Working moms: 3 tips to help you get back to the grind after mat leave

Returning to work after spending the last year of your life in a baby bubble can seem almost as daunting as scaling Mount Everest. As a first-time mom about to take that giant leap back into the real world, I’ve uncovered a few items I found have helped put my mind at ease.

One of my biggest worries as I head back to work is that I’m missing out on a lot of time with my daughter. This article by Olivia Nicholas, who blogs for Yummymummy.ca, helped me realize that there is ample opportunity in the short time we have together, on any given day, to make a meaningful connection.

The next piece, by Yuki Hayashi, writing for Canadian Family, helped me focus my energy and plan for my return to work, in fact it reminded me that with a little planning our family could easily navigate this transition and we’ll all be better off for it.

Ultimately, different moms will have different priorities when it comes time to get back on the career path but it’s important to remember that it’s been done before and this is an opportunity to learn from those who came before us. Here are 3 tips to consider as you wade into this new phase in your life:

  • Organize! – Whether its child care, pick ups, drop offs, extracurriculars, meals, doctor’s appointments, etc. a little planning will go a long way.
  • Make time – Figure out a way to connect with your family throughout the day through phone calls or FaceTime; if you can’t be there in person at least let them hear your voice or see your face.
  • Ask away – Ask for help if you need it. Don’t burn yourself out trying to go it alone; friends, family and even the right employer can be a wonderful source of support.

You (we!) can do this. If you’ve made it through the first year of being a mom, you can pretty much do anything. Remember to plan ahead, set aside little pockets of time for family and seek help if you need it. Now go and kill it at the office!

My name is Amy Kouniakis, I am a wife, mom, fur mom, blogger and editor based in Burlington, Ontario. I am currently pursuing a Social Media Marketing Specialization through Northwestern University via Coursera. Feel free to reach out or connect with me at @Amy_Kay8.

Just say it: VAGINA!

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve liked magazines.

My grandma used to always have a People or any number of trashy tabloids laying around that I loved to flip through and look at all the pictures of the celebrities and suspected space aliens.

My mom, too, always had a stack of magazines on the coffee table (those weren’t as fun though with all those recipes and craft projects). I’d take glitz and gossip any day over casseroles and crochet.

When I was old enough to buy my own rags, I opted for Cosmo, Elle, Glamour and People (always People — thanks, Grandma Kay!). I used to devour these publications every chance I got. I loved reading all the beauty tips, sex advice and ‘real-life’ confessions and, while I cringe to admit this now, I took it all to heart.

Fast forward a few years and you find me reaching for Vanity Fair, Maclean’s, Time, and, god help me, I still love my People. More often than not, though, you’ll find me with a book in my hand, but that’s a whole other blog post.

It had been a few years since I paid much attention to the women’s magazine section when the other day I found myself standing in front of a newsstand with my one-year-old daughter.

It was the typical stuff you’d expect from the women’s mag section: ‘Lose weight!’ ‘Love the skin you’re in!’ ‘Sex tips to blow his mind!’ ‘Look! Mama June is so important now because she had surgery and is skinny!’ and a whole whack of other conflicting messages for women.

I noticed that my daughter was looking at the covers too. She was drawn to all the bright colours. It made me keenly aware of the fact that in the not-too-distant future, she’s going to be able to read these headlines too. I took a closer look at the one she seemed most fascinated with.

It was bright, bright pink and featured a beautiful and buxom young singer. I was impressed that the cover girl wasn’t a size zero.

I started to read the headlines. They were, for the most part, what you would find on most magazines of this genre. ‘OMG Sex!’ and ‘Happiness Hacks!’ There was one, however, that made my hackles rise:

‘Love Your Lady Parts; Why you need to conquer low self-esteem down there.’

That’s right, ‘there’ was italicized.

It felt to me like the italicized there could almost be read as though someone is shuddering when they say it. I mean, what is the point of italicizing the word unless it’s to convey some sort of feeling towards the aforementioned ‘Lady Parts’? Is the design choice meant to be some sort of a wink and a nod? Like the vagina is some kind of dirty little secret? Is it meant to convey a sense of shame? Isn’t that the exact opposite of the message you’re trying to send?

Either way, the phrasing and the design pretty much yelled at me that ‘down there‘ is something we shouldn’t mention by name — kinda like Voldemort (hey! they both begin with V!) — and we need to tip-toe around any discussion of this body part.

I think I took such umbrage with this particular article because firstly, you’d never find this kind of shit on the cover of a men’s magazine; Men don’t need to be reminded to love their penises.

Secondly, I’ve always been very, very self-conscious of my ‘down there.‘ At times it’s even been a source of anxiety. This is because, society has done a damn good job of telling me — all of us — that our vaginas are shameful.

This bullshit line of vagina shaming crap has been shoved down our throats since biblical times — you can thank Eve and her apple-eating snatch for ruining it for the rest of us. The porn industry has done a fantastic job of pushing Barbie-like private parts on us and making those of us who won’t commit to plastic-looking vaginas feel less-than.

The history of vagina shaming is vast and there’s too much to cover here but here is a blog post that provides a decent summary.

The point is, I know that the magazine article is trying to empower women but it’s missing the mark so much so, that it’s actually part of the problem.

Upon reading the piece, there is some interesting (and sad) information to be found: women who are self conscious about their vagina are less likely to go for regular check-ups and are more vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections. Women who are worried about the appearance and smell of their vagina miss out on sexual satisfaction and can even develop genital phobia that can lead to depression and isolation.

The piece offers a little advice on how to try and combat vagina shame but it really falls short by not celebrating the wonder and beauty of this body part.

I mean, without female reproductive organs, there would be no babies and it’s through ‘down there‘ that, if we’re lucky enough, we bring life to this world. Even though we have to fork over big bucks for our hygiene products and our periods can be quite uncomfortable (more so for some), the very biology and science behind our bodies and cycles is fascinating and truly awe inspiring.

And let’s not forget how pretty our lady bits are. They’re constantly compared to some of the most beautiful flowers and they’re pink and lovely.

The thing is, they can’t be too unpleasant seeing as how most men will do just about anything to get at our vaginas; Wars have even been fought over them.

It seems from the dawn of time, great effort has gone into making sure women know their place. One really effective way of fomenting subservience is to minimize the incredible power that comes with having a vagina; they are the giver of life and they are the one thing each and every person on earth has in common because it’s where we all come from. Women are practically godlike in their role as creators.

So to my daughter, and any other little girl who picks up a magazine that refers to this incredible body part as ‘down there,‘ remember that your body is a miracle — every single cell of it. If you ever come across something or someone that tells you or makes you feel otherwise, they’re wrong and their motives are suspect. Those things and people like that are not worthy of your time, energy or love.

Clever girl

Jurassic Baby

Photoshop skillz courtesy of Patrick Weberman

I always thought that when I became a mom it would be an effortless transition.

I’ve had pets all my life and I took pretty good care of them. Except for the time my turtle starved to death, and that other time my hamster starved to death (I was kind of forgetful in my youth), I have a pretty solid track record.

‘How much harder can a baby be than a puppy?’ I told myself.

Now that I’m in the shit, literally and figuratively, I think an apt comparison would be Jurassic Park.

Dinosaurs and babies = Samesies

You see, it all starts out the same: you read about dinosaurs/babies and they’re so fun and cool. You’re filled with all the romantic notions and you just know when you come face to face with them you’re going to know how to handle it. You’ve been to the classes, you’ve skimmed all the books and in theory, you’re an expert. Most importantly, they will just fall in step because they will feel the love emanating from you.

Then the time comes for you to get to the island/give birth: the ride is bumpy, sometimes painful and you might shit yourself but when you arrive at you destination/see your baby, you forget you almost died in a fiery helicopter crash or that your ungroomed lady bits were on display for a room full of strangers.

Seeing your baby for the first time is like when Dr. Grant and Dr. Sattler see real live dinosaurs roaming the misty countryside of Jurassic Park; it’s a dream come true and a thing of real beauty. It’s just as you imagine it and so, so much more. You cry a lot.

And the first little while after you have your baby/walk with the dinosaurs it’s like this. For the purposes of this comparison, we’ll call this the honeymoon phase. This is the time where you’re in absolute bliss. Everything seems magical and happy and you’ve never been more in love. What on earth could ever go wrong?

Where’s the poop?

About 12 to 24 hours after arriving on the island, though, tiny cracks in the facade start to appear: your baby has trouble latching and you start to worry about her starving to death or you realize they have a T-Rex at Jurassic Park. Your baby screams for approximately eight hours straight 24-48 hours after she’s born because she’s realized she’s no longer in the womb (this is a thing I didn’t find out about until I was in the middle of it – thanks world for not preparing me) or you find out JP scientists have bred raptors.

After that night of endless screaming, my enthusiasm, and I’m sure my husband’s, for the new role we’d taken on dimmed somewhat. We saw that no amount of book learnin’ can prepare you for the reality of being a first-time parent. Kind of like when the JP visitors realize like: ‘whoa, these gigantic animals have been extinct for millions of years and we really don’t know shit about them!’

Into the wild

When it came time for us to leave the hospital, we definitely had mixed emotions: we didn’t want to leave the safety net of nurses and doctors but the idea of spending a night in our own bed sounded like heaven. To be honest, it was terrifying. I really didn’t feel like we had a handle on anything and she was so damn tiny. But we did it! We strapped our little peanut into her car seat and off we went into the world/Jurassic Park!

Now, those early months with your first baby are kind of a blur. It’s really a time of discovery for all of you. There are some really incredible moments: the first time she smiles is like the first time Dr. Grant sees a living, breathing triceratops. Or the first time she grips your finger is like the excitement Tim feels when he thinks he’s going to see a T-Rex.

In many ways, those first few months are dream, at least now that I look back on it. Babies are kind of like little blobs (but way more precious, of course!). They don’t do much. They don’t go anywhere and they don’t get into shit. It’s kind of awesome.

Welcome to the jungle

The first time our girl rolled over is when it feels like shit really got real.

From the moment she knew she could do it, she never wanted to do anything else. Even when you’re trying to clean up the biggest, stinkiest and messiest poop in the history of poops, she wants to roll and roll and roll so that she’s covered in it, I’m covered in it and our dog is covered in it and eating it. It’s pretty shitty – literally. It’s like when the T-Rex eats the goat and throws the bloody leg on the Jeep; it’s bloody messy and you just know it’s going to get worse from here on out.

And it does. The more they move around the more stuff they can get into. And you can try to contain it with baby gates and electrified fences but despite your best efforts to control and protect them, they always find a way to outsmart you.

This is the time in their development when they’re most like the velociraptors in Jurassic Park. They are constantly checking the fences for weaknesses or testing the limits of your resolve. They learn and adapt quickly to their surroundings and if they’re in a pack, you better hope you have enough toys, activities and food to keep them satisfied because sister, they will eat you alive! I had a moment last week where I watched in horror as my darling girl tested a door knob; my mouth went dry and I felt faint. So much like that scene in JP where Dr. Grant watches in terror as a raptor turns a handle and opens a door. I feel, however, my real-life scenario has far more frightening consequences.

All the feels

To be fair, around this time kids can be like those super lovable veggie-eating dinosaurs too. When our daughter started laughing and doing things to get a rise out of us, our relationship took on a new dimension: it became more give and take and less give and give and give. She became more fun to hang out with and it was truly fascinating to be up close and personal with this tiny developing person who was experiencing the world for the first time.

While Jurassic Park, in theory, is a wonderful idea it sadly turns out to be disaster for all involved. The comparison to parenthood might be a little harsh in that regard. Still, it’s interesting in the sense that those ancient beasts were thrown into a situation believed to be under the thumb of their creators and yet, they found a way to evolve beyond those controls. It’s kind of like kids: despite our best intentions they will always find ways to defy expectations and remind us just how little we know about people, life and love until they charge into the picture.

Running the gauntlet

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Last week, a story about two colleagues, a man and a woman, switching names for week to see what it was like to work as the other gender, made the rounds on social media.

The man came to the startling conclusion that his job got so much harder when people thought he was a woman. He said half of his time was spent proving to clients that he was capable of doing his (her) job.

My first response to this piece was, “well, DUH!” I mean, proving I’m more than capable to do my job has been an almost daily part of my career (I’m in media, one of the most notoriously sexist professions, without a doubt).

When I reread the ‘switching names story,’ though, I was taken aback at how truly shocked this man was by this discovery. I mean, I guess until you actually experience it firsthand there’s no way to really quantify how degrading and counterproductive this attitude towards women can be.

The female colleague didn’t really have any revelations at the conclusion of the experiment and seemed to just accept that her job was significantly harder because of her gender. It was really depressing to see this reality confirmed, yet again, and to feel that I could totally relate to her.

A few years back, I interviewed for a role at one of Canada’s biggest media companies. Interviewed is putting it mildly: I tried out for a position. I wrote two assignments and sat through two interviews before I was asked to come back for a third with the big boss. I was told I was one of two candidates being considered for the position.

I prepared for this interview like it was no one’s business. My husband relentlessly quizzed me, I exhaustively researched the company and the division I was hoping to work in. I polished my portfolio. I bought a smart little outfit and took special care with my hair and makeup (tone down the trollop).

I got there early so I could take a few minutes to collect myself before going in. I’d heard good things about the woman I was interviewing with from a male friend who had worked with her. I felt pretty comfortable when we first sat down together in a conference room even though she came across as a little cool and closed off.

First off, she asked me to tell her a little about myself. I gave her a quick little rundown of my schooling and professional experience. The words were flowing, I felt calm and confident.

Her next question was: “Where do you live?”

Me: “Burlington.”

Interviewer: “Hmmm. That’s pretty far. How would you feel about coming here everyday?”

Me: (In my head) Uh, weird, but ok. “I’d feel fine. I live right near a GO station.”

Interviewer: “Yes but it’s a long way to come. You think you can always get here on time?”

Me: Huh? Am I not sitting here right now? Aren’t there like thousands of people who commute to this city everyday. I know our transit infrastructure is bad but…?  “Barring any train delays, I don’t see why not…”

Interviewer: “We sometimes have to work late. Would that be a problem for you? How would you get home?”

Me: Ok. But don’t you want to know about, like, my professional attributes? “Not a problem. The same way I came here…?”

Interviewer: (Long pause as she reviews the pieces I’d written during the application process). “Well, you’re certainly a very good writer.”

Me: Whew! Back on track. “Thank you. That’s very kind of you to say.”

Interviewer: (Another pause as she looks me over. I catch her glance at my wedding rings.) “Do you have a family?”

Now let me just break here for a moment. This question was not asked in a friendly, conversational way. It, honest to goodness, felt like a challenge. This was the question she was trying to get the answer to with all of those other shitty questions. This woman was asking me if I had kids and it was very clear that if I did, it would be a strike against me. I was maaaad.

Me: “Of course I do. We all come from somewhere don’t we?” Then I gave the most innocent smile I could muster in my rage.

She was NOT impressed. She gave me one of those tight-lipped smirks where the edge of her lips turned white. She clearly didn’t like having her bullshit thrown back in her face.

Needless to say, the interview ended rather quickly after that. She didn’t even shake my hand. I also didn’t offer it.

I didn’t hear anything from them. Such a waste of time and energy.

I’ve sat through other really uncomfortable interviews. One, even, where the interviewer implied that I had slept with the author of one of my reference letters because it said too many nice things about me (media, seriously, super insanely sexist). That guy actually ended up hiring me, funny enough, and I (and a fair number of my former female colleagues) could dedicate an entire book to the seriously uncomfortable situations I found myself in with that dinosaur.

This interview, though, was worse. I was being discriminated against because I was a woman, by a woman who was not much older than me and who could probably tell tales very similar to the one I’m telling now. It was truly heartbreaking; she’d given up the fight.

I cannot imagine a professional scenario where men are asked these kinds of questions: asked to prove that not only are they capable of doing the job but that they can physically find their way to the office.

I suppose to some degree I get that you see a woman of child-bearing years sitting across from you and maybe it gives you pause because ‘Gasp! She might get pregnant and disappear for a year and I’ll have to take time to hire someone to take her place! Woe is me!’

Here’s the thing, though: y’all need to Get. Over. It. You need to step up and adapt to reality.

This is the 21st century and despite the fact that there is a patriarchy still clearly trying to put us ‘in our place,’ we aren’t giving up any more ground.

Women have proven time and again that we are brilliant, witty and resourceful. We are savvy, strong and independent. We are professional, caring and innovative. We are all the things that make today’s workforce diverse and more productive. We are a force to be reckoned with.

In light of these revelations, I’ve decided to craft a new cover letter. I feel like it will cut through all the bullshit and will save time the next time I apply for a job. It reads as follows:

Dear hiring manager,

I am eager to apply for [position title] as I feel my years of experience in this field and passion for [whatever product they’re selling] makes me an ideal candidate. Please refer to my portfolio and long list of references for further proof that I am awesome and you’d be stupid to not hire me.

Before we go any further, though, I feel we need to address the elephant in the room: I have a vagina. Sometimes blood comes out of it. Sometimes babies come out of it.

Let’s agree that these things are not, in any way shape or form, your concern as they in NO WAY affect my integrity or diminish the pride I take in doing a job well. They do not take away from my professionalism or the impressive skill set I bring to the table. Also, my biology will in no way inhibit my ability to tell time or find my way to the office.

Sincerely,

A.K.

Ode to a sour key

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I only have eyes for my sour key.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

There are few things in life as constant as family and friends. I lucked out in that arena for sure.

However, there are times where nothing they say or do can help. That’s where my not-so-secret lover swoops in and saves the day.

I dream of when we’ll be together and I can taste him. One look at his soft curves will set my heart aflutter. My mouth waters with a glance of his long shaft.

He is: the sour key.

I cannot tell you how many times the sour key has come to my rescue: he’s saved me from the 3 p.m. wall – and again at 3 a.m.; he helped cover the nasty smell of onions on my breath before I went into that meeting one time; he was my constant companion for all-night cram sessions; he’s been a permanent fixture on my desk at work; he was there to see me through Super Mario Wii to the bitter end; and he’s been my rock through all the breakups and bad relationships that litter my past.

Ah yes, he’s been my trusty steed in times of need.

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My sour key and I in happier times.

His ooey gooey goodness flavours some rather fond memories while his sour sweetness has propped me up in times of turbulence. He is my rock.

There have been times I may have overindulged and the morning after I will swear him off forever, but it doesn’t take long for the urges to return. Even the times my tongue bleeds for love of him, I can’t keep myself from going back.

I’ve tried others: those cheap imitation ‘soothers’ don’t come close – though in a pinch, they’ll barely suffice. Sour snowboards are another that leave me wanting, a poor man’s key, if you ask me (I think they’re priced similarly, oddly enough). Don’t even try to tempt me with sour cherries or peaches because they will never hold a candle to my dear, sweet key.

I have been known to go to great lengths to track him down, wandering aimlessly from 7-Eleven to Beckers and beyond just for a taste.

Oh my darling sour key, I would just like to thank you for your years of service. We have come to a point in our lives where our paths may cross less. My metabolism is not what it used to be and I am supposed to set an example for daughter now. I will look back on our time together with great fondness and weep for days gone by when your juicy, fruity tartness did not add inches to my waistline.

Our time in the sun is at an end, but we will still rendezvous out of sight, away from judgmental eyes and away from my child because I couldn’t dare share you – and she’d totally want you because she wants EVERYTHING I have!

Adieu, sweet and sour friend. Until we meet again (probably later tonight).

Coming soon: Gummy bear ballad and The Doritos dissertation

You’re watching Treehouse

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Before a little person came out of me, I had lofty notions about parenting and how I was going to do it.

Never was I ever going to drive a minivan (I still don’t, but my bff just bought one yesterday and as she was describing all of its baubles and conveniences I thought my head would burst from jealousy); never would I ever co-sleep (first night home from the hospital we broke that rule); never would I ever allow my child to watch TV.

The last one was really hard to justify especially because for the first few months of her life I was parked in front of the television as I sought to distract myself from the endless cycle of breastfeeding and holding her while she slept (also something I vowed I’d never do).

When our daughter got to an age where she was aware of stuff, we decided it might be time to start watching more kid-appropriate programming. I’ll admit, I was selfish and reluctant to make the switch as my super-intellect demands to be challenged by shows like Love It or List It, Property Brothers and Real Housewives of Orange County, but I think we’ve made the most of things.

The Treehouse network has become a familiar backdrop at our house. It’s only natural that my husband and I have become kid show connoisseurs. In fact we’ve really gotten into them. Where once we debated the dark themes in Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, we now theorize on the whereabouts of Max and Ruby‘s parents (and their sudden appearance – what’s that all about? They’re so lame!) or the ramifications of the relationship between Leah and the genies in Shimmer and Shine.

So, because I am an expert on kid TV now, I thought it would be fun to come up with a Top 5 Treehouse shows for adults. Keep in mind, this is based on adult watchability not if they’re any good for our children – who worries about that anyways?

5. Go Jetters

This show features four adventure-seeking superheroes who travel the globe under the guidance of a disco-loving unicorn named Ubercorn. They often cross paths with super villain Grand Master Glitch who, with his Grimbots, is always up to no good.

I won’t lie, I’ve actually learned a lot from the Go Jetters. Ubercorn’s Funky Top 3 is VERY informative and super funky. The reason this show is in the Top 5 is because my husband and I loooooove the theme song and also, we think Grand Master Glitch adorable and he is one of our all-time favourite villains – he really is just misunderstood.

4. Sesame Street

I feel like this show needs no introduction.

Our fondness for Sesame Street is mostly fueled by nostalgia though there are a lot of really entertaining skits. They have a segment that re-imagines popular movies or shows. Our favourites include: True Mud (True Blood), The Hungry Games: Catching Fur, Upside Downton Abbey, and many many more. Sesame Street might be a show for kids but it’s clearly written with an adult audience in mind. Love that this show is back in my life.

3. Peg + Cat

This follows a little girl Peg and her sidekick Cat as they solve problems using math.

Peg + Cat took time to grow on me. I found Peg a little grating at first but I think that was my sleep deprivation clouding my judgment. This show is HILARIOUS. The writing is so damn clever and the music is way catchy. The animation is adorable and Cat’s dry wit perfectly offsets high-strung Peg’s sweetness.

2. Peppa Pig

I absolutely adore this little English piggy and her family.

Peppa Pig is one of the very first shows we exposed our daughter to. She seriously could not care less about it. I’ve been smitten with Peppa from day one. She’s full of sass, curiosity and sweetness. In an age where princesses seem to dominate the little girl landscape, I can’t help but feel this pink angel is a breath of fresh air. Peppa’s giggle and little brother George’s cry always put me in stitches. I am going to continue to shove this show and all its merchandise down my daughter’s throat until she’s old enough to appreciate just how friggin’ cool Peppa is.

1. Ready, Steady, Wiggle!

These Aussie performers will always have a special place in my heart.

From the moment my daughter first heard The Wiggles, she was enraptured. The Wiggles are the only people who can bring her to a complete stop. The 20 minutes that Ready, Steady, Wiggle is on is the only time I can duck out of the living room to do dishes or go to the bathroom. They are a godsend.

Aside from their ability to hypnotize our daughter, my husband and I love watching the Wiggles. The music is so much fun to sing along with and we find each Wiggles’ persona silly and intriguing and there are some really funny and wacky moments. I truly believe that being a Wiggle would be one of the best jobs in the world; they make it look so fun.

Honourable mentions:

Shimmer and Shine: Zach’s unrequited love for Leah keeps me tuning in. You could cut the sexual tension with a knife.

Max and Ruby: Though this show got suckier with the introduction of their parents, I like the theme song and I think Max is cool.

Wonder Pets!: Soooooooo weird = Awesome.

Author’s note: I am in no way affiliated with Treehouse or the production of any of these shows (although if I was offered a job as a Wiggle, I’d jump at the chance). I’m just a tired lady who has nothing better to do when her exhausting toddler is napping.

The sisterhood

I heard an infuriating story the other day: my friend was shamed right out of a popular baby boutique in our hometown of Hamilton, Ontario.

My friend walked into this store with her weeks-old daughter and her under-two son. She was exhausted and recovering from giving birth. She was barely holding it together. It took all her energy and will power to go to this store that day. She was looking for help with a baby carrier that was sold in the store but wasn’t purchased at this location.

Before she could even make her request, a woman who worked there – at a store that sells itself as moms helping other moms – asked her rudely if she purchased the wrap there. When my friend confirmed that she had not, the clerk said they’d charge a ‘consulting’ fee to show her how to use it. They also took this opportunity to tell her, condescendingly of course, that she was in fact using it wrong and her baby was in danger because of it.

Let’s be clear: that baby was never in danger. This was a scare tactic to get my sleep deprived and emotional friend to cough up the dough because if the baby was in danger and they had a soul, they wouldn’t have asked for the money first.

My friend was flabbergasted. She asked to speak to a manager. The manager entered the fray and noticed that there was an older child in the picture. She asked if she used the wrap with him – she did not. The store ladies started to clutch their pearls. When it was revealed that her son was sleep trained, they were horrified. And they let my friend know they were horrified with her decision. In my mind, it went something like this: ‘How could a mother be so cruel as to not hold her child 24 hours a day 7 days a week? Away with you she-devil!’

That’s not exactly how it went down but the truth of the matter is, my friend left that store in tears feeling an undeserved guilt and unsupported.

No woman should be made to feel alone like that.

There’s no arguing that we got the short end of the stick in biological terms. I’m not sure what we did to deserve periods AND child birth but they suck. Not to mention the fact that when/if we decide to have children, it seems the responsibility for raising kind, socially responsible children falls largely to women. Now this isn’t the deal in our little family but up until a few decades ago, this was the norm.

When it came to structuring society back in olden times, we must’ve been PMSing that day because we couldn’t pull our shit together enough to avert the patriarchal set-up we’re still forced to contend with. It’s mind boggling to consider the fact that a man with comparable education and experience to me, working the same job as me would be considered more valuable, but that’s a thing! I’ve been in professional situations where my ideas don’t gain traction – even among women – until they are supported by a man.

And to top it all off, even though we’re all women and we all, to some degree, endure these things there exists an attitude of division among us.

This past year, I became a mother (to a human – I’ve been a fur mom for almost 14 years). In this context, I have come to see just how divided we really are.

I equate walking into a room full of moms and their children to walking into the high school cafeteria: I am very self conscious and worried about fitting in. There are definitely mom cliques in these situations and it can definitely feel like a popularity contest. In this contest, though, your parenting style is being judged and other women are always going to be your harshest critic.

Even among childless women, there is a whisper of judgment lurking in their eyes every time my daughter screams in inappropriate places or has boogers running down her face.

Hey, I get it. I’m certainly no saint in this arena. I am in no way immune to making my own judgments about other women. I’d like to think I’m getting better at readjusting my expectations of others as I get older and ‘wiser,’ but this past year has put me on the defensive and I find myself slipping back into old habits.

But the image of my dear friend, with her two babies, walking away from that store in shame forced me to give my head a shake. I’ve been no better than those women who shamed her for not being like them. And in all this, I can’t help but think if the proprietor of that business was a man, it wouldn’t have gone down like that. Isn’t that a super shitty way to feel about members of my sisterhood?

When it comes to momming, there is no tried and true method. If there was, we’d all be doing that. The truth is, we’re all trying to do what’s best for our kids and our families. As women, because it’s fallen to us for centuries, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to keep all running like a well-oiled machine. It’s so easy to start comparing yourself to other moms trying to do the same job and when they look like they’re ‘better’ at it, the doubt starts to creep in.

I’m thinking it’s time we let go of that picture of the perfect family life; the perfect child; the perfect home; the perfect career; the perfect woman. Perfect is impossible.

We all have different priorities that determine the choices we make and the lives we lead. We need to celebrate our differences and embrace the shared experience of being a woman. Like it or not, this is a sisterhood and we’re far more productive and better off when we have each others’ back .