Losing My Marbles?

I am not someone who loses things or leaves things behind. Over the years, I’ve known plenty of people who lose their car keys and such on a regular basis. At university, I lived with a girl who every day was in a panic about not being able to find something or other.

However, I am turning into one of these people, if the last two weeks are anything to go by. Let’s examine the evidence:

  • Wed of last week: Drove to a meeting in town. Returned to parking garage to the realization that I had left my wallet at home.
  • Fri of last week: Left my entire bag overnight at Dream Dinners.
  • Yesterday morning: Left for gym in the morning without my water bottle.
  • Yesterday afternoon: Left work without my laptop.
  • Yesterday evening: Left a restaurant without my credit card or signing for the check.

I worry about my sanity when these things happen as it’s so out of character for me. I’m well aware however that it’s a symptom of moving too fast and having too much in my head. And not enough sleep.

According to this new article “I Refuse to Be Busy” in the New York Times’ Motherlode blog, being busy is a choice. I’m not completely sure that’s true or achievable, especially when you are a working parent. But one way or another, I need to tackle my busy work, busy home, busy head thing or else I will never find my marbles. Maybe I should start by trying to slow down and breathe. Breathing is good, right?

 

Wanted: Me Time

Like most busy Moms, the tradeoff for all the joy of motherhood and family life is the loss of “me time.” And we all know and read about the need for self-care: if we don’t look after ourselves, then how can maintain our multi-tasking superMom status for everyone else?

I don’t blame my kids, my husband or my full-time job. In fact, my husband, knowing me as well as he does, often asks me what am I going to do for myself each weekend. I’ve tried my hardest to make “me time” a priority at the weekends; sometimes it works, more often than not, it’s 30 mins grabbed here or there that, in truth, doesn’t amount to much of anything in the way of soul-soothing.

Truth is, there’s just not enough weekend in the weekend for “me time.”

So this morning, I decided it was time to take some action. I am demanding one whole Saturday per quarter for me and me alone. Because I need a whole 12 hours to unwind my mind and body. To do things for me. At my pace and to my agenda.

I am claiming my “me time” because I need to know that it’s there, carved out on the family schedule. It’s something to look forward to, to plan for. To decompress the depleting stress that creeps up on my brain and rattles my sleep. To recharge my silly.

I know that everyone will benefit from my “me time.” Not just me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working Mom Poll: Makeup Dilemmas

Most mid-week mornings, I pull into the parking lot at work, already running late and harried. And it’s there, in my car, that I hastily throw on my makeup. The goal of which is to mostly make me feel more put together/awake but also I feel it’s my duty to protect my co-workers from having to see their reflections in my shiny nose and forehead.

Like most working Moms, mid-week mornings are manic: trying to herd the kids while at the same time making ourselves presentable for the outside, professional world. Success (a sliding scale) largely depends on the age of your kids and how much of the morning routine they can do for themselves – but ultimately, kids are easily distracted and before you’ve had a chance to take a bite of toast, pack their lunches, iron anything (ha!) or hunt for library books, it’s time to hustle them – and you – out of the door and to school/preschool/daycare/work.

So I wondered, am I alone in my inability to apply makeup before leaving the house or do you, fellow working Moms, also find yourself slapping on the mascara and lipstick sitting in your car outside your office? You tell me.

Wardrobe Meltdown & a Stranger’s Words of Wisdom

While Spring may technically be here, in reality, it’s still winter in New England and has been since November.

Which means I’ve been wearing the same set of clothes for work for roughly 21 weeks.

Which means I am sick to death of every item of clothing I own.

Which means that, this morning, as I needed to look respectable for client meetings for the third consecutive day (while battling a head cold), I had a total wardrobe meltdown.

Let’s call it a Working Mom Style Crisis.

In that, I have no style. And most of my clothes are either old, boring, and unhip.

My random assortment of clothes are usually selected according to the following principles: price, fit/comfort, flatteringness, color, available time to shop.

Most often, the clothes I buy are pulled from a rack in Target – without being tried on – while doing the weekly shop with kids in tow. (It helps that the women’s clothes section is strategically just across from the area where all the Pokemon cards can be found …)

Given that my style left the building a long long time ago (around about the time I became a working Mom,) I have somehow managed to feign some masquerade of style through an assortment of flashy earrings and necklaces and my kick-ass boots.

But this morning, as I lamented how much I hated all my clothes to Twitter, someone (another working Mom) tweeted to me that: “Nothing looks better on you than confidence.”

And I realized that, tatty clothes aside, I have ship-loads of confidence. And I can fake it really good too.

So, until the day comes when I have enough time and money and patience to shop for new clothes, I’ll be trying my best to wear my confidence – with style.


 

Why Am I Doing So Much For My Kids?

“I cannot help you; you’re too independent.”

My Mom said these words to me a few months back. I think she was complaining but I’ll take it as a compliment. After all, I’m the middle child. The older one got all the first son status. The younger one got all the youngest child attention. So I was always determined to chart my own course. Consequently, I firmly believe that happiness and success are my own choice. I alone am responsible for the decisions I make and their outcomes. I create my own destiny.

So why the heck am I doing so much now for my kids? I do their laundry, I clean up after them (I use the word “clean” quite loosely), I remind them (when I remember) to take their swimsuits/library books/signed forms to school, I arrange their playdates, I (sometimes) check their homework. I organize their clothes, get new ones when they outgrow current ones. We buy groceries, new shoes, toys. My husband folds their clothes, packs their lunch every day. We plan and cook their dinners, recycle their trash. We ferry them here, there and everywhere.

Is this not part of the definition and commitment of parenthood?

Yes, they do have some basic chores but inconsistency is ubiquitous (our fault, largely.) Take your plate/glass/cutlery over to the sink when you have finished your meal. Put your shoes/coat/hat/mittens away when you come in the house. Hang your towels up after you use them. Make sure dirty clothes find their way to the hamper, at some point. To me, these are all part of respectfully co-existing in the same household.

But I have decided it’s time for the grown-ups to back-off and for these kids start stepping it up. There is much much more that they can – and should – be doing to be active contributors to our home and hearth, otherwise known as this working Mom’s domestic crisis.

Starting today – albeit gradually and with best intentions – I’m doing less and they are doing more. They are nine and almost seven years-old and I believe it’s time. Maybe even beyond time. It’s going to start with bringing their full hamper down and then folding and putting away their own laundry. We’ll move on to making their own school lunches. Stacking and emptying the dishwasher. Sweeping the kitchen floor. On the weekends, they can make their own breakfasts and lunches. They can call their friends and arrange their own social schedules (checking with parents, of course, who still have to do the ferrying.) I’m sure my husband would appreciate help putting the trash out.

The whining will certainly be loud. Eyeballs will roll. They will be plenty of “fine” and “whatever” and pushback. There will be days when the particular pair of pants he wants to wear are not clean because he won’t have realized that the hamper was full.  They will inevitably say “I’m hungry” and get all stroppy when food does not instantly appear. They will learn. I know other parents who have successfully drilled these duties into their kids’ and I feel ashamed that I am still doing it all for them.

Over time, I’m hoping, these chores will become natural, second nature and hopefully, this household will hum with organization, goodwill and less mayhem. But this isn’t just about making my life easier (though that’s a huge incentive, I’ll admit.)

It’s about getting them to think, anticipate and understand the ingredients of an independent life so that, as they get older and obstacles (emotional, physical and academic) plant themselves in their path, they’ll have the muscle memory to face them. Be responsible for their actions. Take failures and inequity in their stride and ultimately, create their own success – whatever that will be.

Emptying the dishwasher, putting away clean socks and remembering their library books are just stepping stones in this journey. Independence is the goal, but happiness is always a choice.

The Facebook Post That Made Me a Terrible Mother

by Kristin Parran

I can’t keep it in any longer. I must be the worst mother ever. It doesn’t matter that my not-yet-3-year old son adores me. Or that he climbs in bed with my husband and I and tells us we make the best team (then asks for high-fives). Or tells me he loves me more than cars. CARS! None of that matters.

Two things I have read today make me believe that despite all of these things, I must be a terrible mother. First, I read a blog post about breastfeeding. Or, rather about not breastfeeding. The author shared her honest feelings around the disappointment – and subsequent judgment – around not being able to breastfeed. The point was that mothers should leave other mothers alone – breastfeeding or not. Funny, though, all of the comments from women who felt judged about not breastfeeding came from a place of not being able to breastfeed. I didn’t see one from a woman who CHOSE not to breastfeed, like I did. It’s hard as a new mother to not feel at least a little judgment with every decision you make – even if it’s self-inflicted judgment. But, I am increasingly finding that mothers like me – those who choose to bottle feed for one reason or another – don’t exist in public forums. They sit back, try to stay unnoticed and feed their babies the best way they know how. Some choose the expensive organic formula. Some pay for soy-based. Some do extensive research to understand which product is best for their babies. But the thing that connects all of these women is that they love their babies just as much as breastfeeding women do. I love my son no less than the next woman. I firmly believe – and would argue til I died – that in the way I know how, I have given my son the best chances for a life full of love, happiness and health. But it’s hard to find people like me out there. At least those who admit it.

The second thing I saw was on Facebook. This kind of thing usually doesn’t affect me the way it did today. Maybe it’s because I’m more sensitive, or because my stepdaughter is visiting and that always has my emotions doing somersaults. Either way, it hit me. An old acquaintance just went back to work and posted that she’s missing her babies more than ever. But that’s not it – it’s what she said next that hit me: “I know every working mom would rather be at home with their babies all the time.” I dropped everything and started this post. I couldn’t help it. My brain is screaming. You ARE a good mom. You ARE a good mom. But, am I? Really? My response to that post was not: “Sister…you are so right! I would so much rather be at home with a screaming toddler, playing with cars and arguing about naptime Every. SINGLE. DAY.” Rather, instead my response: “That’s BS! While I LOVE my baby, I also LOVE my job. And the people I work with. And the opportunity to be ME. And the socialization. And that I contribute something financially to my family. I love having both. I NEED to have both.”

I get the sense that a lot of mothers will read my response and gasp. GASP. HOW COULD YOU SAY THAT!?! How could you say you love your job AND your baby? How could you not want to spend every single waking moment with your child? The answer for me is simple. Being me – the me who loves my job and my husband and my son and my friends and my time alone – makes me the very best mother I can be. Whether or not that mother meets standards set by others is something I can no longer judge myself against. I wish I could say that feeling follows me everywhere, every day. But, it obviously doesn’t. Rather than reading that post and saying: “There are mothers of every color, and I happen to a bright pink” I took it as a jab. A knife turning in the heart that is still trying to heal from post-partum. So, I’m not perfect. I do let some things get to me. But after the initial crazy self-judgment and guilt wear off, I once again see that I’m not such a bad mom. My son is an incredible human being. And, at the end of each day, I have to believe that I have something to do with that.

Kristin Parran is a mother of one (nearly 3-year old) boy and wife to a husband who anchors her in peace. Wise enough to know life can (and should) have balance, brave enough to listen to her gut – but not always smart or Zen enough to stop sweating the small stuff – she recently moved her family 1,100 miles to give everyone the best shot at equilibrium. She spends her days working from home for a tech PR firm and shedding tears of gratitude for newfound peace – which is soon interrupted by the impatience of reality. Each time she leaves her house, she secretly hopes to be discovered by Keith Urban, Brad Paisley or Dierks Bentley as a (silent, yet energetic) back-up singer. Or, to someday see her name on the cover of a book.

KP

Will You Snuggle with Me, Mama?

Recently, my daughter – who is six – has started asking that I snuggle with her at bedtime. This is by no means unusual, many kids do it. It’s also not a distraction technique to put off the inevitable aloneness of going to sleep. She’s never had a problem with bed time. She knows when she is ready for sleep and welcomes it. In her threes, she was quick to dismiss me once we were done with reading. “Go. Door,” she’d command me. Unlike many kids – and unlike her brother – she likes to sleep in complete darkness with the door closed.

Truthfully, the whole evening routine, and especially the last five to ten minutes of it, have always been a challenge for me. As a working Mom, I am already exhausted and lacking the requisite zen for serenely supervising baths and PJs and teeth brushing and all of that. I just want the whole thing to be over – quickly. Fortunately, my kids are old enough that bath time is no longer about play – it’s all business. At least, that’s how I view it. I want them in, washed and out. But, for them, it’s how they unwind. I see how they drift off into the bubbles, into their imaginations. I find myself stuck between letting them immerse their bodies and brains – and hustling them out of the tub.

The next ten minutes, for me, are truly the most aggravating and patience-testing. The process of toweling off and PJ-putting on, following by the inevitable shenangans as they squabble over toothpaste and so on fairly drive me nuts. I admit that I often resort to threatening to remove everything that matters to them (him – 3DS, her – blankie) if they don’t just get on with it.

Then there’s the book reading. This is where I have always cheated, I confess. When they were toddlers and young’uns, I perfected the art of reading aloud – with feeling – while at the same time thinking about 74937 other things that needed my attention. Fortunately now, my six year-old reads to me and my nine year-old reads to himself.

But then come the words: “Will you snuggle with me, Mama?”

By this point, it’s usually 8.30pm and I’ve barely got an hour left of consciousness left in me during which to converse with my husband, catch up on work emails or watch TV. By 9.30pm, I’m toast. I want this hour of me-time. I need it. I struggle.

But snuggling with her is so … delicious. There in the dark we lie, nose to nose, our breath and warmth meshing. I stroke her hair. She touches my cheek. We whisper. Gradually, her breathing slows and deepens as she drifts off to the land of nod. It’s an honor to witness this up close. That’s if I don’t fall asleep myself. More often than not, I wake up a few hours later and tiptoe out, foggily, my hair askew … and head straight to my own bed. (Note to parents suffering insomnia: go snuggle with your kid and you’ll soon be cocooned back to sleep.)

Admittedly there are nights when I decline her request. After all, there are new episodes of House of Cards to be binged. But I never regret it when I do snuggle with her. Emails can wait. Discussing the family schedule with my husband can wait. Even Frank Underwood can wait.

She won’t be six forever, she won’t want to snuggle forever. Now are the snuggle with me years and I intend to make the most of them.

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The Split Personality of the Working Mom

Guest post by Andrea Eaton

Duality (noun): an instance of opposition or contrast between two concepts or aspects of something. The state or quality of being two or in two parts. The term itself–”working mother”–denotes dualism.

The woman with a career plus the woman who mothers. The woman who shows up to the office looking (relatively) professionally polished plus the woman who, minutes earlier, had a breakdown at daycare or desperately dabbed spit-up off her shirt.

If you are living or have lived this, you know exactly how Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde or Superman/Clark Kent can feel. But you know that each persona is one you grip to, a precious part of you. Equally critical and non-negotiable.

You also know that the job of “mother” is the most stressful and seriously exhausting one there is. Angelic as your babies may be while you’re imagining them from the safety of your cubicle, let’s be honest: a few hours earlier there was at least a tiny part of you counting down until that moment you’re commuting … alone. This is not because you don’t love your kids. It’s because you do. You love them so very much, nothing is more important to you than how you care for and shape them. Their lives are literally depending on it. It’s a heavy load that you feel all the time but especially when you’re with them.

Sometimes I giggle to myself about how the “working” in “working mom” is the part that most implies duty yet feels most like a vacation. A respite from that all-consuming responsibility of rearing. Arms empty. Minds free to muse. Quiet.

Plus, we need to check in with the people we were B.C. (Before Children). A ritual of mine is to do this with the music–my music–cranked as I cruise to the office. We do it in meetings when we offer up our brilliance (which does actually extend beyond remembering to pack everyone’s hats, mittens and snacks). We do it in the hallway or kitchen when we compliment a fellow mom’s shoes. We do it when we tap creativity to help a client (which is similar to concocting an acceptable dinner out of only what’s in your fridge but different).

Schizophrenic as it may feel on our worst days–when we fantasize about how a singular focus would slash stress–”working mom” is a title we don with pride. It’s not easy. It’s a life smeared with spit-up, peppered with forgotten snow pants, injected with bits of independence and intellectualism … and riddled with rewards. “Carves some calmness out of what is mostly lovely chaos” is just part of the job description.

Andrea Eaton is a mother of two boys, 4 and 6 months. She has built a career in sales and marketing in the software industry.  Her “spare time” these days is spent playing with her boys, in class to become a certified yoga teacher and fantasizing about an alternate reality where she enjoys fame and fortune as a fiction writer.

andrea eaton

The Grand Illusion: Mogul, Mom & Maid

A real conversation from early December:

Husband: “Honey, when will our Christmas cards arrive?”

Me: “I’m sorry, I haven’t even ordered them yet.”

Husband: “What? How come? We’re already receiving loads of cards and should be sending ours out now too.”

Me <insert snark> : “Oh, I didn’t realize. I’ve been lying here on the couch watching reruns of Desperate Housewife and filing my nails.”

Husband: “I know you are busy, I get it. But I’m surprised the cards aren’t done because you always seem like you have everything under control.”

BOOM. The moment of truth. It always seems like I have everything under control. Hahaha!

The reality is: I don’t. It’s all a thin veil or, rather, a grand illusion. Scratch the surface and there’s a hot mess of confused priorities, a healthy dose of anxiety, a fair amount of disorder, random spots of remarkable focus and OCD, a pinch here and there of laissez-faire and, more often than not, a wing and a prayer, a shrug and a nervous giggle.

Or, as a friend who is also trying to figure out this working Mom thing calls it: the sliding scale of incompetency.

Reality #2. Also back in early December, Liz O’Donnell, author of the new book Mogul, Mom & Maid: The Balancing Act of the Modern Woman” asked me to contribute to a blog carnival with other working Moms, to share our tips and perspectives about our balancing acts. Irony: it was one of those weeks when all around me, life was exploding and there was no time to blog for me, let alone anyone else, let alone blogging about my balancing act! So, Liz, here’s my post, just a few weeks late …..

So, I ask myself, what of this grand illusion? Does it help or harm me? One the one hand, apparently I project this image of a confident working Mom, managing all that comes with it, with a smile on my face. This is good, surely? Heck, I even fool myself most of the time. I achieve this illusion, like so many other women, thanks to my ability to prioritize, multi-task and to turn on a dime when it’s really needed. It’s also thanks to several handy tools that help save some precious time and the wonderful invention that is Waterproof Post-it Notes which, quite literally, ensure the contents of my brain don’t disappear down the shower drain. (Buy them now …. hurry!)

On the flip-side, existing in this mode is a scary place. At any given point, there’s a terrifyingly strong chance that I will screw something up big time. The fragile card tower that I hold together all day and night is precarious. One missed deadline, one forgotten item at the grocery store, one overlooked play date invitation – not to mention the fun and games of hormones – and it can all come toppling down. The energy involved in keeping the cards propped up and balanced is exhausting.

So this is my balancing act. With the emphasis on the word ‘act’. But would I exchange it for not being a working Mom? Nope! This is my bed and I chose to lie in it.

Oh, and back to those Christmas cards. Yes I did get around to ordering them but so late that they ended up arriving on Christmas Eve. Have I had the chance to mail any out? No. Will I? The likelihood is probably not. Sorry folks. Because here’s reality #3 which, thanks to Dr. Seuss, I use day-in and day-out as a filter for the choices I make when prioritizing the 23697,2466,00000 things on this working Mom’s to-do list:

Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind!

Summer Swan Song & Back to School Angst

Well, that went fast! Here we are, just three days of summer camp left and back to school in a week’s time. It’s a time to pause and marvel at summer’s imprint on my kids – before I, true to form, start stressing about the imminent change to our schedules, logistics and my inevitable working Mom guilt.

Summer has a habit of showering my kids with one heck of a growth spurt: both mentally and physically. Mentally, they become more self-assured, strutting off to camp every day, confident in their character, willing to learn, practice and hone new skills, navigate complex social situations, make new friends – both peers and counselors.

Summer mostly leaves her mark on their bodies. Long days of constant motion and outdoor action convert their little bodies into long, lean, muscular, bronzed creatures. They grew at least two feet taller each summer – I’m not kidding. The sun bleaches the soft down on their foreheads and rains golden streaks into their hair. Their bums are shocking white in contrast with the rest of the lanky, ripped bodies! Summer renders them ever more beautiful.

Best of all, they return home from camp each night filthy, hungry and tired. They eat their body weight in dinner, chug several pints of milk, shower off the day’s dust, grime, sun screen and bug spray, and fall, clean and exhausted, into their beds and into deep, sweet dreams.

This evening, we talked about what they’d miss most about camp. Their friends and swimming every day were their answers. Then we talked about what they were looking forward about going back to school. Their friends and learning new things, they responded.

It amazes me how seamlessly and confidently they slide from one season to the next, without angst, without regret, with anticipation.

And so we go back to school. However, for me as a working Mom, the transition isn’t quite as carefree as the kids.

Back to school, for me, brings a change of schedule with school starting an hour later, meaning I get to the office later, compressing my already busy work day. It brings regret that I don’t have the time in my schedule to walk my kids to school. It foists guilt that I can’t be as present in the classroom as maybe I could or should be. lt slams me with frustration that I’m not able to pick them up before 6pm every day, meaning our evenings together are all-too-short.

Surely, they deserve more of me?

This is a state-of-mind and heart that I face at this time of year every year. I struggle with it. And then accept it, for my choice to work is my choice. And, luckily for me, my kids weather this time of year  better than I do – so I guess I must be doing something right.

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