99 Problems

Published on November 12th, 2013 | by Frances Badalamenti


Frances Badalamenti says Go The F To School

When we dropped our kid off at his first day of kindergarten a few weeks ago, it was as if we were dropping him off at an orphanage, never to turn back again – a metaphorical bundle of joy in a bulrush basket on the doorstep of our Northeast Portland neighborhood school.

It was as if his dad and I had spent the past year plotting away in secret, while our son was crafting LEGO trucks in the attic.  It was as if we had been planning to abscond to some dreamy place like Fiji, where I would wake at first light to meditate and practice yoga, my husband whisking past me in nothing but weathered trunks to surf the most perfect warm water waves, the ocean only a few barefooted steps away from our minimally-designed and sustainably-considered open-air hut.  After the most amazing late morning sex, we would brew the purest, most high-end free trade coffee imaginable.  We would sit together at a thrown together makeshift table with beautiful yet imperfect ceramic mugs made by a local artisan, sipping our coffee with fresh raw cream and sketching ideas of a future without our son in our prospective bleach-free, recycled kraft paper journals….

Give me a fucking break, dude.

We’ve been down this road before. When our kid was nine months old, I turned him over to a nanny a few mornings a week, still chubby, still confined to one of those ubiquitous car seat buckets, still nursing, still toothless, still unaware of what the fuck was going on around him other than the fact that his mother, me, his primary source of security was at Whole Foods, a lost soul in the sea of way too colorful produce.


My mother died two months before my son was born, the usual stages of grief put on hold in order to be thrust into my own experience of motherhood.  So after a while, it was clear that I needed a little time to myself (I punched a wall and then my husband), so I procured a neighborhood nanny share. And then I set out to rifle through the filthy basement that had become of my psyche for the past few years. Our son seemed to be okay hanging out with his nanny, he even tried to nurse her a few times which seemed to be a good sign, but it was clear that my kid would much rather be with me.

After a few years, the cute nanny share naturally ran its course.  Well, it was really more like our son had been hanging out with these two other kids for way too long and as we all know, one annoying person in a small office will drive you mad. I let it go on for way too long.  I was desperate for those few hours that I had to myself – the joy of sitting alone eating baked goods and getting spun out on way too strong coffee.  I needed to read the remains of the Sunday Times.  Even if it was a Wednesday by the time I got the coveted ‘Style Section’ – I needed to feel like it was still Sunday and that part of me still remained in tact.  While I was off drowning myself in caffeine, carbs and other people’s lives, my son was verbally and physically abusing one of his nanny-share-mates.  A three-year old Raging Bull.  He hated that fucking kid and the thing is, I can totally see why.  The kid sucked ass and it made my kid suck ass.  I’ll be the first to admit that my kid can be a total fucking douche but this kid in question drove him to total douche-dom.  During those last few months of the nanny share, my kid was miserable and even though it was only a few hours per week that he had to deal with the douche kid, he made it a living hell for me.

I was like, “Listen, dude – just hang in there for a few hours today so mom can get her shit in check.”

But no favors were granted from my child.  He took the grief out on the frenemy and I felt like shit leaving him at the door – prying his little kid self out of my arms and thrusting him into the war zone.

Then came the in-a-cute-craftsman-bungalow-with-the big-front-porch, organic vegetarian meals served, the children clearing their own plates and composing their scraps, gluten, nut and dairy intolerances considered, chicken-and-bunny raising preschool with the earthly name.  If I were three years old, this is where I would want to hang out.  It was like an eco resort for toddlers.  But my kid made it seem like I was shoving him into the ovens at a concentration camp every morning at drop-off.  I would be halfway out the door and he would shoot me that look that was like, “Fuck you, dude.” So I’m like, “Listen, dude –if it gets stressful drink some triple berry smoothie, give the bunny some kale from the veggie garden and work it out.” It always seemed like the other kids were all blissed-out and stoked to leave their folks in the morning, practically falling over the porch steps to get in the door so they could sip cold soy milk (there was also the option of rice, hemp or cow’s milk, c’mon…REALLY?) out of glassware whilst being read to on a natural woolen carpet.


I get it.

I do.

My kid wanted me and only me and I just kept yanking him off the teat so I could breathe and feel smart and purposeful and then I went to grad school and pushed myself even farther away.  I lost my mother and then I lost myself to motherhood and the only way that I felt that I could recoup what I lost was to dive headfirst into a pile of books.

Even though my kid had to take one for the team and hang out somewhere else for a little bit each day – there was always the guilt seed that keep finding its way back into my world, even though I constantly kept digging it up and pitching it into the compost bucket.

I have friends that made a conscious choice to stay home and raise their young.  They might have some gripes here and there, mostly around their annoying husbands not doing enough, smoking too much weed, not going down on them anymore, whatever – but mostly, they are contented with the job of mothering.  They would have it no other way.  I have read countless articles and essays and books about co-parenting and the loss of the self to your child, how women today struggle with leaving careers to becomes mothers, how men have it so much easier, blah, fucking, blah.  Sure, I could pull out the feminist card at any point here, but that’s not my game.  I got a different game and my game is that I’m not bred to be the mommy with the cascading bosom and the sweet, patient voice.  I’m loud and abrasive and as much as I might be present and aware and grounded, I don’t have much time for bullshit.  So I’ve struggled to find a place for my kid in my life like some peeps might find it hard to find a place for a partner or a dog. It’s not about a lack of love or compassion, because I got that covered – it’s about making sure your kid knows you for who you are, not for who he or she thinks you’re supposed to be.  It’s about not faking as a mother that society wants you to be.  It’s about being real about you are as a person, not as a mother.


When I picked my son up at kindergarten after his first day, he wouldn’t look me in the eyes.  His head was on his desk and he was looking like a Sally Struthers refugee victim.  But he’s not.  He’s a privileged child that doesn’t have flies crawling all over his face. He’s a super healthy kid with two parents who are married and actually like the hell out of each other.  His father puts on the Don Draper hat every day and goes off to work and his mom is doing her best to dispel the belief that mothers are selfless little pixies who magically make food appear on the table every day.  My job is not to teach my son that even women get to go to work like men do and that they are equals, because it’s so way beyond that.  My job is to teach my son what it takes to really see someone for who they are, not for what they represent.

Now eat your goddam flaxseed toaster waffle and go the F to school, bro….

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About the Author

Frances was born and raised in Queens, New York and suburban New Jersey, but currently lives on the left coast in Portland, Oregon with her husband and son.  She has completed a full-length memoir and a collection of essays. You can find her at:  francesbadalamenti.com

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