the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Reflecting on the year that was not last year, thank god and medicine

I was thinking back over the last couple of weeks and suddenly remembered, oh my god, Christmas happened! And I survived it! Like one survives forced repeated viewings of The Revenant. Don’t get me wrong, we had a wonderful, relaxing day and woke up to about eight inches of snow on the ground, but fuck if it wasn’t an uphill journey through a labyrinthine hell to get there, almost as bad as being manipulated into feeling sorry for a white dude who wrestles a bear and then spends the next four hours of the movie chewing off each of his own fingers. That’s the plot of that movie, I swear. And in the end he gets a promotion for being completely mediocre.

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I woke up the day after Christmas physically sore from the mental and physical gymnastics of getting everything ready for my girls with about four minutes to spare. And that seems like it happened years ago. Like, that happened! It’s like thinking back to the night I had sex for the first time, which was years ago, but the same sentiment applies: god that was awful, and I’d really never like to have to do that again, please. Luckily, I didn’t ever have to have sex for the first time again.

I’m sneaky like that.

In the end it was a success—Christmas, not having sex for the first time. That fell a hair short of being a success. I’d call it a “technical experiment that produced pedestrian results”. God, I hope he’s reading this. Anyway, when I think back on the whole of 2017 I feel the same way, that in the end I got through it. I could call it a success based solely on the fact that it wasn’t 2016, the year I fought a bear in the woods, gutted it, and then crawled inside its carcass to cry.

But I experienced a lot of joy in 2017, and I know that’s not a sensitive thing to express given that the last twelve months have seen events that have brought us to the brink of extinction. I was very privileged that my girls and I were not affected by a fire or a flood or a hurricane or a mass shooting or a policy change that would strip us of our basic human rights, to name just a smattering of what made 2017 such a shit show. I was worried we might lose our healthcare and then further worried that when premiums increased we’d be unable to afford it. But in the end I was able to find a plan that will protect me from going bankrupt should I ever be in a Starbucks and suddenly pass out. Shout out to the cohost of my podcast, John R. Bray, who recently got the bill for his ambulance ride to the hospital and a super comfy overnight stay that included not one but FOUR saltine crackers. You think your student loans are bad? Pass out in a Starbucks. Then you’ll learn bad.

At the beginning of last year I begrudgingly crawled out of that bear carcass, and with the help of my psychiatrist and ongoing support of my mother and stepfather began to put my life back together. The girls and I moved into a new, far more reasonable and comfortable home and settled into a rhythm that has brought us even closer together. I traveled to Montenegro, a part of the world I’ve never seen, visited family in Austin, made new friends in Aspen, hung out with old friends in NYC, and then spent three of the most fabulous weeks of my life in the most beautiful city in the world. And I am only writing all of this out because I am so thankful for these people and these places. If my time inside that bear carcass taught me anything, it’s this: life is fleeting. Also, cellular service inside a dead animal is spotty.

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It also forced me to realize that while some people can throw themselves into the nourishment of their children in equal measure to the amount that they devote to their careers, I was slowly killing myself trying to do so, especially since I do this alone.

I am not one of those some people. And I am not afraid to admit that. Especially since I do this alone.

In order to get better I had to make a choice. I chose nightly episodes of “Felicity” and “Gilmore Girls” with Leta’s head in my lap over chasing Platinum Medallion status in airports across the country. I chose piano practice and dance lessons and driving them both to therapy over elaborate plans to expand and grow my business into something I ultimately don’t want. I chose putting Marlo to bed every night and singing the same four songs that I have sung to her since she was born. Life is fleeting. Their childhood is fleeting. I will always do what I have to do to provide for the roof over our heads, but nothing has brought me more joy than channeling the fullness of myself into the happiness and health of my girls.

The weight of keeping this ship afloat and maintaining its mechanics is at times harrowing. But I do it. I am their rock. I am their home.

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We have our health (and shitty healthcare plan). We have our home. We have friends and family and a dog who will not stop barking and guarding the front door. We have our magical car ride to school every morning and our lip syncing dance parties in the kitchen during and after dinner. We have our many, many, many hair band bracelets arranged perfectly to match the rainbow. And we have each other.

In 2017 I got affirmation after affirmation that I had made the right choice. And that is the joy of which I speak.

Well. I mean, some of it.

  • Rachel R. Vail

    2018/01/08 at 10:53 am

    You are their home!

  • clyman11

    2018/01/08 at 11:21 am

    So grateful for the glimpse into your lives again this year, and for finding your podcast late to the party. I found so much truth in it, especially the episodes where you spoke about the hurry hurry hurry of every single day. This year I was a full time working mom of two small kids, while going back to school for the past 16 months and moving my disabled mom to our town so we could help take care of her. I graduated in December and have never felt spread so thin, or felt so kick-ass. Looking forward to 2018 as a year to focus on me and my family. <3 Wishing the same for you!

  • Marie McDowell

    2018/01/08 at 11:41 am

    Hi Heather, you are definitely making the right choice! Like you, I divorced when my kids were very young (6 & 3) and I about killed myself trying to do it “all” while they were younger. I finally figured out I needed to let some things go and just be with them and the other stuff would come later. It’s hard. But, that day will come when they are on their own and then you will find time to do all you want to do at that time. And your kids will be happy, healthy (probably with still shitty healthcare) adults and you will wonder where all that time when and you will wonder how the hell did I do that? But you will think back and be really proud of all you did to raise them to be kick ass adults. Because you were a kick ass mom. Be proud of yourself, you are amazing. You know that because, look at those girls. And look at them looking at you. 🙂

  • acm

    2018/01/08 at 11:57 am

    holy cow, is Marlo starting to look like Leta! or just, you know, a real Kid!

    hang in there. you’re doing it!

  • birdgal

    2018/01/08 at 12:14 pm

    This is lovely. May you find more joy in 2018.

  • Julie Egan Wood

    2018/01/08 at 12:31 pm

    Love to hear this!!

  • REK981

    2018/01/08 at 12:55 pm

    Love this. Thank you

  • JRSF

    2018/01/08 at 1:38 pm

    I have found the podcast endlessly fascinating this year. I don’t understand the economics of them or the time commitments or how they compare to blogging in either satisfaction or reach, etc., but MRS is my guilty pleasure listen.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2018/01/08 at 5:01 pm

    Aw, thank you! We love recording each week and have streamlined the process so that it isn’t *too* labor intensive, although our kickass sound editor causes us a bit of overhead. We are about to launch a Patreon to help offset costs a bit. Overall, I love doing it, and my cohost is a perfect foil to my insanity. Thank you for listening!

  • Heather Armstrong

    2018/01/08 at 5:01 pm

    Thank YOU.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2018/01/08 at 5:02 pm

    Thank you. It’s feels good to want to get up in the morning, you know?

  • Heather Armstrong

    2018/01/08 at 5:03 pm

    Thank you. May you, too. May we all. Let’s turn 2018 into something extraordinary.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2018/01/08 at 5:06 pm

    She, um… she’s going to be the tall one. I always thought Leta was going to be the giant oak tree, but Marlo will probably end up being a foot taller than I am. She’s growing like kudzu.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2018/01/08 at 5:13 pm

    I try to give myself credit whenever I have a hard day. I had a realization when I was in Paris and they were spending their summer weeks with their father… IT WAS SO EASY BEING ALONE. What I do on a day-to-day basis with them, especially during the school year, seemed mind boggling to me when I was blissfully taking care of no one but myself in France. All three of us work really hard—I give them credit, too. Because I come from a long line of hard ass Southern parenting wherein no one gets away with anything. My friend once told me she tells her kids, “If you were over at Heather’s house, would she let you do that? I didn’t think so.” I was so proud when she told me that, haha!

  • Heather Armstrong

    2018/01/08 at 5:13 pm

    Yes, and they are mine.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2018/01/08 at 5:17 pm

    I’m so glad you found something useful in those episodes. We tend to veer into that territory quite a bit given that both he and I do this all alone and our schedules are insane. Feeling spread so thin… yeah… I always tell him that he’s not allowed to say, “Next week it will calm down,” because that just invites the following week to twist into a maze from which we barely emerge. Here’s hoping 2018 is more peaceful for you and yours. Also, congrats on going back to school and graduating!

  • clyman11

    2018/01/08 at 5:21 pm

    Thank you! Haha yes every time John would say, “It will calm down next week” I would shake my head! Haha it’s never true! There’s always something else.

  • JJ

    2018/01/08 at 8:41 pm

    I know you have worked hard and I am so happy for you and your family, but I so badly want to be where you are now, even knowing I don’t know all the details! I’m trying so hard to stay kind, not be sucked into the lies and confusion, offer my kids joy and stability, stop doubting myself, but doing all the parenting alone and then having the person around the corner I was with for 18 years feeling entitled to time when they don’t have their married affair partner available…it is hard for all of us! No logic, no reason, and the cost of it all, and the fear, I just don’t feel my very lovely children are getting what I want to give them! You inspire me! All of you!

  • Bluestalking

    2018/01/08 at 8:57 pm

    I hate my life after I’ve read one of your wonderful essays. After days of checking in and checking in, I rejoice to see you’ve posted. But then, after I race through it I think OH CRAP. Now I’ll have to wait all over again for the next one.

    Thanks, Obama.

  • acm

    2018/01/09 at 7:11 am

    can only imagine the amount of fuel that takes! or, um, individual noodles eaten disparagingly one at a time (all day long)… good luck!

  • Heather Armstrong

    2018/01/09 at 8:47 am

    THANKS, OBAMA. I am trying to find time to write more (I have a huge other project that I’m working on), so hopefully you won’t have to wait too long between posts. This made me smile.

  • Julie Egan Wood

    2018/01/09 at 9:36 am

    Well, my dear, that’s saying A LOT coming from you. I remember how hard it is for you to get up anyway. Happy to hear you’re doing so good!!

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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