Monthly Archives: August 2012
Being a mommy requires the same skills that are required in any other demanding job. One of the most important things a mom can do for herself is to find balance. Balance is one of those in buzz words that motivational speakers use frequently in books, on talk shows and in magazine articles. Here is my practical idea about balance. Saying you need balance isn’t an answer. This is a fact. Yet that is the advice many moms receive as a form of support. “Just make sure you maintain balance,” friends, family, other moms chant endlessly until you are nauseated by the sound of it more than the current pop song your kids force you to play in the car, in your house, anywhere there’s an ipod. Rarely is there any specific guidance on how to achieve the ever elusive balance. Having no psychology degree and having the thin experience of editing my friend’s self-help book approximately five years ago, I believe I am uniquely qualified to give these tips to the three people who follow my blog (hi, mom!). First, acknowledge that you are a good mom. I know this because you have taken the time to read someone’s opinion about being a better mom. That says something about you as a person. That says that you want to give the best to your children and that you are looking to finds ways to accomplish this feat. Second, because you are a good mom, take the time off that you deserve. This can be in the form of a mini vacation to a nearby place that you love or something even smaller such as an hour at a park, reading your favorite Jane Austen novel. Leave the toys in the middle of the floor, stop looking at the work you may have brought home (if you work outside of the house) and get away. Two weeks ago I treated myself to a cheap foot massage and took a nap in the dark, quiet, room of this whole-in-the-wall parlor. It was a little piece of heaven that cost me around $20 including tip. It meant I had to pack lunch for work that week and I couldn’t have my vanilla soy chai latte (no h2o) but it was well worth it. I entered my house relaxed and calm. Surprisingly, my children were alive and well in the hands of their father that evening (however, I have been teaching my 5 year-old about dialing 911 should the occasion arise). Third (kind of ties into second), SLEEP! I’m preaching to the choir with this one but as a writer who works full-time NOT writing and who has two small children, there really isn’t much time for sleep. However, it is a goal of mine to get enough of it because I know it extends life (so my mommy says), is better for weight loss, reduces irritability and practically every healthcare professional will tell you it is key to good health. But, in order to get that sleep, you may need to employ piece of advice number 4, enlist help. I am lucky. My mother volunteered to assist my family by moving in with us for a finite amount of time (until we drive her too crazy to live with us anymore) primarily to watch my toddler and to allow me to get my career back on some sort of path. In addition to my mother, I have recruited my extended family of close friends who I lean on to watch the children as needed. Recently, I have even convinced my significant other that we require a cleaning person on a semi-regular basis, especially with five of us living together. Mothers are adept at being superheroes and taking on everything themselves. But it is neither necessary nor practical. It truly does take a village and we shouldn’t assume those villagers around us know what we want. Spell it out. Make it plain. The people who love you will do what they can and you’d be surprised to what extent your friends and family will help. Most will derive their joy from spending time with your little angels because those shape-shifters usually act much better toward others than they do toward their own parents. I don’t know why this is but all of my friends give glowing reports about my son and his angelic behavior whilst spending time amongst them. Instead, I get the tantrums, demands and teenager-like attitudes (which I am told will literally repeat when my children are teenagers, oh joy!). Finally (and this is the most important part) forgive yourself. This tip may not seem like it has anything to do with time management. You’re probably wondering, “how will that provide balance?” Forgiving yourself will infuse you with the emotional energy to do the other things you need to do to achieve balance. Forgive yourself often. Do this many times in one day if necessary. You will make mistakes. You might not read to your children every single day. You might have a temper and raise your voice once in a while. You may be too exhausted to cook a nutritious meal. You may be too tired to think. You are a mom and you were made to mother your children. You were given the exact tools, gifts, traits to raise those adoring munchkins. Maybe you won’t do it the way your mother did it or the way you thought you would even do it but you are committed to “mommyhood” and that is enough. You are the best woman for the job.
This isn’t a traditional self-help post. Instead of an inspiring story of something I did right. I’m going to start with something I did wrong. What I did was what one is not supposed to do when one is trying to maintain a positive perspective about ones (over) weight—weighed myself at night. It was horrifying. Even though it was only 5 pounds more than it is in the morning, it made a difference psychologically. I weigh the same as I did when I was pregnant! In fact, I weigh more than I did after our daughter was born. And now she’s 19 months old. So when people ask me about baby weight, it’s totally not. I no longer have a baby. I have a toddler. She didn’t cause this. I did! For most of my life I was super skinny. I was called names like tadpole, slim, stick, twig, tiny, skeleton, etc. When I asked my mother if I could get a training bra, she laughed at me. As a parent, I realize her intent was not to hurt me but to avoid spending money on something I clearly didn’t need. Even in my twenties, I could get away without a brassiere and wore sleeveless tees instead. While the early years of being skinny were the source of teenage angst the later years were somewhat rewarding. As my mother communicated to me in Jr. High School, most girls that were shapely then would be jealous of my narrow frame later. Too bad I didn’t believe her at the time. I never really enjoyed being skinny then. Even later, I never really fully appreciated it. Until it was gone! In the five years that I have been a mom, my body has changed significantly. Last weekend, I finally put away my pre-pregnancy clothes, to be accessed at a later date (don’t want to commit to one just yet though). But my birthday came in July and as is tradition for my father, my gift just arrived yesterday (3 ½ weeks after my birthday). He purchased a beautiful, colorful purse (totally me) and a gorgeous dress (totally old me). It’s a small. My father clearly remembers who I used to be—before marriage, before babies, before a lot of things. And I used to be a lot of things. I was an aspiring filmmaker, I was a writer, I was an activist, I was a poet. Slowly but surely, over the course of my life, I have become less of these things. Most of this has happened because I have not made a conscious effort at living authentically. I have opted for safe choices under the auspices of protecting my family and to appease my fears. But when I woke up this morning and saw the apricot dress my father sent me, resting in the brown shipping box on the floor of my bedroom, I said in my head (along with a thousand other “mommyesque” thoughts) today is going to be different. Today, I am going to start my journey back to me. I’m the only one who can get me there. I am the only one who knows who she is. It doesn’t matter how long it takes or how many setbacks I have. What is important is that I make the effort. So, at a business breakfast this morning, instead of my favorite, home fried potatoes, I had fruit and after the meeting, instead of taking a nap, I did notes on my sitcom spec. Little by little, day by day, I will get there. We will all get there. I hope other moms will follow me on my journey and share theirs as well. The greatest gift a mom can give her children is to be who she really is.
“A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.” ~Tenneva Jordan
Yesterday, our son told us that he always wins when he races his father. He said that made him the best. Even though he is five years old and even though the concept of my response won’t resonate with him for years, I took the opportunity to share my thoughts with him anyway. It’s parental privilege. My children are obligated to hear me pontificate on various matters as if I’m an expert and for most of their lives, they will believe me. I told our son that even if he loses he is still a winner. Now, I’m not talking about that way-too-liberal-even-for me philosophy that no one should have grades or ever feel as though they lost in a competition. As a child athlete I realize that is ludicrous. At the end of each tennis match I participated in there was a winner and a loser. The person with the higher score won. Period. End of story. I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with grades that that reflect the instructor’s interpretation of how well a student is performing in class. Kids will grow up and be “graded.” Someone will either sit them in an office and go over their strong points during a review or if they’re lucky enough to succeed in owning their own businesses, customers will grade them in paying for their services or products. I’m talking about taking hits in life. Everybody takes them. Today I was reading about one of the members of the Supreme Court and his journey to appointment. A number of the Olympic champions have lost competitions; a few during their last time at the Olympics! Losing is a lesson. It strengthens you, it trains you, it teaches you about yourself. I have lost a number of things in my life and this year, especially, I have lost more than my normal quotient. But many people have. It isn’t as if fate sits down to meet with you first so that you can agree to an appropriate time for losing. I mean, that would be great “hey, fate, I’m really not feeling like getting laid off this year but after my kid graduates from college I could take that blow.” Instead, many times loss just comes; knocks you out of your pumps and ruins your good outfit and makeup. It is not pretty. It is not fair. But it is necessary. In many cases, it is a good thing. Being comfortable causes mental atrophy and many of us won’t push ourselves unless we are made to do so. I tried to communicate to our son that it is okay to lose in life as long as you don’t lose courage, character and resolve. It’s how you take the hit that makes you a winner. Our son stared and me for a beat and then responded, “so, I’m not better than daddy?” I smiled at him and said, “absolutely.”