Treading Water in a Riptide

Have you ever felt like you can’t get a handle on things? No matter what you do, you’ll be underwater?

Every day I face the impossible task of deciding which three or four things I can do out of a list of ten or more things I really should do.

Every day I have to redefine “necessary.” It all feels necessary but what is actually necessary? Washing the cloth diapers, it turns out, is almost always necessary.

When there is so little time, each choice carries greater ramifications. I am determining what is more important to me with every choice that I make. It can be enlightening. And humbling.

And frustrating. Some days my goals are completely at odds with each other. I want to streamline my life, and make things easier, but I also want to save money and be environmentally conscious. I have a certain level of professionalism at school that I have to uphold, not only to keep my job but to maintain the respect of my students. Without their respect, I can’t accomplish anything. I care deeply about fulfilling commitments, some I made before I realized how hard all this would be. I want to invest in my marriage but I also want to invest in myself. Most days my kids make it impossible to do either.

Continually, my own wants and needs come last, or I can only focus on one facet of myself at a time, leaving other areas of my life to languish. Between the stress and emotional turmoil I’ve been wading through, exercise is a top priority right now; the benefits to my mental wellbeing are just too great to stop dedicating time to working out. Which means that other things I love, mainly writing, are falling by the way side.

It’s frustrating and I’m still making mistakes, daily. I’m still letting silly whims hijack my time, like how I decided we NEEDED to have magnetic dry erase board for the fridge so we can plan our meals and maintain a shared shopping list. I just spent 20 minutes looking for one online. TWENTY MINUTES!!!!

But most days I’m doing better. Slowly but surely. Some things have to give. My new blog is still not ready to be unveiled. I’m realizing I might have to start writing there before it’s ready. It will be like inviting you all over to sit around a bare living room in lawn chairs and drink wine from red plastic cups, but if that’s the case, so be it. The most important things are my words, not my widgets.

I’m figuring it all out. At least I think I am. Some days are better than others and the really difficult days are becoming fewer and farther between.

If any of you super-charged, making-it-work mamas have any advice for a woman who is struggling just to keep it all together with a very busy, bordering on unmanageable schedule, I’d very much appreciate it. At this point, I can use all the help I can get.

How do you keep your head above water? Are there ever times when you feel like you’re drowning in it all?

Toxic Stress Bomb

Sorry to drop all this on you. You may want to click away…

I forgot to thank everyone who weighed in on my whether or not I should go to the OT appointment with Monito. I will admit I wanted to but felt kind of guilty, like I would be wasting their time. And perhaps I will, but I do have a few questions and will appreciate hearing what they have to say. Knowing that so many of you would do the same makes me feel better about my choice.

And a big thank you to everyone who commented on Friday’s post. I’m still kind of reeling from that whole…thing. I think Jjiraffe is right, that I put friendship on a pedestal. I see bits and pieces of people’s friendships and I fill in the blanks, always assuming the best. Recognizing that though, I KNOW that many people have really wonderful friendships, ones that enrich their lives in both obvious and subtle ways, and I’m quite sure that I’m missing out on something pretty profound by not having many friends to fall back on in my own life. Of course, a lot people are lacking in meaningful friendships, just like me. I never assumed I was the sole person out there wandering around wishing she had more friends, but it’s important to remember that. Finding, and keeping, friends is hard, especially when you are a full time WOHM. There is just so little time to make the connections that foster a friendship. And if you’re lucky enough to find a friend, it’s hard to see her enough to maintain the connection.

The truth is I’m not looking for someone who knows me to my very core. I’m not even sure I know me to my very core. And honestly, I don’t even need one friend who can be my everything. All I’m looking for is someone (or various someones) I can see once a week (or every two weeks), I can meet up with on the occasional weekend, I can see movies with or go shopping with (window shopping of course, as I never have any money), or just grab a quick coffee with, that I can actually, physically BE WITH a few times a month so that I don’t feel like every meaningful interaction I have takes place over technology of some kind. I mean, I love technology, I really, really do. It’s the only think keeping me sane right now, and I absolutely recognize that, but it can’t take the place of sharing the same physical space with someone. That piece is so important, and I don’t have that, really at all in my life.

The sad truth is I’m almost positive it’s not going to happen anytime soon. School starts in two weeks and in many ways these next fourteen days are the calm before the storm. Except, they aren’t calm, not at all. I have way too much to do. I’m stretched entirely too thin. It’s not all going to get done, I’m already putting things on the chopping block, except a lot of these things just can’t get chopped.

The biggest burden right now is packing and then unpacking my classroom. I was informed, on the last day of the last school year–that I would be switching rooms with someone this summer. It’s the SIXTH time in ten years I’ve had to pack up my classroom and recreate it somewhere else. I’m just so done doing it. I don’t know how to give a shit enough to make it look nice anymore. Which I guess is good because I’m not even moving into a real classroom, but a modular, which is much smaller, with super low ceilings and no bulletin boards. There is almost no storage space so I have to get rid of a ton of stuff (this is hard when I teach so many different subjects throughout the day). Anyway, I’ve already said too much about a super boring subject but needless to say, it’s going to suck. A lot. I start on Tuesday. I have next week to pack it and the week after (when Osita isn’t in school) to unpack it. Yeah. Don’t ask me how it’s going to happen, especially since I don’t really have any childcare to fall back on.

Then there is the baby proofing. Also boring so I won’t go into it much. I have a bit more leeway on this one, but I want to get the BIG things done before I start school, as I can tell Monito is weeks away from crawling. I ordered a gate for the top of the stairs and straps to anchor the TV to the wall behind it. I’m going to anchor the DVD stand too, and rig some netting in front of the TV stand to make the electronics there inaccessible. The rest of it will have to wait until he’s actually crawling.

Of course there has been some copywriting stuff that blew up in my face and has required a ton of my time. Again, boring, but it’s what I get for asking for more responsibility. Lesson learned.

I haven’t even let myself start thinking about actually planning for the school year because honestly? It’s probably not going to happen. Not until the weekend before school starts anyway.

The final piece of this stressbomb is that I will be teaching zero period this coming year. Which means my first class will start at 7:10am. I asked for this, because with this class I can teach five classes before lunch (with one ten minute break) and get paid my full salary (instead of the 80% pay I got for teaching 4 classes last year) while still leaving at lunch to pick up Monito. This is an amazing opportunity, financially, and I’m thankful to have it. In practice it will most likely make me incredibly unhappy. But it’s what we need to do to pay off our credit card debt in a timely manner. Part of me is disappointed in myself, because instead of learning to really live on a really tight budget I just took on more responsibility so I could make more money, which is what I ALWAYS do. It almost always ends badly, and I never learn to live frugally. So yeah, I’m happy to have this opportunity but disappointed I had to take it. The reality is that even with this we still have to live frugally to pay off that credit card debt and save enough to cover some expenses that will come due this year. I hope I can pull this all off. Getting up at 5:30am, teaching a full five classes, rushing to pick up Monito during my lunch break, grading papers and planning while he naps, then picking up Osita and doing the whole afternoon/evening/dinner/bedtime routine with two kids is going to be a lot. A lot, a lot. I’ll need to go to bed really early, which means there won’t be much time for writing or anything else. I’m not sure when I’ll get laundry done or clean up the house (bwahaha, like I ever do that anyway). But I suppose a lot of women make this kind of stuff work, so I can figure it out too. I’ll have to.

Anyway, that is where I am right now. Just stewing in the stress of it all, wondering how I’m going to survive. I know I’ll get it done. I always do. Most of it will probably be pretty half assed. And I’ll probably end up pretty unhappy, but it’s just a year. I can do anything for a year, right?

I think right now is probably not the time to be looking for new friends…

What’s stressing you out right now?

What do I want to accomplish?

This morning I re-read my post and was struck by a realization: I have no idea what I want to accomplish. Well, I have some vague ideas but I don’t know if they are really what I want, and I’m not quite sure how I can ascertain what I really want. How do people figure these things out? It’s so daunting.

The way I see it, there are three basic kinds of accomplishments I could work toward. One is a tangible product I could point to and share, like a book, or articles, or photography or something else that exists outside of myself. If I were to create something like that, I’d then have to determine if that thing, or things, had to reach a certain level or recognition for me to feel like I had accomplished something, or if just completing them would be sufficient. Would just writing a book be enough? Or would it have to be published? Or would it have to reach a certain level of “success”? If so, what would that level be?

The second kind of accomplishment would be touching other people’s lives in a meaningful way. That is supposedly why people teach, right? So they can make a difference in the lives of others, shaping the youth of this country in some small way. I think that is a totally acceptable accomplishment at my job, I just have to figure out how I will know that I’ve achieved that. Do I just assume that by teaching I am giving something back? Do I need to have students come back and actually TELL me that I made a difference? I sometimes wonder if that is why I want to move to high school, because I think students at that age are more aware of what their teachers mean to them. Middle-schoolers are so self absorbed, they are pretty much oblivious to what their teachers are providing. I know some middle school teachers are told by their students that they made a difference in their lives, but in ten years I have never been on the receiving end of that sentiment. Will I be able to feel that I’ve touched the lives of my students in some meaningful way if none of them every tell me directly that I have?

The third kind of accomplishment would be more internal, a sense of personal satisfaction that I have lived the kind of life I want to live. This might look like living my life according to my ideals and beliefs: only supporting local business, reducing our carbon footprint by cloth diapering and aggressively saving water (among other things), cooking with organic foods, being a kind and supportive friend, living mindfully and with compassion. This kind of accomplishment is probably the easiest to achieve, in that my success depends completely on my own actions, but it also receives the least recognition. Only I will know if I’ve lived my life in the ways I’ve wanted, and even if living that way touches others, I may never hear from them that it was. This kind of accomplishment will most likely make my every day life feel more meaningful, but it might be harder to look back at point to it as a something that I have achieved. I don’t know, maybe not?

So I guess I have to figure out, what kind of accomplishment am I looking for in my life? Do I need my accomplishment to be recognizable? Do I need it to be acknowledged by others? I suppose in the end, what it comes down to is, do I need other people to see what I’ve done and appreciate it in some way? Or can I be happy just knowing that I’ve accomplished my goals in my own heart.

And I honestly don’t know. Maybe I need to give more back. It’s hard because my current job is all about giving to others, but that giving is not necessarily recognized or appreciated. And motherhood is all about self-sacrifice, but again, that giving is not appreciated much, at least not when kids are young. So already I spend most of my day giving of myself, I just don’t receive much appreciation for that. It makes the idea of giving more of myself during my “free time” even harder to get excited about. And yet… if that is the way to make my life feel more meaningful…

So all this comes back to one thing. At the end of my life, I want to feel like I DID something, like I accomplished something meaningful, that my life had a purpose greater than myself. I know motherhood is imbued with it’s own sense of purpose–and that raising productive members of society is an admirable goal, one I take seriously–but I don’t want to place my own personal feelings of self-worth on the shoulders of my children; that is a lot of for them to bear. I need to have an identity, and a feeling of sense worth, separate from my children. And I need to feel like I’m working toward something greater than myself in areas of my life that aren’t dedicated to my family. I assume that has to be my job, but maybe that is the mistake I’m making. Maybe I can find some time that is separate from job and removed from my family, to do something meaningful. It doesn’t seem like there is enough time in the day to do something really worthwhile in the scarce hours that are not already dedicated to work and family, but perhaps I can make it happen. If that were possible, I could keep teaching just to support my family, and find meaning in other parts of my life. The good part of that is that my goal wouldn’t have to support my family financially, so I’d have much greater freedom of choice in what I do. The bad news is I’d have to find time to do it and still honor all my other obligations, which would probably limit the scope of my goal.

No matter what I ultimately choose, I want to be doing something now so that I have I have an opportunity to do something significant. I just hope I can figure out what I want to accomplish, before it’s too late.

Which kind of accomplishments are most important to you?

What Am I Doing With My Life?

Sometimes I wonder what I am doing with my life. What is my desired end game? Where do I want to be at the end of this journey? What path do I want to have traveled to get there?

I know life is not a destination, and yet… all journeys end somewhere. I seem to make most of my choices with the journey, not the destination, in mind. I wanted kids because I hoped to raise them, not because I wanted grandchildren later in life (though I would really, really love me some grandbabies some day). I became a teacher because I thought it would be easier to parent with a teacher’s schedule–I’d be more available after school and have summers and other vacations off to be with them. What I didn’t think about was how being a teacher doesn’t lead to anything except, well, more teaching. If I don’t specifically leave my job, I will still be doing the exact same shit I’m doing now, when I retire. And I won’t even be making much more money doing it.

It’s sad to say, but I embarked on my marriage for the purpose of having children as well. I also didn’t want to be alone. I’m an extrovert, and the idea of being alone forever was terrifying for me. It still is. Maybe that is another reason I wanted to have kids, so I’d always have someone to hang out with.

{If that is the case, why am I always trying to get away? Perhaps I didn’t realize what being tied to someone 24/7 would actually feel like.}

Writing all that out makes it seem like my sole purpose in life, as I understood it, was to have children, and that I crafted my whole life around that goal. Perhaps that’s the truth, but if it is, shouldn’t I be sublimely fulfilled right now? Shouldn’t my life seem ultimately meaningful to me?

I’m not sure that it does. I’m not sure what the point is.

I am realizing this all sounds super morbid, but I don’t feel morbid about it all. It’s more of an odd feeling, like something is off. I feel like I have a tag I can’t cut all the way out of my shirt and the little part that is left keeps scratching me but if I try to cut it anymore I’ll catch the hem and the whole thing will start to unravel.

I think I worry that I lack aspiration. I don’t have any grandiose dreams. I mean, I have things I’d love to accomplish, but I highly doubt that I will. I am not currently working toward those goals. And they are as yet still amorphous, vague to the point of not really existing at all. I tell myself that now is not the time to work toward my own aspirations, not now, while my kids are young. But they will be young for a while longer yet. I’ll be almost 40 before they are both securely in grade school, and I’ve heard that that is when things really get tricky. Will that be the time to chase my dreams? Won’t it be too late?

They say it’s never too late, but I don’t know if I agree. Sometimes I think it is too late, to change directions, to start from scratch. We’re never going to have a lot of money laying around to finance any big upheavals, or even to support us as I take a substantial decrease in pay. When do I think I’m going to be able to just up end my life and do something new? I know there is a never a good time, but when will there ever be a time when it’s even feasible?

Teaching is a weird profession because it comes with ready-made cycles. There are beginnings and ends; every school year starts anew and then ten months later, it’s over. I live my life by the school year and August marks the “beginning” for me more than January ever has. June is also the end, and I suppose that is why I’m taking stock. I’m coming up on the final week of my my tenth year teaching. This is a decade-end of sorts for me. I suppose I should feel like I have more to say for the last ten years, more to point at while proudly exclaiming, Look, look what I’ve done. See what I’ve accomplished? With a not-so subtly implied, Aren’t you impressed? Except I don’t feel like that at all. I kind of feel like the opposite.

Is this really what I’m going to do for the rest of my professional life? In ten years will I be looking back on another decade of teaching without feeling much pride in what I’ve done? Will I feel like I’ve accomplished anything? Because I don’t really feel like I’ve accomplished anything yet.

It’s not so bothersome, at 33, to feel like I haven’t done much with my life, professionally speaking, especially when I took such giant steps toward my personal goals (and was lucky enough to achieve them). I can be happy with the last ten years of my life, even if work doesn’t factor into that happiness at all. But the next ten? Will raising two children and keeping a marriage together (assuming I can manage both) be enough to hang my hat on? Will I find contentment if that’s all I’ve done?

I honestly don’t know.

I try to keep some doors open. I’ve stayed with ggmg magazine for three years now because I want to be doing SOMETHING in another field, a field that interests me and I think I might be good at. It’s not enough to get me anywhere in that field, but it’s enough to give me an idea of whether or not I really like it, and it helps me slowly acquire skills I may be able to use later on. I don’t know if I’ll ever use those skills in another line of work, but it’s nice to know that I’m honing them, in some small way.

I don’t know quite where I’m going with this. I guess I’m just acknowledging an emptiness in my life, where I feel like professional aspirations should be. I almost wrote “job satisfaction” there, but it’s not that really. It’s not that I’m unhappy at my job, on a day to day basis. It’s more like I’m unhappy with the fact that my job isn’t taking me anywhere. I’m disappointed that I’ll mostly likely still be doing the same thing, or nearly the same thing, in 10 or 20 or 30 years. Is that where I want to be at the end of this journey, professionally in the same place I started in? Will the journey through 30+ years of teaching be worth the complete lack of a destination?

I honestly don’t know, and I’m worried that by the time I figure out the answer, it will be too late to change course.

Do you have personal or professional aspirations? Are you satisfied by them? Do you believe it’s ever too late to change course?

On Being a Working Mom in America

I haven’t written about this in a long time, but it’s something I think about constantly. I am a working mom in America, a country where working mothers comprise half the workforce and yet earn not only less than men in their same positions but also less than women who don’t have kids. I am a working mom in America, one of the only developed nations without a national paid maternity leave. I am a working mom in America, where quality childcare is difficult to find, where most employers do not support flexible schedules and where women with children are frequently pushed onto the “mommy track” where they will get less responsibility and fewer promotions.

I will be the first to admit that, as far as working mothers go, I have it pretty darn good. As a teacher in a public school my salary is dependent on my level of education and my years of service in the district; there are no men (or childless women) at my level making more than me, and I don’t have to worry about men or younger, childless women getting promotions that I feel I deserve. While it can feel stifling to only take a miniscule step on the pay scale every year (I’m actually approaching the place where I no longer move up on the pay scale, I’ve been working in my district for so long), at least I know what I should be making and that no one is paying me less than anyone else.

There are other benefits to being a teacher, the obvious being the (cumulative) month off of school during the year and the eight weeks off during the summer. The hours are a double edged sword, I have to be in so early that I don’t see my kids in the morning (and my husband has to managed them without my help) but I’m also home earlier, so my kids aren’t in daycare until dinner time (yes, teachers work a full eight hour day, plus all the extra time they spend in meetings, planning and grading papers).

Being a teacher can also be restrictive. The nature of my job means there is very little flexibility when it comes to schedule. I have been lucky enough to have accommodating administrators and was able to create schedules that provided the wiggle room my family has needed over the years. But that has also meant that I have had to move to part-time (80%) which affects my financial security, especially my retirement. My family never once discussed if Mi.Vida should be the one to take the cut, even when we made exactly the same amount of money (I actually made marginally more than him for many years), and I imagine that is the case in many families. For most Americans, it’s the woman who leaves her job, or reduces her hours, when kids come.

Being a working mom is hard. Really hard. (And I know being a SAHM is hard too–I’m not trying to compare the two, I’m only speaking about my own experience here.) You constantly feel pulled in a million directions, with your job, your children, your partner, your friends, and your chores all vying for your attention. There is never enough time for any one thing and there is a constant awareness of how much you are failing everyone. You’re exhausted and behind at work, thinking about your kids and then you’re overwhelmed at home, distracted by work. You are plagued by guilt, judging yourself for the ways you’re not being the employee you want to be and deriding yourself all the ways you’re short-changing your children. (If you had time, you’d also beat yourself up for what a shitty wife you’ve become.) And if you weren’t judging yourself enough, you’re aware of others judging you too. Your co-workers question your commitment when you have to leave early to pick up your sick kid and other moms ask you what it’s like for someone else to raise your children for you. My in-laws favorite jab is the timeless, “We didn’t raise our kids that way,” with which they mean, “we raised our kids ourselves, we didn’t ask family, or pay strangers, to do it for us.”

There are some days when it feels like entirely too much, like I’m drowning in a pool of ever deepening expectation. Some days it feels like a rat race, like I’m just racing from one of my many personas to another, never inhabiting any of them fully. Sometimes my alarm goes off at 5:30am and I’m literally moving non-stop until 11:30 at night. During those 18 hours I transition from one identity to the another over a dozen times. It’s exhausting.

I recently read Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink and seethed with rage at how difficult mothers have in America today. While I don’t have as stressful a job as the author, I could relate to so much of her experience. Reading the statistics she listed about working moms in America left me feeling incredibly depressed. It shouldn’t have to be this hard. When the majority of families need two earners just to get by, it shouldn’t feel so impossible to make it work.

Mi.Vida and I live in the most expensive city in the United States (yes, both San Francisco’s rents and home prices (this is average dollars per square foot of living space) have surpassed New York City, and childcare also costs more here than anywhere in the country). With the current tech boom, the difference between the rich and the poor is greater than anywhere in the country. The middle class is being pushed out, and for a public school teacher and city employee, just making ends meet is a Sisyphus-ian endeavour. I know we could choose to live somewhere else, but this is our home. Mi.Vida grew up here and my family has been in the Bay Area for 20 years. Both sets of parents live nearby, and if we want to have them in our lives, we have to spend a lot of money to stay here.

Some days I wish Mi.Vida made enough for me to stay home (he’d have to make at least TWICE as much as he makes now). Some days I wish that there were other options, that I could stop working if it became too much. But I must also admit that most days I’m relieved that I don’t have a choice, because honestly, I don’t know how I’d make that choice. The unknowns of leaving my job, even for only 2-3 years, are so debilitating. What if I couldn’t find a job when I was ready to go back? What if I were only able to find a job that paid significantly less than my current job? What if I weren’t working and my husband lost his job and we lost our house? What if I hated being home full time? What if I loved it and never wanted to go back? I don’t know if I would have the courage to make those sacrifices, if the choice were available to me. I know the choice would torment me, no matter what I decision I made.

Being a working mom is hard, whether you have a choice or not, but it doesn’t have to be. There are lots of ways our government, and our  employers, can make it easier. In fact, it benefits individual business, and the nation as a whole, when dual earner families are supported. Flexible work schedules, production-based expectations (where employees are paid for what they produce and not how much face time they put in at the office) and increased sick leave all increase not only morale but creativity and productivity. Caring for children hones many valuable skills that are transferable in the workplace. If we valued care giving, and recognized how difficult it is and the skills necessary to do it well, maybe women wouldn’t be so afraid to leave a gaping hole in their resume when they stay home for several years. If part-time positions or job shares were more accepted and available, women wouldn’t have to make the definitive choice between working outside of the home or being confined to it.

I am a WOHM, and I don’t have any choice in the matter, but I wish I did. I wish other women, who do have choices, had more and better ones to choose from. I wish it weren’t such an all or nothing game, where striking a balance feels all but impossible not matter what you choose. I wish the work mothers do was valued and appreciated. I wish that systems were in place so that even if I couldn’t afford to leave my job completely, I still might spend more time with my family, and that I wouldn’t have to be terrified of the ramifications of doing that. I wish it were all just so very, very different.

If you are a working mom, what is the experience like for you? If you’re currently a stay at home mom, how did you make that choice? Do you think the US should do more to support dual earner families? Why or why not?

More Thoughts on the Postpartum Body Project

I wanted to add a few more thoughts on Operation: Getting My Body Back. I think I’ve mentioned countless a few times before that I have a very sordid history with disordered eating. I spent a decade loathing my body and tethering my happiness to the number on the scale and on the tag of my clothing. It was a dark time, and there were moments when I saw my life as a series of days stacked up like dominoes, each one looming as nothing but another 24 hours period during which I’d do little more than obsess about food.

During my year abroad in Spain I brought my weight down to 125 (a European size 4) and I was officially the skinniest I had ever been. I was also the most miserable. That year taught me an invaluable lesson–being skinny does not guarantee happiness. After that, I stopped my obsession with food, and while I did initially gain more weight than I wanted to, I eventually settled at a size I was happy with.

I spent the next ten years specifically AVOIDING dieting because I didn’t EVER want to go back to that place of severely disordered eating. I was so lucky that after my first pregnancy I was able to lose the 55 lbs I gained almost effortlessly, I assumed through breastfeeding. This postpartum experience has been different. Despite pumping 36-40 ounces a day for six months, I stayed at a steady 165lbs–a full 20lbs over my pre-pregnancy weight. I’m not sure if this was due to hormones or an increased appetite. Either way, the experience was totally different than before.

I would normally not take my weight loss to the deliberate place of counting and restricting calories with a specific weight loss goal in mind (and I do want to add that I don’t expect to lose two pounds a week, I’m just following the calorie amount that MFP suggests for a two pound weight a week loss), but when I began this project I was a full 25-30 pounds over my target weight (and again, I don’t usually fixate on a number on a scale, but I know that I won’t fit into my clothes (my real goal) until I’m at that target weight). I knew that if I just focused on healthy eating I would only lose about a half pound a week, which means it would be a full year before I would be able to access my wardrobe. Normally this wouldn’t be such a big deal, but I am on a very strict budget and buying clothes I’ll only use for a (hopefully) limited time just isn’t an option for me right now. For that reason I’m trying to get down to a weight where the size 10 clothes I saved (specifically for during and after pregnancy) fit, so that I can revert back to my healthy eating attitude to lose the final weight required to get back into my full wardrobe. Mostly I just really need to not be wearing my maternity clothes anymore.

I guess the short way to say it is, no, I’m not thrilled to be formally “dieting” right now–I wish I could fall back on the attitudes that got me through the last decade–but between the amount of weight I have to lose, the severe lack of clothes I have to wear and the inability to buy clothes during the interim, I’m making the choice to count calories and track exercise.

I will say that I’ve found calorie counting to be a productive exercise. I noticed that I had lost track of serving sizes and portion control during pregnancy and breastfeeding, when I basically let myself eat what I wanted, when I wanted. The sheer amount of what I’ve gotten used to eating, both in the different things I consume throughout the day, and the amount of food I consume at each sitting, will never be conducive to even maintaining a healthy weight, let alone losing slowly over a prolonged period of time. In the first three weeks of tracking my calories I was immediately reminded of how quickly it all adds up, and even now, when I’m not being as dedicated to tracking my calories, I can think back to the weeks when I was and make more educated decisions accordingly. I know that I only need to eat half a burrito in one sitting to be sated (and I have another meal ready and waiting! Bonus!), and that if I have a whole thing of fries with my In-n-Out burger I’ll have consumed 700+ calories. I’ve also been reminded that sometimes just a few bites of something is plenty satisfying, and I don’t have to finish a serving just because it’s there. These are valuable lessons, and I know I’ll carry them with me as I move from more restrictive calorie tracking to an attitude of more relaxed healthy eating.

I also think being aware of my daily steps is a valuable tool; it’s good to know there are days I can barely take 3,000 steps if I don’t do something specifically to get my butt in gear. I want a moderate level activity to be a part of most days, and having my fitbit holds me accountable to that goal. I’m learning how to incorporate movement into my daily life, making decisions I wouldn’t have made before. Like today I’m at a training so I’ll get home later than usual and it will probably be impossible to pick up Osita by the time I get home. I also have a ggmg magazine meeting in the evening so I can’t use the elliptical (I’ve been using it after Monito has gone to bed and so far it’s been quite successful! He doesn’t wake up!) so I’m going to go for a walk during the 30 minute lunch break. I never would have done that before, but knowing I won’t make my step goal today is helping me being proactive in finding opportunities (like my lunch break) to move my body.

So that is where I am on weight loss right now. I suppose I want to make this clear, both to others and to myself, because I am SO TERRIFIED of returning to a place of disordered eating. I want to make sure I’m doing this for the right reasons and in the right way. If you think I’m making an missteps, please tell me.

What is your personal history with body image and weight loss? What philosophy do you want to live by moving forward?