An Uncomplicated Life Blog

Thursday, March 21, 2019

When You Don’t Identify With PopMom Culture

Ever see a meme or something trending about motherhood and just think, "man, that's WAY off - I so don't understand that"? This is what it's like when you don't identify with popular mom culture

There's only been a few times in my life where everything aligns at exactly the same time. In this case, I had some internet friends and some real life friends talk about the exact same thing on the exact same day. And then it happened again with a different set of internet friends and a different set of IRL friends! In every instance, it elicited the same response from me: huh?! There are some things that are really trendy or popular to talk about, especially while in a group of other moms. There's quite a few of them that I just don't identify with, and stand there awkwardly, unsure of how to participate in the conversation. This post is all about those things; when you simply don't identify with popmom culture.

The headline is indeed funny... But this meme reflects a larger community of moms who husband-complain NONSTOP

The first thing I can't get behind? The constant husband complaining. Y'all, this one is BAD. Bad in what people say about their husbands, and bad as in this topic dominates mom groups. The complaining is incessant. For my mom friends with infants at home, they constantly complain about how they're the only one that gets up with the baby. That their husband sleeps all night, and then sits on the couch all morning complaining of being tired. I don't understand that - why don't you ask him for help? If he doesn't know what to do, why don't you show him? Why are you sitting around being a miserable, tired mommy martyr?! You didn't make these kids by yourself, why aren't you first asking for the help you need, and if you don't get it, demand the help you need?! 

For my friends with kids who sleep through the night, the moms have found new ways to complain about their spouses. Their husbands don't play with their kids enough, they don't do any cleaning/laundry/housework, and they don't help out with homework. One friend even commented that her husband doesn't notice when his daughter needs help tying her shoe! Shoe laces. It's devolved to the point of a shoe lace being a point of contention with husbands. For the love...

This gem is a 2-4-1! Husband bitching and Target loving. See below for my thoughts on Target

It's so hard when this becomes the topic of conversation because I just don't identify with it. My husband is up with me with the twins EVERY SINGLE TIME (partially because two babies is a two person ordeal!) even though he's the one with the job that pays all our bills. He takes all four boys for a couple hours on the weekend so that I can get some alone time. He changes all the diapers on the weekends. Hell, he'd probably lactate if he could just to lend me a hand! He does travel extensively for work, so when he is home, he pulls more than 50% of the weight so that I can catch a break. He doesn't sit around being "tired" from his workweek. When you're a parent, your workweek never ends. Five pm on a Friday doesn't mean he gets to sit back and crack a beer while I continue to do everything with the kids, and he knows that. Because he's a parent. He helped me make these kids, he helps me raise them. End of story. Yes, I've had to show him how to do certain things. Yes, he asks me questions if he doesn't know. But he still shows up and helps. Daily. 

It's popular culture to complain about how easy your husband has it, how lazy he is or how "bad" he is with your children and therefore how hard your job is, but why? If moms spent a quarter of the time they spent complaining  asking their husband for help and showing him how to be helpful, they'd be a lot happier! It's so prevalent in pop culture that I've left conversation circles and I've unfollowed mom groups just to get away from the toxicity of it. My closest friends, my sister and sister-in-law, we all spend our time talking about how awesome our husbands are with our kids. That's the type of conversation I would love to see become the norm in popmom culture.

Because all parents drink away their kids and their problems... Look at how many shares this got!

The next thing that I struggle with in popmom culture is the amount of wine people talk about consuming. It's like functional-alcoholic-levels of wine that are either talked about or actually being consumed by moms. Now, don't get me wrong! I do enjoy wine. I have no problem with a mom who wants to enjoy a glass or two (or three - get it!) It's more the culture of moms and wine. Like, bad day with the kids? Wine time! 5pm? Wine time! Toddler tantrum? Wine time! Overly tired from doing all the things your husband doesn't help you with? Wine time! I mean, c'mon. How are you even functioning? Do you have any coping skills besides alcohol? Is your life really that bad that it drives you to drink daily?! I just don't understand the constant wine consumption (or the talk of it) in popmom culture.

This one is enough to take away my mom AND blogger card: moms, why are you ALWAYS talking about Target?! Never once have I had a "spare hour" and thought, you know what? I'm just going to go cruise the aisles of Target and buy things I don't need with money I probably don't have. I have never once walked the aisles there "just to see what's there" and to look at crap. Not once. I have my list, I get what's on the list, I usually see one or two more items that should have been on my list but weren't, I check out, I leave. I don't go to the in-store Starbucks to spend $7 on a coffee that has over 500 calories in it. I don't cruise the aisles. Have you noticed Target now plays obnoxious music? They do. It makes me dislike that store even more. It used to be so quiet and peaceful... Now it's full of bright fluorescent lights and bad music.
Memes and posts like this get a big ol eye roll from me at best, and an unfollow at worst. I just don't get Target-mom-culture!

Fortunately, Target shopping doesn't dominate the conversations of my IRL friends. Boutiques and higher end shopping can, if shopping is talked about at all. Typically it's just a quick mention of where someone got something cute, and we move on. Thank God. But online and in the blogosphere? This is a regular topic of convo, everyone voices their love for killing time at the retailer and friggin memes are created about a mom and her love for Target! I secretly think it's all a marketing ploy from the corporate headquarters of the chain. Trust me, I'm from Minneapolis where it's HQ'd and know tons of people who work there. They'd totally do it. Jokes on you! Anyway, I just don't get why this one particular store is constantly, incessantly talked about in popmom culture. It's an obsession I just don't identify with. If I'm being really honest with you, I unlike mom blog pages that talk about or post Target memes. That's how much I don't identify with it.

In some ways, not identifying with these popmom culture items makes me feel like an odd mom out. When it becomes the topic of conversation in various online groups, I usually just keep scrolling. I unfollow if it's a particularly atrocious conversation. And in real life? I stand there, unsure of how to join in. Everyone would hate me if I piped up with how awesome I think my husband is, or how I dread going to Target, or how I've stopped all mid-week wine consumption because it was ruining my sleep. Misery loves company, and that's not being a team player! But I'm here to tell you that if you don't identify will all the aspects of popular mom culture, it's ok! You're still a cool mom in my eyes. And I'm totally here for any of you who want to talk about amazing husbands, the dreadful way Target clothes fit, or taking up a tea habit over alcohol.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Child's Art Space Organization Tips

If your children love to color, draw, and play in activity books, check out these ideas to organize all those materials to keep your art space clean and accessible 

Both of my older boys have really gotten into art lately. Henry, my oldest, is actually really impressive. He's 4.5 and can color something a perfect even shade, and completely stay in the lines! Otto, who's 3, is a tad more... Abstract. It's cool, he's working on it. Anyway, we've accumulated quite an art supply stash. Activity books with stickers, coloring books of just about every variety, crayons, colored pencils. You get the drift. For a while we were just storing all this stuff in our built-ins around our wet bar. Then *a child* took a crayon to the white woodwork, not to mention we had overflowing, unorganized drawers so we realized we needed a better storage solution to a) nix the coloring on the built-ins and b) to enable everything to fit. I myself have quite a bit of craft supplies I need to store - photo props for blog posts, wrapping paper, seasonal items, craft ribbon and so on. This post is all about the items we used to organize our creative space chaos. Here's how we organized our children's art space, and my craft supplies. *affiliate links used*

Our formal dining room that rarely gets used - so we use it to store art and craft supplies, in addition to eating holiday meals here. Dual purpose living, y'all

The biggest consideration in organizing kiddo stuff is accessibility. You want them to be able to reach it, access it, open it, use it and most importantly clean it and put it away when done! Since my kids are 3 and 4, they can do this on their own, without my help. We did some moving around so that we could put their supplies into the bottom cupboards of a built in bookshelf in our formal dining room. Honestly, we rarely eat at this table, which is large enough to seat 8 adults. I like having their stuff in here because the table is plenty big for them to spread out, and honestly, it means this room gets used for more than just Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter!

We picked the lower half of one of our built-in's for the kids' art storage

The other part of this equation is MY craft supplies. While I want them to freely access their own stuff, I want them to leave mine alone! All of my supplies are blog related so my income depends on these things. I do want them to feel free to create and color, but dang homies - you have GOT to leave mama's stuff alone! There's a big storage closet in our formal dining room (this room is *actually* the family room, but our *real* formal dining room had carpet, so we made that the playroom and transitioned this room to our formal dining. We have an eat-in kitchen so the bulk of our meals are eaten there or outside. We also have a great room. I can't tell you how much I love having four separate rooms that create our shared living space - the room separation means the noise is contained and each space has it's own function. I know I know... Open floor plans are the trend. I'm just not into them. Wow, that was a long tangent.)

Get all this junk organized and stored away neatly!

Ok, back to the organization! We've found some great ways to store the various items we need to store, from coloring books to acrylic paint. Here are some of the key storage items:

This storage bin is great because it has adjustable compartments (good for crayons, different sized sticker sheets, markers, etc) and it opens at the top, so everything won't spill out upon opening. 

This one is great because it has trays that pop up when you open the lid. That works to keep your or your child's supplies organized while stored AND while in use. Crayons can be in one tray, colored pencils another and the coloring books can be at the bottom, all accessible and organized when the box is opened.

This bin is large and flat, which is perfect for stacking. It's great for holding coloring books, activity books, specialty paper, spools of ribbon or anything else that's relatively flat. It carries like a briefcase, which makes it easier for transporting materials.

This is very similar to the one I have, and I LOVE it. It's great when there are multiple tools associated with one craft. In mine I store paintbrushes and sponges on one level and the paint on another. Then both are stored together and transportable in one kit. In another I store seasonal props (faux fall leaves, jingle bells, heart confetti, etc) and seasonal ribbon, all of which I use when photographing the various seasonal crafts and recipes I feature on this blog. 

This one is great for small pieces. If you or your child is into bead work, this one is perfect! Or if you're into sewing or needlework, and want to store similarly colored thread together, this would be a great option.

Storage solutions for art and craft supplies
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Get whatever of the above storage solutions fit your needs and figure out a dedicated space to store them where your kids can access them (or, as in the case of my craft closet - NOT access them!) It's really great when your children can go and get their art supplies on their own, instead of needing you to get them for them. Consider using underutilized or non-traditional spaces like we did. Our formal dining room might not be the obvious choice for an art space, but it's worked out great for us, and uses a room that would only otherwise be used for formal holidays. Finally, storage bins have been KEY! Use something that works for what you need to store, and that can be opened (or not) for the person trying to open it. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Long Days, Short Years

How registering my oldest for kindergarten has me reflecting on the old saying, "The days are long, but the years are short."

I actually started to cry as I typed that title out. Then I started to laugh at myself for crying. Then I was that insane person who was laugh-crying... At her laptop. Here's the thing: motherhood is a deep pool of weird emotions. You can feel contradictory ways at the EXACT same time. I've mentioned before on Instagram how it's weird to feel relief at the exact same time that I feel sadness about never being pregnant again. How I can be driven entirely insane from two twins pulling, scratching, tugging on my clothes and look down at their goofy, smiling faces and feel so much love for the thing that's driving me mad. On February 28, I registered my oldest child for kindergarten. Kindergarten! At an actual real school (not a church preschool like my other kids go to) that's a full day long. It got me reminiscing on him and his "baby" days and made me realize an old saying is painfully true: the days are long, but the years are short.

Shortly after delivering Henry after a surprise emergency c section

My first pregnancy was by far, without question or doubt, my longest. I found out we were expecting a week before my bachelorette party. Nothing like being the designated driver at your own party, right?! And it was like I was pregnant and out of commission for a whole slew of things I'd want to party (aka have a drink) and feel great at: bachelorette. Then my birthday. Then Christmas, followed by New Years. Then my own wedding. Date night on Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day parade. You get the gist. It was like I got pregnant right at the worst possible time, and since the pregnancy spanned over two calendar years, I felt like I was pregnant FOREVER.

My birth literally could not have gone more opposite than what I wanted. I had all my prenatal care done with midwives at a birth center. At 29 weeks, I went into preterm labor and was put on bed rest. At 35 weeks, he was still breech so I saw an OB to attempt an external cephlic version to flip him. It failed, because I had low fluid and was a first time mom. Before I could even get all my paperwork transferred to the OB from my midwives (birthing at the birth center with a breech baby was out - I knew at this point I'd be having a c section because nobody would allow me to try a breech birth for my first baby), my water broke at 36 weeks. We googled directions to the hospital we had never even toured, because it just wasn't the plan.

Once we were home with Henry, I was woefully unprepared for how hard being a mom was. I had every intention of breastfeeding for a year, but knew nothing about it and the demands it'd place on me. I hated it. I hated how often the baby needed ME; nobody else could fulfill this role. I was completely unprepared for what real sleep deprivation felt like. I thought, "Hey, I graduated college in 3 years while working at least two jobs the whole time. I totally know what being tired feels like!" Ha! Joke was on me. That was nothing compared to motherhood.

Henry's school photo from his first year of preschool

The first year of Henry's life, I was a true stay at home mom. Yes, I had started this blog, but it was purely a hobby; something to keep my brain stimulated and have fun with. I hadn't yet monetized it - that was a dream I'd realize the following year. Nope, his first year of life, I was at home 100% with him. No nanny. No preschool. 100% me, all the time. I found it exhausting and brain-numbing. I remember one morning, he must have been two or three months old, I was trying to get a workout DVD in. It was a 20 min workout and Henry was having none of it. I went to get my screaming baby and looked at him, with his face red from wailing, and thought, "I'm never going to make it. All I want is some peace! I'm never going to last 5 years until this kid is in kindergarten and I can catch a break. This is awful!"

Turns out, I was experiencing some pretty bad postpartum depression. I didn't get the birth I wanted, I hated breastfeeding and being a stay at home mom was miserable. No wonder I was struggling! I look back at photos from when Henry was a baby and it's like I don't even remember him being that little. As if my brain just shut down and blocked that time out. I simply remember that those were the LONGEST days I've ever had as a mom. When my husband was on business trips and I'd have Henry all by myself for days on end, it truly felt like it would never end. When my husband was in town, I'd look at the clock and it'd be 3:30. An hour would pass, I'd look at the clock again, and it'd read 3:32. Time moved that slowly!

He still makes this face when he's not having the BS you're feeding him 

Right about the time we moved from the house we were renting to our current home that we bought, I started to come out of my PPD fog. I had finally made some mom friends and started to take Henry on regular play dates. I remember St. Patrick's Day, me and a group of moms who all had our babies about the same time went to the Dallas Arboretum, sat in the sun, had a picnic and drank wine. I had a great time! I had finally found my "mom groove." I was pregnant again the following month, Henry began preschool when he turned 12 months and by that summer, I had monetized the blog and had actual income of my own again. Things were great! But man, that first year home alone with Henry felt like a decade. Like I was wading through pudding instead of walking through air.

Here's something that I've learned, four kids later: Sure, it's EASIER to only have one child. In fact, that's the problem. It's too easy. It makes time move really, really slow. You can get things done at a reasonable pace, so it's as if there's TOO much time to get things done. There's nobody else for the child to play with, so they always want YOU to play with them. The more children I've had, the faster time has gone. And the easier motherhood has gotten. When I look at the clock and it's 3:30 now - even if my husband is gone on a business trip - I think, ok! I need to go make tomorrow's lunches and then get on dinner. If I don't get my arse moving, we'll never get to bed on time! 3:30 with four kids means I'm headed into the busiest time of the day, not the slowest moving time.

Killing bugs, birds and squirrels for mom. Sweet boy knows mama doesn't like nature hanging around her yard

Probably because I've gone on to have four kids in four years, I can tell you it's like I've blinked and now Henry is ready for kindergarten. What I thought was going to be an eternity went by like lightning! Sure, there are still days that are long. When he's misbehaving or sick, time slows down. But when I look back on the collective years that have passed, holy cow do they move quickly! He went from a baby who never slept to a walking toddler to potty trained and now a kindergartener all in a flash. I feel like in another flash, we'll be filling out college applications and he'll move away. In between flashes, the'll be days that drag on and on of sickness, arguments, disciplining him for bad behavior, mistakes made that have huge impacts (on both of us), sports tournaments that never end, and endless amounts of lunches I need to make. I have a true dislike for making lunches, y'all. I CANNOT WAIT to simply pump money into an account and have someone else make lunch for my kids! It will be like Christmas... Everyday. Kidding! Kinda.

All grown up

Anyway, here we are, all registered for Henry to start "big boy school." For a brief moment in my life, it seemed as though I'd never reach this point. Then I got busy making and raising more babies, and somehow overnight, I arrived to this place in time I so desperately wanted, and I'm no longer sure I want it. On the one hand, I love watching Henry become his own person, with his own talents and own personality and his own faults. At the same time, I yearn for the days when he was my baby - my only baby. Motherhood is so weird like that! The days are most certainly long, but dang those years are so short and go by so quickly.