Feb 12, 2014
Around the world, many families are cared for by a stay at home caretaker or housewife or husband. I am one by both default and by choice. I was unwilling to work only to pay for childcare so I am focusing on my writing career and blog and am in charge of our children and all things domestic. I’m truly proud of how good I am at this, but I get the feeling others may not be proud of their role as caretaker. And I understand that too. I get overwhelmed and feel powerless to add money to the pot.
The flip side is that I may make it look too easy. Which results in me feeling a little overwhelmed and under staffed. Unlike me, my husband is no way compelled to rush to my aid me as I’m cooking, handling a screaming baby, and directing my son through his chores before the school bus arrives. I feel like there’s an outdated unspoken agreement between he and I, maybe not too dissimilar to the ones made by other parents through the centuries, which states this is your job and that is mine. You do X and I do Y. This arrangement doesn’t always work for me. Our age, lifestyles, and head count have changed and the time has come to rewrite the rules for the roles. And separate the truth from the untruth.
The primary fallacy: If my man is bringing home the peanut butter and jelly sandwich makings, my downtime relies on his availability first. In other words, I would get little time off from the baby if he’s got work related tasks to take care of. He’s a freelancer and all of that working adds up to new jobs.
But, if mama doesn’t get some time off to do things hands-free like vacuum, dye hair roots, or even, dare I say, do something leisurely like get a manicure, this Momma feels resentful. Bad mojo Mommy means everyone suffers. I found myself beseeching him and justifying my request for him to have a baby day and that doesn’t set right with me.
My biggest misstep was in creating a situation where I won’t let go of care-taking everyone. And the second is in not asking for my needs to be met. This combination makes me a martyr and I don’t like the sound of that in the least. I’ve been a doormat before and here I’m recreating it with people I love? The spoiled are made by a spoiler. And since hubby can’t read my mind, I’ve got to shut off the closed captioning. Out loud or nothing changes.
So I have begun to change stuff up. I asked what sorts of breakfasts the boys would be willing to make for themselves. And they’ve been doing it. Next step is scheduling these on the calendar so everyone, including me, knows when and what Mommy‘s not doing. Lesson number #153, what you do for them, they’ll expect.
I once considered saying I was going out for milk and then calling to say I stopped by for my long overdue pedicure. Then I managed to jam this task into a stroller nap. In the end, it’s still my choice to give it to me. I don’t have to steal what I’m entitled to.
I am thinking I just need to get a little more honest and a little less codependent. When I get mad at something, I’m usually madder at myself for a choice I’m making or not making. How about I say, “Mommy’s off at 7pm so get your needs met before that“. Or “Tonight’s a leftover night, I’ll be upstairs soaking in the tub“.
I finally started booking time with the husband on the calendar for his baby care time. It helps that he’s not terrified of her anymore. Only took 9 months. Sadly, just when I started to enjoy a weekly babysitter for 4 precious hours, she’s off to college. Sigh.
Here’s to commanding, borrowing, and scheduling all the Mommy free time you can get. I always tell women, “You know your driving, right?” I believe we really are the family decision makers in many ways. And taking care of ourselves ensures that our family is better taken care of as well. Model self-respect and your children will grow up to respect themselves. A happy Mommy means a happy family.
Feb 11, 2014
Sitting in my hair stylist’s chair, deep into a conversation, she says she recently heard that we don’t see ourselves through our own eyes, we see ourselves as we think others see us. I asked her to repeat this. She said our self-perception is based on how we believe others think of us.
I’d agree. For most of my life, self-worth has been ‘less than’ and was created from bit’s and pieces which I was required to mind-read to gather. From my parents and from everyone I was in contact with. My views of me are then fractured. I feel I’ve never fully seen myself. I am crazy-quilt and my low self-esteem is the rotten thread binding this quilt.
In the past, people have told me sincerely how much they admire my talents. I would nod and smile. Not only did I not see these talents, I would duck and dodge their every attempt to move me on and improve me. I was comfortably stuck under my crazy quilt turned cloak of invisibility.
My cloak kept me safe from the expectations of others. I believed if you got too close, you’d see me the way I see me, an unworthy fake. My failures and my humanity would be unforgivable. Why would either of us want to share that ugliness. I already knew how this would all end. And so I didn’t start. I controlled what you thought by giving you nothing to think.
I wouldn’t have to show up for myself, join any groups, be accountable, or have any goals or dreams or aspirations to unveil. These were all safe as long as I remained invisible. I thought it was easier this way. But, alas, my cloak became an anchor.
The therapist named this sense of invisibility low self-esteem. I was shocked. Others, yes, but not me. After my rage subsided, my brain began to shift. I didn’t need to be fixed because I was not broken just afraid. I began to hear my harmony when I sang. I kept writing and I kept singing. I reached out to people in far away places online through my blog. And what I let myself hear was that I was contributing something valuable to their lives. And I kept contributing and I’ve kept reaching out. I have begun to catch clearer glimpses of my outline, my profile. And a ‘me’ that I see is materializing.
This Bold Brilliant Beautiful You project came when I most needed to cement into place the bricks of me I’ve been gathering. So here is my very revealing ‘I am’ list, February’s BBBY project homework. And thanks to this group of women, and a growing sense of self, I’m feeling better and bolder than I have in a very long time.
I AM :
• I am a doer, an enthusiast, and an energizer bunny
• I am a writer, essayist, memoirist, and humorist
• I am a wife and a mother and an individual
• I am funny, almost always smiling
• I am brutally honest, soul-searching
• I am visually fixated, detail oriented, and sloppy
• I am a closet artist knocking at the door to get out
• I am invisible and afraid of success
• I am a Virgo with a huge helping of Libra, a devoted and intentional friend
• I am a good listener, hearing what’s said and what’s not
• I find lessons in anything, everything and I am a positivity fanatic
• I have come a long way despite where I’ve been
• I am a UU, respectful of all choices
• I am from a broken family and co-dependent
• I am a great cook and a non-practicing waitress
• I am a pet lover and a plant killer
• I am looking for purpose, connection, and permission to become myself
Why is my life so important to honor now? This need to connect, to express, to create, to thrive, and to give back? Maybe it’s the baby girl I just had at the ripe age of 46 who needs me to show her that you can be your own hero despite the adversity you’ve encountered. The only way to lead is by example. Read the other ‘I am’ lists by these amazing women and to make an “I am” list for themselves. There’s a simple way to do it here. One we can do with our children and see where they stand with their self-concepts. And join with the link up party if you are inspired. I am practicing intentional intouchness while making these connections. Staying quiet and alone never worked so good for me and requires a lot more work than just being bold and brilliant and beautiful.
Feb 10, 2014
The kids and I were in the kitchen as we usually are most days at some point. Fiona was in the playpen and Eamon was doing whatever 8 year-olds do in that spastic way that they do them. But Fiona wasn’t feeling like she really wanted to have her freedom restrained by that playpen. And she started to shriek at me.
Eamon goes over and starts trying to keep her from crying by chattering at her in a high voice. Because at some point he’s decided that stopping her from crying is his job. And the high-pitched voice he’s making combined with her shrieks and wails is unbearable.
I say “Buddy, can you please stop that. And besides the pain in my brain, here’s why you need to”. I explained to him that when we respond to every little shriek she makes, she starts to think maybe she’s in charge. Even though it seems like she wants to be in charge, she knows that she’s incapable of being in charge. There’s too much going on and too many decisions to be made and responsibilities to have.
So the next place her brain is going is to Overwhelmed Junction. She’ll be frightened that she’s been given that level of power to be in charge. And she’ll then know that she’s living with crazy people. Because only crazy people let their babies run the show. Crazy people set no limitations and boundaries on their children which makes them feel unsafe.
I asked Eamon to tell me what he had heard me say and he can actually explain this to you if you asked. Maybe it’s fun to think of parents as the “Crazy People” when they really aren’t. We’re the kooky fun parents who talk a lot and love a lot. And Fiona can keep testing us to see if we have our licenses but I will assure her, we’re still driving.