To My Firstborn. . . I’m Sorry

Dear S.H.

I’m sorry I couldn’t deliver you naturally, like I had planned, and that your first vision in this world was my bloody abdominal cavity torn open with my intestines lying beside me. It was so worth it. I promise.

But baby, sometimes things don’t go according to plan and—despite your disappointment—you’ll need to roll with the punches and trust in those who know more than you.

I’m sorry you were born in September, which will make your school age a little wacky. There will be some kids in your class a year older and some a whole year younger.

But kiddo, all through your life you’ll encounter kids older, younger, bigger, smaller, smarter, faster. Try not to be intimidated (I know it’s hard), and always be kind. Kindness gets you the furthest.

I’m sorry I used to put you to bed at 4:45pm. Oh, your grandmothers used to worry that I wasn’t giving you a life. But you were six months old! Socially you weren’t missing out on much. I promise.

But sweetheart, thank you for giving Mommy and Daddy a few hours alone to connect. It gave us the time to catch up on each other’s lives, but we mainly only talked about how wonderful you are. Quality time is more fulfilling than screen time. I hope we raise you to realize that.

I’m sorry I made you cry it out as an infant. I bet you didn’t know that I was crying too. But then Daddy came in and threw me out of the house (out of love!) because I wasn’t “up for the task.” Daddy likes to fix things and we weren’t being cruel. I promise.

But honey, as you grow up, we’ll do a lot of things that you won’t find fair. You’ll be mad at us and probably say things you don’t mean. It will be hard on us too. Parenting isn’t easy, but you make it worth it.

I’m sorry I got pregnant with your brother so soon and that you and I only had 15 months alone together, but your father and I had all that alone time due to the 4:45pm bedtime and . . .

But buddy, thank you for being such a kind, gentle and protective big brother. That crazy, little guy will be your very best friend one day. I promise.

I’m sorry I never cut your wild, blond curls as a baby and now you hate haircuts and still have your messy, signature coif. It looks perfect. I promise.

But dude, that look is yours. If you love it, own it. I will never force you to cut it short, or shave it. If you love it, I love it. And screw anyone who might mock it.

I’m sorry I chose to stop nursing you when your brother was born. But, there’s only so much boob sucking a woman can take in a day. You were thriving and didn’t protest at all. I promise.

But love, your newborn brother needed it more than you, so I gave to the one who needed it more. Share your lunch with a friend who’s hungry, tip generously and donate. If you don’t have money to donate, donate your blood. Someone needs it more than you.

I’m sorry I made you take music classes, swimming lessons, art, gymnastics, karate, and guitar without asking you. You probably don’t remember back then, but you enjoyed them all. I promise.

But handsome, our home is my job and sometimes you’ve just got to leave the office. Remember that.

I’m sorry I put your training wheels back on after you learned to ride a bike. But you were sobbing and begged me to because you were scared. It’s okay to be scared. I promise.

But sport, I enabled you to stay comfortable, when I knew you could soar. Listen to adults who believe in you: teachers, coaches, professors, bosses. They’ll see gifts in you long before you believe in yourself.

I’m sorry you won’t grow up with Grandma alive. I hope somehow during your three short years with her that you’ll remember some of the memories. She loved you and your brother so very much. Even though she’s no longer with us, she’ll always be with you. I promise.

But darling, she waited for you and your brother. She was sick a very long time before an angel gave her wings. She just couldn’t leave this earth without meeting you two first.

I’m sorry it may seem like I let your brother off the hook more than I did for you.

But goose, it took me a while to find out who I’d be as a mother. I was anxious and awkward with you. Once your brother arrived, I knew what was important to our family, and what I could let go.

I’m sorry I don’t read to you as often at night anymore. You can do it yourself now. And I miss it too. Let’s go to the library and choose some longer books that we can read together this summer. Have you heard of Harry Potter? Do you promise? I promise.

But bud, do you know I sometimes stand in your doorway watching you read to yourself? I am so proud that you get excited over a new book, even a new bookmark. Maybe you are a little like your mommy? Keep reading. You’ll be smarter, more compassionate and you’ll always have an escape. A good book is even better than a Minecraft world.

I’m sorry you might catch me staring at you sometimes with a strange look. I just can’t believe how far we’ve come; and I’m by your side for the long haul. I promise.

But beautiful, a mother’s stare is so much more than a gaze. In those moments I see you as many things: I see the precious baby I once cradled, the little boy I have now and the good man I’m raising, all combined into one blond haired, blue eyed, gentle soul.

I’m sorry but I need to go now. I could go on and on.

But my dear, I’ve made mistakes, and you will too. It’s always okay to admit you were wrong. And it’s always okay to say I’m sorry. 

Love, Mommy

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Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this, perhaps you’d enjoy 10 REASONS I WANT A THIRD KID (even though I hated babies)  xo, Emme

 

 

Just Keep Scrolling: Social Media & Motherhood

This post was featured here on Scary Mommy on February 20, 2018.

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Shut up. Just shut up. I am this close to unfriending you. And you. And you and you and you.

Social media has a way of making people—namely mothers—feel inadequate. Feel like failures. Not creative enough. Not involved enough. Not fun enough. Not motherly enough. Just not. . .well . . .enough.

And it pisses me off because motherhood is HARD. We all do our best. We all just do it differently.

I was completely overwhelmed my first three years of motherhood. I read every single article shared by other mothers on my social media feeds. Reading these articles—these supposed cold-hard truths—didn’t make me feel more knowledgeable or confident. They made me feel like shit.

These articles, statuses (what’s on your mind?), crafts, recipes—hell even crafty recipes–made me feel like crap. Because I had never thought to consider these things—and worse, reading these posts won’t make me change. Reading these articles will educate me that red food dye might cause cancer. But, reading the article will also guarantee to make me feel guilty every time I twist around in my car to hand my son the red lollipop at the bank drive-thru.

Oh, and then there’s the obligatory happy family pictures at adorable places. You’ve seen it. Look at us! We are so happy and coincidentally wearing coordinating outfits at the beach. Look at us! We are so happy and laughing hysterically at this trendy restaurant where our children are behaving perfectly. Look at us! We are so happy and just in love with life at this park. Look at us! We ski. We vacation. We snuggle. We hike. We smile all f*cking day long.

Stop it now. Because no, no you don’t.

When I was a new mom, my husband made me quit using my favorite website that had endless baby information and forums for moms with babies the exact same age. I was obsessed. These stranger moms were my go-to gurus (even though they were brand new like me) on any topic. I don’t know why, but I trusted that they knew more than me on everything.

“Stop going on that website, Emme!” my husband would beg.

“But I love it! I always learn so much,” I’d argue.

“You always think that our perfectly healthy baby has a terminal illness,” he’d point out.

He was right. Who were these women anyway? Why was I so brainwashed that their opinions were fact? Why do they have so many opinions anyway?

I never posted answers, or opinions. I only asked questions. Was this website a social experiment between the dominant and the submissive? Where was my own intuition? I must have it. . .

I deleted my account and began to parent using my own tools: my gut, my heart and my fucking brain. If I had a concern, I’d call my mom or a friend. I wouldn’t reach out to a million strangers who were eager to bark advice and make me feel incompetent.

I soon realized that I needed to do something about the passive-aggressive Facebook advice that draped my newsfeed daily. I knew the posts weren’t intended to offend, but they did, in their sneaky back-alley ways. I knew it was mostly my own insecurities making me feel inadequate. These posts weren’t from strangers; they were from friends, or Facebook friends (there is a difference) probably just looking to inform. Head’s up: GMOs. Head’s up: Dry drowning. Head’s up: Sugar. Head’s up: Human trafficking.

I’m the first to admit that I love social media. I love the quick moments of escape it allows. I love seeing weddings and new babies. I love a funny anecdote, and I’m sucker for an inappropriate meme.

I tend to ignore the political rants. I brush by the sport fanatics. The network marketers don’t bother me, and I can’t resist donating to a GoFundMe page, regardless the cause.

So, I knew what I needed to do; I needed to engage only in posts that brought me pleasure. I became certified in scrolling. Just keep scrolling. Just keep scrolling.

Within time not only did I find that I was spending less time trapped in the vortex of Facebook, but I was becoming a better mother. I stopped comparing my messy, loose parenting style to this perception of perfection portrayed on my screen by others. I started to just be a mom. I became less anxious, less unsure of every move I made. If I screwed up. . .eh, who cares? And more, who’s going to even know? My kids, my business. Nobody else’s.

Social media and the internet has made motherhood maddening. We are too informed with loads of data that is often contradicting and/or frightening. I envy the pre-technology moms who pretty much gave birth, hoped for the best and then sent their kids to college.

No matter what image we portray on Facebook, we are all basically the same. We are all exhausted. We all yell sometimes. We all second guess. We’ve all had days when they’ve had way too much screen time. We’ve all woken up with hangovers and thought, “FML, how am I going to do it today?” We’ve all sometimes let them eat too much crap, or caved into their nagging just to shut them up.

And it’s all okay. Whatever kind of Facebook mom you want to be, go for it. We’re in it together. So, let’s truck through the next 10+ years then meet up for a drink when we’re empty nesters. We can reminisce about how much we miss their younger years. We can wake up with wicked hangovers and go back to sleep. Hell, let’s even take some selfies and put them on Facebook. But, make sure I look good. 😉

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If you enjoyed this, check out In Defense of the Mom Blog. Thank you for reading.

9 Reasons Pre-School Mom Friends are Game Changers

It wasn’t an immediate thing. It evolved gradually, at its cautious pace. A polite smile here. Eye-contact there. Each morning, seeing you in the lobby, made me more curious about you: about your life, your family, just really who you are outside of this building.  I noticed that you got a hair-cut. Maybe highlights too? It looks pretty.  I noticed you don’t wear your wedding ring. Why? I kind of want to get a drink with you. I could never. You’d think I’m a stalker.

Wait a second. . . I know what I’ll say. . .gulp. . . I’m going to ask her. . .  for a playdate.

I have my childhood friends, my college friends, my old work friends and now, . . . my Pre-School mom friends, my PSMFs.

I’ll call it the Little Years. Those long, long days when 8:00 am feels like 10:00pm and the minutes drag and the days repeat and repeat and . . .BAM! A year goes by. How the hell did that happen? How’d my baby get so big? Oh, how I miss the days he was so teeny-tiny. Insert single tear emoji.

My memory of the Little Years feels like this: Labor & Delivery -> a lot of crying (like everyone)-> Preschool Years. Of course, there were a lot of pictures taken, naps in weird locations (stopped at red lights, pedicure chairs, during sex with the husband, etc.)  and birthing other children too. . . but it’s all just such a damn blur.

The vetting process for finding a PSMF during the Little Years is not extensive. Do our kids get along? (This helps, but is not required). Are our kids the same sex? (Actually, nope, not important.) Do you seem relatively normal, yet also appear to be a bit of a disaster? Okay cool. This could work.

The desperation during the Little Years stems from a yearning for adult conversation and commiseration of the female plight. That desperation is so pathetic that any woman who doesn’t throw tantrums, shit her pants, or bite your nipples off is pretty much fair game for friendship recruitment.

A stay-at-home-mom sending her first to pre-school is like letting a caged animal into the wild. She steps slowly and carefully, overwhelmed by the possibilities and freedoms ahead.

I registered for preschool anxious for a few hours of peace a week. Although not even looking, I found friendships that I had no idea how badly I needed.

Below are nine facts about PSMFs.

1.They get it. Like truly get it. Not all moms are created equal in their perception of motherhood stages. A mom with an infant might predict that the pre-school years will be much easier with clean little people, weaned from the breast, dressed hip in GapKids, and able to communicate their needs. However, a mom with older kids might reminisce longingly upon those years, thinking of a time when her kids were adorable, didn’t talk back and made her the center of their world. PSMFs? Oh, they get it. They know EXACTLY what your life is like right now. And it ain’t pretty.

2. Nothing from your past matters. I don’t collect resumes when meeting new friends, so I don’t give a damn if you were Ivy League or GED, just be real. Just say one real thing about how hard motherhood is, and you’ll have my attention. The unspoken side-effects of motherhood do not discriminate against class, race or education. We are all delirious with exhaustion. We all lost our tempers recently at a little person who didn’t deserve it. We all don’t have enough sex with our husbands. We all miss a little piece of the women we once were.

3. You expose what you want. Since nothing in your past matters, these new friends only need to know what information you choose to divulge. Pyromaniac? They don’t need to know. Criminal record? They don’t need to know. Tenth marriage? They don’t need to know. If there’s anything blazingly wrong with you, they’ll figure it out on their own and run the hell away.

4. They inspire you without realizing it. Motherhood is fraught with uncertainty and the constant fear that you’re fucking up. You always feel like if you made little changes that life will improve, but you don’t know what to change. Then you get in their car and it’s neat, it’s vacuumed, it doesn’t smell gross and you think I can do that. You’re at their house and their kid grabs an apple BY CHOICE and then heads to the fridge to a healthy food chart and he makes a big checkmark and you think I can do that. Her kid just freaking lost his shit and even you want to scream at him, but she squats down to his level and in the most soothing voice you’ve ever heard says, “I know, I know. Honey it’s okay. Let’s just calm down. Shhh. Shhh. I love you. . . “ and blah, blah, but also I can do that. The husband calls and she is totally un-sarcastic and polite and you think I can do that.

5. They keep your pebbles in place. You’re finding your tribe, and while you’re not as close and weird as sister wives, you trust them. But what’s more important, you can count on them. Motherhood is like filling a jar with pebbles and vigorously shaking it; that’s the responsibilities in your head bouncing around with no sense of place or priority, and no prediction when the pebbles will settle. Dropping off your kids with a PSMF allows you to bang out some errands, attend a doctor appointment, or just take a goddamn nap to procrastinate real-life a little longer. No matter what your reason for needing help, they get it and will happily watch the kids. And you’re happy to watch theirs too.

6. Cherry pick personal details. I loved all the moms I met during our family’s four years at the preschool, but there are five that inspired this piece. We came from different towns, questionable backgrounds (see #3) and even different races and religions. Although I was able to be myself with all of them, I was deliberate in choosing with whom I’d share certain personal information. This one is atheist, so I can confess to her that our kids are interfaith, but we haven’t really chosen a religion and probably won’t. This one is frigging nuts, so I can share my experience with various sex toys. This one wants a nose-piercing? Count me in. I’ll get new ink too. This one is health obsessed, so I won’t scarf down and entire bag of chips when she’s around, maybe like half. This one is oddly innocent and says things like, “Oh gosh,” so I’ll find vulgar pictures and text her them at random hours to put some bad in her bones.

7. Every before-children story will sound exotic. There is a certain look in a mother’s eye when she’s telling a story of her life before kids. It’s a look like trying to recall a part in a movie with a character whose life she envies. It’s a look like she’s telling a story about a stranger, or fictitious character. She’s using words that she never really uses because it’s been so long since her past life was cared about that she wants to dress it up special. Even as the words are leaving her mouth, she cannot believe she is talking about yourself. She sounds so interesting. One moms’ night out, a PSMF said she had worked for the New York Post. I spit out my drink and fainted. I can’t handle so much exotic.

8. Preserving these friendships will take effort. PSMF friendships can be fleeting. The Little Years is just a pocket of time, it goes by fast and before you know it, you’re all going in different directions, being separated by life’s demands. The kids aren’t invited to each other’s birthday parties anymore because they have new friends, and quite frankly might not even remember the pre-school days. Maintaining a PSMF requires more effort than addressing a Christmas card once a year. Plans need to be made—and kept. Maintenance requires more than a flaky, “We should get together soon.”

9. They will always remind you of such a precious time in your life. Oh, the kids seemed so big at the time with their oversized backpacks that went from their necks to their knees, eager to share their new knowledge (usually in song). But they were just babies who smelled like glue and Goldfish crackers. I look back and struggle to remember exactly what my kids were like during those years, but I’ll never forget my PSMFs. They are my unsung heroes of that pocket of motherhood. I don’t know how we’ll fare with maintaining our friendships, but I will always look back at those years so grateful to have found my (temporary) tribe.

My Pre-School Mom Friends. . . They were there to kill time on days it felt like bedtime would never come. They were always there to cheers to birthdays, during a decade when adult birthdays are often passed over. You meet some interesting characters on your journey through motherhood; but so far, my PSMFs are my favorite characters in the book.

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Interfaith Kids This Time of Year

Before I became a mom, I naively thought that Christmastime with children would be filled with magic, peace and amazing memories. I thought I’d happily wrap all the presents, decorate the house, get the tree, bake cookies, address the Christmas cards, and host a shit ton of people in the house.

But now? Now I’m actually a mom.

Now I know about the Elf on the Shelf. Now I know about volunteering at the holiday parties in the boys’ school. Now I know that I’m supposed to buy a small token for the teachers. And the aides. And the art/gym/music/Spanish teacher. And the crossing guard. But not candles! (They have too many.) But not gift cards! (Too impersonal.) But not ornaments! (That’s too personal.)

ENTER: Jewish husband.

Before I became a mom, and after I married a Jew, I pictured the holidays with a beautiful blend of both traditions, exposing the boys to as much of our childhoods as possible. (I even thought about starting my own online interfaith holiday decoration website, because there really aren’t any.)

This beautiful blend of tradition. . .let’s do some math.

Eight nights of Hanukkah times two kids is sixteen gifts. That’s sixteen new things before Santa even comes. F to the M to the L.

This beautiful blend is gluttonous. Most parents are trying to get kids to cut down their lists. Me? I’m begging for more so I can fill both holidays. Let’s not even talk about the kid with the January birthday.

Now, I know how this sounds. It sounds like I’m raising two greedy, spoiled a-holes who aren’t even learning the valuable messages that are abundant this time of year. That’s not true.

They know the story of the Maccabees and the miracle of the oil lasting eight nights. They know about the persecution of Jews throughout history and that our family exists because of sacrifices and the hell that their ancestors endured. They wear yarmulkes when we light the menorah. So what if they call them “Hanukkah hats?”

They know the story of Jesus. They know that he put other people before himself. They know that he was kind. They know that he always helped. They know that he is the son of God. They think decorations of baby Jesus when he’s naked are downright hilarious.

They also recently found out that Jesus was killed by the Jews, which made the freak out a bit. Then I mentioned that Jesus was actually Jewish. This fact simultaneously relieved and confused them. Such is life for interfaith kids, I suppose.

It’s a new year and the confusion and chaos of the holiday season is behind me. Now that the tree is down and the menorah is packed away, I can reflect on my boys’ perceptions of the holiday season.

They didn’t see how overwhelmed my to-do list made me feel. They didn’t sense that I was secretly praying for it to all be over.

They saw a home filled with decorations from both their parents’ childhood traditions.

They watched as friends and family from both religions gathered around the menorah to light the candles and say the prayer.

They got excited to get the mail to see whose holiday cards we could add to our wall of friends and loved ones.

They got bundled up so we could walk in the dark (6pm) to our town fire station to select our Christmas tree and pull it home on their red wagon.

They sang along to the holiday music that was always playing in the kitchen.

They loved watching the pile of gifts for family and friends grow under the tree.

They gathered old toys that they don’t need anymore so I could donate them to GoodWill.

They smelled the oil from the latkes I fried and the sweetness of the cookies we baked.

They helped find extra pillows and blankets for all their aunts, uncles, cousins and grandma who spent the night on Christmas Eve.

Yes, they receive a lot of gifts in December. Yes, perhaps they are a tad spoiled.

But, it’s my December to-do list that is giving them the gifts they’ll carry with them forever. Togetherness. Family. Love. What else matters?

 

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10 REASONS I WANT A THIRD KID (even though I hated babies)

*This post was published here on Sammiches and Psych Meds on 1/11/18.

People think that I’m joking when I tell them that I hated my babies. I mean, of course, I didn’t hate my babies, I just hated the person I became during those years. I hated thinking about how boring my day would be, and how tomorrow would be exactly the same. Yes, the love is intense, but the sheer tedium dominated my ability to genuinely enjoy those early days of motherhood.

My husband got snipped, so why the hell do I secretly wish for one more?

  1. I want to experience pregnancy one more time. I might not have liked them when they were born, but, oh but I did love them when they were growing inside of me. I didn’t even mind not drinking! Well, I did house a whole six-pack of non-alcoholic beer at a BBQ once, so maybe I missed it just a little. I loved the rolling knobs and random jabs. I loved the trippy feeling of being so close to them, but not being able to see or touch them, but I loved them, yet I didn’t know their gender, but I knew that unlike friends, pets or even husbands, these babies would be in my life forever. Nothing in life compares to the acid trip that is pregnancy.
  2. My first two kids turned out okay, I guess. Guys, I think my husband and I actually know what we’re doing. Our boys are funny, moody, silly, angry, curious, lazy, kind and truly a-holes only like once or twice a week. Good enough for me.
  3. I know now to ask for help. Dude, why didn’t I do this the first time around? #helprules People love to help (in moderation) and people love babies (also in moderation). If I had my pretend third child, I would totally respond to this statement, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do,” with this reply, “Okay thanks. Be here at 10am on Wednesday. Plan to stay until around 12 or 1pm. Bring me a coffee. And maybe like a meal or something I could heat up later for dinner for the fam. If we could make it a weekly thing, that would be great. Thaaaaaanks.” Help. Boom.
  4. More kids=more grandkids. Believe it or not, I won’t always be this fine, ten pounds overweight, 38-year-old vixen you see today. No, my friends, this sexy bitch will be old and gray one day. Tick tock tick tock. A bigger family ensures a larger younger generation. That means a bigger audience to laugh at me while I lose my memory and tell stories of how much I hated my babies.
  5. I want a re-do. While I don’t want to erase the two gems (see above) that I already made, it would be nice to have a blank slate, a tabula rasa, if you will (I totally had to Google that, I don’t use that term on the daily). Undiagnosed post-partum depression really screwed me up (ya think?) and I would like the chance to leave the hospital with the wisdom that I have now: Yes, these baby years are going to suck, but they will also be filled with wonder, discovery and magic. I didn’t see it then. But I see it now.
  6. I would be able to filter out the whispers. “You’re going to breastfeed, right?” Shut up. “You’re not going to co-sleep, are you?” Go away. “Oh my God, please tell me that’s organic.” I can’t hear you. People and baby advice suck. But the hypothetical third time around? Talk to the hand.
  7. It would preserve my older kids’ innocence a little longer. My boys grew up FAST. I know I kind of wished it, so now I’m coping by writing Top Ten pieces about fake third babies. But, they are only five and seven years old. Their innocence drips away with every new friend they encounter, or every weird family they want to join on YouTube. A new little baby of our own might recapture their pureness, or stall their innocence for just a bit longer. Or, at least until they find click on the photo icon on my iPhone.
  8. I miss the simplicity of a baby’s routine. I remember the feedings and the naps and the tummy time. I used to equate the mundanity of this cruel cycle to Chinese water torture. But now? Now it sounds delightful compared to the shit show of sports and homework that is just plain impossible to spin into anything that remotely resembles a routine. I know that you’re thinking that I’d be nuts to throw a baby’s routine into my current shit show routine. Fear not! My third baby is pretend and pretend babies sleep through the night as newborns, rarely cry, potty train themselves and even do their own laundry.
  9. I want to be the older mom. There was an older mom in my boys’ preschool. I used to gaze at her with a look of confusion (Is she really the mom? Nanny? Grandma?), curiosity (Why is she so old? Infertility in her past? Just an oops? Been there, sister!), and admiration. The older mom holds a place of honor in younger moms’ eyes. The older mom seems calmer, wiser and WAY more patient than their decade younger counterparts. Currently, moms who are my equals view me as just an f-bomb dropping hot mess, typically with a hangover, trying to find someone to come over for a drink.
  10. I want to really soak it in. Those baby years were so, so hard. How can I feel such palpable nostalgia, longing for a time when I was at my darkest? Because I forget the doom. I look back at pictures, even pictures when I remember I had been feeling despair, and all I see is love. I see an exhausted, young mom just trying to get by. I forget the doom, but I remember how their scalps smelled like toast. I remember going on walks and talking to them about everything we’d pass. I remember singing songs in the car. I remember allowing myself to put off anything if they unexpectedly fell asleep in my arms. Maybe I have been soaking it in all along?

I know I’ll never have my pretend third baby. Maybe my desire for one more is just another part of letting go. Maybe all moms wish for just one more chance. All moms except maybe Michelle Duggar.

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If you enjoyed this post, perhaps you’d enjoy In Defense of the Mom Blog

Thanks for reading.