Currently Browsing: Mom’s Do it Better
Jun 18, 2013
I finally recognized I have “opposing” definitions of a woman. Two iconic images living in my head but not allowed to coexist. The icon of successful working woman embodies respect and power and legitimization. It took us a long time to find our way into the world of (almost) equal employment. And the icon of quintessential Mom who, as little girls, we pretend to be with the help of our dollies. The Mom is the fulfillment of our biological destiny and the unspoken expectation that looms over us and our hormones.
I aspired to these ideals all my life. And have felt I failed at being both simultaneously. I disallowed the paradox.
The definition of paradox is confusing. Either, 1: a tenant contrary to received opinion or, 2: a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true. When we think of something absolutely and yet know the opposite truth may be off to the left staring us down. And women have some hum-doozies of paradoxes defining our existence.
As a writer and people watcher, I collect the images of people who then live in my head for later stories. And these two true life characters have lived at opposite ends of my brain, seemingly unable to coexist because I chose to separate them. The disbelief of the paradoxical truth of women is perpetuated even in those of us smart enough to know better.
I saw The Strawberry Blonde head down the hallway and into the bathroom. I may have needed to pee too or I may have stalked her as I followed her through the bathroom door six steps behind. She had an expensive skirt and suit jacket set. It might have been cream. But the color of her long thick hair was like a magic spell to me.
It was strawberry blonde and thick and glossy. Coppery yet not red. It shimmered and flowed down off her head under the bathroom lights. I watched her as she washed her hands and examined her perfection in the mirror.
She was somebody big. A star or a producer. When she left, I didn’t want to leave on her heels so I held back. I lost sight of her in the halls of the Television station only to catch a glimpse as her long legs were folding themselves into a white limo on the curb. And I went back to work at my lowly television internship job.
Twenty years later, I was married with a son and we were getting a hair cut at our hair salon. I inquired about Katie the Super Mom. She wasn’t my hairstylist but I’d watched her. She seemed the kind of person who’s unruffled by life. Everyone concurred. And that fascinated me.
They told me she’d left the salon to have a fourth baby. Fourth baby! Later, I saw her at a bowling birthday party with her newborn on her lap. She was unaffected in the eye of the chaotic storm. I was amazed and I was completely sure I’d never achieve that level of cool.
I wear my anxiety on my sleeve for everyone to read. For a long time, I assumed I could never have that Strawberry Blonde’s hair.Until I later found out that salons could work that kinda magic for you. And despite all the 80′s ads that told me I wanted her success, I may not have wanted the sacrifices that went along with the job with the white limo. And I would not necessarily be happy raising four kids either.
But this is a study in idealism and the extremes of the roles women play. I’ve built iconic figures and then compared myself to them. I had believed there’s no room for a woman to be both roles, a paradoxical prison that women face in our society. But it’s possible to be successful and be a Mom, it just may look different for different people. Katie and her co-worker are stylists and mothers and one is a nurse as well. Say what? You can have both successful careers and a family.
And the only difference between me and them lies in the fact that I don’t think I can. Because I, and a bunch of other women too, bought into the belief that there is no allowable paradox for women.. I would like my money back please. I’m a better Mom now than I ever imagined I’d be and this little blog thing may turn up enough money one day to let me go to my hair stylist and say, make me a strawberry blonde.
Jun 14, 2013
For years, I dreamed of a patch of dirt to lovingly cultivate my garden in. I exclaimed that was the reason I wanted to own a house. “Be careful what you wish for” doesn’t begin to sum up the torture I’ve endured for the sake of the dirt that accompanied the house I bought nine years ago. As I now dig in this soil, a parade of ghost plants taunts me and whispers “bad plant mommy.” My guilt piles up with the little plant bodies, tossed over the garden wall in a heap to decompose.
My brown thumb is well-earned. In springtime, like many, I have instant gratification needs to meet. I must plant every area in my garden so it looks great immediately. I would have had the same results digging a hole and burning the money I have spent on the plants I’ve killed with improper soil and light, insufficient water, and lack of compost or mulch. Those poor little pampered plants straight from the greenhouse, all hopped up on steroids, yanked from their pots yelling, “Hey … lady … not here. For the love of all things green, you’re not thinking of putting me here, are you?” They never have a choice, chance, or prayer. And being such an uber-caretaker, I’ve taken every little brown spindly plant death personally. I failed. I didn’t water it, feed it, sun it, mulch it, or talk to it enough. Bad, bad mommy.
Due to my now numerous years of Russian roulette gardening, I now also fear the Trojan horse plant. So innocuous in its little green plastic pot, it seems to say, “Take me home and I promise to be pretty and proper and make you proud of me.” That’s what they all say but this one fulfills its promised destiny and wages a coupe on the planting bed. But grab it by the stem and pull and the roots don’t come with it. Over the fall and spring, it has become the Hostile Takeover Plant. Artemisia, painter’s palette, and “obedient” plants all require garden discipline. Like the mint before them, I spare their lives but shame them in front of their peers and banish them to their own bed with a sunken wall or pot. Like kids, plants need boundaries.
I also suggest you avoid those people who make gardening look and sound easy. You know them. They have schedules for garden maintenance. They see gardens as multi-dimensional. The first dimension is soil and sun compatibility. The second is visual texture. And the third is the seasonal bloom times. I don’t have the patience to test the soil! Much less consider twelve months worth of possible color/texture combos. Hello, I’m impulse girl. So I watch as that beautiful foxglove dies a slow two-year death in front of my house. I know, shame on me for coveting a plant indigenous to gardens in England. Where it rains. All the time. Better to keep company with lesser gardeners than yourself. Ding dongs who take eight years to discover mulch doesn’t cost that much but should for how it actually does keep the weeds at bay.
About mid-July this past summer, when it was the hottest and about to be the driest, I got the jones to start transplanting but I resisted my compulsion to uproot and rearrange those doomed plants. I was a good parent. And now, with the weather breaking, you’d think I’d be relieved as I expect lowered water bills and more chair time. It’s time to pull the garden plan out and replant in anticipation of all the lovely rain and happier perennial plants. Except, I procrastinated making that plan. Last week, I was outside with graph paper to plot the ten beds correctly and my neighbor teased me. His wife is also a member of the “buy it ‘cause it’s pretty and plop it in the ground” club. I drew my plot but I still don’t get how to use it. Don’t tell him though.
No surprise that I am completely overwhelmed and yet I will be digging up and transplanting something, even if it’s wrong. How in the world do we ever know anything without a little try and see? Why do we expect to know everything immediately (all the time)? Why is it always so personal? So a couple dozen plants have died at my murderous hand. Oh well, these things take time. Wish me and my plants luck. Maybe fifteen years from now, you’ll see pictures of my garden published in one of those “Living” magazines. If bovines take to the air … Or if, free of charge, I have a crew of knowledgeable people work on my garden instead of me. A girl can dream, can’t she?
Jun 13, 2013
I have a joke about my dining room chairs. I say they took me four naps to re-glue and paint. Although that was seven years ago and they just need to get thrown in the dumpster now. The point was that, when you have a baby, you have to dare to grab the moment and act as if it’ll last. I call it baby gambling. Act as if. Carpe diem.
With baby Eamon, I was so anxious he wouldn’t stay asleep that I didn’t risk starting anything. Honestly, I grabbed a smoke break or I cleaned something, never letting my creative inner gal have a play-date with me. And thus I stayed in a state of perpetual mental paralysis. I was so proud of myself for the chair thing when I finally let that happen.
This time around, and no, I no longer have the smoke break excuse, I was not going to psyche myself out of getting on with my life. I even dared to vacuum a week and a half after having Fiona. And I got all but one room done before the baby alarm went off. She was crying pretty hard when I got to her. But she’s still alive and I still was able to complete the job, albeit three hours later.
What’s the worst thing that can happen when you take the gamble? What if the baby needs to eat when I’m at the grocery store? I had to leave my grocery cart in the back of the store and go out to the truck to feed the baby once. What if she wakes up while I’m still on the computer? Lay her on your lap and put a booby in her. Or give up until later. Tough but true. I’ve had laundry continue for two days. Ooh.
This isn’t just a mother/baby thing either. How many projects have you been putting off because you don’t have enough time at one sitting to make it perfectly done. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. There’s always a cliché to cover the subject right? But the point is, if you want to feel like you took time for you, you’re going to have to steal it and gamble that you’ll win the nap round. Because some stuff just can’t be done breastfeeding with a boppy on your lap like my writing can these days. Albeit left-handed at this moment.
And sometimes we have to ask for the help of someone else. Are we afraid we’ll owe someone? Remember this post about how they may need to feel they have accomplished something today too. Helping you to help yourself. Taking a gamble that just might make you be able to say, I did it. And then next week you’ll have totally forgotten about it and you’ll be obsessing over the next project to complete. Sigh.
Jun 10, 2013
We were planning to attend a party on a Saturday afternoon. I remembered from a previous year, and a previous weekend, that my son had been the littlest guy there and the monkey in the middle. Wanting to be of “help”, I said that I too felt like an outsider in groups sometimes and secretly wanted to be included. I said, “Lets think of ways that we can make a choice or do something to help ourselves”. And we did.
Eamon went right in for the bold approach. He said he could just go right up and say, “Can I play with you?” Of course, why wouldn’t you do the obvious? I was more for the over-think it route and said, “Maybe I could figure out why being included meant so much to me.”
There was this ski trip in high school I couldn’t go on, primarily because we didn’t have the money to send me. I was so riddled with sorrow and envy looking at those pictures of that trip in the yearbook. The pain of exclusion was like silly putty in my brain as I kneaded it and pressed it against the picture. While I will always remember the trip I couldn’t take, those who went on the trip have probably forgotten all about it.
So what are we doing when we feel excluded and don’t want to include ourselves? Part of me assumes they wouldn’t want me to join them. Smell the low self-esteem? And then I get to jump two spaces up to the part where I didn’t have to risk finding out if this were true. Because of course I didn’t belong anyway. And see, I just excluded myself. When I told this story to two different women, they both agreed that they too have a problem with feeling left out of groups today as well. Like some haunting prophecy from high school.
We’ve named it, now what? We recognize that we may believe something and then create the outcome we expect. If I thought I wouldn’t be included, then I never asked to be. Asking to be included would come from a feeling of entitlement of being liked. Of knowing I was worth knowing. So I say let’s act as if. Act as if we are the best person they’ve not met yet. Assume that we’ll be immediately accepted into whatever activity we are interested in participating in. Maybe I could even make my own group that other people would want to join.
Why is the acceptance of a group important. The smarty pants me says, am I looking for legitimization? Will I become solid instead of transparent? And what if being a part of that group isn’t really all I thought it would be? But the sensible me says that those are cop-out. So having weighed the facts, I still say having new friends is always worth it. And if these people are rude or don’t include, go see those people over there. Because chances are, it’s not you, it was them anyway.
Jun 6, 2013
What can you really say to express the wonder and amazement that is a new person. Eight years ago, my friend Terry gave me a little framed saying, “Babies are a nice way to start people”. They are made from nothingness and suddenly they’re living with you, confounding your daily existence with their needs absolutely. And you’re sold.
The little jokes and running silly baby names and games are what we love to create and I thought to give you a peek into my loony entertainment at Fiona’s expense.
This is the attack chair. Also known as the poopy chair for my wee one’s propensity to take care of her business in her pants whilst seated in said chair, it’s primarily known as the “Attack Chair” for its tendency to reach out and grab at your feet as you pass by. It’s those stabilizing bent wire legs that jut out. But you think it’s back further than it is. It has a taste for trip and a need to snigger at you when you trip on it.
The little nick names we give the children are what we excel at. Eamon was Grammy’s cupcake and my Baby Lou. Now he’s Lou and sometimes Loulie. Alter evil ego is Loubert. And the three of us were Emu, Mamu, and Dadu. Silly and somehow extremely necessary. Not sure what Fiona will be but probably Finu.
As of now, we’ve got a bunch of cute little names cooking for Fiona. There’s Barferella and Grumbelina. More unflattering, Senorita Spews A lot and Nitro Baby. Bridget Fidget and Grousy Mousy are my cute ones. And yesterday, Mark came up with Barfy Dorothy in response to some other one I can’t think of now. And then there’s Buttercup but we think that may be too long. Princess Buttercup, anyone remember?
If I could figure out how to play music here, I’d choose Sting’s All Four Seasons in One Day
because she’s had me guessing like a game show fool. Or sometimes she’s a good portion of the Seven Dwarves. Girls.
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