mom of boys

Single Mom Mother’s Day

I’ve taken on a few things lately because I felt like I needed to give back in some bigger ways. I’m in training with the Trevor Project to be a volunteer crisis counselor with their organization. It’s ten weeks, over forty hours, and honestly I am learning a lot even though I already work in mental health.

Crisis counseling is a different ball game, and I have to turn my psych NP brain off in some ways. The approach is very different than a long term medication management or therapy intake. The training is also the only training I’ve ever taken that is ALL Queer focused. It’s pretty amazing. It’s also disheartening to think back on all the trainings I have attended and how hetero-cis-centric they were.

When my training is complete I’ll volunteer for three hours a week on their chat/text line. It’s a crisis line targeting LGBTQ+ youth ages 12-24, but they will talk to anyone of any age. I completed a few hours of training on Mother’s Day and really reflected on all the LGBTQ+ people I have treated and known already in my life who needed a space outside their own Mom to be safe.

I was watching a Roseanne episode and Jackie is celebrating breaking up with her baby daddy, she says to the baby and to Roseanne, “I get to do what I want, dress him the way I want, and if he turns out gay I’ll just march in those parades with him won’t I?” It’s a funny moment in the show, but as a Queer person who has treated so many Queer people disowned by their Moms…it was quite poignant.

Mother’s Day is such a loaded holiday for the populations I treat. Postpartum and perinatal mental health brings many Moms who have suffered pregnancy loss across my doorstep. As well as moms who struggled adjusting to motherhood and who may have resentment and shame and guilt about their entry into this lifelong role. Then my Queer folks who have suffered their own Mom’s disowning them due to archaic and hateful belief systems they feel bound to uphold at the cost of their own child.

Then there is the every day person who may have had a shitty childhood in their eyes. There are so many ways a Mom can fail, trust me, I’ve heard about many many of them over the years in my work. The basics- emotional, physical and/or financial abuse and neglect but damage can be less overt, more insidious, longer or shorter term. The Mother-Child relationship is possibly the most complicated relationship in all of human relationships. Google says it’s marriage. But if we take out non-familial relationships, I’m betting on mom-child.

For me Mother’s day is a struggle because I am a single mom, and I never planned on being a single mom. It’s the right path for me for sure, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have feelings about my motherhood journey as it stands now. Single moms of seven year old twin boys do not really get to enjoy Mother’s Day as in there is no breakfast in bed or anything else requiring a second adult. It’s still just another day, sort of all about these ego-centric little kids. But then if I don’t see them on Mother’s Day I’m sad and I want to see them. But Sunday is my one day that they go with my ex, so then I give up my one day to go grocery shopping and do laundry.

I know, first world problems. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful, so grateful to be a Mom. I worked hard as hell to have those boys. But I am still allowed to grieve the loss of the family I envisioned. Mother’s Day since divorce has been a puzzle for me to try and piece together. Mother’s Day nine years into outpatient mental health, and I’d be blind and deaf if I didn’t realize it’s incredibly complicated for so many others.

To every one mourning the loss of your vision of Motherhood this Mother’s Day, I see you. Take care of yourself. Find something that brings you joy after you sift through your grief. To everyone single-mom-ing it this Mother’s Day- I am you! Give yourself precious moments to reflect on your journey as it stands and feel whatever feelings that brings- pain, relief, joy, grief, resentment, anger, love- feel it all. Then get back out there kicking ass. Because there is no person stronger/braver/more resilient than a single Mom.


Nurse’s Week 2023

2023 marks my sixteenth year in nursing, and my ninth year in outpatient mental health. My sixth year as a business owner and my fifth as a boss. My sons and I sent a thank-you card to their school nurse in recognition of nurse’s week. There was a lot of fuss at their school this week in honor of teachers, but they seem to have forgotten their school nurse also deserved recognition.

Their school nurse has a lot to contend with in a 50/50 divided town of extreme liberals and extreme conservatives. She’s been there through the pandemic and I’ve been on the phone with her as she is cleaning up children’s vomit while managing to calmly discuss a plan for my child who was sitting in her office with a fever.

My sons seem to know she’s a safe space at the school because especially one of them frequently visits her often just to say hi.

Nurses are everywhere. I sit with them at birthday parties and we trade stories about our specialties. I meet them sitting at soccer games. Most recently I was in line at the pharmacy and the woman in front of me introduced herself after saying my name…she and I went to high school together and she knew me immediately. I honestly would not have recognized her, but I was there with my kids and I was sick and it’s been over twenty years at this point in my defense.

We chatted and turns out she is a nurse anesthetist and I told her excitedly I am a mental health nurse practitioner. Which turned to talk of our specialties which opened a door about a discussion of post partum depression.

The core of nursing is connection. Building a fragile trust allows patients to be vulnerable. Every nurse in every setting builds a connection no matter how brief their nurse-patient interaction is. But nursing has also allowed me to connect with other nurses and healthcare professionals in ways professionally and personally that have shaped who I am and where I’m at in my life.

Nurses hands not only save lives but they give life, comfort, hope, peace, and even in the face of death nurses hands are there at the end. Every life transition from birth to death involves the hands of nurses.

The part about nurses week that I despise is that it should not be necessary. We should be treated with respect, paid what we are worth, and guaranteed safe work environments with safe patient ratios. We should not need an appreciation week because we should be appreciated year round every day because there is not a second of any minute that a nurse is not saving a life.

Think about that. There is truly not a minute that goes by that a nurse has not helped to save some one. Or helped some one pass peacefully. We should not have a week of pizza parties. We should have daily safety and security in our workplaces. Hospital corporations should be held accountable for their treatment of nurses. There should be no million dollar bonuses for CEO’s until nurses are paid what they are worth. Education should be free in order to ease the nursing shortage.

Nurses should not have known PTSD from working in critical care units due to the violence and the death. Nurses should have access to on site mental health treatment at all times free of charge and should receive long term support from these corporations who make millions off their blood sweat and tears.

I employ three nurse practitioners in addition to myself. It is important to me they feel safe, heard, valued, and when they ask for a change I do everything in my power to implement it. I take my responsibility to them very seriously and they know it, which is why they stay.

I think if one manager along the way had shown that level of commitment to their nurses I may still work at a hospital. But I never saw that, if anything I saw the opposite.

To all the nurses who have wiped away tears, bandaged wounds, pressed on ribs, cradled the dying, taken a punch or worse, given comfort, but most of all given pieces of yourself to this profession…I hope we will live in a world one day where you are seen not just by me and every other nurse who knows; but by all the people you have helped. I hope you are seen and heard and validated and supported and receive all the comfort that you’ve given to others, back; tenfold.

Until then, keep kicking ass, keep fighting the fight, keep demanding rights, safety, and pay. Because we are epic and don’t let anyone make you believe or feel otherwise.


Explaining People With Differences to 7 Year Olds.

I brought the boys to see the Mario movie today after school. I was pleased to hear them both say they wished we were seeing Aladdin instead. As we had been to Aladdin on Broadway over their April break and I love how much they loved live theater. It’s a passion of mine and I can’t wait to share more shows with them. Mario was more of me counting down the seconds until we could leave. I’ve never done shrooms or cocaine but I imagine the 90 minutes of the movie was a combination of a trip on both.

It eventually ended and even my twin seven year old boys seemed overstimulated by the whole thing. We had made dinner plans so we arrived at the restaurant to meet a friend and I was told within about five seconds of arrival by both boys, separately, that one of the hosts had one arm. As one of my sons was pointing he was explaining they had just had “Differences Day” at school and some people have differences and you should not point or talk about them loudly. I whispered to him that he was actually doing both- pointing and talking loudly- and he immediately stopped doing both. Well he dropped to a whisper but kept pointing. I lowered his hand with my own.

I explained to my other son, who asked why someone would have one arm, that there are many reasons some one may have just one arm. They can be born that way, they could have had an accident, an infection or illness, etc. He looked intrigued and also terrified because if it could randomly happen to this man standing in front of us then it could definitely happen to my son as well. I could see the wheels turning and him arriving to that conclusion.

***side note: Had I not done EMDR and exposure work in therapy about a decade ago regarding all my emergency department horror shows I would have had some major flashbacks and intrusive thoughts/images in this moment. I also likely would have over described any of the bad ways you can lose an arm from having seen some of these first hand. But I did the work, with a skilled and very patient EMDR therapist, so any memories were more like background noise that came and went without me noticing except later when I was writing and reflecting, and even then they were more passing thoughts, not disturbing intrusive thoughts. #exposuretherapyworks #EMDR #NursesAreSurvivors***

We then were seated at a table being waited on by a man with a moderate to severe stutter as well as some type of neurodivergence- my guess would be autism. I inwardly groaned. Not because of the waiter but because I knew I’d spend the next hour long meal prepping the boys around more differences people can have and crossing my fingers that they not say anything…well anything a seven year old can say. When the waiter walked away the first time both boys looked at me and were about to speak. I held up my hand and said, “Some people stutter, some people are different. It’s okay. Please don’t say anything about it to him, and just treat him as we would any waiter.”

They both processed this. Then they both said he talks funny. Then we talked about stutters again. Then they agreed he was different and we should be kind to people with differences.

To their credit, they did not say anything further to him or the man with one arm. Though we had many reflections after he would leave the table from them about people with differences including but not limited to a discussion about what else could make some one different, examples by my sons were: people could have no legs, people could not talk, people could be born green, and people could have no blood. I did not negate or confirm any of these ideas. I just nodded and said yes that would be different. My friend, who is a therapist, said, “But who is to say they are normal and we are all different?” to which the boys shook their heads and said she was clearly wrong.

The drive home was a little rough. I am legally blind in my right eye due to a cataract when I was three. I can’t turn my head and see the boys in the back without turning my head all the way around…and then I can’t see the road. So, any disturbance in the backseat becomes a much bigger issue for me much more quickly than some one who can see with both eyes. Growing up I did not really know I had a disability. It was never described that way to me. I didn’t “get it” until I met with my eye doctor when I was in high school. We were doing the depth perception test that we did every single time. I finally asked him if I have depth perception. He said “Minimally.”

My basket-ball coach in high school was generally unpleasant on a good day. But he usually left me alone because I would talk right back to him in front of everyone and he knew it. He chose his battles with me. But one day, after I made about ten foul shots in a row, and then completely air balled the next one, in a game, he totally lost his mind. I had no explanation. When I was meeting with my eye doctor I told him about that, and he said well you only make baskets based on your muscle memory, not on depth perception, you actually are probably the most skilled player on the court if you actually make baskets repeatedly. He explained that if there is any distraction at all to my “muscle memory” performance or if I don’t “remember” it precisely, that yes it makes sense I would air ball occasionally even after making ten in a row. Because if I leave the line and come back to it, and have been knocked around, and if something in the background changes, like if it’s after half time and we are at the other end of the court opposite from where we started, then my muscle memory has to adjust to a new setting.

I almost cried. I had no idea that my blindness was a disability and actually explained so many things in my life. It seems silly right? Like I should have known, having grown up since age three attending so many doctors appointments, and being told I was blind in one eye, that I have a disability. But it was never presented to me in this way. And I was finally old enough to ask these questions and understand the answers. The next time my basketball coach lost his mind because I air balled the first foul shot after halftime…I yelled at him “I’m blind in one eye!” After he got over the shock of me yelling back at him, he looked actually humbled and thoughtful. He then made sure I practiced foul shots on both sides of the court and after halftime at the new basket.

So we get home tonight, and because we spent the night discussing differences I sat the boys down and I said “Cover one eye”. Then I stood behind them. I told them to look back at me leading with their covered eye. They had to turn all the way around. I explained that I couldn’t see the road if I had to look back at whatever chaos is happening in the back seat. That I already am down an eye when I’m driving, and I can’t afford to take my good one off the road. I explained my eyesight is a disability, a difference, and I need them to help me and be kind about it.

This was one of the first moments I’ve had with my kids where I explain a problem, explain my rationale, and they actually understand. They felt bad. They understood why I flip out when they are not behaving in the backseat. And honestly I’m grateful tonight for seven year olds. Because three year olds could never have had this conversation. Three year olds would yell and cry and then make me want to yell and cry. It felt good to be able to have a dialogue about this. It also reminded me that being blind in one eye is a disability and I’m allowed to ask for help.

Many people mourn the loss of babyhood and toddlerhood. I gotta be honest, I don’t. I love having little people who can talk, understand, learn, laugh, hug, love, and voice opinions and questions and who seek to understand from their perspective as well. It’s hard.

Seven year olds are definitely hard. But so engaging and if any one can understand and assimilate some one with differences it’s a seven year old. They ask their questions, get their answers, and if the adults don’t make it a big deal, they don’t make it a big deal. They are onto Minecraft and basket-ball and over the guy with one arm, waiter with a stutter, and mom who has one good eye. They are fascinating little men and I wrote a blog post once that everyone wants a baby, no one wants a 2 year old. Well I am changing it to everyone wants a baby- but I’ll take my seven year olds. They are epic.