What Happens While Mama’s in Vegas…

Last week I did something I said I’d never do as a mom (you can add it to the running list of things I do that I said I’d never do): I left my baby behind and took a trip to see Queen Celine in Vegas with girlfriends. I used to wonder, “What kind of mother would leave her young child for a selfish trip with friends?!” Well, now I know: a good mother would! If you’re not comfortable leaving your baby behind to take a trip, that’s completely understandable, totally okay, and you’re a good mother too! But, let’s face it, some of us just need a little time to feel like normal adults who have a reason to wear heels and that sparkle eyeshadow in the back of our makeup drawers, and it’s really not selfish. It’s just a way to feel like ourselves again and, really, a way to feel new and lost appreciation for our families and the lives we’ve built at home. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, or some nonsense like that, right?

I’ve had two long weekends away with Joe since Calvin was born, but this felt different. I knew no one there would be able to share the moments in which I missed him so much it hurt. I knew no one would by dying to look at his adorable videos while we waited to be seated at dinner or while we tried to fall asleep, but I also knew that this could be very good for me. I knew that having a little too much champagne and experiencing “My Heart Will Go On” live would remind me that I’m still young and worthy of such experiences.

This would be the longest Joe ever had Cal by himself, so I knew it would be good for them too. However, I did expect some bumps in their experience alone together. Joe is a great father, but he doesn’t know all that goes into packing the diaper bag or which sippy cups are acceptable to Calvin or where I keep the Diaper Genie refills. He knows how to feed, clothe, and bathe him. He knows how to put him in the car seat and keep him safe, but he doesn’t have Calvin’s playlist downloaded for that moment his screams fill the car with panic and desperation. I didn’t expect Joe to fail, not at all. I just expected to come home and start writing about their funny mishaps – forgetting to pack snacks, running out of diapers just in time for a car seat blowout, going to church in footie PJs – stuff like that. When I asked for updates throughout the weekend, things seemed to be going as expected. I got a photo of Calvin eating a family-sized bowl of pasta for breakfast and another of him crawling around without clothes because “he’s just going to get them dirty anyway.” I got a call telling me our kitchen sink fell through the counter and flooded the kitchen. I knew Calvin was safe and fed and loved, but I was bracing myself to come home to things all out of order – a home that painted a scene of two boys just trying to survive the weekend, but when I actually got home a little after midnight last Monday, I experienced something quite different.

When I walked in, I didn’t notice the sink first. Before I saw anything, I smelled the cleanliness. It turns out, the sink broke because Joe was soaking our oven racks in soapy water as he deep-cleaned the kitchen. The counters were cleared of everything except the bottle drying rack and fresh flowers. As I moved through the house, I saw Calvin’s toys were put away neatly. The blankets were folded (nearly) perfectly. The dirty laundry baskets were empty, even the ones where I put dirty cleaning towels. I didn’t even know he knew where those were. The shower was scrubbed. The bathroom counters were cleared…except for two Lush bath bombs, one from Joe, one from Cal. I was overwhelmed. I felt gratitude, love, disbelief, and, honestly, quite a bit of disappointment in myself for expecting anything less.

Joe has always been thoughtful. He can sense the tone in my texts and knows when to bring home dessert and/or (usually and) wine. I’ve had fresh flowers on my kitchen table since our second date…unless we’re going out of town because he’s “not buying them just to let them die alone.” I honestly wasn’t surprised that he picked up the house or that he bought flowers. I was, however, surprised that he seemed to manage everything, in many ways, better than I do. He did admit that he wanted to impress me and that he couldn’t maintain this level of cleanliness and overachievement on a weekly basis, but, wow, I was impressed. It made me realize how much I underestimate and underappreciate him. I chose him as my partner because I love, respect, and admire him, but too often I let myself believe that no one could run the house better than I do. Why? Because I want to feel in control? Because I want to make myself valued? Yes and yes.

I learned so much that weekend. I learned so much, in fact, that I’ve been working on this post for over a week and couldn’t even narrow in on what I learned. It was intended to focus on what happens to Daddy and Baby when Mommy’s away, but that intention died out in the best possible way. So I pondered…Should I focus on how important it is to remain young and vibrant and fun, to be yourself and have new, adult experiences? Or do I want to focus on appreciating and not underestimating your spouse? Or should it really be about the underlying issues in all of this? Welp, after I don’t know how many edits, I’ve decided to keep a little of all of it because it all matters. I’m allowed to learn more than one thing in a weekend. And I’m allowed to appreciate more than one experience. And I’m not being graded on this essay, so who cares? I’m supposed to be making things up, right? And since I’m not being graded, I’m going to do something I’d never accept from one of my students, I’m going to conclude this piece of writing with a bulleted list, so here it goes…

A list of advice based on my Vegas weekend experiences:

  • Don’t feel guilty doing something for yourself once in a while. That “absence makes the heart grow fonder” nonsense isn’t really nonsense at all, and it’s nice to have a fond heart.
  • Pack your bag the way Marie Kondo would. It’s delightful.
  • Trust your husband. You married him for a reason, you know.
  • FaceTime your baby, and take screenshots. It’s hilarious.
  • No more than TWO glasses of champagne. You’re older now, and the headache isn’t worth it.
  • Finally, See Céline Dion live. It’s spiritual. You won’t be sorry.

*Note: Photo quality courtesy of Joe and Calvin.

Mommy & Me: How Grown Women Shop for Friends

When we’re kids, making friends is easy. You’re just friends with the kids geographically closest to you. I’m on the swings. You’re on the swings. We’re friends. As we get older, we become friends with classmates. Then we befriend coworkers. Before we have kids, we meet our friends for a drink after work. Maybe we even do girls’ trips to the beach or Vegas. But now we’re moms, and we need friends who understand that going to Target requires the same amount of packing and planning as our Vegas trip. We need a friend who won’t miss a beat when our kid spews strained peas all over her cardigan. So, where do we find these people?

 

I tried to bait some normal looking moms on social media, but no bites. Granted, my baiting was basically just letting the world know I have a baby and waiting for the playdate invites to roll in. When the moms didn’t swarm my inbox with invites, I took matters into my own hands and looked for a Mommy & Me class. I landed on yoga because, let’s face it, I could use some deep breathing.

 

The very first thing I noticed upon arriving to Mommy & Me yoga was that my son, Calvin, is older than all of the other babies because, like I do with pretty much everything, I procrastinated in signing up for classes. The very first thing that the instructor said to me was that I have the shortest yoga mat she’s ever seen. Then I realized that most of the moms seemed to know each other already. It turns out that they did prenatal yoga together while I was watching teen dramas and eating ice cream on the couch. Just as I was totally convinced that I didn’t belong, the first class began. We sang “Wheels on the Bus” and other sweet songs while playing with our babies. Calvin loved it. Then we did the yoga. He did not love that. We breathed and stretched and said “Namaste,” and before I knew it, class was over. This was it: my time to make a friend. I started geographically. The woman next to me had the only baby girl in the class. She was polite but was clearly uninterested in my courting attempts. I awkwardly lingered, waiting to be invited into another conversation. I felt like I was at a crowded bar at happy hour looking for a husband, and just like it was back in those days, no one seemed to notice me. Alas, this was only week one of six. I remained hopeful.

 

Throughout the next five weeks, there was more of the same: singing, stretching, breathing, and awkward lingering. I carefully observed each mom’s every move to narrow down who was in a walk of life similar to mine and narrow in on whom I should peruse as a mom friend. Women with multiple kids? Too intimidating. While I probably (definitely) should seek advice from the experienced, I find myself more at home amongst the clueless. The moms who live for the yoga and make all of their own organic baby food? Good for them! I aspire to be so centered and healthy, but, let’s face it, I’ve got a diaper bag full of Gerber and pulled my lunch from the freezer. The moms who laughed at Calvin’s crawling away with the instructor’s demo baby? Bingo!

 

Now it was back to the playground tactics. Proximity was key, but I didn’t know what to do next. Compliment their babies? Ask about their infant carriers? “Hey, Mama! Lookin’ good in that ring sling!” Was I flirting? What was I doing? I had to use some of that deep breathing we learned and try to play it cool. I was sure I was the most awkward person to ever walk into a Mommy & Me. I was sure they were all talking about me as soon as we left each week. I was sure I was going to leave this series with no more friends than I had coming in. But I was (at least partially) wrong.

 

After our last class, we went out for pizza. (Finally, somewhere I thrived!) Everyone seemed to relax and become “real.” Then, something truly amazing happened. Moms started asking ME to add them on social media. ME! It turns out, I wasn’t the only one friend shopping this whole time, and they liked what they saw in me and Cal.

 

One Facebook friendship turned into a successful zoo date, and while I don’t know if I met my new “Bestie 4 Lyfe,” I’m thankful to have a friend who “gets it.” More than that, I’m proud of myself. It’s been a LONG time since I had to put myself out there and make a new friend, and doing some Mommy & Me “friend shopping” instilled a new confidence in me. I started the series feeling insecure and left feeling empowered, knowing that, while we all “mom” differently, we’re all just doing our best, and when we see that in each other, we will find unity.

 

Love, Light, & Lots of Peaceful Babies,

Kelly.