You Can’t Have It All…Enjoli Lied

Hard to believe, but this is not how I spend my days as a stay-at-home mom with nothing but free time. 😉

The other day a friend and fellow “stay-at-home mom” had a moment of frustration and ranted a bit on her Facebook status. Her post listed all the things she does on a daily basis and then noted that someone close to her remarked that she doesn’t really do anything. I read her post and felt complete empathy. Many of my blogs have been tyrades about how frustrating and thankless the job of Mom can be.

Then, today, I came across a Facebook post from a working mom friend of mine. She’s currently in-between jobs for a short period of time, so she was at the park listening to the birds, sipping a latte while her house was being cleaned, and thinking that she would like to be a “house frau,” presumably so she could enjoy more moments like that one. Now, I know my friend meant no disrespect to stay-at-home moms. As long as I’ve known her (over sixteen years), she has worked outside the home full-time while raising two children. I know how long and difficult her days are, and I know how devoted she is and always has been to her children. I can understand how she would be enjoying a brief reprieve between career positions today and thinking that it would be nice not to have to work at all.

Still, I had to reply to her post to remind her that, as a certified “house frau,” I can attest that I can’t afford someone to clean my house because that’s what I agreed to do when I gave up my income to stay home with my boys. I told her that I have to clean my own house, which (let’s face it) sucks and cuts into my time to sit, worry-free, in the park in the morning sipping my latte. There have been many times when I’ve looked at Barb’s career, her housecleaning service, her professional wardrobe, and her European vacations, and felt something akin to a twinge (or perhaps a seizure-full) of jealousy. I know, though, that her life, while seemingly more glamorous than mine, is a lot of frigging work too.

I’m in something of a transitional period in my life right now. While still technically an unemployed, stay-at-home mom, I’ve made the decision to work on my writing. Between this blog and my book, I’ve been spending between 4-6 hours a day writing, researching, and trying to grow my platform. While this has been a boon for my sense of self and my creative mind, I’ve found myself becoming overwhelmed, cranky, and increasingly depressed. Why? Because I’ve discovered that I can’t do it all. I can’t keep a clean house, cook for my family, run the errands, be homework coach and chauffeur, wash and iron clothes, and develop my writing into something that might perhaps segue into a paying career.

Remember that commercial for Enjoli perfume? That stupid commercial vexes me. Ever since I was 12, I was sold the idea that a woman should be able to do it all without struggle. I should absolutely be able to have a career, cook for my family, keep a clean house, care for my children, and have the energy to seduce my husband nightly, right? I’d like to bitch slap the men who came up with that ad. Oh, come on. It had to be men who envisioned the Enjoli woman. That ad is a fantasy. There isn’t a woman in her right mind who would tell you that at the end of a long day, during which she had spent at least eight hours in an office, then cooked dinner, cared for her children and put them to bed, what she really thought about was making her husband feel like a man. More than likely, what she actually thought about was a glass of wine, a locked door, a long and solitary soak in a tub, followed by a collapse into a bed where her husband would let her get some sleep.

The other night I had a Come-To-Jesus meeting with my husband and our sons. I told them that as much as I would love to be able to continue writing, I cannot do it if I do not get some assistance from them. Because our financial situation has not changed, I can’t afford a housecleaning service. I need them to pitch in if I want to be able to devote myself to writing. This was not an easy conversation for me because, the entire time I was asking for help, I was feeling I had failed my inner-Enjoli woman. What I was really doing, however, was not admitting defeat but instead recognizing that I had been trying to do the impossible and be the unattainable.

No one can do it all or have it all. We all sacrifice. The grass isn’t greener anywhere else. It’s not easier one way or the other. We make choices and then we live with them. On a good day, I get to yoga, manage to knock a couple things off my to-do list, and find time for a shower. On a good day, my working friends knock something off their to-do-lists, maybe get a kudo from their boss, and perhaps get to enjoy an uninterrupted lunch for an hour. But, most of the time, we all just settle for the best we can get, which is most certainly nowhere near having it all.

Rediscovering Our Offscreen Personas

My offscreen persona likes hanging out in hammocks, sipping cold piña coladas, and playing cards with my three boys.

We’ve been home from our trip for 18 hours. As I worked my way through eight loads of dirty laundry today, I was reflecting on what made last week so special. Certainly a large part of the joy found in the Galapagos Islands was attributable to creatures we had never before seen, landscapes that were harsh and yet strikingly beautiful, and new endeavors we were just trying on for size. But, what is more important is not what we found but instead what we were lacking. Last week, we were devoid of television, video games, Netflix, and Apple TV. We didn’t have shows waiting for us on our DVR. The boys weren’t glued to YouTube videos on their computer or busy mentally purchasing new action figures on Amazon.com. Without his Legos, Luke sat with other kids in the Kids’ Corner of the ship’s lounge for hours playing Monopoly and working out his chess skills. Joe got lost in the ship’s library looking at nature books. As a family, we played cards, listened to lectures, and spent time outdoors. Without my iPhone, I wasn’t absorbed in Words With Friends or Mind Feud or texting. Life without screens was as miraculous of a new world as the Galapagos Islands were.

So, I’ve been thinking about some changes I can make in our household lives that might bring us some of the peace and simplicity we enjoyed last week. I’m considering some type of family enrichment program. Nothing too extraordinary, mind you. I don’t want to send my children into culture shock. But, there must be a way to bring things down a notch while still staying connected. Perhaps I put a moratorium on iPhone usage between 5-9 p.m. when we’re all together. Maybe I limit the boys with regard to screen time. A couple hours a week of games and cards rather than television could be beneficial. And, we could make a nightly family walk a ritual rather than a rarity.

A week ago, my sons were present in my life. They were plugged into life and not screens. They woke up early and went to bed early. They weren’t talking to us about things they wanted but instead told us about things they learned. As much as I already miss the islands, I miss the people we were while on the islands more. I’m giving them a down day today. I’m letting them catch up on Ninjago and their Superhero Squad videos. We all needed a break after two consecutive travel days, colds we’re trying to beat, and the chaos that ensues when you return home after 10 days away. But, I’m going to do some research. Maybe we can’t make any big trips like the one we just took again anytime soon. But, I can go to the library, find some videos on far away locations, and take us out of our insular lives occasionally. I mean, I’m never giving up my iPhone. But, I can put it down once in a while and remember what life is like offscreen. Maybe I’ll take the boys outside to stargaze or get a book on local plants and see how many we can scout out during a hike. I’d love to have the boys pick out a recipe we could make together. We’ll still have family movie nights, but maybe I’ll let them teach me chess or challenge them to write a comic book they can share with me. I need to get back to reading to them because we loved that and it got lost. To find ourselves again, I think it’s best that we turn off our screens more often because the reflections we get from them aren’t as true as the reflections we get from each other.

 

I’m Not A Cave Woman And You Can’t Make Me Eat Like One

Hubby bought me sorbet. Sorbet is NOT ice cream.

My friend, Heather, and I commiserate about most things. Husbands, motherhood, shopping, finances, allergies, exercise, and weight gain are just a few. Yesterday, Heather posted on her Facebook page that she was going to make some “paleo iced goodness,” the “paleo” referring to The Paleo Diet. This immediately piqued my curiosity. Like many women, I have tried nearly every single friggin’ diet known to western civilization. I have done The Atkins Diet, Weight Watchers, The Zone Diet, The South Beach Diet, The Game On Diet, and The 5 Factor Diet, all in an attempt to lose that 5-10 pounds I struggle with each year. I have not, however, yet tried The Paleo Diet. So, I texted her.

Me: What the hell is “paleo iced goodness”? I imagine pie would be better.

Her: Paleo-approved ice cream. No dairy.

Me: You are weird.

Her: Duh.

Me: I’m going to Dairy Queen.

Her: Damn it!!!!

Me: Since when are you paleo?

Her: Since never. I’m a wannabe.

Me: Dairy is one of the greatest things on earth. I could never give that up. Cheese, yogurt, ice cream? I don’t care if I could be 115 pounds as a paleo. I’d rather be fat. Cavemen lived sucky lives and died young. My theory on diets is exercise daily and eat junk occasionally.

Her: My theory…F*** it!

Me: That’s a good one too. Just remember…there can be no ice cream without the cream. 😉

If the Paleo Diet would require me to give up dairy entirely, the Paleo Diet and I are finished before we’ve begun. I prefer cheese to chocolate. There is no way I could ever give that up. And, ice cream is my big weakness. Even during the winter, I eat a bit of ice cream at least 5 times a week. The mere idea of being dairy free is anathema to me. Lord help those around me if I ever become lactose intolerant.

What I’ve slowly come to realize about dieting in general, though, is that I hate it. Hate it. I’m not saying anyone else loves it, but I know I hate it more than most. You know how I know this? Because I avoid it like nobody’s business. The best way to avoid dieting is to live with moderation. Aside from the two times I was pregnant, I have never allowed myself to gain more than 15 pounds over my ideal (per my doctor, not me) weight. The less I gain, the less I have to lose, and the less dieting I will have to suffer through. This is why I choose to exercise as if I enjoy it. Even exercise is better than dieting.

I know I am blessed. I have a decent metabolism. I come from a fairly thin family. I also know myself well enough to know that I am an addictive personality. With as much as I love drinking, the only reason I never became an alcoholic is because the thought of giving up alcohol forever forced me to moderate my drinking habits. And, this is how it has been with food. Giving up ice cream (real ice cream and not “paleo iced goodness,” mind you) is not something I ever thought I could do for long, and so I’ve been very careful with my eating habits.

There is an ebb and flow to my body. There’s no point beating myself up over an extra 5-10 pounds as long as it’s only an extra 5-10 pounds above what is healthy for me at the age I am at. Sue me. I like my cheese and my ice cream. I’m not a cave woman. If cave women were thin and healthy, it was because they were busy running from saber-toothed tigers and not because they had non-cream, paleolithic iced goodness for dessert.

Facebook Is Simply Show-And-Tell For Grown Ups

One of my Facebook profile photos. What does it tell you about me?I don’t know and I don’t really care. I just like it.

I was thinking today that Facebook is the ultimate exercise in show-and-tell. Remember that from kindergarten? Stand up there, show off something you like or care about, and tell people all about it. And, I think that if you treat Facebook (or any social media) that way, it’s a fairly innocuous thing. But, if you find you’re concerned about the number of replies you get to a post or if you’re using your posts to validate your decisions or any other aspect of your life, it might be time to take a step back.

I’ve got 288 Facebook “friends.” The “friends” is in quotes for a reason. All that word means in Facebookland is that I have viewing rights to 288 other people’s lives. I joined Facebook in 2008, so I’ve had years to study the way people use it. Some use it as a soapbox. Others use it for braggadocio. Some, quite sadly, use it to pump up their self-esteem. Some use it to avoid loneliness. Everyone gets something different from it, which is why it fascinates me. But, it all comes back to the notion that we all like to talk about ourselves. With Facebook, we can do it all day and all night and our spewing about ourselves ad nauseam is never considered narcissistic or obnoxious. It’s par for the course. It’s genius, really. Everyone is the center of their Facebook universe. How appropriately human.

I’ve always liked this quote: “What other people think of you is none of your business.” I more or less live by this notion. I learned early on that I am not for everyone, which is just fine with me because there are oodles of people I can do without as well. It’s nice to be liked, but if I’m not it doesn’t affect how I feel about myself. I’m here to find my own way. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and realize I was living someone else’s. Still, it’s easy to get sucked into caring too much what others think of you, especially when you throw yourself onto a social media site and pay too close attention to the responses you get. When you live that way, though, you’re not being authentic. I’ve seen my fair share of folks who clearly use Facebook for personal validation. I know, on occasion, I have been guilty of it too. But, what other people think of you is none of your business. It doesn’t matter. When it’s all said and done, the only person whose opinion about you should matter is your own. So, the next time you post something and no one seems to notice or care, throw yourself a dozen or so mental thumbs up Likes and move on. Facebook is show-and-tell. That’s all it is. Letting it be more than that is a waste of your precious energy on this planet.

Edward Scissorhands Meet Mommy iPhonehands

Keeping in touch with my son while I was away last weekend

I have a gazillion things to be doing right now. We’re leaving in 4 hours to head to the mountains for the weekend. I need to pack, figure out what food to bring to the cabin, finish two blogs, do a load of wash, and take a shower. Those are the A-list priorities. There are B-list priorities too. So, what am I doing? Watching video I just found of my boys when they were 2 and 4. The video is so old it’s actually on a camcorder that uses tapes. Seriously. Tapes. So, I am watching the videos on the camera while tearing the house apart looking for the one infernal USB cord out of the millions that we have that will allow me to transfer these precious memories to my MacBook. It’s maddening. I’m a woman obsessed.

Yesterday I read a blog article about how we’re tuning out our families in favor of games, texts, and other diversions on our mobile devices. I’m far more guilty of that transgression that I would care to admit, but anyone who knows me and sees me on a regular basis knows the dirty truth. I agreed with the article completely, noting that I do often sit with my boys but play Words With Friends rather than fully engaging with them. It’s not right. I’m sending them the wrong message. They clearly deserve more from me than to have me check out on them in person in favor of getting a good score in my tw0 minutes of game time on my Scramble app.

In light of this struggle I am having with this ancient camcorder from 2003, though, I was thinking today that while our mobile devices can be a distraction they can also keep us in touch with what’s important. I am helpless without my iPhone. It’s always within 10 feet of me. Is that sick? Probably. But, now I have a camera and video recorder with me at all times. I no longer record solely birthday parties and then miss the moment when we are at the park and Joe negotiates the monkey bars successfully for the first time because I didn’t have a camcorder on hand. Because of my iPhone, I can watch video of my kids while I’m sitting on a beach on vacation with my hubby. I use the Notes app to write down funny things they say that might have otherwise been lost in time. My sons and I FaceTime when I’m away and can’t be there in person to say their “angel prayers” at night. I use my phone to time them as they do their math facts, to track their appointments, and to answer their questions in a timely manner…like when we’re at the zoo and they ask me what places tapirs can be found other than South America.

I suppose, as with most things in life, it all comes down to moderation. I don’t want to go back to the days when I would realize my camera didn’t have film or that I forgot to bring the video recorder. I guess I won’t toss out my mobile phone just yet. But, I will make sure to put it down more often so my boys don’t grow up remembering me with one human hand and one iPhone hand.