the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Newsletter: Month Fifty and Fifty-one

Dear Leta,

Tomorrow you turn fifty-one months old. If you are reading these in chronological order you will probably notice that the newsletter for month fifty has gone missing. Yeah, about that. Would you believe me if I told you Coco ate it? You’d have to because Coco eats everything. Just this week she ate both the arms and legs off the new Barbie doll that my mother gave you, and when I found her chewing those limbs I secretly hoped you wouldn’t notice. But that’s not what happened at all. You noticed immediately and were so enraged that YOU PULLED YOUR OWN HAIR. After several hours of wailing and head-butting the floor you walked up to me, put the legless and armless nub into my hands and said, “Grandmommy is going to be so mad at that dog.” And you used a tone that suggested it was less of an observation and more of a warning that Coco might want to draw up a will.

But no, Coco did not eat that specific newsletter. What I could do here is come up with some elaborate excuse for why it wasn’t ever written in the first place, but I know you’re the type of person who doesn’t want to hear all that crap. I got busy. Life sort of turned on its head at the beginning of last month and I just didn’t get to it. It was the first time that has ever happened since I first started writing these letters to you at the beginning of 2004, and I apologize. I can’t promise that it won’t ever happen again, but I have a feeling that if you get arrested in high school for spray-painting a giant four-letter word on the wall of the cafeteria it won’t be because month fifty is missing from your newsletters. It will be because your father and I didn’t do a good enough job of teaching you how not to get caught. Take my advice now: blame a cheerleader.

This newsletter is going to be a little different and not just in terms of it having to make up for a lost month. A lot has happened in the last few weeks that I feel I should address publicly, and the majority of it is not amusing. Usually I like to spend these paragraphs regaling you with stories of your hysterical antics so that in the future you can read about what a uniquely challenging and funny kid you were, and maybe one day it will explain why your own child screams so much and how it’s perfectly normal to daydream about dangling that kid over a pool of hungry sharks. 15 years from now you’re going to read this paragraph, here where I tell you that your favorite thing to say is DONKEY BELLIES, and whenever you say knock-knock, and I say who’s there, you scream DONKEY BELLIES, and then you gasp for air as the giggles get lodged in your throat, you’re going to read this and then call me and go THERE’S NOTHING FUNNY ABOUT DONKEY BELLIES. And then you’re going to ask me for money.

But I guess there are some people who are very uncomfortable with the fact that I and many other women are writing about our children on our websites. How dare we violate your privacy like this, how dare we endanger you like this, we obviously care more about ad revenue than what this is going to do to your adolescence. And I have been asked countless times if I am at all worried that you will totally resent me for the details I have shared here. Of course you will you resent me. I have no doubt that you will spend years of your life resenting me and being embarrassed that we have the same last name, despite the fact that I have and will spend years of my life writing love letters to you on the Internet. Despite the fact that I have declared to millions of people that you are the most amazing thing that has ever happened to my life.

You will resent me for your curfew and the fact that I will not let you leave the house in that mini-skirt. You will resent me for showing up to your school in my pajama bottoms and for raising my hand in a PTA meeting when I hadn’t brushed my hair. You will text message your friends to tell them that I am the most horrible person on the planet because I’m forcing you to study for your exam in the morning. You are going to think that I cannot possibly understand what you are going through, and you will slam the door in my face.

Will you resent me for this website? Absolutely. And I have spent hours and days and months of my life considering this, weighing your resentment against the good that can come from being open and honest about what it’s like to be your mother, the good for you, the good for me, and the good for other women who read what I write here and walk away feeling less alone. And I have every reason to believe that one day you will look at the thousands of pages I have written about my love for you, the thousands of pages other women have written about their own children, and you’re going to be so proud that we were brave enough to do this. We are an army of educated mothers who have finally stood up and said pay attention, this is important work, this is hard, frustrating work and we’re not going to sit around on our hands waiting for permission to do so. We have declared that our voices matter.

These are the stories of our lives as women and they often include you, yes. Am I endangering you by posting pictures of you? Many people think so, but then they’d have to admit that when I take you to the grocery store I am exposing your face to hundreds of strangers, people who can see what car we drove up in, the license plate number, and the direction we head home. Maybe we shouldn’t ever leave the house, otherwise? STRANGERS WILL KNOW WHAT WE LOOK LIKE. Worse? They will know I prefer Tampax to the generic brand.

Am I violating your privacy? If keeping 95 percent of what goes on in your life off limits in terms of what I write on my website, then yes, I am totally invading your privacy. And what about that time I wrote about your poop, aren’t you going to be mortified when your classmates read about that in sixth grade? Leta, I stopped writing about your poop many, many months ago, and chances are that all the kids you’re going to know in sixth grade will have spent the first three years of their lives shitting their pants, too. Oh wait, THAT’S WHAT HUMANS DO. WHO KNEW.

Finally, I’ve seen it suggested in my inbox and by various critics online that what we do on our websites is egotistical and exploitative. Some even refer to it as child abuse. I know I am not alone when I say that when I sit down to update my website I do it to connect with other people, I do it to reflect on the absurdity of everyday life with the hope that the people who read it will find similarities in their own routine. I did not know that wanting to be a part of a community qualified as egotism.

Some of our websites make us money, yes, money that puts food on our table, pays for preschool and helps pay for utilities. Sometimes we even use this money to pay for more unnecessary things like computers or manicures or purple ceramic hippos, and this in particular is something people grab hold of to try and twist what we’re doing into something gross and ugly. And try as they might, I will not be discouraged from continuing to document the beauty of life with my family or supporting them with an income from doing so. Leta, some people will one day try to convince you that what I’ve done here is some sort of sickening betrayal of your childhood, and what those people fail to recognize is that I am doing the exact opposite. This is the glorification of your childhood, and even more than that this is a community of women coming together to make each other feel less alone. You are a part of this movement, you and all of the other kids whose mothers are sitting at home right now writing tirelessly about their experiences as mothers, the love and frustration and madness of it all. And I think one day you will look at all of this and pump your fist in the air.


  • kim

    2008/05/05 at 7:01 pm

    awesome, look at all of these positive comments that were left here 🙂 you GO GIRL!

  • marta

    2008/05/05 at 7:11 pm

    I wish people wouldn’t get in your ear about what you are or are not doing to Leta. Jeez, no matter what you do, your child will resent you for something. But if you pay attention to your child and love your child and even write love letters to your child, your child may just allow you to drive her to the front of the school when you drop her off. Hell, my 17 year still says he loves me in front of people…every once in while!

    Leta is a gorgeous, spirited, and seemingly brilliant child. Forget the haters, and cater to us who cannot go a day without checking your site. And visiting your advertisers. Yeah.

  • Anonymous

    2008/05/05 at 7:54 pm


  • Katie

    2008/05/05 at 7:54 pm

    I am pumping my fist in the air right now after reading your inspiring words, Heather. Quite simply-You Rock.

    Keep on doing this website. don’t ever change. you are my voice. and I THANK YOU. 🙂

  • Julie in Houston

    2008/05/05 at 7:55 pm

    Can you be my Mommy?

    PS: I really like the new Masthead!


  • TtownAnne

    2008/05/05 at 7:57 pm

    I know you won’t read this far, but I had to agree poster #163 and say that I would sell a kidney to be able to read Leta’s blog in 10 years or so. It will be DELICIOUS.

  • canape

    2008/05/05 at 8:12 pm

    Been reading for ages, but never felt the need to join the masses when comments are open. You know, just another ant on the hill.

    But this? This deserves an “Amen,” a “Hell yeah,” and a “Go get ’em” even if it’s only a small voice amongst a million.

    Thank you for writing this. And everything else.

  • Melissa

    2008/05/05 at 8:21 pm

    You rock sister! I too have a little “rubbery butt” running around my house and I love your prose – thank you

  • Katie

    2008/05/05 at 8:32 pm

    As a young woman growing up… you site helps me put more humor into the mundane. As stubborn as you say Leta is, I think it helps women and men realize just how things could be. Not every child is an angel all the time. Wishing torture upon myself… I’d love to have some crazy little kid stamping his or her feet at me over throwing out their favorite candy wrapper from 6 years ago!

    PS – I love, love, love your May masthead. +100 on design.

  • Willson

    2008/05/05 at 8:32 pm

    Being about the 1200 th comment on your entry today will lose me in the fog of words; but I comment none-the-less.
    Not being a mother, nor female, nor father but having had 2 little girls in my life and 2 boys. Watching them grow and change and seeing, with amazement and wonder, them change – I understand and support your desire, your need, to tell the world. We share what we admire.
    It’s about community; but the community is no longer only the neighbor next door or down the street – it’s now the world.
    That’s not a bad thing.
    The closer we become to one another, the more we share, the less we will fight.

  • Anne

    2008/05/05 at 8:57 pm

    I love your blog and check it regularly…it’s like a great book that I want to keep reading and of course the pics are great. Thanks for sharing ,you have a beautiful family and are so lucky to live the life you love…keep up the great work!!!!

  • Shanna

    2008/05/05 at 9:09 pm

    Well said. Perfectly accurate. Thank you! You are an inspiration.

  • Kath

    2008/05/05 at 9:30 pm

    Amen Heather. You couldn’t have said it better.

  • Peapodsquadmom

    2008/05/05 at 10:13 pm

    AMEN!!! Personally…I think Leta will see that she has the coolest mommy ever. Seriously. I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

  • Amy

    2008/05/05 at 10:19 pm

    I think it’s terrific that you blog your family’s life, that you have the courage to post pictures, details, stories. What better way to remember life as it goes? People do lots of things that entail risk, you make your choice and do the best you can. If Leta turns out to be an axe murderer, maybe then people can point fingers and say you’ve failed.

    As for money-making, I used to work for a company that sells dialers for telemarketers. I did it to pay the bills. It didn’t mean that I’m a terrible person, that I personally hated all the people who got to experience the vileness that was the end product. Just meant I needed a job. Frankly, I doubt you’re doing any more harm than that.

  • Jenny

    2008/05/05 at 10:28 pm

    Thank you, it’s just what I needed to read today.

  • anna

    2008/05/05 at 10:50 pm

    Right now you have well over 1000 comments so I am not sure you will even see this one. I just wanted to say thank you. You have such a great way with words when you talk about your love for Leta that I can read what you have written and think to myself,”Aha! That is exactly what I would say it if I were capable of putting words together so well.” Sorry for the big run on sentence.

  • Jessica

    2008/05/05 at 10:51 pm

    This made me cry, but in a good way! And I’m not even a mom or married or anything. All I can think to say is THANK YOU. Thank you so very much for sharing this.

  • Cat

    2008/05/05 at 11:25 pm

    Excellent post to your daughter, but far more excellent response to the nameless (and faceless) critics. With the 10+ years that my site has been online, I’ve received anonymous negative notes intending to shame me into the submission of conformity. My conclusion — anytime someone sticks their neck out, there is always someone trying to lob it off.

  • Anonymous

    2008/05/05 at 11:30 pm

    very adorable heather.

  • Donny Pauling

    2008/05/06 at 12:04 am

    I’m sending this article to all the people who tell me that I discuss too many private details on my site. You inspire more than mothers.

  • Anonymous

    2008/05/06 at 12:42 am

    You go, girl. Say it like it is and like a lot of us wish we had the time and wherewithal to speak out, too. And – while on your site – this is my first comment – I like the idea of a banner some month called Queen of Pith. Ideas, ideas.

    Carry on.

  • Jillian

    2008/05/06 at 12:47 am

    You are so hilarious, loving, artistic, honest and supportive. People who are critical of you are ignoring the fact that Leta will have every opportunity to be all of these things, too, and you will obviously help her open up to life in the same way you have. Neither of you should be underestimated! Who’s to say she won’t grow to appreciate this and think it’s totally cool that tons of people all over the world find her (and you) adorable, interesting and hilarious? Who’s to say she won’t grow to be so much more brave and comfortable with herself than your critics are with their bitter selves? We should all start having faith that things can just as easily turn out that way- that maybe she’ll even be involved in the making of the site- that maybe one day there will be DAILY PRINCESS! Or Daily EMBARRASSING PHOTO OF MOM!
    You are an exceptional person.

  • Manika Gandhi

    2008/05/06 at 1:11 am

    Completely agree…just don’t get how writing about your child translates into not loving her or exploiting her or any of that other shit. kudos for what you do. i do it too, but don’t get any hate mail since not many people bother to read it anyway:-)

  • Stephanie

    2008/05/06 at 1:12 am

    Oh, hot Christ. People will always find something to criticize. If you weren’t doting on your daughter they’d slay you for that. But since you are, that’s where the arrows point. I just had my son a few months ago and I’m new to blogging. I meant to get into it in 2002, but, you know, things came up. Like Scrubs. Anywho. I didn’t realize blogging about baby shit was such a divisive activity, but I’m not surprised. When don’t people get holier-than-thou when it comes to telling you how to best conduct your life with children? So yeah. Fuck them.

  • Dekorum

    2008/05/06 at 2:02 am

    Wow, your daughter is so beautiful. And your love for her is beautiful too. Do people really react in such silly ways to what you write? Yikes. Their lives must be really boring, if they have nothing better to do. Keep on writing, that’s all I have to say!

  • Léonie

    2008/05/06 at 3:14 am

    Amazing. Your honesty is incredible. You are truly an inspiring woman.

  • Di

    2008/05/06 at 5:05 am

    I’m here…10 years down the road you are now on…and your daughter will resent you for so many things that what you blogged about 10 years before will be barely a blip on her radar.

    To prepare yourself, every time Leta makes a statement, mentally add on, “Mom, you ignorant slut” at the end. She will also speak a monosyllabic language (despite any breastfeeding you might have done, which I read in the paper this morning garnered her a few more verbal IQ points…not going to matter to her when you wear your pajama top over your sweatpants to drive carpool) that will thwart your every effort to understand her…teenguage, I call it.

    For more on this…

    Carry on!


  • Kathleen

    2008/05/06 at 5:14 am

    TOTALLY in support of your position here. Unfortunately, the other commenters have already written what I would.
    So I’ll leave it at a big ME TOO.
    and congratulations on a fabulous job – Leta, the blog, Chuck, even John and Coco!

  • Robyn

    2008/05/06 at 5:59 am

    And so say all of us! Keep on keeping on, Heather.

  • Caitlin Hannah

    2008/05/06 at 6:15 am

    Leta is just gorgeous, and those pictures are stunning.

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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