Archive for September, 2008

When Our World Implodes

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

If I have to hear one more time why my husband Kevin is so happy to have an “anarchy closet,” I will go nuts. But did you see the front page of the papers today?

Our anarchy closet contains enough food and water to keep us alive for a week. It’s got batteries, flashlights, expired medicine–whatever Kevin could think of that we might need in case of extreme emergency. Only thing is, we won’t have all those delicious decade-old goodies for long because the whole neighborhood knows about our survival closet. So when the financial markets tank and martial law has not yet been imposed (yes, this was the conversation I just had with hubbie), we’ll be up sh*t creek just like everyone else.

So where do we go, as mothers with kids to take care of in the short term and futures to think of (for us AND for them) in the long term? Do you worry about the present and the future even more now that you have a family to protect and nourish?

I know when you’re the breadwinner for the family, every fluctuation in the economy spells potential disaster or delirium. It’s a massive responsibility to run the big old ship of kids and mortgage, food and travel. How can we break free of this cycle of worry when times are so scary?

This is when it really helps to have a religion. To feel someone out there knows what they’re doing and has a reason for it that may be unclear to you but that exists nonetheless.

If, like me, you are sadly a-religious, then yoga does it. A good movie works too, albeit temporarily. Sometimes, laughing with the kids does it, or immersing myself in work I love.

I feel lucky that I have such a one-track mind. The downside of being hyper-focused and finding multi-tasking to be such a challenge is that I can chose to focus on one thing — something OTHER than the fact that the world as we know it is imploding around us — and I can be reasonably happy.

So it’s worth seeing your deficiencies as benefits. I’m unable to contemplate another Stock Market crash because I’m way too focused on something trivial. Aren’t I lucky?

Babies and Bigshots

Monday, September 15th, 2008

I came across this post on Sarah Palin today and read it eagerly. I am still trying to figure out my conflicted emotions about a woman with such very young children taking on so very much in her life.

Women who work outside the home do not parent full-time–that’s their choice and one that is often good for both mother and family. I have been working full time for years, and it’s what makes me happy (and a much better mother). Contrary to what many pundits argue, I don’t buy that it’s always ideal to have a full-time parent at home… I believe it depends on the individual family.

BUT… this is a valid argument:

“It (parenting) is a JOB. And it is unfair to women to speak of it as if it were not a job. When we speak of being a parent as if it were something we are and not something we DO, we do a disservice to all parents.”

The core of what is being discussed here is the level of self sacrifice a woman can be expected to give her “boss” (in Palin’s case, the Unites States itself), while also fulfilling her elemental role as a nurturer for her infant.

Again, my conclusion is the same: it’s each to her own. I just hope that as we continue to grow and learn from these discussions, women end up feeling freer to make their own decisions, without all the  guilt and second-guessing. After all, our husbands have stepped up to the plate big time (have you seen Mad Men recently?!), and although they’re not perfect, neither are we. Maybe in the future we’ll find a way to have them take over the breastfeeding…

Each to Her Own

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

I’ve been talking non stop about Palin with friends and on the internet.

Many mothers insist that she does not make them feel in any way inadequate, they just hate her politics. Or, if they love her politics, they think it’s cool that she can be a role model to other women.

I’m just not sure about the role model part.

In the book, The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Undermines All Women,  Meredith Michaels says, “The new momism both draws from and repudiates feminism.” So true!

I believe in a woman’s right to make choices in her own life, and to do what’s best for herself and her family. Palin obviously has her act together, and doesn’t seem to struggle with the need for downtime or calm (but who knows…).  So her choices are right for her. She can have five kids and manage a really major job. That’s not for everyone.

So I think having young girls grow up and seeing a woman like Palin as the gold standard is not really the all that evolved or positive. If a woman decides to have just a couple of kids and stay home, does that then make her inferior, unable to live up to her potential? I’m just not sure every woman’s goal needs to be having a truckload of kids AND taking on the world of business or politics.

For the women who are suited to that lifestyle — and there are many — well, that’s truly admirable. But I say let’s remember there’s no one standard, no perfect role model for modern mothers.

It’s each to her own. Let’s revel in whatever choices we make, and not be led astray by the belief that to be “successful” we have to do it all.

Paling in the face of Palin

Sunday, September 7th, 2008

I’ve been thinking about Sarah Palin all week. Of course; what mom in America hasn’t been searching their souls?

I was dismayed by my initial reaction which was, hey, that woman has a four month old  and FOUR other kids. Can she really give herself 24/7 to the job of Vice President? Who is taking care of her FIVE children?

My crusty old instinct as a mom was rearing its ugly head and I was shocked. I mean, I think mothers have a right to work! I am a liberated working mom myself!

But…. I guess when push comes to shove, I want to know who does what in the Palin household so I can feel comfortable with the idea of mommy not being available for a sick infant, for example. My kids were sick constantly when they were little. Who in Palin’s home deals with the 2:30 a.m. tylenol-dose, the 3:45 a. m. hot-steam shower treatment and the 7 a.m. call-in-sick-to-work drama?

Just tell me Dad does it, or a fantastic grandma/ aunt or someone who loves that child and those children as much as Palin does, then I feel OK.

After so much musing about my own surprisingly old-fashioned gut reaction, I decided that most mothers, me included, probably feel kind of threatened by Palin.

Why? Because we look at her and go pale. We see the uber-working-mom, the possible future VICE PRESIDENT, for God’s sake. She represents the potential that we are not able to live up to. Our standards are so high, and all we see in her is where we have failed. She represents what we all could be (should be–we ask ourselves?) if we were driven, ambitious, Type A, together, smart… bla, bla, bla, you get my drift.

We judge ourselves harshly in the light of everything she seems to achieve in any given day. We see her with her trim figure and pretty made-up face and think, damn, how come I can’t get the laundry done AND get to work on time? How come I wither at the idea of being on the PTA and meeting all my deadlines and shopping for food and taking the kids to their appointments and finding a new babysitter and researching camps and, and, and, and…

Are we jealous? Are we insecure? Why do modern moms feel we have to judge other mothers’ lives so harshly?

Because of how it makes us feel about how we run our own lives. Many of us have lost a sense of confidence about how WE want to do things, and spend too much time worrying about how we match up in comparison to others.

How do we solve this? To start, we have to:

  • make peace with our own choices
  • understand what we are good at…
  • … and what we don’t do so well
  • accept our inadequacies (we can’t say it often enough: no one is perfect!)
  • make the most of our strengths
  • judge how well we are doing by how happy our own family is, not by how others perceive us
  • give ourselves credit for how hard we try
  • quit judging ourselves or others so harshly
  • know ourselves well enough to be able to set our own, authentic (achievable) goals
  • live in the moment, and enjoy the small pleasures of our everyday lives

School Bus Blues

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

I am happy about back-to-school. Really. Kinda.

This time of year, we are all yearning to get back on a schedule, though we’ve enjoyed the long, late evenings and the lack of homework. Since I work at home so much, I look forward to the quiet in the house, where the only sound that I can hear is the ticking of the clock, or NPR in the background.

But today I have some serious school bus blues. My littlest, Svenja, had to leave her beloved school and move to another one because she has some special needs. I took her older sister to the old school and dropped her off, and then took Svenja to her new bus stop. I felt antsy and sad.

Svenja was fine. She was hiding her nerves well, and was focusing on the excitement of the bus. When she climbed on, she didn’t look back at me. She’ll be OK. It’s me I’m worried about!

Mothers tend to be more worried about the future and sentimental about the past and it doesn’t do us any good. We could learn from our kids–they really do live in the moment. The energy and optimism that comes from being present in the now rather than stuck, mentally, somewhere else is a real gift. I am going to work on that today.

Spinning Heads

Monday, September 1st, 2008

Sometimes I feel like that strange creature on Ghostbusters whose head spins around manically, eyes popping out like gooped-up marbles. I don’t like the feeling too much. My brain goes on strike. In fact, I start:

  1. having trouble making decisions
  2. REALLY losing things, as opposed to sort of losing things — this means I have no recollection whatsoever of that paper I had in my hands two seconds ago
  3. being bitchy and saying sh*t a lot more than I usually do
  4. feeling resentful
  5. feeling fat (what’s the connection? I don’t know, but such is life)
  6. being stymied about what on earth to tackle next
  7. re-writing my to-do list over and over again, in smaller writing, so I can make it at least look shorter

Then, I stop dead in my tracks. I decide, to hell with this, I’ve had it!

Usually, I have to just let everything drop and face the consequences the next day. It’s as if I’m on strike — I don’t really decide to do go on strike, it just happens.

I’m not quite at that point yet. I still have some crazed whirling to do, but I can see it looming, that breaking point when my whole body is screaming at me: IT CAN WAIT TILL TOMORROW!

I am taking some of my own medicine. It’s time to say enough is enough, I’m beat.