Archive for April, 2008

Moms Who Write

Monday, April 28th, 2008

I ran a panel this weekend at the Grub Street writer’s conference in Boston called, Moms Who Write. It was fun looking out over the audience and seeing all these women — most with little kids at home, and two who were pregnant — and watching their rapt faces. They soaked up all the information, eager to hear how to balance a life too short on time and too full of passions.

I felt pretty darn old among that group of bright-eyed women. Old in the sense of experienced. I’ve been about as low as low can get in terms of parenting. I have scraped poop off the walls. I have deloused my daughter (this just last week, by the way, in between the five interviews and another TV shoot!). I have cried in frustration more times that I would care to admit. I have raced across the desert with a child with 103 degree fever certain that he would die in my arms (I had no idea that fever this high is not a biggie in infants…!). At this point, what haven’t I experienced with my three kids?

It felt great to give hope to these women. To say: yes, you can do it if you want to! You can carve out a life for yourself and still be a great mom. You will sometimes want to pull your hair out, but who doesn’t? Life is by no means perfect, but it’s our responsibility to make it as good as it can be, not only for our families, but for US too.

Food for Thought

Friday, April 25th, 2008

When life throws something unexpected in a mother’s path, it’s amazing how they react.

I was really thrown for a loop this week when an unexpected crisis hit home.

  1. At first, I was so stunned I didn’t even know how I would get through it… I felt it was my burden to bear and it seemed waaaaay too heavy for me to handle.
  2. Then I was sad. I cried. I was mourning for the dream I had for my children that would not come true. I worried about the future.
  3. I called my husband (who was away on business) and was thankful that I was not alone.
  4. Then, I got angry. Why was this happening to her? To us? To me?
  5. The truth is, I also felt guilty. Why? Because I was mad about how much time this would take away from my life– time when I could be doing something I liked instead of putting out fires.
  6. Soon I got into pitbull mode: I started gathering information. I fired off letters. I went online. I called my friends.
  7. Hmmm … I started to feel better. There were options. They weren’t all bad.
  8. I talked to friends some more.
  9. Finally, just a few days after feeling devastated, I started to actually feel hopeful. I realized, once again, that life as a mother is unpredictable and that we are much, much stronger than we think.

So my point is really that mothers deal with difficulties and disappointments all the time. They want what’s best for their kids. It’s normal for us to feel confused, overwhelmed, even a bit angry about how much life saps our energy.

And then, we get it together–we rally! We work toward finding solutions and we take a step forward.

Little by little, we try to fix what is broken. And if we can’t fix it, we learn to live with it the best we can.

The See-Saw of Motherhood

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

Yesterday was a very difficult day. I got some bad news about one of my children, and I sat in the office of her school and cried like a ten year old.

I couldn’t help thinking about the irony of publishing this book for moms — about how important it is for us to take our own needs seriously — and then be faced with a crisis that will require years and years of research and advocacy for my littlest. We all face hurdles, some big and some small, in this journey through parenthood. So what do the bigger hurdles teach us?

When our children struggle, they need our attention and our energy more than ever. Where do we find the time and will to put in all this “extra” work when our days are already absolutley crammed full?

How do we do it? It’s not magic: we just do it. We make it happen. We fit it in. Something else gives, but we make it work. And of course, this is where it REALLY helps if — as individuals, as women not moms – we feel strong. I know that the incredible happiness I get from my work and my art, and the small time-outs I take for myself as often as I can, will help me face this challenge with positivity and energy.

Serenity, Clarity and Insight

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

Today I went back to yoga for the first time in a year. This after making a New Year’s resolution to go at least once a week. Such is the life of a mom who works.

The funny thing is, I usually feel guilty about not going to yoga. But after I made that resolution, I actually felt good: I was feeling satisfaction just from having the intention to go. I would think about yoga, how great and calm it makes me feel, and a sense of peace would descend on me.

So today I turned up and the teacher, Tal , grinned and said, “Katrin! Good to see you again!”

I felt as though I’d come home after a long absence. Then, at the end of the session, he said, “I hope you have all found some space here today. Because it is space that gives us serenity, clarity and insight.”

I thought, wow. I had entered that room, rushed, crowded by thoughts, people, e-mails, to-do’s, and I left with the gift of space around me.

(Now I wish I could find a way to get to yoga more than once a year…)

More on Men

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

For me, here’s the million dollar question: Can we expect our husbands/ partners to understand where we’re coming from–as mothers who want to be everything to everyone–when their own issues are so deep and legitimate?

There’s this divide because the discussion is always framed in the essential question, WHO IS HARDER OFF? Do I have a harder job or do you?

We heard a lot about this in our focus groups! And my husband and I are experts on this very conversation: we’ve had it about four million times in the 18 years we’ve been married.

What skeptical men don’t realize is that, most of the time, mothers aren’t actually saying that we have it hard and fathers have it easy. Most of the 500+ mothers we talked to were amazingly grateful to their husbands for all the work they do in the house and out.

BUT

What do we do to make others understand how we’re feeling? We talk in extremes. At home, we’re desperate to be heard and understood! And when we feel ignored or under-appreciated, resentment builds.

That’s when we stop being real partners with our mates, and start being adversaries.

Our book takes a different tack. We say, okay, here’s a problem modern mothers struggle with… now WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?

Men

Monday, April 14th, 2008

Sometimes when I talk with men about Mothers Need Time-Outs, Too, they get this glazed look in their eyes that tells me they’re trying very, very hard to bite their tongues, but what they’d really like to do is tell me where to stuff my theories.

Every now and then one of them will venture to say, “Oh, really? You guys need time outs, huh?”

This is an accusation. The tone is incredulous. The words hold all sorts of added, hidden meanings, such as are you kidding me?

Of course, I totally understand where they’re coming from.  They’re tired of hearing their wives complain about having to do so much of the housework, having no time to themselves, being under appreciated, being bored, having headaches, working too hard, having their every dream compromised… bla, bla, bla, bla. This complaining falls on deaf ears, because they just don’t get it. I’m not really sure they’ll ever get it.

I’m not even sure we have a right to expect them to get it. Or do we?

More on this tomorrow…

Things I Learned Today

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008
  • The color “coral” in a store looks neon orange in a TV studio.
  • When my hair looks reasonably sleek from the front, from the side angle it looks like an animal made a nest on my head. A big yellow animal.
  • I am thinner now than I have been in a while, yet I still managed to look pregnant on TV. Hmmm.
  • Nodding eagerly makes you look a little like you have Alzheimers.
  • LEAN BACK ON YOUR CHAIR when on TV or you will look hunchbacked.
  • No one is more self critical than a German, no one.

No, seriously, we did our first TV news segment today and apart from a few style gaffes (we’re learning, OK?) we did pretty damn well! And get this: it was FUN.

Television Here We COME!!!!!!!

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

It would be wrong to say that we haven’t dreamed of being on TV and talking about this book with someone who doesn’t have spit up on their shoulders.

It would be a lie to claim we don’t care about our hair or what we look like, or whether you’ll be able to see the rolls at our waists (which we have all been working on, my GOODNESS!) .

It would be a SHAM, a total SHAM, to say we are feeling 100% ballsy and relaxed. Maybe 70%. At this point, that feels good enough!

I was on TV once before when I was interning out in California in the good old days when I thought I wanted to be a TV news reporter. That dream lasted about five minutes until I realized exactly what it would entail: having to claw my way up the totem pole, one fake nail at a time. Turned out that wasn’t for me. Not the clawing part, and not the fake nail part.

Oh — tomorrow, on TV? That’s me with the broken finger nails.

So we’re going to be on local TV tomorrow– a trial run of sorts, our first foray into the madness of a four-minute segment. What we’re most worried about is SHUTTING UP. We are so full of beans that we have what is commonly known as verbal diarrhea. I bet our friends can’t stand to be with us anymore, though they’re MUCH too nice to admit it…

Ok, for the interview, then, this is the game plan:

Buy.

Our.

Book.

It’s.

Really.

Great!

Launch and Lift Off!

Monday, April 7th, 2008

We’ve now had our official “launch” and we’re all set to blast through space and aim for the moon!

This Saturday we held our book launch party. There were about 150 people celebrating with us, all smiles and full of great energy. We had some killer music (including my favorite, Brazilian Girls), lots of candles, strong drinks (of which I partook liberally) and of course, beer and tasty tidbits to munch on.

It was the first time in many, many, many months that Susan, Anne and I took a break from working on the book to celebrate our achievements. It felt wonderful. We are so busy so much of the time, it is a treat to stop and say, wow. Just: wow, here we are!

This party marked the end of one long phase of this project and the beginning of another. Now we are busy with marketing, and we’re learning new things every day. That’s what keeps you stoked… learning and growing.

Radio, TV and print: we’ve already dipped our un-manicured winter feet in all of them, with more to come. The book has had a fantastic reception so far, with lots of media people interested in hearing our story. It’s such a blast to talk about the book. Get us started and we can’t stop. We should open the Ministry of Guilt-free Mothering... we are on a mission. We honestly feel that this book could help so many stressed-out moms out there–without talking down to them, wagging fingers, or giving them ten thousand more things to do. We want moms to feel empowered and in control. We want to make a difference to people.

But a huge part of the evening was about thanking others. Our families for putting up with us talking incessantly, year after year, about this project. Our friends for helping us with advice, contacts, encouragement. Our colleagues for believing in us and helping make this a reality.

The three of us stumbled out of there late, feet killing us, and lurked around the parking lot saying goodbye. Now that’s off our to-do list. Next week, we launch right back into the next phase: local television; Martha Stewart Radio in New York; a newspaper article, our first book signing; and the beat goes on.

Thanks to all of you for joining us on the journey, and being cheerleaders all the way! We could not have done it without you.

The Writer’s Life

Thursday, April 3rd, 2008

There is nothing better in the world than being a writer. It is challenging, creative, intense and fun. When I’m in the throes of work I love, I am so deep in the zone there is nothing else in the world that I want to do (except kiss Svenja who is just irresistable).

But sometimes, the writer’s life makes me feel blue. Why? Because we put so many hours into our work, and so many of those words fall by the wayside. The hours and hours and hours of intensity feel great when you’re in them, and then not so great when they go nowhere.

See, that’s the thing about writing: it takes a lot of going nowhere to get somewhere!

I see a strong parallel to mothering. It’s many hours of work, with a huge upside, but sometimes it just feels like you’re throwing yourself heart and soul into something and you can’t count on the outcome you want. It’s hard to give so much energy to something when the results aren’t guaranteed.

That’s why enjoying the moment is so key. If you can enjoy the process — the sitting at the keyboard, the chatting with your child — then every moment has value in it… and it’s not just about the end result.