Edition Number 18
Hi Everyone,

September has always been one of my favorite months of the year, long before becoming a mama. It’s as if my body has had enough R&R in the sun and is ready to go back to school, wherever "school" might be, put real shoes on again, and get on with it. I know many mamas feel panicked about their kids going back to school, especially if it’s for the first time, but for me, honestly, it’s a big f-ing relief! While logistics don’t become easier (how many offices are cool with leaving for pick up at 2:45?) at least there is some semblance of regularity for everyone which I think is a good thing. When Karuna goes back to school (I prefer to say he’s going “forward”) I feel like I’ve been granted “permission” to let him go and become his own person while also allowing myself to continue my own growth and education too.

Speaking of education, I learned quite a bit curating Edition #18. For one thing, I am learning I know nothing about perimenopause, let alone that it could strike as early as 40! Whether this is the farthest thing from your mind or you’re at the tail end of the cycle, the Broad Experience podcast I’m including is a must-listen for sure. I’ve also been thinking about how to handle losing my sh%t with Karuna, how not to, and have included an article with the author of a book that goes by that exact name, “How Not to Lose Your Shi*t With Your Kids.” The New York Times had an interesting piece on why American society is so resistant to universal childcare (it’s a moral imperative more than a financial one) while The Atlantic had a great article on women demystifying the myth of the perfect postpartum body—an exciting shift away from society's punishing expectation. In keeping with the back-to-school spirit, I also included an article that rounds-up school supplies for lefties, ways to reduce lunchtime waste, and a ritual to balance post-summer skin.  

Lastly, I’m excited to share the second essay in the TBD Mama series from an old and dear friend of mine from Los Angeles, Lourdes Diaz Iscove. Lourdes and I gave birth to our sons within days of each other so we have followed each other’s rocky trajectories into this motherhood journey. In “Having One Child…and Kind of, Sort of, Being 'Okay' With It,” she shares her ambivalence around having “just one” and kinda, sorta makes peace with it. I’m so grateful for her honesty and know her candor will resonate with many of you too.

Whether or not you have a child who’s going back to school, I hope each of you creates space to think about what you want to learn and how you will continue to grow, separate from your kids. Let me know what comes up for you when thinking about shifting the focus back to yourself. Guilt? Glee? I love hearing the truth from each of you.

With love,
Carrie
@tbd_mama
LISTEN: WORKING THROUGH PERIMENOPAUSE
Most American companies aren’t even having a proper maternity leave convo let alone one that addresses something that will affect every single woman irregardless if she becomes a mother or not and perhaps bears the most stigma and silence of them all: Menopause. Much more than hot flashes and absent periods, this topic must be discussed and de-stigmatized, no matter where we personally fall along the spectrum today. It’s inevitable: We’ll go through it if we haven’t already done so. We might even be going through it right now.

Did you know? One out of four women don’t realize they’re about to go through menopause and are on the verge of quitting work because their symptoms have grown so unmanageable! Perimenopause, the lead-up to the Big M, is something that typically begins in a woman’s forties, like, early 40s, which is the same time many women today are trying to begin or expand their families.  

This is an older episode of the always excellent, Broad Experience , which demystifies the stigma around “older” women in the workplace facing the end of their fertility years similarly to the way they began: unsupported and in the dark. The podcast also gets radically honest around some of the lesser discussed symptoms: a genuine loss for words, increased anxiety, debilitating brain fog and a desperate feeling of being all alone. While this episode focuses on women in the U.K. changing the conversation (indeed the U.K. seems to have more interest in and empathy for the topic) the takeaways are a breath of fresh air for women making sense of perimenopause in the States where systemic ageism and sexism make these conversations challenging to have.

So who do you tell at work when these symptoms begin? How do you message, “hi, I’m going through menopause so forgive me if I bleed through this chair?” In a culture where perfection is expected, how does a woman admit something that might be perceived as weakness and used against her? How can a company start the conversation, especially if you work with a majority of men— or much younger women for whom menopause is just about the last thing o n their minds? What reasonable adjustments can be implemented at your workplace, or for that matter, at home?     

In the youth-obsessed U.S., we lie to ourselves all the time about what our bodies can do, how they’re “supposed” to look and behave. How can we start telling the radical truth in order to support women at work and keep them from dropping out as they embark on “puberty for the middle age?” While this specific podcast focuses on menopause in the workplace it's equally important to have this conversation at home too. Women deserve to feel validated and seen by their partners, at work and at at home, as they experience another massive physiological change.  
LA FAMILIA: HOW TO STOP LOSING YOUR SH*T WITH YOUR KIDS
There have been countless times when I’m so frustrated with Karuna I’m certain I need to lock him up, or myself, ASAP, before I inflict real damage. Equal parts enraged and despondent, I morph into a super scary version of Mama, and I’m not sure I trust what I’ll do next. And then, of course, I don’t hurt him, and instead force myself to grit or growl and walk away. Literally. 

Lately, it’s the other way around and Karuna will walk away first! This is followed by what appears to be a nascent eye-roll and an expert shutting, not slamming of the door, which honestly takes quite a bit of self-restraint for a four-year-old. When we reconvene a few minutes later after his "mad goes away,” we exchange some version of feelings, make amends and things resume as normal. But I ask myself, why did I get so mad to begin with? How can I learn to find space, pause in the moment, and literally do something else until the “mad goes away” in me too? 

There’s a clever little book that offers up tactical suggestions called, “How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t With Your Kids” and this interview in Huffington Pos t with its author, Dr. Carla Naumburg, summarizes its' gist, in this order:

  • Learn your triggers (that moment right before you lose it)
  • Do something other than yell (the author has clucked like a chicken)
  • Don’t forget to breathe (seemingly obvious but it is the direct way to calm the nervous system down)
  • If you do lose it: Apologize! (for your behavior, not your feeling)

Lastly, remember to be laugh (often!) and be compassionate with your kids and yourself. If you can’t forgive yourself, then it’s nearly impossible to extend forgiveness toward anyone else. 
FEMME-INISM: WHY DOES AMERICA RESIST UNIVERSAL CHILDCARE?
Research shows us that when government policy makes it easier for mothers to work outside the home, many do. Subsidized child care and access to early education remain the two critical factors in determining women’s overall employment. Not surprisingly, the number of mothers in the workplace increases when school days are longer and childcare is more affordable. In states such as CA, Oregon and Washington where the school day is shortest and childcare is more expensive than the national average, fewer mothers work outside the home. 

But what perhaps stands in the way of more women working outside the home, even more so than inadequate childcare policies, is a deeply rooted societal belief, despite it being 2019, that a woman’s place is at home with her children. Complicating matters is an equally deeply rooted system of oppression when it comes to race and poverty. While white mothers were incentivized and subsidized to stay-at-home with “mother’s pensions” in the 1900’s, black women were expected to work. As the 20th century began, the disparities widened and much of the inequity remains in place today well into the 21st. As the New York Times reminds us, “Today, most families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families are required to work — and receive some government help with child care to do so.” Translation: There is a longstanding, prejudiced history in the States that punishes poverty or one’s inability to work, particularly poor women of color with children.

While many women would and do prefer to be at home with their kids, this should be a personal choice and not a moral mandate. Furthermore, it’s a choice a woman should get to make for herself and not because the world around her tells her it has to be that way. But for many women, particularly low income women, it’s not a choice at all but is the de-facto default because they can’t afford to pay someone else to take care of their kids and go to work. 

What’s interesting about this article is how it recounts the U.S.’s longstanding history and conflict regarding the societal ideal that women should stay at home, particularly white women. It reminds us that a moralizing, “It’s best for the children” narrative is so ingrained in American history and identity that we don’t dare challenge it. In thinking about the future of motherhood and work, I’d like to think this narrative can be questioned and evolve without ambivalence in order for mothers to make their own choices that work best for them.
FOR THE LITTLES:
SCHOOL SUPPLIES FOR LEFTIES
We’re a family of lefties. I’m a leftie, my husband is a leftie, and my son is an emerging leftie too. Growing up, I resigned myself to permanently having ink stains all over my hands and eventually learned how to use everyday “rightie” products just fine, i.e. scissors, rulers and notebooks. I don’t think a single “left-handed”school supply existed when I was in school, but, after hearing horror stories about how my grandfather, a natural leftie, was forced to switch and become a “rightie” by being smacked on the hand repeatedly, I couldn’t exactly complain. Fast-forward to today, however, and low and behold such amazing products exist! From graphing pencils and notebooks to ergonomic laptops and mouse trays, there are a wide range of school supplies designed for lefties to work with. Full list below via Pop Sugar .
TRY TOGETHER: EASY WAYS TO REDUCE LUNCHTIME WASTE
Although these eco-friendly tips are ostensibly for kids lunches they apply just as well to our own. I haven’t bought Ziploc bags in ages thanks to an array of reusable silicone options, by using just two of these you can save an average 700 plastic sandwich baggies a year! Also included are stainless steel Bento boxes (great for portion control), containers to substitute single-use snack bags, and cute and compact cutlery sets. Full list below, also via Pop Sugar.
TRY FOR YOU: REBALANCE DAMAGED SUMMER SKIN
By the end of summer, my face can be a hot mess and I know my beloved dermatologist will have an earful for me. Breakouts, dehydration, added wrinkles and hyper-pigmentation are all par for the course after a season in the sunshine, even with protection! Long gone are the carefree days when I could lie out in the sun without layers of Vitamin A.B,C, and D, SPF and UPF— that would be the sun protection built into the enormous hat designed by doctors to protect against melanoma that I don’t dare leave home without. Needless to say, I’m doing my part to protect myself. 

Sometimes, however, protection just isn’t enough, and when chemical peels, lasers and injectables aren’t an option, especially if you’re pregnant or trying to stay on au natural course, it’s tough to know how to take care of post-summer skin without making things worse. The editors at T offer up a simplified regiment with OTC options to help slough off the sun, boost hydration and recalibrate your skin for fall.
WHAT NO ONE TALKS ABOUT:
THE REAL POSTPARTUM BODY
It was only five short years ago that one couldn’t look at Instagram and see anything other than filtered perfection. Motherhood was no exception to this must-look-perfect rule. But when more Millennials (already accustomed to sharing everything online) started becoming moms too, unfiltered images of real motherhood began to crop up and be “liked,” igniting a new conversation where realness really mattered. The postpartum body, like so many other aspects of motherhood, no longer needed to stay and hide in the closet. Here’s a compelling piece in The Atlantic that explores the rise of this type of real mom talk, and predominantly attributes it to social media and the female celebrities who influence it.

When Chrissy Teigen posted a postpartum picture of herself wearing hospital mesh, “asian pear” underpants, the Internet rejoiced. When Amy Schumer posted photos of her postpartum self, grimacing from the hospital toilet seat, the Internet cried a sigh of relief, a collective “me too” of a different kind. When Ali Wong unapologetically spent 20 minutes breaking down the disgusting details of childbirth in stand-up—7 months pregnant no less—moms and dads cracked up in solidarity. Like it or not, when famous women around the world tell the truth they grant less famous women around the world “permission” to do the same. This is how fame and influence and The Internet work. And sometimes, the potent combo actually works for the greater, female good.  
TBA MAMA: "HAVING ONE CHILD AND KIND OF, SORT OF, BEING OKAY WITH IT"
BY LOURDES DIAZ ISCOVE
*The following is an excerpt. Click below to read the entire essay.

I’ve read countless blog posts about why some families choose to be “one and done.” The litany of reasons: They loved being an only child; they have practical financial reasons to consider; they had a difficult pregnancy and don’t want to endure that again. I don’t want to repeat what you’ve probably already read countless times. Instead, let me take you through my thought process for my decision and, why, at first glance, my choice may seem ambivalent.

For me, motherhood does feel ambivalent at times. I can’t encapsulate such a monumental change in my life into one emotion which is why I can’t see being “one and done” as a black and white issue either. It doesn’t feel and probably will never feel like a solid decision for me. Instead, it feels like several opposing forces battling each other. 

I’ll start with the dark. Sadly, postpartum depression robbed me of enjoying the first eight months of my son’s life. It was the darkest time of my life. I felt like I was just going on auto-pilot instead of feeling or experiencing the good that comes with being a first-time mother. At first, I didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of love for my son. It felt like a new job that I didn’t want to lose, so I became “employee of the month” and worked my hardest to do a good job. 
With time, eventually that love came. It took time for me to adjust emotionally, mentally and physically. Thankfully, I had my supportive, loving husband to hold my hand through it all. I finally made it to the other side just around the time my son turned nine months old. Once the irrational, terrifying, hormonal fog of postpartum depression lifted I fell madly in love, and that love continues to grow each second of every single day, and yet I still feel conflicted about having a second.