Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Mom’s Code -- Girlfriends and Girls Night Out: It Gets Dark Sometimes (Part 3 of 5)

Written by:
Eileen Wacker

I often thought about that night when I was alone in Seoul. I could picture my friends’ faces and hear their voices. I missed them and the person I was when I was with them. The day my child was born, I, as a mom, was born. My definition of who I was shifted enormously with marriage, being a mom and having a family. But I hadn’t realized how much this shift would cost until I was paying the price.

I lost my soul in Seoul. My former jobs brought me to China, Indonesia, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand and India so I thought I knew Asia. My husband and I lived in three European countries together so I felt I could handle the expat challenges. I’d never been to Korea. My first trip was to find our apartment. My second was to move there with four little kids in tow, alone because my husband was already there, working.  


Korea is a tough place for any person to acclimate to. The whole culture is in a hurry. ‘Bali bali’ means hurry, hurry. No one waits for anything. People cut lines, and men walk in front of you, cutting you off and shut the door in your face. They spit on the sidewalk in front of you. One day Koreans like Americans and the next day, they can’t stand us. They regularly have protests against us. But none of this is personal and by the end of our time there, this stuff bounced right off me. It is just the way it is.

Tom and Lydia arrived when I returned from the summer. My husband hired Tom as a risk consultant, having worked with him in Connecticut. Lydia was like a fresh, lovely gardenia. She had raised three children so she was very wise about relationships and being a mom. All the Itaewon shopkeepers were captivated by her Southern charm and called out to her from their stores. One morning, Lydia and I were walking, sipping on coffee when someone spat on the sidewalk at our feet. Busloads of Koreans were protesting against a free trade agreement with the U.S.. One store owner shouted, “Pretty Americans, go home! Not a good day for American people.” I felt angry but Lydia, in her southern voice, said, “Darlin’, it’s young people everywhere. In some office, someone is calling the American Embassy, apologizing, but it’s better to let people get things off their chest. Don’t get all rattled. It will give you wrinkles.” Her words calmed me down. This was not personal to me. And I didn’t want wrinkles.

But from the start, I was artfully put in my place and it felt personal every time. When I called my husband at his office and asked for him by name, his staff was mortified. Some of them referred to me as the ‘foreign wife’ and all requested I use his title ‘hengjamneem’ which means CEO or president in Korean. Even my husband asked me to refer to him as Mr. Wacker or ‘hengjamneem’. I joked, “Maybe I’ll call you that in bed.” He wasn’t kidding. “We have to respect their culture.” I told him he was drinking the Koolaid which led to yet another bitter argument.

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When I took the four kids to see my husband’s office, his secretary escorted us up in a private elevator to an elegant conference room with glass windows on three sides. She was shy and formal, and did not look me in the eye or engage me in conversation. Other staff came by and peered in, smiling and curious. Many bowed to us. His secretary poured Cokes into crystal glasses and gave them to the kids. I didn’t want to be rude so I let them have the soda. My son spilled his all over himself within thirty seconds. “Sorry Mommy,” my son said ruefully. Then he asked for another soda. I said no to that one.

A slick executive in an expensive suit, Kim Dae Yun, strolled in ignoring the kids and said, “My name is ‘Korean title’ Kim. I understand you went to Harvard. I’m not impressed. Here in Korea, a good wife stays in the background looking pretty, so her husband can do his job without interference.” He didn’t wait for a response, just strolled out. He looked me directly in the eye and didn’t bow; two things I knew were insulting. I looked around, confused. My kids were quiet and looked at me for some cue. Did he really just say that? The secretary had a blank look. I wasn’t sure if it was because she didn’t understand English well or she didn’t see this behavior as out of the ordinary.

We waited for almost twenty minutes. The kids were squirming and twirling in the big conference room chairs. The secretary stood at the door like a sentry. Finally, my husband walked in, flanked by an entourage. There was Man Friday, his secretary, his driver and his translator. They stood and fussed over my husband. I felt very foreign while he looked very comfortable. My husband kissed each of our kids, then looked at me and said, “Uhh, thanks for coming.” I cocked my head. He whispered, “Korean couples don’t show any affection. It makes people uncomfortable. We have to respect their culture.” I squinted at him and said, “Fine. They don’t have sex either. Enjoy that part of the culture.”  This meet and greet was not going well at all.

After two minutes, the kids started a game of tag. The translator announced they had another meeting to go to. As I left, my husband said, “Why would you give them Coke?” Then he walked out with his human wall. I rode down the elevator with the sentry, my stomach in knots. My kids wanted to go to the park and ride on the swings. I had to dig deep to find the joyful, light hearted me who could push a swing for an hour straight, without yelling.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Mom’s Code -- Girlfriends and Girls Night Out: A Girls Night Out in Action (Part 2 of 5)

Women need to nourish their souls with Girls Night Out.

I have a wonderful support system but I’ve moved a lot so I have to continuously build new ones. My women friends are important but sometimes I’m so crazy busy, I beg off of dinners or cancel plans last minute. This is a mistake because there are always crises at home to tackle. I’ll never have an open space on the calendar. Although, GNO literally means Girls Night Out, for me it means bring myself out, take my ‘self’ on a date. Me, myself and I— all of us need to get out. I’m pretty fun when I’m not whirling around in some worry spiral. For those few precious hours, I’m not just a wife or mommy. 

When I moved to Seoul, I left behind my support networks. I had lived in Denmark, France, Belgium and London as a young adult. I always had a purpose. I moved for school or for my jobs. Met my husband there. Got married. But this moving to Asia, as a trailing, non-working spouse with four children was very different.

The night before I left, my friends threw me a celebration dinner. My husband had been in Seoul for a month and a half while I prepared for the move. There were shots, passports, and six months worth of clothes, potentially needed medications and other school related things I was trying to assemble. My house was like the gong show and I was running through activities as if my life depended on it. I almost cancelled the dinner but I knew Lanie would bang on my door and insist I come out. 

Usually, we teased Steph for ordering the scallops for the hundredth time. Lanie would drink one too many glasses of wine and flirt with our waiter. 

But this night, two things were different. I was moving to Seoul, and Steph was convinced that her husband was cheating on her. She looked like she hadn’t eaten in two weeks. All the brightness from her flaming red hair and expressive green eyes was gone. No one knew what to say.


“I still can’t believe you’re moving to Korea! You’re the only person I’ve ever met to do this. It’s actually very crazy of you.” Nikki said. “You better come back!” She looked like a retired beauty queen— a blue-eyed brunette, dressed to the nines.

“Keep us posted on your every move,” said Lanie, shifting her lacy bra strap. “We’re going to live vicariously through you. We can’t wait to hear about the back alleys of Seoul!” Lanie attracted the attention of our waiter, who couldn’t keep his eyes off her. We’d have great service tonight.

“Are you going to get a housekeeper?” Nikki asked. “My neighbor, Eunjoo, says every well-off and expat family has a full-time housekeeper. I’m so jealous!” 

“I guess but I read the lack of privacy is tough. And I’m not sure how Koreans feel about Americans. They always seem to be protesting against us,” I said. 

“How about a driver? Do they allow foreign women to drive?” Audrey pushed. She thinks everyone should have as much help as possible. 

“Yes, women can drive but the traffic is brutal and many of the signs are hard to understand or in Hangul. They don’t want expat wives on the road. And I read that sometimes locals target expats by staging accidents to get money. So a driver, Mr. Park, is part of the contract.”

“I’ll bet he’s gorgeous,” said Lanie. “I’m going to fantasize about him seducing you. You’ll find him irresistible. Or maybe he’s devious, an enemy among us, until he falls in love with you.” We were all laughing.

She continued. “And one day, his hand will brush your thigh as you step into your beautiful black sedan. Then you’ll stop wearing undies, so he can bend you over quickly every time the opportunity presents itself. OMG! I’m going to attack Brian later and make him wear a chauffeur’s cap! Don't you dare tell me if Mr. Park is ugly or old!”

“I can’t believe you’ll have that much help. Does she do laundry and cook?” asked Nikki. “Maybe you can live the life of a pampered princess for a few years, living in an exotic country.” Nikki’s big brown eyes sparkle with her new eyelashes. Nikki keeps us all guessing as to how she keeps such a meticulous house. And one that always smells like wafer cookies.

“The housekeeper’s name is Mrs. Chun,” I said, “She’s worked with foreign families for 30 years so we’re lucky to have her. But you know me well enough to know I’ll be very hands-on with the kids. I hope Mr. Park and Mrs. Chun aren’t bored. And, I do want to drive sometimes. Not driving at all would be a loss of freedom for me.” 

Audrey said, “Hmm. A princess living in an aquarium or six hours of driving, four loads of laundry, three meals that no one wants to eat, five hours of cleaning the house, every day… is there really an issue here?”

“But Mrs. Chun and Mr. Park will have it good too. When I die and come back to life, I either want to work for you, be your kid, or be your dog. You’re going to be too nice. I just know it,” said Nikki. 

“Working for a foreigner is considered a really good job. Koreans don’t want to work for other Koreans. Apparently, they treat their help badly. The culture is extremely hierarchical.” They all looked at me, knowing I despise people-stacking. I said, “Well, that’s what I read, anyway.” 

Nikki said. “One piece of advice: don’t start feeling guilty before Mrs. Chun even shows up! I’m terrible — I don't want our cleaner to think I’m lazy, so I clean up before she comes. Cracks my husband up.”

Lanie grabbed my hand. “You’re going to love having a housekeeper and driver. Enjoy it!” She drummed her fingers on the table. “I’m sick of the guilt. I gained 42 pounds when I was pregnant with Katie. I felt terrible about myself, so I joined a gym. Then I felt terrible about leaving Katie in daycare while I was working out. Of course, Brian was his usual understanding self: ‘Wow, lucky you, getting to work out and do yoga in the middle of the day.’ Of course, I lost my temper and yelled, ‘I gained weight growing a person during the pregnancies, while you contributed a sperm that makes a pea look like Mount Everest, and I will never have the same shape again! If a mom has three kids, statistically, she has gained and lost, and maybe not, over 75 pounds and that's if she gained the minimum! So don’t say a word about yoga or the gym or I’ll sew your mouth shut!’” 

We all laughed hysterically. Other diners looked our way, some amused, others annoyed. I love Lanie. My friend, the yoga instructor, who has a bad temper. “Don’t worry about the battle,” she said. “The make up sex was awesome.”

Nikki laughed, “I hate the gym. I just need to get into my dress for my cousin’s wedding. That’s as far as my aspirations go. Thank goodness I can only go twice a week, since my meddler-in-law measures how often I leave the house.”

I said, “I know. For me it’s getting into my ski pants every year. Have to keep the weight creep to a minimum.”

Steph sighed loudly. We were waiting for a cue. I grabbed her hand. “So how are you? Do you want to talk? We’re so worried about you. You’re too skinny and look so sad.”

“I don’t want to be a downer. If I start to cry, I might not be able to stop,” Steph said. “It just keeps getting worse and worse.”

“Why do you think he’s cheating?” Nikki asked. 

“I found a receipt for a restaurant he went to on a business trip to Boston. I asked him who he was with, and he said he ate alone at the bar. Really? You had steak for two and two bottles of wine by yourself? 
All he said was ‘I was really hungry,’ and left the room.”

“Coward,” I said.

“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” said Lanie, her blue eyes flashing dark. “So I surfed around and found his profile on a dating service for married men. He’s a dog, a chronically cheating, lying piece of shit. His profile’s still up!” 

“He didn’t even come home last night,” Steph said. “He said his meeting ran late, so he spent the night at the Soho Grand. I don't know what I’m going to do. He’s still pushing for sex constantly. Sometimes I give in because I want him to remember how much he loved me at one point.”

“Stop putting out!” I joked. But it’s partly true. I say gently, “His cheating is not a reflection of you or something you did; it’s a reflection of him. I think the sex is a power play. He feels like he has the upper hand right now.”

Steph said, “Even if you’re right, I have to think about the kids and our parents. It’s such a mess. And the worst part is, I still love him. I’m so sad that it’s hard for me to get up in the morning. How could he do this to me? What’s wrong with me?” She started to weep. “And I’m trying to hide everything from the kids and they are acting horrible. Horrible. Horrible. Horrible. I’m at my wit’s end.”

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“You have to be smart, Steph,” Nikki said. “If he’s lying about this, he could be hiding money and lying about other things. You have to protect yourself and your kids.” Nikki is the most sensible and genuine of my friends. That night she was the model of a ‘hip mom’ with her bangle bracelets, hoop earrings, and cool boots. 

Steph said, “He acts like the kids acting up is all my fault. That we owe him some perfectly quiet house to come home to. It’s like none of us is measuring up. I want shield the kids from his meanness and selfishness so I hound them to behave so Mitch doesn’t lock himself in his office when he gets home.”

I said, “Mitch is a bitch.Sorry just joking. You’re doing a great job. Save enough energy to keep your routine in place. Kids test boundaries when they are scared. They know something is wrong in the house. Keep the bedtimes and other limits you have set. Pour affection into them as they go to bed, even when they’ve been monsters so they sleep well.” 

Steph nodded, “You’re right. I can do these things.”

The whole group continued laying out potential next steps for our sweet, utterly destroyed Steph. As we talked, I was struck by how much love and caring is in our group. I was also struck by the fact that my friend, who always looks so perfect on the outside, had pulled back the curtain for us. And behind it, there was mayhem and torment, and it just was not perfect at all. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Mom’s Code -- Girlfriends and Girls Night Out: Keep it Honest and Real (Part 1 of 5)

I view honesty in all forms as a great gift, and a symbol of trust. For me, this is the core of GNO. Each mom bringing her ‘self’ out, reaching in and pulling her out of her daily grind.

When I was an expat in Seoul, Mrs. Chun used to discourage me making Korean girlfriends. She wanted to be the primary influencer. She said Korean moms never had girls’ night out. They had lunches.

Mrs. Chun
Girls Night Out is silly. Good mommies stay home and help their children with homework. Husbands have work dinners. His job. Your job is stay home. Other Korean mommies will put bad ideas in your head. Don’t make trouble and don’t embarrass husband. Hotel bars are for bad girls. You stay home.

The Mom's Code Tenet 7: Nourish Your Soul with Girls' Night Outs


I agree that GNOs can be anywhere and anytime. Yune, Min-Jee, Ahn, Lydia, Maeve and I had lots of long lunches in hip Seoul, dressing up and having fun. We shopped the exotic markets, finding treasures and bargaining fiercely. We talked about kids and stressful situations as we walked along the shopping alleys. All of us had stories. We had things we weren’t sure about. We could talk about our small victories and the way a child made us laugh. They were shared experiences because all of us were invested. As the kids entered school, our talks evolved to the pressure of raising children amidst the ruthless competitiveness starting to surround us. 

Gatherings with girlfriends nurtures our souls so we can wake up the next day and face the newest set of challenges associated with the daily grind.

Other friends offered their views about GNO.

Nikki, “I solve like a girl”
A discussion about your challenges with your husband? It’s virtually a one-way conversation, followed by a flood of action-oriented advice. If the advice is not immediately and entirely embraced, the husband gets annoyed. Girls’ Night Out conversations are meandering discussions with many unanticipated turns that leave a mom feeling like she has released her stress, and someone understands her. A collective idea for resolution is usually offered. And there are always issues to solve. I’d be a terrible mother without my sounding boards.

Joanna, don’t hijack GNOs with a personal agenda
We have had the same girls group for years and our children are growing up together. Now that our kids are in elementary school, sometimes the conversations end up getting competitive. At our last dinner, two moms were talking about how they can’t get their kids to go to bed due to their voracious reading. As a teacher, I know that children often love to read until about second grade when they have to read to complete journals and do all their other subjects. Then it is a challenge to develop great readers (which is critical because good readers tend to be good learners). Then one of the moms said about her kindergartener, ‘Luke is sailing through the Jack and Annie books. I don’t know what I’m going to do. There’s a shortage of good books for that level for boys.’ Maeve was clearly fed up and said, ‘Well good for Luke, he’ll be into porn by second grade.’ We all took a sip of our drink and looked away to hide that we were smiling.

The Mom's Code Tenet 9: Don't Lose Your Sexy Self

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Min-Jee, I was a GNO skeptic
I never had many women friends. I don’t get along all that well with women because I can’t stand petty behavior and drama. I prefer men’s more straightforward approach. But then I accepted an invitation for a moms’ dinner, to be honest, for my kids. My sons really wanted to play with certain kids so I went with the moms for a meal. Our discussions were amazing. There was a little gossip, but mainly we talked about our kids. Talking about the daily challenges of raising them and sharing approaches to solving issues was therapeutic. And the women went out of their way to notice good things about each other. They noticed highlights, a new shirt, lost weight and also asked sincere questions about resolutions to issues they had discussed in the past. The only slightly awkward moment was when one American woman said, ‘you’re Asian, and I can never tell your age. How old are you?’ I said, ‘I’m turning mumble-something soon.’ Another woman, Lanie, said, ‘our group is all 39! Some have been 39 for more years than others. Amy, knock it off with the personal questions.’ To be honest, Asians can’t tell Westerner’s ages either, so I wasn’t offended.

Alyssa, Australian expert, watch for new arrivals
I’ve been around expats a bit. Every year new people come and go. In Seoul, the average assignment is eighteen months, a wee bit short compared to assignments in other places like Tokyo. The kids go to school and husbands (typically) go to the office. So we arrange a UN Village coffee every other month. This way new mums can meet other mums and form relationships and connections. It’s like speed dating for a mum. Not everyone becomes friends with everyone else. But it’s really critical, as mums who have moved clear across the world need a fair go at a social circle that includes adults. Expats tend to make friends with people they might not otherwise. As an Australian, I hang back a bit and watch. I don’t want a new best friend that I have to avoid later. I find with American mums, I either love the person or she’s on too much of a soapbox. But I’ve got a good circle here so I feel lucky. 

Audrey, GNO is fun!
When the girls go out to dinner, I feel a little bad for the waitress. My crew never just says, “I’ll have the chicken”. Every one of us has to change our dish. Can I have it grilled not breaded? No sauce please. Can I have extra vegetables and no potatoes? Please put the salad dressing on the side. I like my water with no lemon. Can we get more bread? Oy vey! If it comes wrong, we will always send it back. And our table does not like to be ignored! We call the waitress over. The funny part is….if we get something free, all the rules go out the window. With all the "no potatoes" and "no dressing" talk, if they bring us free dessert…even every dessert on the menu….. free…those plates will be polished clean!!! And by the end of the night, the waiters are often our best friends. I always have so much fun going out with my friends.

The Mom's Code Tenet 2: Enough With The Guilt

Audrey, we problem solve
A bunch of us really enjoy drinking Prosecco, an Italian Champagne. To be honest, it’s fairly inexpensive. At a liquor store, most bottles are $11 to $15. It’s hard to get a bad glass of Prosecco. I have gotten offended when a restaurant serves this inexpensive champagne in a flute. It is literally gone in 2 sips and they charge $12 a glass!  I recently figured out that if I ask for my Prosecco in a wine glass I essentially get a double pour for the same price! Now all of my friends order it that way and endure the peculiar reactions from the wait staff. 

For that moment in time, we are not competitors. We are friends and confidants and it makes us all feel human and understood.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Mom’s Code – Judging Moms: Don't Judge My Kids (Part Five of Five)

Written by Eileen Wacker

Judging me is one thing. Judging my kids is a weapon that should never be used. There should be a warning alarm, a fire alarm that goes off and someone sky writes ‘don’t go there! It will end badly!’ Every child has his/her moments—some are brag-worthy but more are awful, messy and stressful. I always hope my kids’ worst moments happen in the confines of our home. But when my child has an extremely unattractive moment, a look from a thin-lipped mom takes the situation from bad to ‘I want to cry in frustration!’

Moms Code Tenet 1: Stop the Mama Drama

When I’m struggling with an uncooperative child, I appreciate an offer to help or the person pretending she doesn’t notice the meltdown. So, I try to do the same when I see a child in meltdown mode. I don’t raise my eyebrows at a distressed mom or talk about it to other moms, pointing at her. I don’t judge her kid based on that moment. We all have unlimited love for our children, and they all crumple like broken accordions in times of high stress or pressure. That’s why happy hour, or wine o’clock as my friend Michael calls it, was invented and will perpetuate as long as motherhood exists.

A few of my friends contributed some of their ‘judgiest’ stories--

Misty, mind your own business
I went to watch my second grade daughter in a school play. She didn’t have a very big part and didn’t behave very well on stage. I watched intently, trying not to display any of the dismay I felt. Another mother leaned in and said to me, ‘you should have her tested. With meds, she could focus and not fidget so much’. I was so surprised that I didn’t answer. But as the play wore on and afterwards, I felt more and more angry. She’s not a doctor and her feigned concern was intrusive. Who is she to judge after a 45-minute play that my daughter has ADHD and should be medicated?

Audrey, raising a tough one
As a baby, my daughter never woke from a nap without screaming to be pulled out of the crib immediately. In kindergarten, when she was good she was so good, and when she was bad, she was horrid.  She was tough. She was a leader. She was creative at planning what everyone should do next - but became quite bored when things were not done her way. To be honest, she was not always the nicest or most considerate - but nobody walked on her. In third grade, other moms labeled her ‘queen bee’. She would go from being very popular to being “persona non gratis”. It was tough to watch. It was even tougher because many of the swings in opinion were propelled by the moms. Of course, our kids are a direct reflection on us. When she wasn’t nice - it was as if I wasn’t being nice and they talked about me behind my back. I said to her- “who are the girls that are never out?’ “Who are the girls that everyone always likes - and never turn on? Watch how they act with others -and try to treat others like they do.” She learned to observe her own and other’s behaviors. By the time she entered high school, she had gotten much better at being a leader in a humble way. She became the Editor and Chief of her High School newspaper and the Captain of the High School Tennis team. And, the best part is - all those moms that were tongue wagging now ask if one day - when she has a big job - can hire their kids!? Lesson – hang in there!

There are moms out there who don’t discipline or even watch their kids. They even pretend they are not with them. These moms don’t get a pass from anyone judging them. They make it worse for us moms who try to get our kids to behave! Stay clicked in moms!


Official judging – the preschool interview
Getting a child into pre-school, kindergarten and elementary school keeps moms around the world up at night. Any child can have a good day or bad, but so much rests on one isolated hour. Will he play well with others? Will she look the interviewer in the eye? Will he sit and focus on an exercise? Did she come off as happy and a ‘do-er’? Did I get the right recommendations? Moms kill themselves to get their child in the right frame of mind, bribing, cajoling, but in the end, it’s out of our control.

The only acceptable answer from Admissions to any mom is that her child is ACCEPTED. For me, with my first child, there was an audible exhale, high five and celebration. Thank goodness her life is on track! But another scenario unfolded for my second child, the one who had a hint of bad boy, even at age five. Mr. Mailperson only had a little envelope for me as I waited at the end of the driveway, trying to appear carefree and unaffected. My hand shook as I opened the small envelope bearing the school crest. With flowery language, my child was rejected! He’s judged as not measuring up, and that means I don’t measure up. I tried to hide my feeling of, ‘this feels like the end of the world’. My husband thankfully shared my disappointment and didn’t say I was making a big deal over something that won’t matter in the long run. This was a serious blow to my mommy manifesto.

Moms Code Tenet 8: Save your children when you have to

Since so many parents face this scenario, they figure out what the measures are and then how to meet or beat them. The tutoring centers find out what’s in the admissions interviews and they coach the children. Then the Admissions office changes things up so little robots don’t walk in the door. It’s become a game, and collectively, we are not winning.

It’s another intensified issue. I don’t remember the stakes being this high when I was a kid. My parents bought a house in a neighborhood with a decent school district and we went to school, starting with kindergarten. Children weren’t judged so early on. Starting kindergarten wasn’t a high stress-associated event.

Elena, I wish I didn’t care as much as I do
I went to a Girls Night Out right after hearing my son was not accepted to the private school we had hoped for. The other moms have kids around my child’s age. One mom, who I thought of as my friend, was going on and on about how her child had been accepted into all three schools. Another mom said, ‘he just has that ‘it’ factor and the mom agreed. I asked what she attributed her son’s success to and she answered seriously, ‘parenting of course’. I was so upset I had to leave the table. I collected myself and went back to the table. Another mom said to me, ‘you know, this school is not for every child’. I couldn’t accept this statement as all their kids got in. I could have accepted it from a mom whose child had not got in. Thank goodness another mom was driving me home because I pounded down glasses of wine until I was numb.

I have advice for a mom offering her friend advice when her child gets cut from a sport or denied admission to a school. Don’t say, ‘it’s probably for the best’ if your own kid got in. When my kids are cut or rejected, I’m bleeding for my child and wish I could change the outcome. I need a friend to offer comfort. Then help me strategize what I’m going to do next, because it’s all I’m thinking about.

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With four kids, we’ve survived many cuts from things like sports teams, school admissions and play tryouts. Trial and error builds character and teaches resiliency. I want my kids to try for things and when they don’t make it, put themselves out there again. But the actual moments of rejection really suck. Especially when my daughter’s face is twisted in fear as she listens in on my end of the conversation that she didn’t make the team or get invited to honors math.

I am the only mom my kids know. Even if I make a decision that I would take back, miss something important, or have a lapse in mom judgment, my kids don’t know it. Because what they live every day is normal to them. As the only mom they know, my kids don’t think about changing me out. 

So let’s be more like our kids and not notice all and point out a mom’s moment of weakness or embarrassment! Let’s bring the judging down a notch!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Mom’s Code – Judging Moms: Unqualified Judges (Part Four of Five)

Generally, in life you apply for and interview to get a job. But not the job of mom. I’m motivated to the degree I’d lay down my life without blinking. I always show up and work overtime constantly. My pay is a smile, a hug or a motivated child. The benefits I request are minimal—rinsing off every day and getting to wash my hair (and dry it) every once in a while. A Mother’s Day card with silly, loving and misspelled words. In short, I’m a superstar who works for affection. But somehow we’ve ended up with an incredible workforce of qualified moms.

Tenet 6: Check your "Judgeyness" at the door

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Most moms are like me. We don’t like to be judged. I take my job seriously. Sometimes when other moms judge me, it’s like being in a family business where the least qualified relative writes and enforces the workplace rules.

Bottom line there is too much judging going on. Some of my friends shared their stories. Note I will have a whole separate blog dedicated to mothers-in-law as I had too many stories to fit into this section!

Yune, it bothers me to be judged
I say to my daughter sometimes, “Why do you care what he/she thinks?” I mean it when I say it to my daughter, yet if someone criticizes my parenting, I feel very defensive and want to prove that person wrong. Why do I care what people think? And since I do care, I can’t help nagging my daughter about her behavior in a public space. I know kids can make a scene, but I always pray it won’t happen in front of others. Have you ever seen the monkey that eats all the bugs off the baby monkey, carefully picking at every bug? I feel like I pick all her imperfections off like a mother monkey. Only she doesn’t appreciate the bug removal. She shrugs her shoulders and tries to get me off.

Tenet 7: Nourish your soul with Girls Night Outs 

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Joanna, living with a big mistake
My friend was driving home after our mom group had salad and wine at a local diner with our kids. She was pulled over for going 35 mph in a 25 mph zone and she admitted she had a glass of wine. She failed the breathalyzer and the police took her keys and told her to have someone come and get her kids. She got dropped off by the squad car. She ended up in the town paper and her license was suspended for 30 days. The gossip amongst the moms was ugly. Even my husband said, “Her poor husband. How embarrassing for him at work.” What? Her poor husband, how about poor her? Then I imagined a police officer with a narcotics dog going through my mailbox and finding the envelope of pot my brother once mailed me. A respected third grade teacher being hauled off in cuffs! Our girls crew have taken ubers and lyfts for our nights out ever since. And we don’t judge other moms until we know the whole story!

Lanie, please look in the mirror
Do you know a mom who claims, “I don’t judge anyone. I try to stay away from all that. I’m not into all that overparenting. I’m really laid back and apply no pressure whatsoever. And so on.” But then she proceeds to knock all the other moms, their practices, and their kids! And her kids are the most uptight and over-scheduled of all the kids I know. I’m not sure if she’s clueless or just thinks we don’t notice.

Brooke, some of my best friends are judgy
My friend Lanie makes proclamations about many things. She says she can never trust three kinds of moms—ones who don’t drink, ones who are anti-pets, and ones with bumper stickers on their cars (especially ones that say ‘my kid is an honors student’ when the child is in third grade). She has very well developed arguments for the three. She swears dogs can sense if someone is a good person or not and has countless examples of when her dog has growled at a questionable character (sometimes it’s a child, who she then refers to as a ‘bad seed’). She feels anyone who won’t share a glass of wine is boring, not willing to be open and therefore untrustworthy. She labels these countless moms as uptight and competitive. She also swears bumper sticker people are secretly angry, but use their ‘cause’ to look like a Good Samaritan of some kind. So she is very judgy. She is also very smart. She has an MBA from University of Chicago although she chooses to be a yoga instructor. I don’t always agree with her, but she is so funny that my stomach hurts after most of our conversations. She can dish it out and she can take it. Sometimes though, she chooses the wrong people to share her opinions with. People who don’t understand her sense of humor. Or, worse, teetotal moms with pet allergies and an array of bumper stickers. It’s easy to cross the line to judgy-ness.

Tenet 5: Stand up to "Mom Tormentors"

Louisa, I’m just being careful
My kids were lobbying hard for a dog and my husband chimed in (mainly to rile me up). I know I will end up taking care of the dog and I’m not even a dog person. A friend of mine told me over time most owners come to resemble their dogs. She pointed to the character Jay in Modern Family and how he was coming to resemble Stella the bulldog (and that’s only a TV pet!) I had to think long and hard about what kind of dog would be right. My kids really wanted a Bulldog they would name Snorty or a German Shepard named Ralph. Out of the question!!! I can’t start to resemble a chubby bulldog or a German Gestapo. So, I agreed to a dog only if it was cute and tiny. We ended up with a Malte-poo named Bella. She’s adorable and the kids love her! My husband, not so much! But I don't feel bad as 90% of taking care of Bella is on me. As a tiny bit of revenge, I make my husband walk Bella around the neighborhood with a pink ribbon tied on her cute little head! And I let her wander freely into his poker nights and listen to his friends tease him!

Steph, we have bad Barbie dolls and Disney movies at our house
My friend Amy is all about girl power. Her #1 toy foe is Barbie. She is against everything a Barbie stands for. Her little girl was never very interested so it wasn’t an issue. Then her little boy developed an insatiable urge to play with Barbie dolls. At every play date at our house, Connor makes a beeline to the Barbie dolls. His mom gives him a lecture right in front of me about how playing with Barbie sends a bad message to girls. She glances my way as if I’m ruining her child by owning Barbie dolls. My kids look up at me, confused and I plaster a smile on my face. She is also anti-Disney, believing the movies are violent and give kids nightmares. My kids love to have movie nights with Disney movies and watch them over and over. Their current favorites are Mulan, Frozen, Kung Fu Panda, Moana, and Lion King. Of course, toy weapons are also on the taboo list and all her daughter wants to do is play with our plastic swords. So play dates with her kids are challenging. She’s a great mom and her kids are sweet. I just wish she’d ease up with the opinions.

It’s hard not to judge, but I’m working on it
I make assumptions sometimes; we all do. When my neighbor had a puffy face, I guessed she had a little work done. Turned out she had her wisdom teeth out. I apologized profusely but she didn’t speak to me for a month.

Tenet 1: Stop the Mama Drama

Moms need a community :) Learn about the tenets of being a Mom.  

After becoming a mom and understanding the pounding nature of the job every day (and the strong little willful beings that are our children), I’ve developed natural filters. For example, I wouldn’t say, ‘the way your daughter dresses is an absolute crime. What were you, and she, thinking?’  I don’t offer parenting advice unless it is asked for, or, part of a wider discussion over wine at a mom dinner. I want and value advice on everything to do with my children - phones/electronics/toys usage, movies, eating, bedtimes, or any other topic. But if I’m being honest, I want it when I ask for it or are open to it; that is not usually mid-crisis when I’m stressed out and doing my best to keep from going stark raving mad.

I’m trying to be less hypersensitive to advice too; the exception is helpful hints from my beloved about how I could be more organized so things could be smoother and quieter for him when he comes home. For the most part, I take the constructive parts and don’t flinch and feel like my parenting is being called into question.  

What do other moms experiences with being judged? Send them to me and I’ll post them.