Not Bad Mom, just Trying My Best Mom

standard August 10, 2016 Leave a response

As it so often happens, I read, heard, or saw a number of things this week that have collided in my head in one big messy pile that took some time with a pen in hand to sort out.

The first was the movie Bad Moms, which I heartily recommend. I went in thinking that I’d get a few good laughs and a fun afternoon out with some girlfriends. I came out with my head spinning with a mix of killer one liners and soul stirring feelings.

You see, without giving away any huge plot twists, the whole movie is about that endless struggles that moms face, dealing with societal pressure to be the “perfect” mom all while desperately trying to hold on to who we really are.

Bad Moms

Come now, you know all about struggling to be the perfect mom. But how about we admit that, between the picture perfect parenting displayed on Pinterest and the endless Fakebooking that everyone is guilty of to some extent, the perfect parenting bar is set impossibly high.

The worst part is that we’re somehow tricked into feeling like we can’t ever stop trying to achieve perfection, that the day we rest on our laurels even for a minute everything will be stripped from us.

The race to perfection starts as soon as you first discover you’re expecting and the “shoulds” start pouring in. Except they’re not couched as “shoulds” they’re couched as “if you love your baby you wills.” Which is like a million times worse.

If you love your baby you’ll take these horse pill vitamins. 

If you love your baby you’ll stop eating sushi, drinking coffee, taking hot showers, sleeping on your back or on your stomach.

If you love your baby you’ll spend a gajillion dollars on this crib, this stroller, this booster seat, this electrical outlet cover. 

If you love your baby you’ll quit your job/keep your job; switch to all organic; stop eating dairy; nurse until he’s 15; only dress her in sustainably grown organic cotton. 

The “suggestions” never end.

And of course we love our babies, so of course we want to do everything that is suggested. Because what do we know? We were just handed a squalling bundle and these “helpful suggestions” are the only damn manual that exists. (Don’t even get me started on the What to Expect series. Just don’t.)

The thing is, the suggestions don’t EVER end. Your kid just gets bigger and the stakes, so it seems, just get higher.

You go from buying bottles that perfectly simulate a mother’s breast to one day finding yourself pulling up at school, dropping your perfectly dressed kid off, hoping no one notices that their carefully homemade lunch isn’t 100% organic, or that you used the cheap detergent on their clothes.

Or, if you’re like me, you gave up the pretense way back when they were tiny and you realized that you simply couldn’t keep up and stay sane, so you just drop your Target clad kids off at school with their processed lunch and try not to judge yourself as harshly as you assume others are doing.

You’d think that the pressure lessens a bit when the school years start, that you have a little more time to to process everything and make your own decisions, but those are the years when you are simply expected to do more. Volunteer. Work. Exercise. Homework. After-school activities.

It. Never. Ends.

So, by now, for almost a decade, your entire life has been about doing everything “right” according to a code that has been created by a nebulous collective. You have spent countless days watching what everyone around you is doing to make sure you’re meeting this code’s standards.

So when you start freaking out about turning 40 and everyone around you says “The 40’s are amazing, that’s when you stop caring what others think!” your brain literally stutters to a stop.

A childhood of attempting to meet parental expectations. 

A teenagehood of attempting to meet peer expectations. 

A young adulthood of trying to meet first boss expectations. 

A young parenthood of trying to meet societal expectations.

And now we get to be ourselves?

How, pray tell, are we supposed to know who that is?

I’ve been grappling with that all summer long.

Then, yesterday, while I was walking the dog, I was listening to the Beautiful Writers Podcast and heard I either Glennon Doyle Melton or Martha Beck (can’t remember which, sorry) saying something along the lines of

“Women define themselves by the people they love — wife, mother, friend, sister, daughter — which is why we’re always terrified, because at any moment the very things that define us can be torn away from us, leaving us stripped of our identities.”

So, yeah, there’s that too.

So, in short, we define our identities by the people we love and determine our actions by what we assume people think we should be doing.

No wonder women are always stressed.

We need to stop. Like today. Not embrace the Bad Mom movement, just the Real Mom Doing Her Damn Best to Be Herself While Caring for Her Family movement. Because we’re more than bento box lunches shaped to look like Spongebob Squarepants or whatever else we’ve decided our kids can’t live without.

So here’s to remembering that we are people outside of the people we love, and that the people we love love us for who we are, not for what we do.  Because we’re freaking awesome just the way we are.

Cheers

I’m instituting the 40 After 40 list

standard June 3, 2016 5 responses

I am not the only one of my friends who happens to be turning 40 this summer. I am not the only one who appears to be struggling with this, and struggling to find the reason they’re struggling with it. Everyone is approaching the issue differently, but internally, I think we’re all freaking out a tad.

The funny thing is, I think the reason we’re not sure why we’re freaking out is because the panic around turning 40 seems to be fabricated by the culture around us. It’s all about the concept of being “over the hill” after 40, or the “40 before 40” list pressure, as if there’s no time to try something new or experience something different once you’re out of your 30’s.

I was driving the other day to meet a friend for lunch and ruminating on the fact that this year has been so busy that I never found time to create a “40 before 40” list. Had I made one, there’s no way I would have accomplished any of it in the scant amount of downtime my current schedule allows for.

And then I realized how incredibly stupid the concept is.

I mean, why?

WHY 40?

WHY a list of things that MUST be done, tried, accomplished before turning 40?

Is it that after it’ll be too late? New things must be experienced or at the very least attempted before?

What, somehow on July 23rd it’ll be too late for me to go on a hot air balloon ride? Sheer an alpaca? Attempt to cook something exotic I’ve never attempted before?

That seems… ridiculous. No?

But, apparently, that’s what main stream media would like us to believe.

And I’m calling B.S.

First of all, how many people, before 40, have the kind of disposable income it takes to accomplish the sorts of “dreams” people put on their 40 before 40 lists?

Second, I’m sorry, but most people are a tad busy in their 30’s what with kids and careers and all that jazz. Some days it’s a miracle when your socks match, let alone when you attempt to think of something new to try.

So I’m instituting a new type of list. A sort of celebration of 40 and beyond. Of all the living there’s yet to do.

I’m calling it the 40 After 40 list.

Original, right?

It’s going to be full of awesome, BIG things. Things that remind me how amazing it is that I GET to turn 40. That I am alive and kicking. That I have already accomplished great things and GET to enjoy a lifetime of accomplishing MORE.

Now that’s a list I can get behind. What are you putting on yours?

40 After 40 List Image

 

I thought I would be young forever

standard April 18, 2016 1 response

I’ve had a nice big patch of white hair over my right temple since our tumultuous 2011 experiences, but until recently, only a few others would appear here and there, easily ripped out and dismissed as mere annoyances. These days however, new white hairs appear with devastating frequency. And they’re no longer happy to let themselves be contained in an area that can somewhat easily be masked. Oh no. They’re popping up everywhere.

And then there’s this weird thing happening on my chest. As in, when I wake up I have these disgustingly deep wrinkles all down my cleavage. They fade as the day progresses, but man is that a hard thing to see first thing in the morning. It’s like I’m getting old or something.

Or rather, it’s like my body is trying to tell me something.

It’s like it’s trying to hint at the fact that I’m turning 40 in just three months.

4. 0. In. 3. Months.

And how is that even possible?

I thought I was going to be young forever.

Or, rather, I thought I was still young.

Because young is a mindset, right? I’m sure I saw a poster on Pinterest that said something to that effect. And if it’s on Pinterest, it must be true. Right? RIGHT?

And I really thought I was still hip, and cool, and with it. I mean, I have a stripe of bluish green mermaid hair for crying out loud, if that doesn’t scream hip, I don’t know what does.

And then we went to Las Vegas, and spotted a young woman dressed in a show-girl outfit, posing in the street with people delighted to spend a couple dollars to have their picture taken with her. All she was wearing in lieu of a bra were two pretty little flower shaped pasties.

When M pointed her out to me, I gasped.

“Oh, that poor girl’s mother…” I whimpered.

M gave me a look, which made me whimper even louder.

Because cool, young, hip people don’t look at scantily clad girls and wonder if their mom knows what they do for a living.  Ergo, I am clearly not cool, young, or hip.

The next day, while lounging by the pool in my no nonsense tummy control bathing suit from Lands End, I actually googled “how old is middle aged?”

Good news, apparently, it’s not an age, it’s a state of mind.

Bad news, I might be heading that way on a runaway train fueled by un-hip Mom thoughts and tummy control bathing suits.

Of course, ever since then, I’ve been dreaming up tattoos that would prove to the world once and for all that I was still very much hip and cool.

At least, I did that until this morning, when I was in the shower having the kinds of deep thoughts you can only have when not being interrupted by kids, dogs, social media messages, or anything else that constantly interrupt my thoughts during the day.

As I lathered up my hair and wondered if there was some magic shampoo that could make my white hair a little less brittle, I asked myself why I was so terrified at the thought of getting older.

I thought about all of the things I have accomplished in the last ahem – 40 – ahem years.

I have nothing to be ashamed of. I have filled those years well. I have tried and tested lots. I have learned even more. I have been daring and bold. I have lived life fully. And I’m not even close to done living life fully.

I may no longer have a chest that won’t quit, or the kinds of looks that help me get ahead in life. But I have smarts I’ve honed carefully for many years. Hard won experience I can put to good use. And it’s so much more satisfying to know I’m landing jobs because I’m good at what I do, rather than because I look cute in a suit.

Yes, I’m still freaking out about the big birthday. Yes, I’m still googling tattoos. But I think I’m starting to get a grip on the whole thing.  40 is a major benchmark, but it would be more worrisome if I had nothing to show for all those spent years.

I get to spend the next 40 putting into effect what I spent the first 40 learning and practicing. So, maybe it’s time to accept that wisdom and experience have youth beat in all the ways that matter. But, if I’m brutally honest, and why wouldn’t I be at this point, now that you know all about the weird cleavage wrinkles…, I might have to sit with that thought for a while. It might take a long while to start feeling like a truth rather than something I’m trying to trick myself into believing.

 

And then, of course, there’s this…. The brutal reminder that I’m damn lucky to be struggling with these feelings at all.

"Growing old is a privilege denied to many" tattoo

7 Great Reasons You Should Start Journaling Today

standard October 16, 2015 1 response

So, what’s the deal with journaling? Why is everyone talking about it? Why does everyone say it’s something you absolutely must do, like right now?

Well, first of all, relax. The good news is that journaling is possibly the lowest hanging fruit of all the healthy things you could decide to try. You don’t have to learn to sit still and breathe. You don’t have to wear specialty clothing. You don’t even have to eat kale. You just need something to write on and something to write with. That’s it.

Start Journaling Today

There are as many ways and reasons to journal as there are types of journals available for purchase. Some are leather bound and seem very solemn and serious. Others are simple school composition books, less imposing and grandiose, but no less functional.

Journaling is the same. There are no hard and fast rules for how to do it, or even why to do it, but here are a few reasons you should consider trying your hand at putting pen to paper.

1) The little things are all too easy to forget, and so very worth remembering

I have almost zero recollection of my youngest daughter’s first year. She hardly ever slept and I was working full time. It’s amazing to me that I survived that year, but not all that surprising that I remember nothing beyond the bone deep exhaustion that plagued me.

Luckily for me, largely inspired by Anne Lamott’s memoir, Operating Instructions, I did make time to journal every day that year. Some nights I could barely string together more than three sentences. Other nights I was able to wax poetic about some mundane aspect of life as a working mom to two little girls.

So I can’t remember that year, but I can read about it. Cracking open that journal is bitter sweet. It was a hard, hard year, but I love being able to visit my baby and “see” her again.

You might think that yours days are too ordinary to bother recording, but our lives are made up of tiny little things that only seem inconsequential as we’re living them. What might seem routine today might be a treasured memory one day, only you won’t be able to remember it if you don’t write it down.

2) When you journal the trees, you can see the forest.

Writing down the little or not so little details of our lives can help make sense of it all. What seems like noise and chaos sometimes just needs to be set down on paper and looked over at a later time for patterns and logic to emerge.

You might not realize how crucial your work-out routine is to your well-being until you look back at some journal entries and see how differently you think the weeks you can work out from the weeks you can.

You might not spot a quirk in one of your children’s behaviors until you see it written about again and again.

Consider your journal a daily log that helps you keep track of the details of your life, even those you don’t yet know are important.

3) Everyone deserves to hear themselves think

Our lives are so very noisy and busy that sometimes it seems like it takes super human strength to not only have a complete thought, but to have time to ponder that thought and let it lead us where it wants to go.

Journaling is a great way to put these fleeting thoughts somewhere safe where they won’t be pushed out or blown away by more thoughts and more chaos.

And sometimes, you don’t even know what you’re thinking until you sit down and put pen to paper. It’s amazing how clear your mind and your heart can be after just 5 minutes alone with a journal and a pen.

4) It’s a brand new way of processing

Something happens in your brain when you place your pen on the paper and start to write. Things come out you didn’t even realize you were thinking, were feeling, were agonizing over. Little joys pepper the page, surrounded by a myriad of other thoughts and worries. And once it’s all out, you feel lighter, stronger, and sometimes clearer than when you started.

You can think of it as a cheap form of therapy. It definitely helps justify an expensive journal purchasing habit.

5) It’s a safe place just for you

We can’t all stand in the middle of our homes and yell out our frustrations. We can’t hit things, break things, or even have the tantrums we so often deserve.

Journaling is a fabulous, safe, cathartic release valve for the stresses of daily life.

It’s your space, your utterly 100% private, no one will ever, ever read it, secret place to say anything and feel everything. And then, when the words are out, you can go back to being the sane, responsible person everyone expects you to be.

6) Processing to the nth degree

You know how sometimes you come home from an event and you just know there’s a lesson to be learned from being there, but life rears up and clouds everything up, keeping the wisdom just out of your grasp?

Well, journaling is the answer.

Sit down, write about what you experienced, re-live it. And presto, there’s your learning moment, just waiting to be plucked off the page.

7) Ask and you shall receive.

There’s a lot of truth to the notion that sometimes just putting something out to the universe means that you’ll get back exactly what you needed.

Have a question weighing on your mind? Ask your journal the question and then sleep on it. Often we wake up with the answer, or the answer comes to us the next time we write. Facing a doozy of a challenge? Let yourself free-write for 10 minutes and discover that the solution was hiding deep inside the recesses of your brain.

It’s seriously like magic. Magic we can all wield.

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It has been proven that people who journal are healthier, more in touch with their emotions, and more well balanced. The good news is, you don’t have to write well, you just have to write. Still worried about how to get started? The Zen Pencil has the answer. Sign up now and be among the first to know when the service that will start you on your journaling journey launches!

The Zen Pencil - Journaling made easyThe Zen Pencil – Journaling made easy