Edition Number 19
Hi Everyone,

October is a harvest-what-you’ve-planted kind of month. Do you “reap what you sow?” Do you allow yourself to receive the benefits of the “seeds” you’ve diligently planted or do you give them all away? Lately, I’ve been thinking about “reaping what I sow” and claiming what’s mine—beginning with owning my physical space. I’ve been practicing how to take up space: in my own body, in a room with strangers, in a meeting with friends. I fight an old reflex to be small, to make myself “fit,” and then I remind myself of who I am today and say, “That’s not me anymore. I get to take up this space.”  

Whether it’s writing, or speaking, or taking two seats in a subway for myself and a really large handbag, I think it’s important to encourage each other to take our space: physically, emotionally, socially and professionally. To find space as mamas can be daunting, period. It’s an awkward struggle when pregnant, made even more challenging during what can be a long postpartum period of settling into a new body altogether. For the “seasoned” mama who’s entering whatever new stage it might be of the motherhood journey, the changing demands of a baby, now a child, now a tween, now a moody young adult who takes up all the oxygen in the room can seem to require every part of you. How do you make space for yourself with that ? How to do unapologetically claim your space despite the demands (some valid, others not so much) of everyone else?

Edition #19 includes articles that speak brilliantly to this idea of visibility and space: a fantastic if not slightly unnerving piece in the New York Times about the permission to poop, yes, to poop; how to hold your own when a child talks back; an article in Elle that advocates for fashionable “womanspreading;” and an essay that calls out the danger of “boys will be boys” culture, something I wish schools and families would discuss more rigorously in order to model how boys can become thoughtful, accountable men. 

I’ve also included a case to synch up bedtimes with our partners; ideas for healthy-ish candy; a rise in the availability of mesh undies for postpartum mamas (where were these when I needed them?) and a round-up of hard-to-kill pet fish, something I wish I had read three fishes ago.

As always, thanks for reading, mamas, and please don’t be a stranger. Want to contribute? Want to connect? Message me on Instagram at tbd_ mama or email me at carrie@tbdmama.com.
With love,
I appreciate how this write-up emphasizes the verb “respond,” rather than, say, react, blow up, give up or give in. I’m not exactly the type to enjoy being told what, when and how to do something so I do empathize with a child whose life is being organized and orchestrated according to someone else’s schedule and ideas, almost all of the time. Neither a four-year-old nor a fourteen-year-old has all that much agency in their life. Not going to school? Not an option. Being on devices all day and night? Don’t think so. Eating cheddar bunnies for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Not gonna fly. So when the littles talk back, here’s the gist of what to do, according to Lifehacker :  

  • Loosen the Reins (Give them that agency thing….)
  • Pick Your Battles (Is it really worth it?)
  • Act Unimpressed with the Drama (If there’s no one to fight with, then there isn’t a fight!)
  • Channel Your Inner Michelle Obama (When they go low, go high. Or, just leave the room—or housejust long enough to scare them, ha!) 

Full list of ideas below.
I can’t believe I just wrote that but thanks to the journalist Jessica Bennett, I have the opportunity to weigh in on this taboo topic, or as she coins it, the “poo-triarchy.” Her spot-on New York Times article (in the Style section no less!) nails a larger, oppressive picture where women are conditioned to hide and be ashamed of their bodies, period. But beyond periods, which is another natural bodily function many women have been taught to fear or loathe, this P word might just be the most unspeakable and undoable of them all.

What great lengths have you gone to in order to hide your poop? How many times did you go out of your way, or hold on for dear life, before, well, going? Did you go to another floor in the office? Refuse to go in the office at all? How long was it before you did it in front of your partners?

I chuckle at thinking about the great lengths I went to in order to keep up a poopless facade from my husband when we went on our first holiday together as a couple—to what was then a remote rather than New York-ified Tulum where bathrooms were limited—and toilet paper wasn’t even allowed! I laugh even more when I witness the sheer glee my son has at announcing, every day, “Mommy, I pooped!” or how nearly impossible it was to poop without interruption when he was a baby. So while I don’t think we need to go around announcing our bodily disposals, we do need to give ourselves permission to live in our real bodies rather than some fantasized, sanitized, ideal that dominant poo-triatchal narratives would have us believe. Happy Pooping, Mamas!
I thought this slightly older editorial in Elle was fantastic, a sampling of Fall looks celebrating the idea of “womanspreading,” or of taking up as much space as you—and your dress— need. Given the rampant manspreading and mansplaining that occurs regularly in public and private spaces during one’s commute, workday, or dinner with girlfriends who perhaps have husbands prone to talking over everyone else....it's time to think about (re)claiming all the space you need! 

Sometimes fashion does reflect more than the mood of the moment; it shapes the actual message. The message for fall is loud and clear: We will not dress like shrinking violets. Unapologetic volume, shapes and colors that announce themselves via loudspeaker, oversized and unconventional silhouettes don’t hint, they shout, and demand a seat at the table.
For anti-sugar purists, there is no such thing as healthy candy. But for Halloween traditionalists, what’s the holiday without it? While these options certainly aren’t healthy in a kale-and-celery-juice-kinda-way, many fall under the “ish” category and are ranked by an integrative nutritionist. She lists the top four “worst” candies first including the following full-on sugar bombs: candy corn; hard candies; fruit-flavored chews; and, unfortunately, my personal favorite, white chocolate.

Chocolate is clearly better when it’s dark, even more so when mixed with almonds or pumpkin seeds; Stevia-sweetened gummies are a good alternative to classic Haribos, and low-sugar caramel chewies made with coconut milk offer a sensible dairy-free, lower-sugar substitute. Full list below in Who What Wear.
We have kept a sad, abandoned aquarium on Karuna’s dresser for over a year now. It seems as though we either can’t keep a tiny 3 oz fish alive or the NYC water is just too toxic (although as an aside, I’m pretty sure we have some of the cleanest tap water in the nation….)

Are you a serial fish killer too? If so, read on. Despite their tricky names (Bushy Nose Plecos? Dwarf Gouranis?) this roundup in Romper suggests a dozen sturdy, low-maintenance options. Some breeds that may be familiar include exotic Siamese Fighting Fish which do require a warm tank, and candy-colored Tetra, affordable options that eat anything. Note: the humble, oh-so-easy-to-kill goldfish is not on the list.
I typically share something that applies to a broader range of mamas but I just had to include this for any mama-to-be as well as those recently recovering from childbirth. And if it’s been years since you’ve been postpartum, read on to see what progress has been made in the down-there department! 

Remember when those mesh hospital undies were such a hot commodity? As in, oh-my-goddess-how-will-I-survive-without-these kind of commodity? I remember stashing-slash-stealing as many as I could and now, new mamas no longer need to beg, borrow and steal their way to comfort and care down-there. A whole new crop of postpartum underwear lines have answered nature’s call and are available online and in select retailers that have embraced the 21st century and the reality that women BLEED, a lot, for weeks, after birth. While it may take a few more years before postpartum goods get their own damn dedicated shelf at Walmarts across the nation, lines like PartumCare, Nyssa and Brief Transitions, are forging a new postpartum path and heeding the call.
Are you and your partner on the same page when it comes to bedtime? Do one of you insist on watching late night talking heads while the other needs to do a mask and chill? Are you a phones off kinda couple come certain hours or do one of you check Instagram in the middle of the night?  

There are infinite dynamics that make marriages and partnerships work; quirks that would never be okay in one household are the norm in another. While this article doesn’t push for synching bedtimes with a partner, it does offer some compelling pros to the cons. More importantly, the author, a relationship psychiatrist, reminds us to make time to prioritize certain asks if we don’t have the time or energy to do so before crashing out. Some helpful things to think about include considering an earlier bedtime for kids so there’s an opportunity to be alone together as well as honestly communicating your “why” if you insist on staying up later than your partner to be on a device instead of with them. Full article below, via Psychology Today.
I went to an all-girls junior high and high school so decoding the world and ways of boys was always mysterious, if not totally exasperating to me. If a boy was mean, then that meant he liked you. If he threw something at you, then that meant he wanted your attention. And if he crossed a line and actually hurt you, well, more times than not the response from peers and adults was this: Boys will be Boys.  

I am raising a boy and, hell no, it will not be okay for him to do any of the above without consequence. My husband and I intentionally question gender roles and norms whenever possible with a goal to be a small part of a larger cultural shift that does not accept the “boys will be boys” excuse-slash-party line.

Nancy Schwartzman is the director of the upcoming documentary, Roll Red Roll, which covers the controversial Steubenville, Ohio rape case where a group of popular, athletic, “good” boys gang raped and filmed an unconscious,16-year-old, very “bad” girl. Her film, like this article she wrote for Ms , calls out the institutionalized conditions of rape culture that normalize sexual assault, especially when committed by “good boys” onto “bad girls.”

“Good” boys again and again get absolved, especially when they’re affluent, come from a respectable family, or are white. They get bonus points when part of an influential fraternity or deemed a star athlete with a “promising future.” Too often, and time and time again, the focus of the narrative is on what a “good boy” or “upstanding man” the accused is, as opposed to the narrative belonging to the survivor. Too many times these boys grow up to become unfathomably powerful men able to act and assault with impunity; there are too many Harvey Weinsteins, Les Moonves, and Donald Trumps to name here.

While there certainly are times when someone is falsely accused, and you may fall in the camp of those who didn’t believe someone like Dr. Blasey Ford, it remains indisputable that there are too many systems in place that allow boys, and men, to commit acts of sexual violence without serious consequence. Wouldn’t it be something if those same institutions—schools, churches, athletics, media—worked toward dismantling the myth? Presented new ideas and ways to express and embody “masculinity?” Worked toward supporting a culture, for girls AND boys, that has zero tolerance for abuse?

This mama can dream. This mama can also act in tiny, or big, ways to raise her boy within a new narrative.