Possibly paralyzing existentialism.

existentialism definition quoteI think about life all the time. This life. My life. The life I am giving my children. The life they will choose as their own. The life this world will give to them, or sentence them to. The life my husband has chosen to share; the sacrifice inherent in that. The life I am touting (consciously or unconsciously) if anyone looks quickly, clearly, and/or closely.

The life that will inevitably end.

I think about life all the time. I think about global warming when I open a package or remark on unusual weather or sit in traffic. I think about the myriad of ways I am contributing to the problem. I think about the hopelessness I feel at our current political climate—and the many effects it has, and will continue to have, on our environmental climate. I think about generations to come.

I get a pit in my stomach.

It’s the same pit I get when I think about “forever”. What the fuck does that word even mean? That is perhaps the scariest word to me in our English language. When I grew up in the Christian church (Southern Baptist to be exact) “forever”—even in the context of an eternity in paradise—made my skin crawl. Maybe I am of little faith. I cannot picture or fathom or begin to sit with thoughts of eternity.

And commitment. And sameness. And never-ending.

eternity goes on forever

But I think about life a lot. I think about what the point of mine is and how I’m ensuring that and role modeling it, and who I’m connecting with and if the time I’ve spent matters.

I think about death. I watch closely the process of grieving. I deeply admire the people in my life I watched walk through grief and come out the other side (or maybe it’s continue walking despite). I see some changed: wiser, more accepting, in possession of an uninvited understanding about certain truths of this world.

I want that but I don’t want to go there.

It must help me to focus on the outcome. To see the result of the process, even if the event itself (and the inability to avoid it) scares the shit out of me. It’s the other shoe I’ve been waiting to drop my whole life.

malshi puppy dog maltese shitzu small teacupI think about life when I love on our dog. She’s an occasional little shit with a strong streak of Princess, but my love for her is so pure and brings such a sweetness and additional dimension to this life. I think about her life cycle and the assumption that I will be by her side throughout. I don’t expect to bury my babies, but I hope (in a somewhat sick way) to be by Mabel’s side letting her know we love and have deeply loved her until her end.

Almost every time I look at her, I have all these thoughts. I weigh the pain ahead and the joy right now and almost have to decide each instance, each day, if I can/should go in any deeper. Can I care for her more? Can I bond with her further? Can I go further in and still survive an inevitable loss?

I think how stunted this life would be if we shield ourselves from the hurt. If we build walls before the connection and the caring even starts. Many do. Most have (to some degree). It’s like staying at a resort in the wilderness. Comfort. Predictability. Control. But without the adventure. Without the risk. Without the highs and lows of survival. Lacking the payoff and the breathtaking sights, sounds, smells, fears, feelings and unending complexity this life is meant to lay out in front of us in great expanse.

I don’t know if my insight, my thoughtfulness, my persistent wondering helps me at all. I strive not to be chained by it, to acknowledge the fear without embracing it. It either adds meaning and purpose to my life or paralyzes me with existentialism. It all means so much and yet perhaps nothing at all.

And so I share with you. Perhaps you also carry this weight. Perhaps you have walked this path. Perhaps you have cracked the code (do tell). In the meantime, I will just sit here and think. And live. And further explore how those two inexorable actions increase/decrease joy, fulfillment, presence, understanding and/or feelings of purpose.

never ending donuts comic existentialism forever eternity

I actually don’t eat donuts. Perhaps this is why.

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Relationship path(s).

I have this theory I’ve been throwing around in my head and my life. It starts out something along the lines of this: it takes a certain amount of time with a person to get comfortable with them.

I know, mind-blowing, right? I think it probably varies from person to person. Some people (ahem, extroverts!) are either comfortable in a short period of time–perhaps even immediately–or are incredibly good at acting comfortable (and feel free to enlighten me extroverts because ya’ll are experts on you).

I think it takes me about eight hours to get comfortable with someone. It’s an interesting question how often you spend eight hours with someone you don’t know as an adult. I make friends (well, usually “friend” singular) pretty easily in a classroom situation. If I routinely sit with the same person, there is some forced interaction to break the ice, and/or plenty of opportunity for (and appreciation of) snarky comments. Otherwise it’s somewhat rare to spend eight hours with someone. Or it takes awhile. Multiple meetings, or months maybe. I think this is why certain people/types of people have to force themselves to meet others–why structures social situations are so necessary and sorrowfully missing in/for many segments of our society.

Once I am comfortable I get pretty outspoken. In fact I’m pretty sure I begin to share the steady march of observations, thoughts, conclusions, complaints, questions, etc. that are ever-present. Once comfortable, I can talk a lot.

So that’s Phase I of my theory. Inevitably it takes a certain amount of time to get comfortable with someone, and from there the relationship begins and can grow. Each subsequent interaction is another step on a somewhat-shared journey.

The process from here I’m not so clear on, as it takes awhile for these initial interactions to reach full maturation. My guess is there’s a somewhat long period (depending on temperament and stage/fullness of life) of introduction to the many different parts and pieces of all people. If you like or get along someone enough to continue through this phase, a friendship has formed. Phase II, if you will.

I think there may only be a handful of relationships in one’s life that survive the next phase. Phase III is when your dear ones faults come to the surface. And in this period they are all you can see. Maybe one party puts distance between the other (I do not know if these stages happen simultaneously or if the rhythm varies by person). Maybe you find yourself nitpicking every fault of the other. Maybe you can’t even remember why you are friends, lovers, etc.

Phase IV is the fork in the road. Do you find/develop/choose love with this person? Do you make it over the hump and see their good, their unique, their potential, their hurt and caring and kindness? Can you carry this with their weaknesses, their imperfections, their trauma, their shame, their triggers and/or baggage? Do you accept all of them? If you do, I think that is love–true, wordly love that keeps us sane and human and together and kindhearted and honest and striving. Let’s call that Option A.

But sometimes you can’t. Or you aren’t forced to. Or the cost is too high or the out is too tempting. I’d bet that some people are better at finding the good, seeing the positive, loving through–and/or despite–the challenge. Some are probably worse at it. Maybe it’s something innate. Maybe it’s a life harder than life should be.

I think I know what happens to relationships stuck in Option B. I think those are the mean girls (because that shit stops in ones teens right?!) talking/stabbing behind each others’ backs. The spouses that seemingly hate each other. The fakes and the master manipulators. And all the people, in all the varying relationships, spinning their wheels until circumstance forces them to take it/make it/survive it to the next level. I think it’s that.

Thinking about this has me imagining my family; the people you walk through these stages with often before you have any clue that love can be something different than whatever it was you’ve grown up with. I wonder if this is why family of origin (and extended/chosen family acting as if) is so damn important. Without them would one even make it over the hump with anyone? If you can’t tolerate flaws in others, how do you concede to them within yourself? What does this world look like if you don’t?

I have a number of relationships squarely in the third phase. I don’t know what will become of them, but it’s helped me to identify what is going on. It’s not a negative thing–perhaps it’s a necessary stalling point. It’s not entirely uncomfortable either. But it does make you look fondly back on the honeymoon.And appreciate the people who have walked through the darkness with you. If we knew it or not.

I pinned this random quote on Pinterest four weeks ago in the hopes I’d find time to blog on the topic it so brazenly summarizes:

love marriage relationship

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Trapped in my life.

Picture this. It’s Mother’s Day. And I’m sad. Like, really sad.

And kind of mad. But I don’t know why.

I mean, yes, I’m freaking ravenous (slightly long story) so maybe it’s that but it’s not really. That doesn’t build the tears behind my eyes or the scream in my chest. That didn’t create the gray cloud hanging overhead.

What is wrong with me?

I sift through my mind and my heart and the pit of my stomach. Assess, assume, connect, compare, infer. I have no control over my life. I’ve worked it, built it, merged it, made it. One obstacle, anniversary, accomplishment, opportunity at a time. And now here I am living it. And I can’t get out.

I can hardly speed up or slow down.

I can respond. I can cope. I can challenge my perspective. I can live one ah-ha to the next. I can strive and I can push and I can vacillate. I can pull back. I can shift focus. I can plan for the future. I can be more in the present. I can process the past. I can juggle.

But I can’t drop a ball. And I can’t find a minute to take. I obviously can’t stop time. I can’t quiet the voices in my head/heart/soul. I can’t do it all. And I’ll be damned if I throw this one life away trying.

Is this being thirty now? Existential, mid-life crisis shit? Is this finding myself in a place both chaotic and predictable enough to have me standing at the edge of this life/season, looking thoughtfully at the expansive world beyond? Am I looking for more?

Am I looking for less?

Sometimes I do feel trapped in my own life. I’m trapped in my head, trapped in my choices, trapped in my successes (haunted by my failures), trapped in security and predictability and comfort. Trapped in the rat race and unrelentingly polished (worn?) by the stream of society.

It’s like a bad suburban, white girl, housewife, #firstworldproblem, privileged and predictable sob story. I know that. But it’s my story.

On Mother’s Day I had this epiphany that I am trapped in my life.

What followed was a teary conversation with the one who is committed (possibly sentenced) to walk/fly/skip/hop/crawl this life with me. Elaborations on much of what was written above (but the concrete versions: messes, maintenance, money, managing, moving). Followed by McMenamins.

Mother’s Day 2015.

It feels like more than a funny-or-not-so-funny family story. More than an unexpected answer to “How was your Mother’s Day?” It feels like a precursor. I just don’t know to what yet.

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Personal style is a journey (with or without Birkenstocks).

target style 2015 thirty grown up fashion personal style

My mom wore Birks when I was a kid. My aunts did too. It was the only shoe I probably could name and I saw them on many people (think, early 90s) and my mom had them too.

As I grew up I realized this would only happen when something was fantastically made and comfortable, reasonably priced (keeping quality in mind) AND trendy. For my mom to purchase and wear them and me to recognize them. So it was a rare occurance.

Who would have thought I’d grow up to care about clothes and style and fashion? Or, how could I not? Maybe it’s because I notice everything. I take in all available information and I chronicle it and refer to it later for further information or–often–analyzing. Style and appearance say so much.

(Two other things I’d like to say right here are: style also hides so much; the line between inferring and judging is awful hard to discern.)

My personal style is fluid, always. But I’ve come to know a few things about myself (or, “become able to know” because style is heavily influenced by other personal factors: age, income, culture, religion, body shape/size/function, etc.) and that includes a love for: cognac shoes, comfort and quality, items that work multiple seasons and occasions, and some kind of perpetual formal/casual combo. Also, bright nails and color coordination. And fit and flattery. And I’m working really hard to figure out this “invest in classics and signature items (buy back-ups!), but go to Fovever 21 for trends and to test ride”.

I may have just summed up my personal style for the first time since I would have considered myself to have one–and it would entail an answer beyond: “Zumiez” or “Charlotte Russe”.

So anyway, Birkenstocks came back like a year or so ago and I was immediately intrigued. I’ve always noticed people who continued to wear Birks and watched with some semblance of sadness as the women in my life slowly drifted in a different fashion direction. There’s something nostalgic in me about them. Obviously. And they are pretty much totally my personal style. Talked about it even brings out my inner valley girl.

There’s one thing about growing up and into yourself and that’s knowing that you can’t wear everything anymore (actually, very few of us ever could). And that “making it work” with something you love but don’t feel great in just isn’t worth it over the long term. And then there’s the financial investment/misstep piece of it.

Plus, seasons. Seasons and weather are a big part of fashion and often heavily influence style. So when I began thinking Birks late last summer and didn’t really need them and the price was something to consider, I held off.

But the days are growing longer now. And my toes are freshly self-painted as of yesterday. I’m looking ahead at a road trip to Cali next week and happened to be out at Target this morning, my first brush with society since I went home sick from work Thursday. These definitely cute knock-offs were on sale for $20 and I snatched them right up. For all the reasons mentioned thus far.

Also, I’m thirty now and that means sometimes I try a trend on for size (or comfort or appropriateness or frequency of use) and then upgrade to the “real”/better/nicer/etc. thing.

This blog post is dedicated to my dear husband who will likely never understand the multifaceted role clothes and accessories and style and appearance play for me, but also never mentions my credit card bill. He only mildly roles his eyes when I get multiple packages delivered and return the majority of it and was the first person to tell me I might like Stitch Fix.

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Productivity Junkie

Please tell me many of you out there have a constant and at times intrusive need to “do something” with your day. The intensity of this urge has ebbed and flowed through my life thus far. In recent years I have been able to understand and implement the need for rest and recovery. Thus, I’ve discovered the battle of productivity now versus productivity later (please also tell me it is standard that this takes approximately thirty years or two children, or one child and a full-time job, whichever comes first) and the conflicting classification of rest as something productive.

Please tell me that sorta-not-really dichotomy throws others.

productivity junkie quote paul j. meyerSometimes I get the productivity urge on days or during times when I’m prioritizing rest (rest can and should be occasionally synonymous with “de-stress”). When I’ve lifted enough, worked enough, cooked enough, slept enough, mothered and partnered and socialized enough (or cut my losses in one or more of any given category). That window of an hour or the fleetingly rare day of minimal responsibility. It is my chance. To read a book, to watch a trashy TV show, to start a project, to stare at my phone, to numb out, to stretch out, to take a walk, to clean/organize, to cook for leisure, to shop. To write.

Please tell me I’m not the only one that longs for an expanse of that. A vacation of joy and fulfillment and choice and connection. And comfort. And potentially children in places and spaces and doses (but mostly volume) of my choosing.

Sometimes when I want to do something with my day I also want to do a few things with my day. Now, I know I’m not the only one who tends to multitask. And so there’s the writing. The way I can be productive with the resting. When I can stretch my mind and my voice while resting my body. When I can hear from my heart and check in on my soul and be sure that I am still myself, at least in some parts and some spaces.

And afterward it’s not too far off from that post-workout high. Or crossing something you’ve been kinda dreading doing off your list. With something immediate to show for it. And, in my case, share. Because some days nothing comes.

And, like anything else, you get out the time you put in. The more I am able to write, the more I want to, the more confident I become and the more risks I’m willing to take. The bigger my dreams become. Like anything else.

On that note, I’m feeling this little infographic today. If that’s even what this would be called. This very accurately depicts the fluid and rigid, temporary and/or constant–potentially situational–confines within which I am perpetually: living, pushing, experimenting, striving, minimizing and/or ignoring.

It’s no wonder sometimes exhaustion sets in and immune systems fail us and I find myself sitting and resting and being…and writing.

productivity junkie biohack wellness health life balance work goals sleep simplicity intention quote infographic working woman mom motherhood modern day life

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Sunday Night.

I’m not a fan. Because, working mom now. Maybe stay at home moms aren’t fans either. But in my experience there’s some level of relief, of a return to normalcy, at least a chance to tackle the laundry.

Not anymore. But we get by.

And Sunday evenings become next to sacred. Often we are borderline comatose before a family friendly movie with either a “snack dinner” or whatever I’ve made to eat all week (or, more likely, both since our kids eat like two things I cook. Bacon is one of them. Nachos are the other); sometimes any one person could have an oddly timed nap or we are shaking off a social engagement. Occasionally (and unfortunately!) we are still working on chores like laundry or cooking or prepping for our bi-weekly house cleaning. And that’s just because second grade homework is due on Fridays.

Tonight I made a dinner. My littlest girl (4) helped. Her sister and dad tried it, perhaps even liked it. We ate together at the table. We had a happy mix of productive and restorative day. Sprinkled with many conversations that I’m always sure have changed the course of my daughters’ lives or at the very least allowed me to dust of my shoulder and feel like I’m not doing such a bad job at the mom thing.

And after dinner we listened to the Pitch Perfect soundtrack. Ali (7.5) danced with and innocence I can practically see evaporating off of her, an intensity I hope never leaves her, and yet an awareness I recognize and reflexively return Emmy played with playdough and bopped happily and turned on a dime when provoked. She spent all weekend showing her honed differences from her sister. And intriguing me in four all over again. And the dog whined and played and cuddled and slept. And we watched and were. Parents. Building and giving this life to them, that we then began/have to survive and slap together and occasionally muddle through. With those rare moments where time stops and we are okay and this will forever be a part of us.

And our kids are growing up. And will never stop.

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I posted this picture on Facebook and Instagram this weekend. Actually, on Valentine’s Day. I commented on how big my second grader looks, both in general and specifically with her hair pulled back. And then I looked at the picture a bit longer. And I commented: #momwrinkles.

It wasn’t a slight on myself in the least. It was merely an observation…and, yeah, a bit of a loaded one. I have a lot of thoughts about those wrinkles. I have a lot of feelings about this whole getting older thing.  And both come up looking at this photo.

First of all, my kid is huge. And yet, she’s still a kid. She’s the smallest she’ll ever be again and she’s the biggest kid I’ve had. She’ll always be. When I look at her in this picture I see myself, my sisters, her little girl self and her not too far into the future adolescent self. I see a young lady that is sweet and strong and very serious (but still silly). She feels big and wonders wide. She sisters incredibly. She may have a tendency to go from zero to sixty in a flash. She’s every part of me I longed to mother and nearly every piece that I’d venture made me hard to mother.

I see her face changing. I see her permanent teeth and her freckles that grow by the year. I see the budding knowledge behind her eyes. I see my eight and almost a half years of living my life for her. I see all the sacrifice and none of the pain. I see the successes. I carry the happy memories and the lessons learned and the strength added to the people and the relationships and the family. Often, we wear the pride. And our kids know don’t even know that’s part of the being them, being us–the pride we wear for having made it here.

And then I look at me. In some ways I’m at my best. In some ways I’ve begun to show my wear and tear. But not, like in a falling-apart way. More like a worn-in way. Like a pair of leather shoes. Settling in for the long haul. Blurring at the edges for your own benefit (and for some, sanity). Signaling the living. That knowing.

I also see the unknown in my eyes. I am not sure where this kid will take us. But I still see the trust in hers. That she will be taken care of. That her parents still [mostly] know best.

I don’t love the wrinkles. But I don’t mind their meaning. I am grown now. I may not want to be, but to have a girl like this it must mean I am. I am happy with where the years have taken me, or…where I have taken the years. You don’t hit thirty with a second grader without wrinkles and gray to show for it (or if you do/did, I don’t fucking want to know). The sentiments of age and growth–and especially wisdom–are beyond beauty.

But I can still cringe a teeny bit.

Or smile a tad less in photos.

Also my eyebrows are on point, my hair is kind of amazing, and the lipstick polka dot dress combo (with a trench on top?!) cannot be beat. I might need to start wearing that every day.

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That really important thing I didn’t learn in social work school.

This post came to me last night as I was flirting with sleep. The past few months have tortured me in a way I’ve struggled to put my finger on or put words to. I am constantly looking inside myself to figure out why I care so much, why I am holding on so tight, why I feel this so deeply and experience attachment so intensely.

working mom health dinner happy fit trim boundaries limits perfect imageAm I the problem?

Is there something so off in my life that I need this to go smoothly?

Honestly, I’m not 100% sure of my answer to either of the above questions. But I am certain I’ve stumbled upon a life/career truth that is integral to the work I’ve done, am doing, and have seen my peers do.

And no one is talking about it.

No, it’s not work/life balance. It’s not even a modern-day working mom-type thing.

But both of those plays parts.

It’s about investing in the work you do…and inevitably leaving a piece of yourself behind. It’s about walking away. It’s about “changing assignments” and “budget reductions” and hopefully not for many out there: layoffs. It’s even about promotions, lateral transfers, job offers. It goes hand-in-hand with opportunities that one cannot pass up.

How do you love the work, sacrifice for the job, care for the population, enmesh with the co-workers, depend on the predictable…and then move on. How?

In grad school we talked a ton about landing that first job. Because I was in a leadership track we even talked about moving up the ladder. But the focus was always on the next rung, the new workplace, the completely attainable integration. Not on the shift, the detaching, the disconnect, the empty promises, the halfhearted attempts, the fond memories. Likely the relief. The process of a professional good-bye.

I’m lucky to not work directly with clients. So in that regard I have no current comment. I can only hope the client portion of this piece is taught on, trained on, talked upon and about often. And that the affect this has on the professional is trumpeted just as loudly.

I’m currently in the middle of an upcoming career change that has me stopped in my tracks, frozen. Maybe it would be better if I knew which direction the wind was about to blow. Maybe if that was the case I’d know which foot to lead with, which world to invest in. But I don’t. And I’m stuck.

I’m surprised at how it’s affected me. I’ve both disengaged and overcompensated. I’m sitting with incredible ambiguity and intense clarity. I’ve swam through more waves of apathy in the first five weeks of 2015 than the past eight years combined. It’s possible I care so much that I’ve somehow beckoned the winter blues (or: February Fuck Yous), welcomed the faded but still familiar flood of feelings over uncertainty.

(Side note: apathy is a very active feeling. It’s hard fucking work not to care amidst a life you love, blessings you’ve built, chances you’ve taken, and opportunities you face. It’s a daring dress to slip into when you’ve grown yourself up to cherish the moments, herald the present, adore the children, revere the life.)

So I sit here, for the present (yes, that is a Ramona reference). This has to pay off right? I will be stronger for it. I am amidst an opportunity to gaze for a moment deeper into that which makes me…me (and at times definitely not you). And it won’t be long before my direction is clear.

bold opportunity knock

But for this moment, I am half-invested with all that I have to invest. I am standing watch on professional grief. I am building walls and feeling out allies and reassessing enemies. I’ve gone somewhat primal and protective. And I’m crazy interested in every second of it, even as it tears me up (like a paper, or a heart; how funny that sentence can be unclear).

Mostly, I want us to talk about it. I want to explain it to people (mostly without the internet-appropriate vagueness) and how amazing and confusing and exhilarating and deflating it is. I want to study the moment and it’s infinite implications. I want to hold my breath and/or go underground until the kettle boils and I can safely read the leaves in my tea. If you’re good with analogies.

I want to be a good little social worker, public employee, professional “helper” and fully invest. I want to be plan-full and prepared and calm and whole. I want to be centered. I want to look people in the eye and lay my cards on the table (always!). I want to love my work, and spring out of bed Monday morning, and know I’ll miss my co-workers and workflow on a long weekend (though I’ll enjoy it). I’ve had that. That’s the kind of employee, social worker, working mother and woman I want to be.

I want to talk about the times when we can’t do that, can’t get there, can’t access that. And how we move forward then. Where we draw the lines and if there might be some eraser marks as we adjust where those lines fall.

And how we ever move them back again.

I worry a piece of us chips away each time. We’re slowly able to access less of our hope, spirit, excitement, passion, vitality, self. We begin to believe we know better, have seen more, “manage” more efficiently. We disengage gradually…or wildly swing back and forth. We internalize and countertransfer (as they say in grad school). We upgrade walls to forts. Our boundaries evolve to have holes the sizes of large animals. I worry about that.

I think I should go read Trauma Stewardship again. And write more. And quit making excuses not to meditate. And accept.


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When you feel led.

I used to think the above was a religious term. I don’t know if that’s the truth or not, but I know the possible antecedents of such discomfort could be many.

I’ve been led to write lately. Pushed, pulled, cajoled. I’ve rejected it, excused it, ignored it, whispered to it, considered it, distanced myself from it, got too busy for it, felt intimidated by, questioned it, “meant to start” it. And then it began popping out at the seams.

I found myself craving texting and messaging–and a well-formed professional email, talking point, or proposal (not quite crazed enough for a grant). I found myself explaining pieces of stories to handfuls of people in bursts. Daydreaming about a sometime-in-this-life sabbatical for writing [TBD]. Adding blogging to my mental weekend to-do list (and rarely getting to it). Tug, tug, tug.

Sometimes I view my life as a story. It’s an old, bad habit, but it allows for plenty of entertainment. It’s also a slow seduction that at least some of it needs to be written down, captured, stuck on a bright white page…in a cloud.

And then I need to write.

So I know the torture of feeling led. Even led toward something you love. Something that tantalizes and terrifies you. Something that your heart comes back to whenever your mind is quiet. Something that threatens you, in embrace and/or avoidance. Something a leap of faith away, a risk, a sacrifice…perhaps a loss.

I think I get why teenagers and young adults seem so flighty. They can be led. Their roots are shallow (if existent). Their hearts soar free.

You never know where a lead will go. You never know what your mind will say, or the politics at play within your soul. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Courage is about as random as that. So, you never know.

It could be the beginning of a thing…

Or, the accepting sigh of a dead end.

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Thoughts on Both Sides (those Mommy wars)

stay at home mom working mother mothers moms SAHMWhen my first daughter was born, I pretty firmly identified as a stay-at-home mom. It was somewhat lucky I could reproduce my way into an occupation, because I was a full-on twenty-two year old mess before that.
For the first two years of my girl’s life I was with her basically day-in and day-out. You know, as SAHMs do. She began part-time daycare when I started a college program and thus began a “best of both sides” split where three days a week I was a “student mom” and the others I was home with my kid.
That separation stage is odd and exhilarating. Your child forms a social circle that not only doesn’t include you but that you lose the power to facilitate. (spoiler alert: turns out this trends continues and amplifies for those school age years). Other people play paramount roles in your child’s day, in their growth and development. At best is a blessed extension of community. At worst it’s a source of guilt and/or undeserved mommy judgement or scorn.

In the past 2-3 years I have transitioned to full-on working mom status. I stepped in slowly, first as a student, then as an intern, then as a part-time employee. When my Little Lou was born I was home with her the first nine months. Then was six months of pieced together extended family care while I attended school and interned, followed by a brief stint as a local YMCA before she was old enough to join her older sister’s childcare. I wrote a lot in this blog about that period and the constant transitions.
The years have passed and my kiddos have grown (newly four and a second grader) and there are numerous things I’ve noticed are different about being on the “working mom” side of things:

There is no time to kill. Time is of the essence–always. The days are not long and/or unspoken for. Bedtime comes seemingly as soon as we’ve all returned home from our respective places, eaten a bite or two, and spaced out on the couch for a show or two. Non-work time is an artful balance of all the must-dos, with the much needed relaxation and rejuvenation and equally important reconnection with children and family. These priorities are all interconnected and feed into each other as often as they conflict. And the weekdays are basically a dead zone for anything remotely productive. We live weekend to weekend and survive in between.

I have barely half a clue what is going on. Some of this is because I have an amazing partner who does more than his fair share of parenting. More and more though, I think that is a requirement for families with working moms or two working parents. Something has to give and the hope is that’s not mom’s sanity or joy. I realized the other day I can’t figure out which milk brand my kids like and which one they begrudgingly drink or dumped into the sink. I don’t spend enough consistent meals with them to have the ebb and flow of that stick out; I am not facilitating the majority of their daily nutrition; I don’t have the space in my head to really focus on the milk situation from one day to the next. And yet, as a SAHM, I would have inevitably known who ate what after I’d shopped at which store.

Fostering other relationships. This is a big ‘duh’ for any working parent. While you cannot tend to your child, you want a loving, supportive, trusting other adult(s) in your place and you want them to have their own special and fulfilling relationship. Of course you want that, even when that might be hard or (yeah I’m saying it) threatening. As Ali grows, she has a social network that now includes her school friends and their parents. One day a week she goes to a friend’s house after school. Another classmates mom takes her there. I could not pick this person out of a crowd and every time my husband mentions her name I need clarification of who he is talking about. It blows my mind to find myself so disconnected (in some ways) to these little beings I see so much and have raised/am raising so heartily. (To be fair, their dad knows all these people much better and interacts with them often. But this is about me)

Expanding social groups. Forgive me if I am mistaking developmental stages with this SAHM-WM transition. Some if it is probably just my girls getting older. Because all four of us now spend a large part of the day in our separate spaces, we have four social environments to participate in. This expands our community, but also our obligations. The birthday parties are endless and as Tony and I settle into work environments we’ve found that social events can soon follow there as well. As it’s currently the Holiday season I have two work Secret Santa exchanges, one preschool adopt-a-family, one school book exchange, one food drive event and countless familial parties, exchanges and obligations. And, to be honest, there might be other things the kids have that I haven’t even realized yet. It can be overwhelming and sometimes exhausting and yet it is vital to nurture each little ecosystem where one of us spends so many hours each week.

Not harder or easier–just different. As much as things are different, I really enjoy the current set-up. I do better when I have a sense of my own identity and some personal space. This apparently is not a possibility (at least for me) if I’m by my kids’ side each day. And while I almost want to let a small sigh of longing escape while I think of that (being with them all day, every day) I know and have lived through the point where that doesn’t make sense anyway. Unless homeschooling is on the table for your family, children go and they go off to school and it is normal and natural (and I would say needed) for that space to develop. It’s also hard and complex and anything but linear. Kind of like life.

So I know that even my SAHM experiences and fantasies had an end date (if not a change date). As a working mom, I get to be relatively in charge of my destiny 7:30am-5:30pm four days a week. Save my employer. Now I definitely need to always rush home and feel perpetually late, perpetually like I am not pulling enough weight, perpetually as if I have one foot in 4-5 worlds and everyone knows dancing is not my thing.

But I get a break from the kids, something that is often not on the table for SAHMs. I get a chance to pursue my dreams and model that for them. I carry a hope that someday they will understand and appreciate this and forgive me for never baking things for school parties, or going overboard with their homework projects, or remembering their dress-up days. It may come earlier for working moms and their kiddos, but it’s that navigation of separation. It’s not good or bad (or it’s both)–it’s just different.

I always felt so bad for working families. When did they ever see their kids? How could they possibly get anything done? Or stop and relax? How could moms stand missing their kids’ life? But I’m on the flip side now and it actually doesn’t feel like that. Sometimes it feels like some of that but there is not quantifiable scale measuring one lifestyle against the other. Each has it’s perks and drawbacks. And both contain caring parents, growing and loving families, daily struggles and stresses, and people just doing their very best. And, honestly, the extra money helps a lot too.

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