Letter to Ali Wong

Some days I just need a good laugh. If you are a parent (or a woman…or a human…) who has not yet seen Ali Wong’s Netflix specials, Baby Cobra and Hard Knock Wife, you probably should. These “momedies” tell what it’s really like to have a baby in your life. They are a little bit over-the-top raunchy, but then again so is motherhood.

Here is the letter I wrote Ali Wong in my head after I saw her shows. It comes off a little bit like a letter to Dear Abby:

Dear Ali – My husband is well-intentioned, but since I had a baby he always says the wrong thing about my body.

I once made the mistake of cupping my breast up to its old height and letting it fall in front of him. “Once these were round,” I said. Now, they’re U-shaped.”

“Are those ever going to go back?” He asked.

“No, darling,” I said. “Those are never going back.”

My husband recently googled something like, Why does a woman lose her sex drive post-partum? He told me that there are four reasons:

1. She is exhausted.

2. She doesn’t feel sexy or she is self-conscious about her body.

3. A baby has been climbing on her all day; she does not want you to climb on her.

4. She has no time for herself, so she has many other things she wants to do besides you with her precious sleeping-baby minutes.

My empathetic husband relayed these results to me in all seriousness. It’s ok honey. This is just something women go through.

Yeah, I told him. No shit.

I am 100% certain that all of these “results” have been relayed to my husband in the past year via my words. In his defense, my comments sounded more like:

1. “I’m just really tired.”

2. “I just want to keep my clothes on.”

3. “I just nursed the baby for an hour.”

4. “I just want to read my book.”

I try to say how I feel, but clearly there is room for improvement because he has no recollection of the aforementioned conversations. Maybe I stuttered. Maybe I spoke when I should have replied in print.

Or maybe my husband is just male.

Thank you, Google, for speaking his language.

My husband’s heart is in the right place. He not only wants to have more sex, he also wants me to enjoy sex again. I can tell he’s taking the post-partum libido issue seriously because I see him trying to help. He’s been giving me more breaks from parenting, and he’s started to help with the bedtime routine. And just the other day he turned to me, that old thoughtful look in his eye, and said –

“You know; if you ever wanted a tummy tuck, I’d pay for it.”

*

Every mother needs a wife

Today baby A and I finished our taxes and it felt monumental.

“It’s like having a literal squirrel in the office,” I told my husband. “You can ignore her for a few minutes and get the next step done, but all the while she’s destroying the house. When you catch her she tries to claw your face off.

“But is it fun?” he asks.

“It’s fun when she’s strapped down in the stroller and I get to drink coffee,” I say.

The rest of the day is a weird strategic game where I must compromise one element of sanity in attempt to gain another. Want to wash a sink full of dishes? Looks like the cub gets to cover the floor with canning rings. It’s like Axis and Allies around here.

Yes, that is my vest she’s wearing.

Note the clean dishes drying in the background.

Note the clean dishes drying in the background.

I try to figure out the objective of A’s squirrel games. Step 1. Wave novel object around in the air. Step 2. Drop on floor. Repeat. I don’t get it. She must get it from her dad.

This is A’s dad as an infant in a squirrel suit. Coincidence? I think not.

I’ll take a moment now and recognize all the great dads who parent. Props. Kids need to grow up around good men as well as good women, even as much as they need food and shoes and soccer camp. This post is for you too, although my love is twisted around gender specific pronouns and personal experience.

Child-raising is a job that someone’s got to do. Even as I wish babies could spend their first few years as plants, needing only water and sunlight, or as fancy sunglasses that you just can’t lose or break. Instead they need peas and polenta, which they will throw on the floor. You still have to feed them by the way; you can’t be like, “But I made you polenta.”

I could outsource this job if I wanted, but I won’t. I value child-raising, and this may be the only chance I get to do it. Also, we all know that being a working mom means I would be doing both jobs. I’m afraid of who I would become if I went to a paying job in the daytime and cared for the squirrel at night. I can’t imagine it.

My friend S is a working mom who gives solid gold advise. When she was pregnant she figured all the child raising would be shared with her husband, 50/50. They work jobs on opposite schedules and trade off work as primary caregiver. “But then I realized,” she said, “I’m the mother. If they’re sick in the night or have a bad dream, it’s me they want. It doesn’t matter if I’m the one going to work in the morning. Parenting will never be 50/50.”

Which brings me to the point: Every mother needs a wife. My friend E has a baby the same age as mine. She and her wife became parents with donated sperm and incredible perseverance. She carried the baby, nursed him, and works the paying job; I am amazed by all she does.

E and I were both recently at a meeting. Baby A was with me, as per usual, and her boy was home with his other mom. E ran the meeting and took minutes on a laptop, which she later sent around in a helpful and professional manner.

Meanwhile, baby A squirreled around in my lap a little, nursed in the carrier, and then fell asleep on my back. After the meeting I received the emailed notes along with recognition of how my friend does it all: She has a wife.

I know another woman with a unique set up: She is a single mom who lives with her brother, his wife, and their children. The other two adults go to paying jobs everyday, and she takes care of the kids. “I don’t know how anyone does it,” she told me recently, “with just one woman in the family.”

Which brings me to the question: If you are out there doing it all, going to work then making meatloaf and taking names…

Where can I get woman like you?

I have this (mobile) baby

I’ve had this baby for nine months. Generally it’s been dreamy; we think she’s great. But until now I mostly did what I wanted to do. The secret of being a stay-at-home, I’ve been known to say, is that you get to do whatever you want as long as you bring the cub. All of that changed around the New Year when she went mobile.

Suddenly (a slow, diaper-changing, banana-eating, dog-climbing kind of suddenly) I have to redefine my self-worth by something other than productivity.  All day I’m flooded with ideas: Become a great cook! Cultivate the most productive garden EVER! Write a book or two! Prepare some singer-songwriter sets! Sleep-train the baby!  My mind makes wild, ambitious leaps like it always did. But time moves differently with a baby in the house, and none of these projects are at all realistic.

The truth is, I wasn’t some uber-productive success story before I had A either. I’ve been writing for years now, but all of those words are still tucked safely away on my computer. It’s not that I’m afraid of putting myself out there (says my inner excuse maker), I’m just not done yet. I used to at least work (a lot) on my impossible goals, but lately my ego has started to freak out.

My actual accomplishments this morning include that I have washed at least several dishes, ate eggs, fed A, made and drank (yeah!) a cup of decaf, and continued to unpack the duffles from last week’s trip (day 3 of this project). All this while A pushed the furniture around the house. But I also started this blog, which I’ve been meaning to do for a decade.

Right now, in order to finish this post, I’m allowing A to tear all of my books off of the shelf again, and I’ll intervene only to keep her from eating my favorite ones (not Barry Lopez! not David Sedaris! Here, have a DVD!). This is not the only place where my theoretical parenting deviates wildly from my actual parenting (i.e. sleep).

My only explanation for my unprecedented burst of exposition, is that while before I thought about starting an online presence, maybe even wanted to, it wasn’t until today that I needed to. Because today, amidst the squirrel games, the need to dump my brain took precedence over the safety of privately and endlessly preparing my thoughts. For better or worse, allowing my words out into the world is one small but important goal that I can actually get somewhere on right now – even though nap time never lasts as long as I wish it did.

My kid needs love and care, but so much more. I want to be the first of many to teach her that effort makes a difference. I want her to grow up knowing that each of us has the power to make our community more whole and beautiful through conversations that matter, and that what we do is not half as important as who we are. I can’t raise her to be more than I am.

This essay will post at the end of the week, whatever state it is in. I no longer have time, or the necessary brain power (mom brain, it’s real), to agonize much over the details. I have just enough time to say what I have to say and move on. I still imagine that I will come back and agonize over every word, but I probably wont.

That’s all for now; she’s awake.