the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Because my anxiety needed a nudge or two

I remember the first time Leta ever saw an episode of Sesame Street, I think she was maybe thirteen or fourteen months old. She had woken up really early one morning, and in an effort to let Jon get some sleep before heading into his office job I took her out to the living room and turned the television to one of the kid channels. And all it took was one peep out of Elmo and Leta had found religion. Thankfully it wasn’t one that required she wear pantyhose for three hours every Sunday morning.

I AM STILL BITTER ABOUT THAT, YES.

I’m not at all ashamed to admit that Sesame Street taught Leta the alphabet. In fact, I didn’t know she knew her letters until one night just a few months after that initial exposure to Sesame Street she pointed to the sponge letters in the bathtub and identified each and every one correctly. It was a total freak show! I frantically called Jon into the bathroom and was all, DUDE, WHAT IS WRONG WITH HER? And he’s all, what? Is she breathing? And I’m all, BREATHING? I DON’T KNOW, BUT SHE KNOWS WHAT A Q LOOKS LIKE!

And then the next two years of our lives were Sesame Street all the time, every day, in the morning, in the night, until suddenly she graduated to the more annoying shows where the characters ask you questions and expect you to respond to the television. WHATEVER. AS IF. Leta actually caught on pretty quickly to that trickery, she knew they couldn’t hear her answers, so when Dora was all, WHERE ARE WE GOING? Leta would go, YOU KNOW WE’RE GOING TO THE TREEHOUSE, WHY ARE YOU EVEN ASKING THAT STUPID QUESTION?

God, I love that kid.

Anyway, it’s been a few years since Sesame Street was the background music in our house, and we actually miss it quite a bit. There were certain skits we’d quote to each other all the time, most of them involving Telly Monster and his incurable neuroses. And there was this one bit where a puppet was dressed up to look like Dr. Phil, except his name was Dr. Feel. And they had the actual, real-life Dr. Phil arguing with the puppet over who was the real Dr. Phil. Like:

“No, I’m Dr. Feel!”

“No, I’m Dr. Phil!”

“No, I’m Dr. Feel!”

And it goes on and on and never resolves itself. Totally hilarious.

I guess you had to be there.

We quoted that one to each other all the time, and I played Dr. Feel because of my Southern accent. So imagine me and Jon and Leta sitting around the table eating lunch, and Jon is all, No, I’m Dr. Phil! And I’m all, Naaahhh-oooooohhh! AAAHMM DR. FEEEEEEL! And Leta is all PLEASE MAKE IT STOP!

Is there a point to this story, yes I am getting there, hold yer britches.

I can’t believe I’m even attempting this, but Monday afternoon I’m flying out to Los Angeles to be on a Dr. Phil show that is taping very early Tuesday morning. And since Marlo is eating nothing but breast milk straight from the boob, she is coming with me. And since there is no way I could handle that kind of chaos by myself, Jon booked a ticket for himself. All so that I can participate in The Conversation of all Conversations, a dialogue or two about the guilt mothers feel when they go back to work, and should they stay at home, and who is right and who is wrong, and why can we not just get along? You know that conversation, it’s the one that never ends and probably never will. Because there is no right answer. OH BUT WE DO HAVE OUR OPINIONS, NOW DON’T WE.

As the producers were prepping me for the show I said, you know, some of us have this idea of what staying at home with our kids is going to be like, and then when we actually do it, when we actually Stay At Home With The Kids, it’s nothing at all like we imagined it to be. And coping with that reality can be devastating. So there’s that side of things.

Since I have this platform and your ears for a bit, is there something you think I should bring up in this conversation? Is there an angle you think needs more attention? Don’t we all sometimes feel guilty no matter what choice we make? Do you think I should at one point kick my leg in the air and go, AAAHMM DR. FEEEEEEL!

Also, if you’re in the Los Angeles area and want free tickets to be in the studio audience when I appear on the show that is taping Tuesday, August 18, you can email michael.stern@cbsparamount.com. And then stick around and meet Marlo. She can blow bubbles!

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.

read more

SaveSave