve spent together meant so much.”

You know what used to deliver those messages for me and so much more? A mix tape. Oh, how I lament the lost love language of the mixtape!

In Dr. Gary Chapman’s popular book The Five Love Languages, he writes about demonstrating love in a way that your spouse (or friends and family) can understand. For some people, words of affirmation is enough. For others, the gift of time matters most. The third language Chapman identifies is giving gifts, because if receiving a present matters to your partner, then you ought to learn how to give one. The fourth language is acts of service such as hanging the pictures, proofreading an important document, or making a double batch of green smoothies every morning. The final language is physical touch.

According to Chapman, it’s essential to first identify how we best receive love so that we can tell our partners what works. After years of trial and error, Bryan knows (because I finally know) that I value time and acts of service over gifts. For my birthday, for example, instead of a gift, we get a sitter and spend a few hours running the annoying errands that I let pile up for that precise day. Then we sit in a coffee shop with a notebook discussing the past year and my hopes for the year ahead. Bryan is a master goal keeper for himself, so the time he spends listening to my reflections and turning those thoughts into a multifaceted checklist that he later recreates on the computer with little boxes and fancy shading is the best present of all. I hang the chart on my bulletin board and use it daily. The simple sight of the thing screams “love.”

Once we’re aware of how we accept love, we have to acknowledge how the people in our lives receive it. This is where the mixtape used to come in handy! The creation and giving of a tape combined all of Chapman’s love languages except physical touch. It was the perfect gift for almost everyone.

Those of you who also made tapes know what I mean. The song selection communicated words of affirmation since the lyrics revealed what might have been too hard to voice. The tedium of waiting for the right song on the radio or dubbing favorites on a dual cassette player with your finger hovering above the record and stop buttons was an act of service, as was deliberately placing the songs in a sensible order. If you listened to the tape with the intended recipient, then it became the love language of time. The tape was also a tangible gift. Burning CDs combined the love languages too, but nothing compared to the production of a mixtape.

Those tapes also functioned as an audio journal to represent certain periods in my life. I had a mix for every summer of camp and season of school with labels like “Winter 1990.” My deliberate lettering on the cover named each song. It was from my personal collection that I created mixes for others. I had to know the lyrics and atmosphere of the songs before I was certain they’d fit the person in mind or the situation.

There were songs that made it onto multiple friends’ and boyfriends’ tapes. “For a Just a Moment” from St. Elmos Fire was a natural for late 80s, post-summer mixes for camp friends. “Love Will Come to You” by the Indigo Girls was for friends dealing with a heartbreak. Tracy Chapman’s “The Promise” was the anthem for every guy I was involved with in high school and college as I was forever breaking up with and reconciling with the same ones. Through the 90s, Sarah Mclachlan said it all for everyone in my life.

I often made a copy of the gift-mixes for myself. In that way there was this imagined conversation. I’m listening to a song; you’re listening to the same song. Unfortunately, after Bryan and I moved into our second house and had long stopped owning cassette players, I threw the tapes away. It’s the only instance I can think of where my extreme anti-hoarding tendencies has filled me with deep regret. I would give anything to see the covers again and to hear the songs I picked for particular moments in time.

The tapes are lost, but the habit of curating playlists remains—now for my kids, who spend time every day in our car. Although highlighting and deleting files in five-minute spurts on iTunes may not be the laborious undertaking that went into the tapes, I still see the process as an act of love for the four little Badzins I adore more than any words—sung or spoken—could properly express. Hopefully in this way and many others they’re able to receive the love I send their way.