Dating a Single Mom

The world of dating can be complicated.  There are so many unwritten rules about phone calls and texting and the appropriate amount of time to wait before the next date. I foolishly used to somewhat follow these rules. “Oh I can’t text him because our date was yesterday. I need to wait at least two more days.”  I now see how ridiculous this logic is and wish I could see its silliness back then.

I’m at a point in my life where I would like to start dating again soon. And the only ‘rules’ I will be following will be my own set of rules. I’m not exactly sure if there are any unwritten rules for dating a single mom, but here are some points I need to establish:

My time is valuable. Time with you means time away from my child. I work full time, so time with my daughter is already extremely precious. I’m all about taking time for myself and I don’t mind taking some time to develop a new relationship. But please, respect my time. I don’t mind if you occasionally cancel plans because I realize that life happens, but if it becomes a regular occurrence then I’ll probably cut you off.

You don’t need to impress me. Romantic dinners and weekend getaways are great, but I’m equally as happy to go for a drive or a walk in the park. I’ve never been impressed by materialistic things. I don’t care what kind of car you drive or what brand of clothing you wear. You know what impresses me the most when looking at the opposite sex? Men who are sensible and mature adults. Men who work hard to make an honest living. Men that treat other people with respect. Men who step up and take care of their responsibilities. Anything above and beyond that is a total bonus and not a requirement.

I know what’s best for my daughter. I know the right way to raise her and I know what she does and does not need. I don’t mind parenting advice if I ask for it, but please don’t assume that I want it or need it. If you have children of your own, that’s fantastic. I’m all about swapping ideas on parenting and sharing tips. But it doesn’t mean that you have permission to try to point out all of the things I am doing wrong. Also, I’ll decide when it’s time for you and her to meet. It might take a long time before I’m comfortable doing that, so please be patient.

Don’t try to fix me, I’m not broken. I had a relationship that didn’t work out. Lots of people go through this. The only difference is; is that I got the best gift ever out of mine. My heart is not broken or in need of mending. You don’t need to try and fix me. Because everything that ever went wrong was fixed the second I laid eyes on my daughter. She mended my heart and healed my soul in ways that no one else ever could.

My daughter will always be my first priority. If my child is sick, upset, sad or just wants her mommy, then I am going to be there for her. If she is having a bad day or needs a hug or wants some one-on-one time, she’s going to get it. I will try my best to make sure that I don’t cancel last minute or change plans with little notice, but there will be times when that is unavoidable. She is a part of me and will always be my number one priority. If someone can’t understand or accept this then they don’t belong in my life anyway.

If you read all of the above and still think that dating me (or any other single mom) is worthwhile, then jump in. I’m great at prioritizing, juggling, coming up with creative solutions and thinking outside of the box. Having a child makes me silly, fun and easy-going. I know that it’s going to be tough at times but I promise that you will also have a lot of fun. My daughter and I are full of life and energy and can turn your world upside down in the best way possible.

My daughter will not take dance lessons

At a very young age, I really wanted to be a ballerina. The tutus, the poise, the grace and the sheer beauty of dance has an attraction that seems to beckon and call to young girls. My parents put me in dance lessons when I was five years old. It was an instant love. I loved wearing my pink tights and ballet slippers and practicing all of the different positions and techniques. I felt beautiful when I danced and especially loved the yearly recitals.

As I got older, dance lessons changed. They became more competitive. There was a constant competition to prove you were the best so that you could be front and centre stage. More often than not, I wasn’t front and centre. It hurt to the core when I wasn’t chosen for the front row and I would cry myself to sleep over it. Why wasn’t I picked? I practiced so hard. I had the best turnout in my class and was easily one of the most flexible dancers in the group.

By the time I was an impressionable teenager, dance really started to define who I was. All I wanted to be was a dancer. It meant everything to me. Most of my free time was spent practising routines and working out choreography of my own.  I wasn’t always picked for the front but when I was, I made sure to do everything right; perfect posture, smile and look effortless.

When I was seventeen I started to believe that I wasn’t being picked for the front row because I wasn’t thin enough. Where would a seventeen year old get that thought? I’m not sure, but whenever I looked at dance magazines or pictures online, I knew my body wasn’t the way it was supposed to be.

So, I started dieting. I ate less and exercised more and it worked. Ten pounds later I looked great. And then, out of the blue, I got sick and was diagnosed with mono. Mono left me tired and weak for more than a month. I could hardly get out of bed. When I was finally well enough to dance again I had lost over twenty pounds. An older dancer saw me at practice and said “wow Katie! You look fantastic,” and I thought that was the biggest compliment ever. After all, she was older and super talented and was always centre stage.

That comment stuck with me. I worked very hard to keep the weight I lost off. It was easy for the first few weeks but as my body recovered from the illness and my appetite came back, it became harder and harder. So I started starving myself.

I’d eat a little less at every meal. Half a sandwich at lunch instead of a full one. Skim milk instead of two percent. Apple slices instead of crackers. I was hungry all of the time, but it didn’t matter, because now I looked like a dancer.

Even though I had more of a dancer’s body than I ever had, it didn’t equate success. I was chosen for the front sometimes but a lot of the time I wasn’t. I didn’t understand at all. I was working so hard and my body was looking more and more like a dancer’s body. When was it going to pay off? My confidence was nearly diminished and my body was slowly starting to suffer too.

I graduated high school and went to university. I continued to dance, but I also started to meet new friends and try new things. I turned nineteen which meant I had some late nights and an irregular schedule. This eventually caused me to gain the freshman fifteen, and a little bit more. The weight gain didn’t bother me nearly as much as I thought it would.  I still loved dance, but it was becoming less important to me. I had bigger goals for my life and dance was more for the social aspect and the exercise.

The year I was 19, our instructor arranged for a choreographer to come from Toronto to teach us a complicated piece.  It was on a weekday and even the youngest of dancers were expected to take the day off of school. The choreographer looked the part. She was graceful and delicate and dressed in a unique and elegant way. As she walked in the room, I felt her eye me up and down. But not just me; every dancer present was being scrutinized.

We learned the piece and practiced it over and over.  Finally she decided that it was time for a break and a ‘chat.’ She had us all sit down and she stood before us and said:

“Ladies, as you know, dance costumes are a big part of being on stage. Now, with this particular piece, I really think a two piece costume would work best. However, I would not put ANY of you in a two piece. Every dancer in this room could stand to lose ten pounds.”

Silence. Absolute silence. I looked at my own instructor in disbelief. Our eyes locked for a moment and she looked away. There were girls as young as ten in that room. How dare that woman tell a ten year old girl she needed to lose weight? I talked to my instructor afterwards and expressed my concerns. She brushed me off and said the choreographer was her friend and that she was giving friendly advice.

In that moment, dance was over for me. I knew I would always love and appreciate dance as it carried me through some tough times, but it also created some tough times too.

I was lucky enough to be able to walk away from dance without doing any permanent damage to myself. I bordered on the edge of having an eating disorder and spent years beating myself up. Dance is supposed to create confidence, not destroy it.

Because of my personal experiences, I know I will not enroll my daughter in dance class. If she insists and pleads and begs for it, then perhaps I will consider it. But I will monitor it SO carefully. I will not allow her confidence or sense of self to be defined or destroyed by any extracurricular sport or activity.

I’m not saying that dance destroys every girl, because it doesn’t. Lots of girls develop a sense of confidence that they wouldn’t otherwise have. Dance teaches lots of other beautiful things as well and can be an amazing way to express oneself.

If you have a child in dance lessons, make sure to monitor it carefully. Don’t allow it to become bigger than your child and don’t allow it to distort their body image. Dance can be a beautiful, joyous and wonderful thing. Make sure that your child is experiencing only happiness through dance.  If the happiness stops then it’s time to question if dance is doing what it’s supposed to do.

Momtrepreneur Ideas

I’m pretty sure I was meant to be rich. I have expensive taste when it comes to wine, clothing, makeup and jewelry. I’d love to be driving a Mercedes and dropping major money at Sephora and MAC on a regular basis. But the truth is; I drive a Kia and shop sale racks on an almost exclusive basis.

I started thinking I should become a Momtrepreneur, except most momtrepreneurs work for multi-level marketing companies that sell stuff that I’m not even remotely interested in buying. $80 organic face cream? No thanks. Weird little nail stickers? Definitely not. And those candles? They smell okay but I get crazy migraines if I’m around them too long.

I definitely want to get rich, but none of those ideas are working for me. So I came up with my own Momtrepreneur business models. I haven’t exactly figured them all out just yet, but here are a few of my pitches:

Diaper Services. I know these already exist, but not the way I want them to. I don’t want someone to launder and sanitize my reusable diapers. No, what I want is someone I can call when my child has an epic blowout. I’m talking a total poonami. I have a pretty strong stomach but there are days when I cannot handle the shitstorm in my daughter’s diaper. I’d love to be able to call a number like 1-800-GOT-SHIT and have someone come take care of things for me. I’d pay good money to have that service and I bet a lot of other parents would too!

Baby Nail Care. As a new mom, trimming my baby’s fingernails freaked me out. The hospital recommended using a nail file to sand them down. Well that’s a great concept but in reality, it was hard as hell. She’d pull her hand away and cry. I’d manage to do one nail a day, but at that rate it took me ten days to have all of her nails done. By that time I was back to the first nail I had filed. It was constant nail filing. I would love for someone to come in and file my child’s nails while I relax with a glass of wine and some chocolate chip cookies.

Mommy and Me Daycare. I’d love to find a place where I can drop my daughter off for a few hours and then have the luxury of being in the same building while getting a pedicure, facial and massage. Maybe these facilities already exist, but they definitely don’t in my community. Someone could get super rich from this. If they added in a liquor license and served wine they could potentially become a millionaire.

Bottle Services. Wouldn’t it be so convenient to have someone bring fresh bottles to your house every day? You thought I meant for the baby, didn’t you? No, what I mean is a pre-ordered amount of wine delivered to your house. Maybe you require a bottle once a week, or every second day, or maybe every single day. Whatever, I don’t judge. Someone needs to get on this though because there are days when leaving the house with a baby seems like mission impossible, but mama still wants her wine!

Personal Trainers. Not the fitness kind. The kind that will come to your house and deal with sleep training and potty training. I am sleeping training my daughter right now, and it seriously sucks. I dread the potty training stage. I still have at least another year before I get there so hopefully I have figured out how this business model is going to work by then.

I’m not sure how rich I am going to get off of these business ideas, because I don’t actually want to do any of them. I want someone else to provide these services so I don’t have to deal with shitty diapers and an empty wine bottle!

If there are any takers, please go ahead and steal these ideas. Just do me a favor and implement them. Make them successful businesses. I promise I will be your number one customer. In the meantime, I’ll continue to drive my Kia and shop sale racks. Totally worth it if it means someone else will take care of the shitscapades at my place!

Who are the real single moms?

Being a single mom is tough. Emotionally, physically, mentally and financially it can be exhausting. There are days when you can feel completely overwhelmed and alone. However, it can also be super fun and rewarding, and most of the time I really do love being a single mom. But the one time I hate it the most is when people make judgments about single mothers.

The term ‘single mom’ comes with a stigma. People often assume that single moms made a string of bad life choices and ended up in a situation that they could have avoided.

I’m here to tell you that there is no such thing as a stereotypical single mom. I want people to know what a real single mom looks like, so I’m going to tell you:

Real single moms are educated. We have graduated from high schools, colleges and universities. We have diplomas, bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees and PhDs.

Real single moms work. We are doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, social workers, engineers, pharmacists, hairdressers, plumbers, electricians, administrative assistants, university professors and many other working professionals.

Real single moms earn money. Some of us work from home, some of us work away from the home. Some of us work two jobs to provide for our children. Some of us are stay at home moms because we can financially do so.

Real single moms make great decisions. We choose to formula feed, breastfeed, seek child support, not seek child support, involve the father, not involve the father. We make decisions that work for us and our children. We make our decisions out of love, care and concern.

Real single moms are smart. We teach our children everything. We teach them how to walk, eat, speak, read, and use a computer. We teach them manners, life skills and critical thinking. Our children are awesome because we shaped them into amazing little people.

Real single moms are strong. We were faced with situations that were heartbreaking, emotional and difficult. We wondered the whole time if we were making the right decisions and if the situation we were in could have somehow been avoided. But the truth is; it couldn’t have been. We are not responsible for how a father does or does not act.

Real single moms are creative. We find ways to stretch our time, money and energy. We make everyday life fun and interesting by coming up with practical solutions and well thought out plans to make sure that we never experience deficits.

Real single moms are superheroes. We give 100% of who we are all day every day to our children. We get very few breaks and sometimes wish we had someone else to talk to about our parenting worries. But we always manage to get through and find the energy to do it all over again each and every day.

Real single moms became single moms through lots of different means. Some of us adopted, some went through fertility treatments. Some had a partner leave after a baby was conceived. Some of us had a partner leave after a baby was born. Some had a partner leave after the child became a teenager. Some had the unfortunate heartbreak of having to deal with a partner who passed away. Some of us got here by choice, chance, circumstance or a combination of all three.

Real single moms are everywhere. We are proud of who we are and proud of the children we are raising. We hope that you give us the respect we deserve, because we always make sure to give it to anyone who is on the sometimes bumpy path of parenthood.

So, real single moms, please raise your hands. Tell everyone who you are. Break the stigma and show the world that you are more than a label. Tell me your story, tell anyone your story. The only thing I can ask of you, single moms, is don’t ever be ashamed of how you got here. Life is not about the destination, it’s about the journey.

#RealSingleMoms

I’m a Single Mother By Choice, too

I am a Single Mother By Choice.

No, I did not adopt a child on my own. I didn’t go through fertility treatments or in-vitro fertilization, and I didn’t spend thousands of dollars of my own money trying to get pregnant as a single woman.

My situation is different, but still very valid. I knew before I gave birth to my daughter that I would be raising her on my own. I knew that I would be the one to wake up with her every night and to teach her everything she knows. I knew I would be the one who would be present and there with her each and every day, and I knew I would be the one to provide for her in every way possible.

I tried several times to identify online as a Single Mother By Choice (SMBC), but I was constantly told “No, you aren’t.  You’re not a real SMBC.”

It was very real to me when I chose to keep the life I created. It was very real to me when I chose to take on the responsibility of raising my daughter completely alone. And it was very real to me when I gave birth and fell head over heels in love with my daughter the moment I laid eyes on her.

“But a real SMBC plans to have a baby. You didn’t spend months (or years) saving up for an adoption or fertility treatments.”

You’re right. I did not. But I also did not plan to be with someone who would not be there for me and my daughter. And maybe I didn’t spend years saving for an adoption or fertility treatments, but I spent my entire pregnancy working two jobs to save up every cent I could so that I could put myself in the best possible financial situation to ensure that my daughter had everything she needed.

I take my hat off to any man or woman who is parenting solo. It is not easy and there are days when it is tiring and frustrating and overwhelming. There are days when it can feel completely lonely and isolating. Those are the days I wanted to reach out, the days I wanted to connect with other SMBC’s. But I was shunned and told I didn’t belong in their exclusive group.

It makes me sad that any mother would not reach out to another parent who needed someone to talk to. Parenting is tough and sometimes you need to talk to someone who is experiencing similar things to you. It helps you connect and makes you feel like you aren’t completely alone.

Luckily, I have found a group of SMBCs that I belong with. They have very similar situations to me and they also consider themselves Single Mothers By Choice. Yes, there was some circumstance involved in our situations, but there was still plenty of choice. We made tough, difficult and emotionally exhausting choices. We chose to enter motherhood solo and we embraced it as single women.

To the ‘real’ SMBCs: I’m not trying to offend you or take away from the choices you made. I know you spent months, if not years, planning for the baby you always wanted. I think what you did was incredibly amazing and you deserve all of the credit in the world. But please, don’t try telling me or my friends that we are not as valid as you. We are different, but equal. This is motherhood, we are all in it together. Shouldn’t we be on the same team?

You may not agree with what I have wrote, and you may not agree that I am a true SMBC. But I still plan on calling myself that. I’m not doing it to upset you. I am doing it because it feels right and at the end of the day that’s all that matters to me.

Spilled Milk

When I was 32 weeks pregnant, my bras stopped fitting.  My boobs were getting bigger and achier by the day. I was busting out of my D cup and had no choice but to go to a DD. I noticed that the DD cup sizes were less cute than the C and D cup sizes. Less cute prints and more solid colors, but I still managed to find a leopard print bra and a hot pink one, so I was satisfied.

Two days after I had my daughter, my boobs looked like they were on steroids. They were ginormous. They hurt to touch and I was pretty sure that milk was going to explode out of them if a bra even grazed my nipples. But the problem though, was that if I wasn’t wearing a bra then the nursing pads had nothing to rest in and hold them in place. After a couple of weeks of sports bras I was ready to try a regular bra again, but my DD did not fit. I knew I had to go out and buy a few new bras, and I knew it would be difficult. What size even comes after DD? DDD? E? I was starting to feel like I was getting ready to shop for batteries with all of these letter combos in my head.

My mom said she would watch my daughter for me so I could get out for a few hours. So I did what any self-respecting new mom does. I threw on some yoga pants, shoved my hair in a ponytail and headed to Target.

Ah Target, the magical land of Starbucks, dollar bins and a great assortment of bras. I immediately got a lovely, ultra-caffeinated beverage and headed to the lingerie section.

Right away, I steered myself away from the cute and frilly bras with pretty floral designs and lace. No, they don’t make DDD in those patterns. DDD is limited to black, white, beige and cream. I still wasn’t sure what size I was so I grabbed an assortment and headed to the fitting rooms.

When I got to the fitting rooms I noticed the lady ahead of me had a stroller with a cute little baby in it. “Poor thing, no one to babysit for her while she’s out clothes shopping,” I thought to myself.  She, like me, had a bunch of bra’s and was trying to juggle her merchandize and her stroller. Luckily, the young girl working the fitting rooms came to her rescue and got her situated in the room next to me.

First up, 38DD. I wasn’t sure if it would fit but it looked big on the rack so I decided to give it a shot. I wasn’t even done putting it and was like “nope, not gunna work.” That got placed in the ‘no’ pile.

Next up was a 40G, I think I might have grabbed it by mistake because it was way too big and there was enough room leftover in the cups to fit a third boob.

I tossed that one aside too. I picked up the next one from my pile. A black bra that actually wasn’t too granny looking. I tried it on. 38DDD, it was close to the right size, but not quite. And that’s when I spotted the 40DDD. “That has got to be the winner”, I thought to myself.

I picked it up and tried it on. It was cream colored, and actually not a bad fit. Not exactly perfect. The 38DDD was a little too tight in the band and the 40DDD was a little too loose in the band. But since there’s no such thing as a 39DDD, I figured I’d take what I could get. I tried on one more after that, a stark white 42DD. The fit just wasn’t as good as the 40DDD so it looked like it was going in the ‘no’ pile as well.

Just then I heard my phone go off. It sounded like a text message. I wanted to check and see if it was my mom, I hoping everything was okay at home. It wasn’t my mom, it was a friend checking to see how I was adjusting to motherhood. We texted back and forth for a few minutes. I vaguely heard the mom next to me trying to comfort her crying baby, but I was too engrossed in my messages to take any particular notice.

Ok, mission accomplished. I found one decent bra, I was hoping for two, but one is better than none. As I took off the last reject I noticed my chest felt a little wet. “Weird, I don’t remember spilling my drink.”  The baby next door cried again. And that’s when I clued in. “Holy fuck, I just leaked breast milk all over one of Target’s bras!”

I was paralyzed for a minute. “What the hell am I supposed to do now?” I stood there in disbelief, in a state of shock actually. How the heck was this possible?

I touched the bra to see how wet it was. Maybe it was just a drop or two? No no, it was more than a few drops. It was soaked. I wouldn’t have cared so much if it was the bra I had planned on buying because then I could just take it home and wash it, but this was not one of my purchases. “How am I getting myself out of this situation?”

I frantically began googling stuff, like ‘how to get breast milk out of your clothes’. Number one answer; wash it. Oh that’s great, because I have access to a washer and dryer in this 4 by 4 cubicle sized dressing room.  “Okay, there has to be a solution. What is the solution, Katie? Think!”

I could put it back on the rack, but that’s gross. No one wants to browse the lingerie section and smell sour milk. That one’s out. What if I ‘accidentally’ get some lip gloss on this bra? It’s white, my pink lip gloss could stain it and when I leave the fitting room I could just tell the girl out front that this item is damaged so I won’t be buying it. But shit, what if she leaves it at the counter with her for a while and it starts to smell of sour milk? No, that is wrong too.

I guess I could buy it? It doesn’t fit and it will never fit, but I see no other solution. I can’t put it back on the rack, because the only rack it belongs on now is the rack that leaked breast milk all over it.

I quickly got dressed and handed my reject pile to the girl out front. “How did you make out?” she asked cheerfully. “Oh, um fine, thank you.” I replied as I hurried off with the two bras in my hand. And then it hit me. I could fucking smell the bra I leaked in. I was horrified. Absolutely horrified. “How in the actual fuck am I going to go through the cash smelling like milk?”

I started walking the store, frantically, not knowing what to do next. I walked to the baby section and pretended to browse, but I was just getting more panicked by the second. So I moved on to the home décor section. I contemplated throwing the two bras on the floor and getting out of the store ASAP, but I just couldn’t do it knowing that someone might pick it up and put it back in the lingerie section.

Then I had an ‘aha’ moment. “I’ll go to the makeup section, find a tester perfume and spray it all over me and the bras. It will mask the smell. I am a fucking genius.”

So, I motored off to the makeup section and started smelling perfumes and body sprays. Most were surprisingly light and airy and would not work. “No, I need heavy duty.” I sniffed a few more and then I found the winner. The kind of perfume your grandmother wears, musky and heavy. It was perfect. I sprayed it all over myself and doused the bras in it. Then I raced for the cash before the smell wore off.

There wasn’t a line for the cash register, just a friendly girl smiling at me from behind her till as I placed the two bras down. “Did you find everything you were looking for?” she asked. And then I saw her eyes twitch; she sneezed loudly and sniffed a few times. “Oh I smell that too, girlfriend. I know I smell like your grandmother getting ready for church on Christmas Eve, but believe me, this is for the greater good and better than the alternative.”  

“Your total is $54.05,” she said, and then coughed loudly and sneezed again. I avoided eye contact as I counted out my money and passed her three 20s. She put the bras in a bag and then cleared her throat. I actually felt bad; I think I was causing an allergic reaction. She passed me my change and receipt. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” I wanted to shout. But I just quickly gathered my bag and wallet and got the fuck out of there.

When I got to my car I nearly gagged. Now I could smell myself. The perfume smelled toxic. I drove home with the windows down and nearly had to hang my head out a few times just to get some fresh air.

Target Canada closed a few months after this episode happened. I don’t have much to show for Target’s brief stint here. Just a couple of cute dresses and a white bra that has permanent milk stains that will never fit me anyway. I did learn a valuable lesson though; don’t cry over spilled (or leaked) milk. There’s almost always a solution to get out of any situation. I never did have the courage to go back to Target after that. Looks like I’m going to need to make a road trip to the US so that I can reflect back and remember that my most current trip to Target did not involve leaked milk, a destroyed bra and old lady musk.

To The Perfect Parents


Dear Perfect Parents,

I wanted to write this letter to you because I feel like I am misunderstood. I am not a perfect parent. I wish I was and I think at one point during my pregnancy I strived to be just like you, but I just couldn’t live up to the expectations.

You see, I used to be like you..sort of. I used to try so hard to do everything in my life so perfectly. But all it did was stress me out and leave me frazzled and unhappy. So I had to stop giving so many fucks because I’d prefer to avoid grey hair in my thirties.

I understand why you are the way you are, perfect parents. You want what is best for your child. I get that, I really do. But here’s the thing; what is best for your child is not best for everyone else’s child. I know you truly believe that you are doing everything exactly right. After all, you read fourteen books on parenting while you were pregnant.

I feel like I should introduce myself since we seem to run into each other so frequently. Sometimes we run into each other online and sometimes we run into each other in person. Nevertheless, you always make sure to let everyone know how awesome you are at parenting and how anyone who isn’t doing it your way is screwing everything up for their child. You see me all of the time, perfect parents. I know you see me because sometimes you judge me through a look or through whispered words to your friends.  You may not know me personally, but you can spot me rather easily because;

I’m the mom at prenatal appointments who is asking her doctor if it’s okay to take Tylenol while pregnant.

I’m the mom at the first ultrasound who forgot to bring cash to buy pictures and is frantically searching the hospital for an ATM.

I’m the mom at Chapters buying 50 Shades of Grey instead of books on natural births and post-natal care.

I’m the mom in labour and delivery who is begging for the epidural.

I’m the mom in the hospital parking lot who can barely figure out the carseat.

I’m the mom at the first doctors checkup with bags under her eyes, spit up on her sweater and a diaper bag that has everything but diapers in it

I’m the mom at Target wearing yoga pants and a ponytail.

I’m the mom at the post office without an engagement or wedding ring.

I’m the mom who let her daughter co-sleep with her for the first six months because it allowed the two of us to get some rest.

I’m the mom buying jarred baby food instead of making it at home.

I’m the mom at playgroup who whips out a bottle instead of her boob.

I’m the mom in the grocery store who is buying more junk food than organic food.

I’m the mom who lets her nine month old watch thirty minutes of TV so I can check Facebook and Pinterest.

I’m the mom who let her daughter try cake before she tried avocado.

I’m the mom who is sometimes answering work emails instead of playing with mega blocks.

I’m the mom who has a hangover because I enjoy a glass (or bottle) of wine some nights.

That’s what you see, perfect parents. But here’s what you don’t see;

I’m the mom who fell in love with her baby when the pregnancy test came back positive.

I’m the mom who cried tears of joy during the first ultrasound.

I’m the mom who thanked God for my daughter the first time I held her.

I’m the mom who stayed awake the entire first night after birth because I could not take my eyes off of my perfect little girl.

I’m the mom who snuggles her baby and sings her to sleep.

I’m the mom who spent hours researching the best type of formula after breastfeeding wasn’t working.

I’m the mom who hasn’t read a book in ages but reads 20+ books to her daughter each day.

I’m the mom who will happily go without to make sure my daughter has everything she needs.

I’m the mom who hasn’t had 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep in over a year, but somehow still manages to get up and go to work each day.

I’m the mom who is both mommy and daddy, all day every day.

I’m the mom who cried when her daughter said mama for the first time.

I’m the mom who loves being a mother. Through all of the ups and downs, the tears and frustration, the happiness and sadness, through the confusion and second guessing myself. I love being a mom. I really do.

I may not be perfect at motherhood, perfect parents. But I know that I am doing things in a way that works best for me and my daughter. And in the end, that’s all that really matters. Your judgement can be harsh at times, but it makes me sad for you. Because every moment you spend judging me, or any other mom, is a moment you could have had with your child.

Let’s all be kinder to each other. Let’s not worry so much about the way someone else is raising their child. Instead, let’s all support each other. Let’s tell each other we are doing a great job and offer encouragement when someone has a bad day. After all, aren’t we all trying our best to raise these tiny little humans? Let’s work together and remember that we are all so very different, yet so much alike. Because at the end of the day we are all just parents who love our children and are trying our very best to do things right.

To the lady at the grocery store

To the lady at the grocery store,

I saw you before you saw me. I noticed your cane and your slow pace. I saw your wrinkles and grey hair. I decided to be kind and allow you to go ahead of me in line, even though I was there first.

You looked me over as I gestured for you to go ahead. I was wearing a dress that I felt super confident in. It hugged my curves in all of the right places. For the first time in a long time since giving birth, I felt beautiful and sexy.

But you didn’t see that. You just saw an overweight woman carrying two packages of mini cupcakes. You eyed me up and down and said very slowly and almost sweetly “Dear, do you really think you need those?”

What you didn’t know is that I love buying treats for my coworkers. We work in a hectic office with a high volume of work. A little treat now and then perks everyone up.

What you didn’t know was that I gave birth less than a year ago, and some bodies take longer to bounce back.

What you didn’t know was that I cried a lot after I had my baby. I was frustrated that the weight I had gained wasn’t coming off as quickly as I wanted it to.

What you didn’t know was that I have struggled with body image issues my entire life. I’ve never felt like I was the right size or the right shape. I always wanted to be someone else.

What you didn’t know was that I went through a period of starving myself because I was so ashamed of who I was.

What you didn’t know was that I cried myself to sleep so many nights because all I ever really wanted was to be thin.

What you didn’t know was that I recently made peace with my body. Because my body is strong and capable of almost anything. I created life with my body and gave birth to my beautiful daughter with my body.

What you didn’t know was that I love who I am. I am a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, a colleague, a writer and an advocate for women’s rights.

You didn’t know me, or anything about me but you chose to judge me based on what you saw.  Maybe in your eyes I don’t fit society’s definition of beautiful. But for me, beauty is so much more than outward appearances. It is love, tolerance, acceptance and respect.

I know I could go without a cupcake. You know what else I could go without? Your judgement. So what if I planned on eating 24 mini cupcakes? That doesn’t make me any less of a person. The only thing that would make me any less of a person would be making someone else feel insignificant. The way you made me feel.

I hope you read this. I didn’t respond to you that day because I didn’t have the right words. I have them now. I hope you understand that words can hurt and need to be chosen carefully. I hope you understand that people have feelings. And mostly, I hope you understand that women are more than their appearance. My body is just that; mine. So please, stop judging what isn’t yours.