An Apology Letter To All My DINKS (Double Income No Kids)

To all my favorite DINKS,

There it goes.  Another RSVP checked “will regretfully decline and celebrate from afar” for an out of state wedding. This one hurt. Bad. A wedding I want to be at. Should be at.  And I genuinely mean what I checked; I will celebrate from afar. There is a lot to celebrate, my love. And not just how stunning you’re going to be in white, but how you’ve snagged a man that is the perfect snap to your ginger.

Two weeks ago it was the same dark fate for a bachelorette party. A celebration for a woman I love from the tip of her bright blond hairs on her head down to her perfectly polished feet (seriously.. she spends a lot of time on them). It is with a heavy, heavy heart they were sent.  Please don’t think I checked “no” quickly. Don’t think I didn’t mull it over for days and weeks and talk logistics with all players that would be involved. Don’t think I didn’t go into our bank account and look ahead at our upcoming monthly budgets. Don’t think I didn’t go into my measly little freezer stash of breast milk and count every single ounce. Don’t think I don’t want to be there. Not for one second. Whatever you invite me to that involves a celebration of you, the answer is always yes, I want to be there.

I know what you’re thinking.  “I hate when women become mothers and then totally lose track of themselves and never put themselves first”. Or, “If she really loved me, she’d find a way. Just because she had a kid shouldn’t change much”. Or something like, “God I swear when I’m a mom I am going to be the exact opposite of Erica”. ūüôā  I know. I know, because before I had kids I thought the same things. Trust me. I know. 

Unfortunately, its just not that simple. Oh how I wish it were.

I was the first of us to get married. The first of us to have kids. And as much as I love that in some ways, it also kinda really sucks in others. I love that I get to keep that “I’ll do it first and then tell you all what to expect ahead” dynamic. Keeps me feeling like the older sister to go to for advice. But I hate that until you all get here, you really can’t understand. You just… can’t.

So I’m feeling compelled to try and show you. Maybe you already know all these things, but I’ll sleep a little easier knowing I got it off my chest. Knowing that you know its a not a simple act of “I don’t really care enough to be there” when you see a ‘no’ pop up in your mailbox.

I’m a stay at home mom, which is one hundred and fifty percent our choice. We knew money would be tight. We knew we would have to make sacrifices. We knew we would need a budget to stick within. But for us, at this season in our life, this is what makes sense for us. I read an article the other day that laid out how it costs around $650 to attend a wedding these days if there’s any travel involved. Add a husband and kids and that number skyrockets. Bachelorette parties today are usually an entire weekend at a destination hot spot. So. much. fun. But for me – so. damn. expensive. Add in the bridal showers and gifts for everything, and you’ll see the sweat start dripping off my brow. For being so tiny, kids sure do know how to make you spend those dolla dolla bills, ya’ll. Apparently they need to go to college someday? The truth is, we just don’t have $10,000 of extra disposable income to spend in one summer for weddings and all they entail. I could put it on the credit card and say we’ll pay it off one day, but I’m trying my damndest to be fiscally responsible and keeping our family afloat. Those combined student loans of ours are a killer. Thanks a lot, Sallie Mae.  Please know that my love for you is not tied to how much money we are able to spend. If it were, I’d be best buds with the loan officer at Chase and I’d be taking out those loans on the reg. Trust me.

Then there’s that whole issue of who’s got my babies? We don’t have any family in town to come babysit for the day. A lot of our family is out of state, and when I’m truthful and honest, the only people I’m comfortable leaving our kids with for a weekend while they are still so bitty is my parents. And hot damn do they have a busy social life on the weekends too! I know. Branch out. Hire babysitters. Leave them with other family – they’ll survive. I know. I know, I know. But do you know how much a good babysitter today costs? (The good ones, not the Craigslist ones.) And I don’t want my kids to ‘survive’ a weekend away from us right now. I want them to feel at ease and at home when mom and dad are gone, and having all the stars align for that to happen is equivalent to me at the driving range. I’ll swing all damn day, but its usually a bunch of misses.

Not only do we have a certain amount of night and weekend chips to cash in with my parents, but a lot of those chips need to be spent on us. The daily grind of working and two babies over time can easily wear on a marriage. It takes a conscious commitment and dedication to putting in the time and effort. Which means time alone to reconnect and just be us. So as much as I want to spend all those chips on you guys, I also have to be conscious of keeping our marriage happy and thriving. Sometimes what little vacation money we have each year will need to be spent on us. And I can’t feel bad about that. I just can’t.

Bring them? Ha. The only thing worse than spending outside your means to attend a wedding is not being able to spend an ounce of attention elsewhere during the wedding and then having to leave no later than 8 p.m. because once they hit overtired… well, its some modern day exorcism shit.

Aside from the other things like Matt’s work schedule that sometimes includes weekends (which sometimes includes little notice), accommodations for the dogs, breastfeeding and pumping concerns, this current night time hiatus that includes teething and a sleep regression, my new social awkwardness, and back up plans in case things fall through – there’s this paradoxical & insanely ironic mindset that can befall parents. That burning yearning to just get away we have so often, is just as quickly met with that burning yearning to be with your kids. To not miss a minute of them. We might complain and have hard days and just. want. to. sleep – but the second we are gone, we want nothing more than to be back with them. Its insanity.

I know I seem like Carmen San Diego lately, but I promise with my whole heart, I will be there for every single thing I can be. Just bare with me. Remember its not a reflection of my love for you. And one day I will make it up to you – I can assure you of that. And it will most likely be when my kids are in school and I sleep through the night; I will come to your rescue as your newborn has you crawling out of your skin in tears. I will make it up to you. I promise.

Please don’t compare me to other moms out there you see, either. You’ll find that every mom, and every mom’s circumstances are as different and unique as their babes. We all have our strengths, all doing the best we can.

Don’t give up on me just yet, friend. Remember I am here for you, ready to help in any way I can, and I will most certainly be celebrating you from afar when I can’t be there holding your hand.

So many hugs and smooches,

E

[This letter also applies to all of my single friends with no children. Because my single friends make about as much money as most double income households anyway.  Smart bastards.]

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Maybe The Problem Isn’t Failure To Love Myself

I’ll be twenty nine years old next month. ¬†Five months postpartum with our second tiny miracle. Before my husband and I decided to try and bring our offspring into this world, I can say with confidence I genuinely loved myself. ¬†Loved myself in the way Dove commercials, inspirational Instagram quotes, and your mom tell you to love yourself. ¬†By the ripe age of twenty six, I was happy with the skin I was in. ¬†Most days. ūüôā

The thing is, it was a really long road getting there. ¬†You could argue a twenty six year long road. ¬†In middle school I finally accepted the fact that my round face was not the ideal canvas to put short hair on. ¬†Longer hair suits me. I was forced to come to peace with the fact I will never be an American Idol, after singing, “Hello, Mrs. Marsh” one time in choir class warranted several looks of horror from my classmates. FINE, I’ll stick with sports. In high school I finally accepted the fact that my breasts were done growing, and this was it. There was no holding out for one last growth spurt. ¬†I better love them in all their barely a B cup glory. ¬†In college I finally came to terms with the fact that my butt was not going anywhere, and this round goodness was here to stay. ¬†Pants are sometimes still difficult to buy, but lucky for me big ole booties are back in. ¬†Thanks a lot, Nicki Minaj. Chalk one up in the win column for this girl. It wasn’t till recently that I finally accepted the fact that my nose will never, ever photograph well. From any angle. But it’s all good – it fits me. ¬†And if I’m going to be bare boned honest, some days I’m still working on the fact that no matter how in shape and fit I am, my thighs will always be a little thicker. And by thicker, I surely mean strong.

I’m not complaining about any of the above. I am not in a place where I strive for the kinds of perfection magazines, television, and celebrities tell me I should aspire to. ¬†It took twenty six years for me to evolve into a place I love, and I’m happy here. ¬†Most days. ūüôā

Then I had children. ¬†In nineteen months I had carried and birthed two exceptionally wonderful children. Healthy pregnancies, and healthy babies. ¬†Between pregnancy and postpartum recovery my body, like all women’s bodies, went through an awful lot. ¬†Stretched hips, fired up sciatica, feet changing size, hair loss, dark spots on my face, swollen extremities, larger breasts that then deflated back down, a perky butt that had fallen right off, and abs that were hidden under a glorious little mom pooch. ¬†Weight was redistributed into different areas, and at the end of those nineteen months, the old me that I worked twenty six years on and grew to really love was no longer who I saw in the mirror.

Cue the well intended postpartum advice.

“You have to embrace and love this body – it gave you your beautiful baby!”

“Be proud of those stretch marks and mom pooch – they are your battle scars!”

“You just need to love yourself. Your body is amazing!”

It makes sense. It makes great sense. I myself have given that advice a time or two. And it sounds so simple. You just love yourself – that’s it. ¬†But it’s taken me two trips around the child merry-go-round to realize that it can be incredibly frustrating to feel like if I didn’t immediately love this new body I was looking at, it somehow equated to me not being grateful for what it gave me. ¬†My body IS amazing. ¬†I AM proud of what it went through and what it has given me. I WOULD do it a million times over to get my sweet little babes out of it. And I DO love myself. ¬†The problem is, in less than two years the “myself” I’m used to seeing, the one I worked on for twenty six years to love, went through repeated monumental changes and she had all but vanished.

It wasn’t me caving into the pressures of getting my pre-pregnancy body back – I don’t care that I don’t look like Kristen Cavallari. ¬†It wasn’t me feeling like I needed to bounce back immediately so my husband would think I was still beautiful – he did anyway. ¬†It wasn’t me trying to shed any evidence that I had carried children – I’m proud of what I went through. At the end of the day, I just wanted to identify with the person I had finally grown to fully love. ¬†Some of those qualities that shaped her. I wanted to wear my old jeans not because it meant I had lost the weight, but because those jeans have been my favorite for years. ¬†I wanted to workout not just to shed weight, but because I loved how perky my butt once was and I missed it. I wanted to shed some weight not because I think I’m overweight or unworthy in my current form, but because I’ve been an athlete my entire life and I wanted that strength back.

The road to becoming a mom is without a doubt one of the most life-altering, world-changing, OH-MY-SHIT, experiences we will ever go through. Friendships change. Marriage dynamics change. Our personal time. How we are able to recharge. Our social life. How we sleep. And the college degree worthy amount of information we must learn on the job. All changes that happen simultaneously. Immediately. So let’s let new moms breathe for a minute or two. ¬†Let’s let them get acquainted with what their days and bodies now look like instead of shaming them into thinking self-love should happen over night.

When it takes so many women quite a significant amount of time to fully and whole-heartedly love themselves, why do we expect new moms to love and embrace all these new changes immediately? Maybe the problem isn’t failure to love myself, maybe its just giving me a few minutes to breathe and get used to this new “myself”.

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