A New Intention

You might notice that yesterday and today’s posts lack their Thoughtful Thursday and Confessional Friday markers. I’ve decide to omit all “day” markers from further titles even though I will continue to post accordingly. Posts will still be tagged in the category for which they belong (today’s post is still tagged as Confessional Fridays).

Every night at yoga we talk about our intention during practice that day. What are we bringing to our practice? What do we hope to take away? This month I’ve been focusing on “accepting without judgement.” In order to be truly mindful we must see things and accept them for what they are without judging them as good or bad. This is very difficult for me.

Lately I’ve been looking through my posts, on both my blogs, and have noticed a lot of negativity. I espy it in my every day life too. I compare my life with others’, and generally find it lacking. Sometimes I need to think of what others who are less fortunate live with (or  without) to feel grateful for what I have. I expect too much. I want so many things. I struggle with so many aspects of my life. So many of my thoughts are negative, or at least have a negative twinge.

The thing is, I don’t consider myself a negative person but when I look at the written record of my thoughts it’s hard to argue otherwise. So much of what I write is expressed in complaints. I don’t make enough money. I hate being a work outside the home mom. I wish I could stay at home. I feel cheated out of having my second child. I want a stupid camera. It’s all what I can’t have and how I must go without. My blog is dumping ground for the selfish and egotistical and embarrassing.

If I were to die tomorrow, is this the legacy I’d want to leave? If these posts were all my daughter had to remember me by, what would she think? I don’t want to be a woman who has so much and looks past it, focusing only on what she lacks.

I need to find a new intention for my life, for this blog. I need to find a new purpose, a distinct direction. I need to step away for a little while and rediscover the positive and how to talk about it not forcefully but eloquently, not because I should feel joy because it dwells unencumbered in my heart and soul. I want to be the person who makes others feel better, not the girl who brings everybody down.

I didn’t used to be this person. I don’t know where she came from but somewhere along the way, during my struggles with TTC, after my loss, I stopped expressing that enthusiasm for life that I once cherished – that enthusiasm my daughter has, that I think, that I hope, she got from me.

Through this blog I have met many wonderful women, some I’m lucky enough to call friend. One of those women is J from A Half Baked Life. If you don’t read her blog I highly recommend you do. If you want to know the kind of writing and attitude I aspire to, look no further than her posts.

Sometimes poor J is on gchat and I start “talking” with her. She asks me a considerate question and inevitable I start spewing some depressing, woe-is-me diatribe and just as inevitably J has exactly the right thing to say. She always knows how to make me feel better without feeding my cynicism. She can validate my feelings while gently suggesting an alternate course. She does all this without ever complaining about her own life. She has a heart like a bottomless well, brimming with loving kindness. I’m glad we don’t live too close of I’d attempt to drink from it indefinitely and surely scare her away.

I want to be like J. I want to be a calm presence, unweathered by the storms of life, a beacon of light and warmth for those who need shelter. I don’t know how to become that person but doing so feels like a worthy intention for this sacred gift of a life.

This morning I dropped Isa off at my friend’s house and sobbed all the way to work. With every fiber of my being I wished to not be there. When I crossed paths with a colleague he asked me how my summer went. “It’s was okay, but it’s over now,” I sulked. I didn’t say, “it was wonderful, I spent so much time with my daughter and my family,” or “it was amazing, I saw friends and got away with my partner,” or “it was spectacular, I’m so lucky to have two months off every year.”

I don’t want to be the person who defines her summer only by its inevitable conclusion. I want to be the person who appreciates it for the wonderful gift that it is.

I don’t know what my plan is. I’m not sure how things will play out in this space, or the other. What I do know is I’m grateful for this place and for all of you and I look forward to a future with a newly inspired and more genuine intention.

Happiest Working Mama Mondays: Aim Low, Go Slow

I have to admit that the idea of aiming low is not one I’ve generally embraced in my life. I worked really hard in high school to get into one of the top universities in my state. I’ve always been somewhat of a perfectionist at my job and would recreate a worksheet before distributing it with a typo (because middle school students totally care about that stuff). During my last class of graduate school, which I was taking while on maternity leave and after I returned to work, I failed to redo two assignments which resulted in the only B+ I earned in my degree. This was a big deal for me and I struggled with putting aside my perfectionism for the sake of my sanity.

That is what this chapter of The Happiest Mom is all about, ditching a perfectionist attitude and embracing expectations that are more conducive to keeping calm and staying sane. My track record led me to believe that I’d score in the your-making-yourself-crazy section of the “how high do you set the bar” quiz but I was surprised to find I was more of a “realist” (not without some “blamer” added in, for good measure). So I guess, as a mother, I’m not as compulsive as I have the potential to be.

Still, answering some questions as a “Blamer” made me realize that I have to cut Mi.Vida a little slack. Sometimes he just doesn’t do things the way I would, or doesn’t know how to do them at all (he would admit that on occasion he is totally clueless) and I have to be patient when teaching him and open minded when he does things his own way. Just because a result might not reflect what I’d envisioned doesn’t mean it’s messed up. If I can remember this my relationship will suffer much less.

In fact, perspective was a big part of this chapter. Asking myself “What’s the worst that could happen?” or “Will this still trouble me fat into the future?” helps remind me that blueberry mish-mash puree all over Isa’s shirt is not the end of the world. In fact, it’s not the end of anything (except maybe the shirt – which she’ll grow out of anyway) even though at the time it can seem that way. When you’re budgeting a ruined shirt can seem like a big loss, but will you remember it a year from now? Probably not.

Another suggestion was to prioritize. Should creating Isa’s six to twelve month photo book be a top priority right now? Probably not. Those photos will be around next month (or next year). Is it okay if the thank you notes from Isa’s first birthday are another month late? It will have to be. (This is why I asked people not to bring presents! Why does no one listen?!) And illustrating my children’s book? Well, maybe I need to take the hint and realize that if “writing a book” is on both the author’s “don’t do now” and “don’t do ever” lists maybe I shouldn’t even be trying to illustrate one. Or at least I shouldn’t be putting any pressure of myself to do so.

Should I be disappointed that this Monday post will probably be read by everyone on Tuesday? Not when I’m late writing it because we were able to extend our vacation by a day! Just getting it out there is good enough for me. In fact, I offer my nonchalance of this post’s tardy time stamp as tribute to what I’ve learned this week. Before I might have been frustrated or felt like a failure when a post went up late. Now, not so much.

So this week I learned that even though I was already somewhat of a “realist” I still needed a bit of a reality check and and it is my intention to aim low and go slow from here on out.

Next week… trusting your gut.

 

Working Mama Mondays: The Happiest Mom

I would consider myself a happy mother. I’m feel incredibly fulfilled by my daughter’s presence in my life. She is an amazing gift that I’m thankful for every day. But I will admit to struggling in this new role of “mom,” especially as a working outside the home mother. I struggle with many of the challenges other mothers are faced with: keeping the house clean and laundry folded, maintaining a strong relationship with my partner, cultivating friendships, finding time for myself. Sometimes I feel positively overwhelmed by the day to day existence of being a mother; I recognize I could use some tips on how strip my days of stress and infuse them with idyllic happiness.

I don’t remember how I started following Meagan Francis on Twitter but somehow it happened. Soon after I started reading her posts on her blog and when she asked if any bloggers wanted a free copy of her new book, The Happiest Mom: 10 Secrets to Enjoying Motherhood I raised my hand (via Tweet) and said, yespleasethankyouvermuch. A couple of months later the book was forced through my mail slot and I began to read. Before I could very far I thought it might be fun to make it a project. So for the next ten weeks I will be reading a chapter every Monday and trying to integrate the suggestions into my own life. Hopefully by the time school starts again (and we start TTC #2 – eek!) I’ll be a less stressed and more positive mom. While this project is going on Working Mama Mondays will be transformed into The Happiest Working Mama Mondays.

The first tip is to Aim Low and Go Slow. This is perfect advice for a road trip to San Diego, which we have planned for this Thursday through Sunday. The whole chapter is about being patient and having realistic expectations of everyone around you, including yourself. If I can manage that I just might make it through packing us up, driving us down, negotiating with friends in LA, staying with other friends in San Diego and powering 10 hours back home without wanting to kill my partner, myself or any of my flaky college friends. Next Monday I will let you know how it goes in the first ever Happiest Working Mama Mondays.

(I want to make clear that while the books was sent to me free of charge the author did not ask me to mention the book on my blog or do any kind of promotion. This was my own idea and I hope it will be useful for me and my readers!)

Working Mama Mondays: Do we want too much?

Recently I read a very interesting article from the Atlantic (thank you Jirraffe!). The article is called How to Land Your Kid in Therapy and it asserts that the nurture-you’re-child’s-self-esteem-and-happiness-at-the-expense-of-everything-else culture of the past generation might actually have backfired. The author talks about a surprising number of adults, in therapy, “who reported that they, too, suffered from depression and anxiety, had difficulty choosing or committing to a satisfying career path, struggled with relationships, and just generally felt a sense of emptiness or lack of purpose.”

Now this article was interesting to me as a parent, who hopes to veer her own daughter away from a similar fate but by the end it was clear to me that I identified more with the adults in therapy affected by their own upbringing than the current parents concerned for their children. I saw myself in the author’s clients, sitting on her couch, battling depression and anxiety and struggling with a general state of “just not happy.” This article was about me.

Now my parents were not of the variety that sheltered me from the disappointments in life. Still, I will admit to expecting more happiness from my life, more fulfillment from my job, more general enjoyment from my days. I do assume that my life should make me happy. That it’s not only completely possible but that I absolutely and unequivocally  deserve it.

And you know why I believe that? Because I was I was told that, by everyone, all the time. I still am.

Except that the older I get and the more I learn about the world, the less I believe it. In fact, I’m beginning to suspect it’s all a load of crap. Where do we get off teaching our children that they can be whatever they want to be? Does it benefit them to believe that they can, and will, find a job that both fulfills them and affords them the quality of life they desire? Honestly, I don’t think many of those jobs exist and the people who are fortunate enough to have them are the exception, not the rule.

The reality seems to be – from what I have gleaned from my short three decades in this world – that most people trudge through 40-50 hours a week at a job they might like (if they’re lucky) but more likely tolerate, just to have a smidgen of free time on the weekends and the opportunity for a week away twice a year. Most of the time they are struggling to feed their family, provide healthcare coverage and keep a roof over their head. Having a job they love that also affords them a decent living is at best a luxury, at worst a dream-never-come-true.

I’m not blaming our parents for this discrepancy. Maybe they truly believed that we could have it all. They likely had so much more than their parents, if the trend continued their children could have their cake and eat it too. They didn’t foresee the economic crash and the continuing downturn. They weren’t told that their children’s generation would be the first to have less than they did. I don’t think they meant to lie to us, but in the end, I believe they did.

Recently Mel asked “what’s the best and worst thing about being an adult.” Mi.Vida and I promptly agreed that financial responsibilities and stresses were the worst but when it came to the best, our opinions diverged drastically. Mi.Vida believes that the best part about being an adult is you can do or be, whatever you want. I couldn’t disagree with that more.

If that were true I could quit my job and become a writer. Maybe not now, maybe not tomorrow or next year, but some day, if I worked hard enough, I could do it. That is what I was taught and that is what my partner still believes. I used to believe that, I honestly did. Now, frankly, I don’t. My new goal is maybe, if I’m very lucky, I can make enough writing that I can teach part time and write part time. But be a writer? Have my writing pay my rent and insurance and childcare? That is anything but a given, no matter how hard I work. The idea that someone might assume so strikes me as absurd.

In more ways than not, I have lived a charmed life. I was given everything I needed and infinitely more. I set goals and worked hard to achieved them. I went to the university of my dreams. I became a teacher in a good district. I thought I was building the life I wanted. Now I’m not so sure that teaching is for me. I want to stay home with my daughter, I want to write. I want to take pictures and travel to Spanish-speaking countries. I want to do so many things but the reality is I can’t. I also can’t leave my job. And even though teaching is probably not what I want to do, deep down in my heart, the reality is it has to be enough. In all likelihood I am going to be teaching for the rest of my life and I will have to find a way for that to make me happy.

And why shouldn’t it? I enjoy my job as much as I don’t. It’s difficult and stressful and monotonous but it can also be fun and inspiring and challenging. And of course I have breaks during the year and the coveted two months of summer. I chose this profession because it was compatible with a family and when my kids are in school, it will be. And while I’ll never earn much, I can make choices that would ensure job security and the ability to pay my bills. That is more than a lot of people can say. Heck, that is more than 99% of the world can say, who am I to be disappointed?

I’m also fortunate enough to have the choice to write, in my free time, if I’m inspired to do so. Why don’t I focus on that luxury instead of wallowing in the fact that it can’t be my job? Why do I always want more? Was I taught seek unattainable fulfillment? I certainly wasn’t taught not to expect it.

I believe we are encouraged to want too much. Our consumer culture is driven by desire and as parents we haven’t and don’t do enough to counteract that. We need to teach qualities like “perseverance, resiliency, and reality-testing” which the Atlantic article asserts actually lead to success and fulfillment. We need to teach our children, and ourselves, to weather disappointment, to go without. We need to teach gratitude, appreciation, generosity and selflessness. These are skills that will benefit them and us, that might some day provide contentment.

The reality is, we might not get to be what we want to be, or we might have to sacrifice greatly to get there, and the same can befall our children. If certain lessons are learned; that frequently life brings disappointment, that sometimes their is no just reward for our efforts, that we must be grateful for what we have and stop continuously looking for more, that sometimes we won’t be happy, maybe, just maybe, we will wake up one day knowing how to be satisfied with our life.

And maybe some day, if we’re very lucky, we can learn to be truly happy with what we have.

Making space (and feeling grateful)

Today Mi.Vida and I started thinking about “child-proofing” our house. Isa is not crawling yet but she is a strong 7.5 month old girl who is trying hard to get her little butt in gear. We have a small (tiny) apartment and a lot of work to do before she can have free reign over any room. And the reality is, she won’t ever get to run free in any room of our house, and that is okay. I’m not the kind of mother who will change everything so my daughter won’t accidentally hurt herself because you know what, accidents happen and my daughter will hurt herself and that’s okay. I just want to make sure she doesn’t stick her finger in an electrical socket or pull a bottle of Merlot from a tall, wobbly, wine rack.

Actually, the wine rack is what we focused on today and finally, after much discussion, we took the top part off (it’s really three racks from IKEA that are stacked on top of each other) and put it in a closet in the living room and decided we’d “get rid” (read: drink! yay!) of the rest of it as soon as possible and just give the other two away. And while we were cleaning out the closet for the rack we’re keeping I found an AWESOME pair of size ten pants that I had forgotten about and am so excited to wear while I’m still losing my pregnancy weight.

And for some reason, while we doing all of this, I was over come with a feeling of intense gratitude. I am sooooooo thankful that we have to make our house safer for our happy, healthy baby girl. I am so grateful that we are getting rid of pieces of our past life to make space for our family life. I’m even excited to have a chance to wear those pants I love so much while I’m still a little chubbier than I once was. I’m happy for all of it, because my daughter is the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me and I couldn’t be more grateful to have her in my life.

I was talking to my therapist on Monday morning and she commented (as many have) on how happy I am. She said she was worried that my pregnancy anxiety would transfer onto my daughter once she was born and I’d become an anxious mother. But I’m not at all. She said I seemed so calm and at peace, and so genuinely fulfilled. I told her I was the happiest I’d ever been and I was even thinking about “number two” a lot, because “number one” was such a joy. She said that very few people want to be mothers in that way, mourning nothing from their past life and loving everything about their new role as a mom. She said most people did not have that deep need to nurture someone else. She said that many women would not be counting down the days to try for another baby, but would be wondering when they would start to feel like themselves again.

But that is just the thing, I feel more like myself now that I ever did before my daughter was born. This is who I was even before she was here, and that is why everything felt so incomplete while I was waiting for her.

As I left therapy yesterday I was happy that someone seemed to understand how much all of this means to me. I was also sad that that person was my therapist and not a friend I could have coffee with, sans writing a hefty check. I know it will be hard to find a friend who get’s how much all of this means to me, how fulfilled I am by embodying the simple and yet maddeningly complex role of mother.

And not having that friend, that person who “get’s it”, that is (one of the reasons) why I write this blog and read the blogs of all these amazing women – because they are just like me. They are also the uncommon ones, the women who need, deep down in their souls, to have a child, to be a mother. They are like me in that they won’t ever feel complete without realizing that role.

And as I walked out of therapy yesterday I cried. I cried tears of gratitude for everything I have and how happy I finally am. And I cried tears of sadness and frustration for all the women who are still struggling and don’t know if or when they will ever get here.

When I was trying the thing that bugged me the most about all the fertiles of the world was that they didn’t realize how good they had it, they weren’t grateful enough for what they had. I felt I would begrudge them nothing if they just acknowledged how different it could have been for them, how difficult it is for so many women. I hope you all know that even though I had a relatively easy time getting here, that I never once, not for a second, take it for granted. I am constantly in awe of my good fortune and while I’m not a religious person, I consider myself to be incredibly blessed. And I want nothing in the world (not even another child) as much as I want all of those women, the ones I know and the ones I’ll never “meet”, to have what I am fortunate enough to enjoy.

Revelations

Mi.Vida and I just had a bit of a fight. Or rather I was yelling at him. The details are pretty insignificant but as I spouted grievance after grievance I actually realized what was bothering me. Although Mi.Vida tells Little Bear (i.e. me because I’m holding her) what a “great mommy” I am and how thankful he is that I take such good care of her, I feel like so much of what I do goes unrecognized while much of what I don’t do is pointed out. There is so much that Mi.Vida doesn’t see, like the hours of playing with Isa and the fact that there is so little time to do anything else. He doesn’t see that the bathroom towels get taken down, washed, and hung back up. He doesn’t realize that while many things don’t get picked up off the floor, all the toys and books I’ve taken out during the day to appease Isa do make it back into their rightful spots. And while the dishes from last night might not get done, usually the ones I’ve used during the day do. So I never hear a “thank you for changing, rinsing, storing, washing, drying and putting away Isa’s cloth diapers” which would be fine, except I do hear a “why is the stroller still out and blocking the front hallway?”

Mi.Vida thinks that it all has to do with the fact that I know there are things about our apartment that he doesn’t like hates and so I internalize all the little things I hear him say out of frustration or annoyance. This is probably true. So he’s going to try to be better about not mentioning them so much and I’m going to be better about not getting bent out of shape when he does.

I also realized that I need to let go of my hopes for how Mi.Vida is feeling and how he deals with those feelings. It’s okay if Mi.Vida is not very happy right now. It’s okay if he feels overwhelmed at work, ineffectual at home with Isa and generally tired and worn out. Of course, I’d rather he didn’t feel that way and I will do whatever I can to ease those unpleasant feelings. But I don’t need to do so so desperately. Mi.Vida’s happiness right now doesn’t have to portend the future. I don’t need to feel threatened by his struggles right now.

The truth is, having a baby is a huge transition. Transitions can be very hard but many times they pay off and in the end, you’re happier for having made the change. We may not be happier, right now, that we were a year ago. But I bet in a year we will be happier than we were before we had our daughter. I hope we are much happier. In fact, I’m betting on it. In the meantime I just have to accept that this part is challenging and that each of us handles those challenges distinctly. And that is okay.

BUENAS NOTICIAS – It was a gorgeously warm weekend and I enjoyed being outside in the warmth so much.

Letting go

I’m writing this from my glider, with Isa snuggled up in the Moby wrap. She is being her normal fussy-in-the-early-evening-self and seems happy only if she’s on me, so I figured I’d go the extra mile and just wrap her onto me so I could use my hands while she sleeps. I have to say, it’s pretty cute.

Today I was reading a couple of Zen parenthood books and decided on the direction of this blog. This blog is going to be about letting go. Motherhood seems to be very much about letting go, and that is something I’m not always good at. I hope to become better at letting go and in the process, become a happy, fulfilled, loving, supportive mother. Here are some of the things I have to let go now that my daughter is a part of my life.

I have to let go of…

the idea that things are mine… things like my breasts, my time, my clothes, my diet, my life.

the importance of material possessions… things that get scraped, scarred, stained and invariably ruined.

the activities I used to love to do… things like seeing movies in theaters, eating out, sleeping in, drinking beers.

past standards of neatness and cleanliness… my house will resemble a natural disaster much, if not all, of the time.

the need to arrive at places on time… as no matter how early I set out, I always arrive 10 to 15 minutes late.

having anything happen on my time or in the manner in which I’d prefer… Isa has an amazing way of waking up right when I put in toast, or turn on the shower, or open my computer.

any feeling of, or even desire for, control I ever had. If I ever doubted it, I now am 100% sure that I have NO control over my life and that I never will.

my relationship with Mi.Vida… we will definitely have an amazing relationship in the future but it will be very different from the one we had before. Now we are not only partners, we’re also parents, and that will inevitably change the way we are together. Already I’ve seen changes in the way we interact with each other. I’m filled with excitement and trepidation about what the future will bring.

There are so many other things I need to learn to let go of, and that will be the focus of this blog. I’m even going to change the name. I hope this blog will help me to focus on letting go so that I can find happiness in all the craziness of motherhood. I also hope some of you will stick around for the ride!

BUENAS NOTICIAS – Isa slept over 6 hours last night! AMAZING!