My Motivation

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A while ago a friend asked me to write a post revealing how I stay motivated to work out. I’m a mother of two, I work from home, I have {a couple} friends and interests. And she has all the same issues in her daily life {plus a few more friends, I would guess} and needed some inspiration or an idea or perhaps the secret. As usual, the secret is there is no secret.

On one hand, I was surprised to get this request. I’m by no means a fitness expert, I’m not a hard core…anything. But I do love running. And I do try to do it semi-kind-of-mostly regularly. I go to yoga class when I can. I walk my dogs and hike in the woods. When I can. So I guess that makes me normal for my demographic. And maybe that’s the person who should be telling other women about her motivation as she experiences it. Not as sage wisdom. Not as instructions.

Nothing I am about to share is ground breaking or worthy of a HuffPo type viral post about “Love Your Body And Post a Pic of Your Cellulite” or “How I Taught My Kids to Love Crossfit” or “The Secret to A Hot Mom Body: No Fun At All” or whatever will be the next clickbait post we will all see on our Facebook feeds. It’s just my thoughts, my advice, my experience. And it’s possible there is something in it that will help my friend. Or her friend. Or some random guy who just stumbled on my blog while searching ’39 weeks pregnant naked’ (an actual search term that has led people here SEVERAL times).

Find what you like, and just do that thing.

Here is the thing. There 2 million billion ways to exercise. I am, for the most part, a runner. This is for no other reason than this is the exercise I a) like the most and b) find it easiest to fit into my schedule and lifestyle. End of discussion. Some people are devoted to yoga. Or dedicated to BodyPump. Crossfit seems to be #trending these days. But none of that really matters.  What matters is that you even MILDLY enjoy it and find it fits into your lifestyle. It’s all well and good to see posts about your cousins and neighbors and coworkers lifting 500lbs while doing a handstand and jump-roping during today’s WOD, but if that kind of workout does not resonate with you IT IS NOT FOR YOU. My best friend loves basically all kinds of exercise as long as they start at 5am. My sister will work out at any time of day but it has to be something that could involve a drill instructor screaming really demeaning ‘motivation’ in her face. People and morning shows and magazine articles will tell you to vary your workout and try different things and honestly, that’s great advice. But if you are in the stage of life where time is incredibly limited, resources are tight, motivation is sucked out of you by sleep deprivation, just pick your best/favorite/least hated thing. And do it. Whatever floats your boat, find it, own it, do it.

Be in it for the right reasons.

As much as we all want to fit into the jeans we wore when we were 22, this should not be the main reason be work out. Sorry every magazine ever made for women, but size doesn’t matter. In fact, the proof that it doesn’t matter is that I DO fit in the jeans I wore at age 22 but yet NOTHING on my body feels or looks the same as it did in 2003. And that’s fine. I can run faster than I could then. I can go farther. I care so much less about the number on the tag of my pants. I want to feel great. I want to live a long, long, long ass time until I’m shrunken to 4’3” and  blowing out 113 candles on an inferno of a birthday cake. There are no guarantees, we all know that painfully well by now, but I’m going to give myself the best chance I can by pumping blood through my heart and flushing toxins out of my body.

Take a look in the mirror.

In a glaring contrast to the paragraph written directly above this one, I will tell you that I do work out to feel good about my physical appearance. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t work out to get approval from men. I don’t work out to wear a crop top. I don’t give two shits about airbrushed Jessica Biel on the cover of You’re Not Good Enough magazine (and I bet she doesn’t either, honestly, but gotta get paid). And in reality working out doesn’t drastically change my dress size. I recently went 6 weeks without so much as a 2 mile jog under my belt. Dave was on the road and we were all sick and one thing led to another and my running shoes were covered in dust. I still fit in my pants and my weight was probably around the same number. But after a week of short runs and a few hours of yoga I FELT like I looked better. I felt sexier and more confident. I could run all day every day and I will never fit the exact beauty standards that our culture pushes on me, but I’m over that now. I looked in the mirror and looked basically the same, but felt so much different.

Value your ‘me’ time.

You deserve to spend time on your fitness and health. You deserve to have those moments to yourself. Yes you are busy. Yes people everyone needs you. Yes there are 4 seasons of Battlestar Galactica to be (re)watched while eating peanuts on the couch. But you have to be the one to put your foot down and set limits. With others. With yourself. For them. And for you. There will be days, weeks or months when you can’t carve out the time you want for you ideal workout even if you were more motivated than ever. In those times I squeak out what I can. I don’t beat myself over not logging the mileage I wanted. I take a brisk 30 minute walk to clear my head. I do yoga for 15 minutes to get my blood moving. And when we are in a phase that is less hectic and the stars align, for an hour or so, every few days, I put myself first. And we all share the rewards. (see below)

It pays off.

To some degree I am, like most people I suppose, a results based individual. I can’t continue to do something, particularly something difficult or inconvenient, if I’m never seeing any form of benefit from it. I just can’t. And running gives me results. I feel healthy. I feel strong. On a week where I get in 15 or 25 miles, I feel clear headed. I sleep more soundly. My clothes fit well, my confidence is boosted. I run to beat my old time or to mark a new distance goal, but mostly I run because I like myself, in general, better when I do.

Eat what you want.

I exercise for all of the above mentioned reasons. I also exercise because I love the indulgent delicacies life has to offer. And by indulgent delicacies I mean that I like to eat Nutella out of the jar with a spoon. That is not a metaphor. I literally scoop it directly into my mouth. You can’t, of course, subsist on spoon-Nutella alone. You need lots of vegetables and some protein and lots of water. But unless you are trying to get a six pack (and are you…really? Because WHY!?) my humble opinion is that life is full of delicious things that I want to eat. In MODERATION you guys, I know I know. I run because I want to be that shrunken, grinning, slightly confused 113 year old version of myself. But I eat spoon-Nutella because I could die in 10 minutes. Balance. Zen. Om. (This post not sponsored by Nutella…but if they have some extra, I’ve got spoons. Just saying.)

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For Teaching Me To Be Brave

When I left for Japan a few months ago, my mom had tears in her eyes for days before my flight. She was worried. And sad. And anxious. Did I mention worried? I inherited my obsession with worst case scenarios genetically.

Why do you have to go so FAR? This is hard. This is too hard. It’s too much for you. Packing the house. Packing the bags. Traveling with two kids alone. Being so far. Dave goes on the road. Earthquakes happen. And then packing again. Packing the bags back up. Doing it all again. Doing some of it alone. And the uncertainty of what’s next. That’s stressful. It’s hard. It’s too hard.

She has a point. She always does.

It IS hard sometimes. The packing is hard. The goodbyes are never easier.

The flight is just so much sweating and several pulled muscles. She has that part nailed.

And sometimes Dave’s travels and I have to parent alone. But I can do it. I’m strong. I’m resourceful. I like red wine.

And earthquakes happen. And my reactions times are total shit but this house was built with them in mind. And I’m trusting. And statistically quite safe. I’ve checked the numbers.

And we do pack up again. And again. And there is uncertainty in our lifestyle. But you know what? There is ALWAYS uncertainty. We face ours head on because it’s part of the job description, but even if I moved home and took a ‘normal’ job and did things her way, nothing is for sure. I could lose my job, one of us could get ill, the house could burn down. ANYTHING can ALWAYS happen. At least this way we are very honest with ourselves that we truly have no idea where we will be living in one year. But it’s ok. Because I’m adventurous. I’m excited about possibility.

It’s hard. And scary sometimes. And sometimes I hate it. And sometimes I cry. But mostly I love it. And mostly I’m happy. Because I’m brave. I’m bold. I’m not afraid to do things differently.

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When I was younger I suspect my mom sat around trying to guess what I would be like. What my life would hold. And based on my personality and my fears and my abilities I believe she probably pictured me as self-sufficient and compassionate and much, much more conventional. Much, much closer to home. Like within 100 feet of home.

When I was invited to sleepovers, I would generally accept because I wanted to be able to do it. I wanted to be super cool with sleeping somewhere else. But for a long, long, such a very long time I wasn’t. My mom and dad would drive me to my friend’s house with my sleeping bag and my coolest pajamas and I’d be like ‘Right! I’m off! Love you! See you tomorrow!’ and we would kiss and smile at each other and all three of us knew full well they would be driving back to get me before midnight.

It’s not that I didn’t feel safe or that I wasn’t happy to be with my friends. I fully and truly believed in adults and knew my friends parents were in charge and would do any and all emergency procedures properly. I loved my friends and had heart-split-in-half BFF necklaces and wrote all our names in rows in my notebooks. But the reality of change scared me. Their houses had dark corners  I didn’t know about. Their dinner was more spicy than at home. Their laundry detergent made things smell differently than at my house. My mom didn’t live there. My sister wasn’t here. CUE THE PANIC! CALL MY MOM! CALL HER! CALL HER NOW!

As I grew older I could make small steps towards being away from home. I stayed a week at a time at summer camp. I slept over at friend’s houses. I knew that being independent and wanting to get away from your parents was cool. I knew adventure was supposed to be fun. I faked like I liked it as much as I could. But truth be told, I wanted to be home all summer. I wanted to sleep in my own bed. I wanted to read books by the radiator having conversations with my cat to practice new vocabulary. I kept a front in the name of socialization. But it could only last certain tests.

My senior year of high school my German class participated in an exchange. I thought taking German was exciting enough in a school where most kids took Spanish or French, but now everyone was all psyched to host a German high school student (FINE, fine, I’ll do it) and then GO to Germany and spend a month there. Um….sure? Is this what we are doing? It’s cool to fly across the ocean and live with some other family who probably doesn’t eat waffles for breakfast? Do we know anything about what their laundry detergent smells like? No? Yea…ok…I’m cool. Sign me up. (I actually signed up)

A couple weeks before we were set to leave, I hit the panic button HARD. I couldn’t do it. I knew I couldn’t. It was too far. I was too scared. We had a pow wow with me, my parents, and Herr Ahlers and I backed out. Big time. My friends from class were like...Lane..seriously? We can drink beer there! Boys with accents! No parents! And I was like you guys…I have a reading list to get to with my cat next to the radiator but I really wish you all the best.

You can forgive my mom back then for not foreseeing my life as it is now.

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The thing she doesn’t know, or won’t admit, or doesn’t believe, is that all the things that worry her so much, all her concerns, all her fears…all these things seem doable to me because of things she (and my dad. Hi Dad!) have given me.

They trusted me, they believed in me, they never forced me to do anything. They didn’t tough love me into sleepovers. They didn’t ‘too bad so sad suck it up’ and send me on that plane to Germany. They encouraged me, and pushed gently, and then held back when they say I wasn’t ready. And guess what?

I’m ready. Somewhere along the way, I became ready to go out alone into the world.

I’m strong. I’m resourceful. I’m trusting. I love logic. I’m adventurous. I believe in possibility.

The life we live, the life ANYONE lives, has struggles. Has stress. Things are not guaranteed, nothing is for sure, change is hard. But I do it anyway. I travel. I see things many people only dream of, I spend time with my kids that my own mother would have killed for, I collect memories and pictures the way many people collect shoes and handbags and cars and flat screens. I do all these things and MORE, all the things that scare the shit out of my mother, because she showed me that I could. Because she trusted me. Because she believed in me. Because she told me adventures are worth having. That life is short.

It’s hard. And scary sometimes. And sometimes I hate it. And sometimes I cry. But mostly I love it. And mostly I’m happy. Because I’m brave. I’m bold. I’m not afraid to do things differently.

Thank you, mom, for making me brave. And also, I’m sorry.

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On A Walk :: Sick Baby Sister Edition

It doesn’t happen very often, but once in a while I get fully overtaken by a common cold or some strain of the flu. But when it does the full weight of what day-in and day-out parenting entails really comes down on your shoulders hard. Gone are the days of cuddling up on the couch with a box of Kleenex and all the cough drops and a Harry Potter Marathon. Instead you have to just make do as best you can and let the dishes pile up and the carpet get filthy and know that as soon as you are feeling just a wee bit better the disease will transfer to someone else in your family and sleepless nights due to your sickness become sleepless nights due to someone else’s. Who knew that being mildly ill before I had kids was actually such a luxury.DSC_0207

So once I felt mildly human and it became clear that Ondine was the next victim, I put on actual pants and washed my hair and resolved that we get some fresh air and Vitamin D. Because if my time in Germany taught me anything, it’s that fresh air cures everything. And Nikko in the fall is some of the freshest air with the bluest skies and temperatures that still allow for sandals. Flowers are blooming and everyone’s laundry is out every day getting the kind of dry that will become impossible to achieve come January.
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On days like this, when V is happily at school and the baby is our only going concern, I realize how much different her life has been so far than V’s was at this age. How much time is spent on the go, with the voice of her sister scream-singing one line of a song repeatedly in a mon0tone voice, more time in our arms or in the carrier or in the stroller and less time just sitting silently with full attention on her. She seems unaware and unconcerned but particularly on days when she has the pathetic look of a sick infant in her eyes I get these tinges of guilt. DSC_0216

There was this one time, in approximately 1993, when I had a sleepover birthday party. I barricaded myself in the living room with all the adolescents I had invited and we got down to important business. Playing truth or dare and pretending to levitate each other and secretly checking out each other for who had boobs and who didn’t. Meanwhile my sister was plastered against the panes of the French doors, BEGGING to come in. We ignored her, tried to scare her, and finally one of the more clever amongst us thought to shame her out of our hair by chanting ‘BUNDY BUNDY BUNDY’ in reference to her nickname, Al, and the then popular lead character in mediocre sitcom Married With Children. I wish she had been old enough to see how pathetic that was, but instead it made her very sad, and she cried and cried until my finally came and dragged her away. I wasn’t proud of that moment even then, but now as I see things from O’s point of view, I feel really, really terrible. To 12 year old me I want to scream: Let your damn sister in! You are analyzing each other’s blackheads not cracking top secret codes! You won’t even be friends with half of these people in a few years! DSC_0218

Twelve year old me would have rolled her eyes, of course, and 29 year old ‘Bundy’ doesn’t seem permanently scarred. But still. Let’s all learn a lesson from this.DSC_0219Later I picked V up at the bus stop and her first words to me, after the Japanese she screamed that I didn’t understand at all, were ‘How is Ondine feeling!? Let’s go check on her!’ And I felt a little better. I spent the day devoted to my little one while my big one worried about her. I’ll console myself with that thought when the first Bundy Incident occurs.

 

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My Mother’s Sisters

It’s obvious to anyone who knows me or reads this blog that I will go on and on for days if you let me about sisters. And sisterhood. And the way that sisters, both biological and chosen, make my life better. And make the world better. And make everything, everywhere better.

My own sister is, undoubtedly, one of the most influential people in my life. Our relationship might seem confusing to an outsider who doesn’t understand sisters in general or us specifically, because we aren’t all that similar and yet we are very much the same and we are madly in love and often in conflict. Regardless of that kind of confusion, our mother, the mother of my sisterhood, taught us from the day Alley was born that we are meant to get along and cling to each other. And any ideas we have to the contrary are misguided. She didn’t teach this to us subtly, she said it outright. “A sister is the best kind of friend you can have.” “Don’t take your sister for granted.” Or more pragmatically: “Your dad and I will die and you two will be all you have.” Period. She is not one to mince words.

When we fought (fight), she feels physically ill. I can see it on her face. She pretends that it makes her mad,  but I can see now, with the wisdom of age and as the mother of two growing sisters, that it actually makes her sad. Very sad. When I was younger and felt so entitled to my angst, this annoyed me. Can’t this woman even let me have my ANGST!? Now that I am older my angst is what annoys me and when we fight and make her sad I feel her sadness. And say I’m sorry. Because I am.

My mom wasn’t just pulling her sisterhood advice from thin air or parotting a parenting book, she was telling us her life experience. My mom is one of 3 girls (who followed one boy), a little sister the day she was born and a big sister later. Both my aunts played a large role in our lives when we were growing up, but I had the self-centered view of a child and saw them only as MY aunts. The aunt that always made me macaroni and cheese, the aunt that had a gnome garden, the aunt that taught me so much about the love of a mother, the aunt that showed me where my bitchy streak comes from. The aunt that extolled the virtues of short, practical hair. The aunt that extolled the virtues of flashy, impractical costume jewelry. I saw them as they related to me, but I didn’t have the perspective then to see them as my mother’s sisters.

My perspective started to change once I entered adulthood and my mom began to feel more comfortable showing me the real versions of her relationships. Or maybe I just became more able to see it? Either way. Her sisterhood became a more complete, three dimensional picture.

She talked more openly about an annoying conflict with a friend or an uncomfortable conversation with her sister. She let me in, bit by bit as I became able to understand and as I myself encountered more complicated issues in my own relationships, the real and messy nature of unconditional love. She helped me see that unconditional love actually does have conditions. Sisterhood love is unending, but not uncomplicated. And that’s when I realized (duh) that her relationships with her sisters began not at my birth (!?) but at hers. Serious Oprah-aha moment.

A few years ago, my mom’s older sister got sick. Cancer. And the prognosis was not the worst. And I felt pain as a niece, to be sure, but more pain as a daughter seeing her mother in pain. As an adult, in sharp contrast to the way I saw them as a child, the situation seemed almost nothing to do with me and all to do with them. My aunt and her fear of being alone. My mom and her fear of losing her sister. She and her younger sister pulled together, in the sisterly way, and cared for their older sister. They went to support her when things were hopeful. They, and my uncle, made a trip together when things went bad. And they were there with their sister as she died. Three sisters were two, and their pain was palpable. Their pain was over not only the loss of one of them, but their sorrow was caused by the pain in life their sister had endured. By the injustice of cancer. By the betrayal of loved ones. By that unbearable feeling that you could have should have might have been able to do more.denise

I never fully understood the relationships my mom had with her sisters. That they loved each other was clear. But as we all know by now that doesn’t make things simple. As a child, I felt confused by the way they could be so close and yet stand to be so far apart geographically. As an adult, I understood that distance is often inevitable, but I felt confused about the way the dynamic worked. Maybe my life of one sister was simpler than a life lived with two. Between my sister and I there was a straight line of communication. Between those three there was a triangle. I didn’t have enough experience to decode their encrypted language.

Last year my mother’s younger sister got sick. Or, perhaps more accurately, we found out she was sick. I suspect she knew for a while. Or at least had a sense. But she was still recovering from the previous years. She had lost her son. Then her older sister. And perhaps the symptoms she felt seemed just like symptoms of that grief. Anyone would understand. But eventually it turned out to be cancer. Aggressive.

For our entire family this news seemed like a nightmare too cruel to be true. I was worried and felt homesick and felt guilty and felt confused. I made calls and sent flowers and kept hope. I wasn’t there to keep vigil over my aunt, but my uncle and other loved ones did that so well. I decided for my part I’d keep vigil over my mother. And watch her, however helplessly, to make sure she was ok. If there is such a thing in such times. And my mother, for the most part, wasn’t ok.

My mom is by no means a cold person but she isn’t exactly a fountain of emotional openness pouring forth. I have a tendency for drama and weeping when pushed to the brink so I often felt confused in the way my mom could express herself. She could say things like about loss and death and sadness and pain in the same tone she could say ‘The weather is cold today.’ As a child I think I thought this was something broken inside her, but now I see she was protecting us from seeing her in pain. Because really, it’s very painful. And the only thing worse to think of than the pain of that kind of loss is to see your children experiencing it as well. A mother’s curse is to spend life wanting to prevent the unpreventable moments of her child’s pain. She knew, as we all know, that we can’t be kept from all sadness but she didn’t want HER sadness to add to our own. I get it now. I get it.doreen

The months since she lost her second sister have been hard for her. Because there is a lot of joy to be had, a new baby arrive, another on the way, a happy family, our health, the sun every day, the lake we live beside, the love we share as a nuclear and extended family. But that joy isn’t enough, cannot be enough, to erase the truth of her loss. Her sisterhood is broken, irreparably. The group of people who knew her from the very start, an important cohort no matter how close or far you are from them, is that much smaller. The keepers of childhood memories and family secrets and painful pasts have slipped away.

And life goes on.  And we keep moving. But something has changed in a permanent way.

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Professional Me :: I Knew Then What I Need Now

Most of my education and professional life has been about momentum. I always loved school, and excelled easily, and hopped happily from one step to the next. Out of high school to college. From college to grad school. Hop hop from one thing to the next because they made sense. They were in the right order. Other people were doing it.

Looking back I can see that I truly never did pause to reflect on whether a less logical or obvious step would make sense or to analyze why I felt so driven to keeping moving without pause for planning purposes. I suspect I was doing this intentionally, as I’m famous for avoiding difficult and confusing situations that might make me feel feelings. But at the end of it I found myself very educated and in some ways well prepared for a career as a social worker. That I didn’t actually want.

The years after I finished my MSW were spent working in that field off and on and making that discovery. A rather painful, quite expensive thing to conclude. At first I only admitted that I may have taken an unneeded detour through grad school quietly to my closest friends. I wasn’t embarrassed, exactly, just a little bit meek to speak the truth. But after a while it became undeniable. And now here I am, telling my mom and the 10 other people that read this.

The next step after admitting you are on the wrong path is figuring out where to go next. But I spent a great deal of time avoiding that step. The all-encompassing nature of motherhood worked as an excuse for a while. And the nomadic, sporadic nature of Dave’s job has let me have a standard reply when it comes to “why I don’t have a ‘normal’ job.” But these are both just procrastination, because as much as I love our gypsy life and my role as a mother, I also always knew I would feel the need to flex a different muscle. To hone other skills. To carve out a little part of our life that belonged only to me.

When I was job-searching back in 2008, eventually finding the job in social work that taught me so much about the world and showed me clearly that I wasn’t meant to be a social worker, I wrote a post about my lack of professional passion and my as of yet absent baby fever.

Considering that over 6 years have passed, we’ve added two children and countless life lessons, I am struck by how what I wrote about myself then still stands true about me now

About my professional goals I said:

The time and resources invested in my education are still serving me well, and I’m proud of my accomplishments. But I don’t feel the need for a career to supplement my identity. I want a job that I love. I’d like to find a field I can excel within. I want to take pride in my work, but I never want a job that takes over my life. I want to feel satisfied with my role as a person, but I don’t think my occupation has to be the only way to find that satisfaction.

And guessing at my parenting style I accurately predicted:

I don’t want cartoonish drawings of my family made into decals for the windows of my SUV. I will love my kids, I will change my ways, but I know myself (and the mother from whom I was born) to realize that motherhood for me will not mean a cracked-out, Kathy Lee-esque enthusiasm for all things widdle-baby or mommy-wommy.

And so here I am, as comfortable as one can ever be with the title ‘Mother’ and all the mysterious, powerful and very exhausting things that conveys. And the little voice in my head that suggests I have more to give and that I don’t have to give it in a cubicle at a social service agency. I found a job online, using my known and loved interwebbing skills to help clients with various projects. And I enjoyed it. It was an outlet of sorts, an experience to be sure, some education as most things tend to be. But it was also a little vapid. Fairly random. A bit meaningless. And while I know I may not cut it among the ranks of other MSWs, the heart for helping that drove me to that work in the first place can’t be ignored.

Luck and a savvy friend dropped another opportunity in my lap just as I was ready to leave my first post-child professional endeavor. And I got it and took it and went with it and I enjoy it. I continue to learn more, feel my confidence grow, make new connections with helping professionals, and enjoy a life outside my girls that helps contribute to our family’s financial security.

I found that I used our travels and then my kids as the excuse as to why I didn’t have a ‘regular’ job. But now I can cut through the noise and tell you honestly it’s because I don’t WANT one. I want something different, less stifling and more creative. Perhaps also less stable and less secure. But I want work that fits the life I want, not the other way around. I don’t have to look to the future to explain it, I can just ask 2008-me how she would say it.

And what I have decided is that I don’t have to meet the expectations of my friends, family, society, or Utopian feminist fantasies. I have hopes for the future, plans to execute, places to go…I want to be happy, safe, fulfilled. I want to be well-rounded, well-read, well-travelled. I want to spread myself thin enough that I can cover all kinds of interests, thin enough that light shines through, thin enough that I can still fit in my wedding dress someday in the distant future. And mostly, I want to be able to say all this without shame or fear of eye-rolling, without hesitation and concern for the disappointment of others. I want to say it and have my loved ones know that I am not judging them…and hope that this makes them feel free enough not to judge me. It’s hokey, it’s idealistic, and probably overly simplistic. Exactly the way I want it.

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What Is Gained From The Mommy Wars

I’m kind of over it with the term Mommy Wars. And the idea of it. And the way it dismisses all discussions that include conflicting opinions into the same category as your cousin’s sister’s friend calling you a bitch on Facebook. Not. The. Same. Thing.

It’s probably true that many people in our culture, in the world, are taught overtly and covertly to avoid conflict. Maybe in the Midwest it’s an even stronger message to never, if you can avoid it, offend someone. At least not to their face. But it’s particularly true for women. That we are taught to be peacemakers not muck rakers. And even those of us raised by strong women who can’t help but rake some muck have this tiny voice inside our mind saying ‘be a nice girl! be a good girl!’

When you add parenting or motherhood into that cultural cauldron all bets are off. Nice girls get mad and good girls get upset. Because we all have a lot of feelings about our children, more feelings than we have ever felt or knew existed. And it’s hard not to get emotional about that. Because the whole thing is emotional. And it’s hard not to come across as angry or defensive when you are emotional. Even if you feelings are valid, even if you are more enthusiastic than angry. And then of course some people, mothers or otherwise, are assholes. All these things together mean: Mommy Wars. Apparently.

I’m about the 220 millionth woman to suspect that this entire term and cultural phenomenon is little more than an extension of the ‘women are catty’ troupe. The idea that any disagreement between women is a trivial, nasty, mean-spirited fight between girls. Limp wrists slapping at faces and hair pulling followed by tears. Girl fight. Girl stuff. Girls are catty, right?

But the truth is that I have many female friends, many of whom I disagree with on many things, parenting and otherwise. And when we disagree it’s actually an interesting, mutually respective, discourse between women. And sure we sometimes roll our eyes at each other or interrupt or use profanity (ok that’s mostly me), but oh well. And even when it gets heated, which it does sometimes because LANE CANNOT CONTROL HER FEELINGS, it is ok. Because we’re adults. With brains. And we love each other. So we can survive it.

It’s hard though. Because parenting is a really loaded experience. We all have a lot invested in this, and it’s hard. So hard. And even the most secure adult human being has moments during parenting where they say WHAT AM I DOING AM I DOING IT WRONG OH MY GOD I RUINED IT! So if you get caught in a disagreement during that moment, it might not be the high minded discussion you want it to be and it might turn into a terse exchange that involves a middle finger. No one is perfect.

But in the meantime, despite the tough moments and awkward conversations, I want us to embrace the chance to realize that parenting in general and motherhood for women is a deep, complicated, intense conversation worthy of discussions that people of our intellect are capable of even in a sleep deprived state. We were interesting before, we argued about things before, we still can. We still should.

Repeat after me:

Disagreement is not disrespect. Conflict is a part of life. Parenting is not off limits.

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On A Walk: Nikko Botanical Garden

It seems like when you say ‘Japan’ immediately people imagine Tokyo. Cities and lights and sushi and karaoke bars. But so much of Japan, and all of the area around Nikko, is very wild. Jungles and mountains and rivers and green everywhere. And seeing as I’m city-averse it’s the right corner of Japan for me. It’s quite lovely. And muggy. But mostly very lovely.DSC_1443 DSC_1447 DSC_1448

There’s something that feels perfectly right about a little girl running wild in the woods. Free to be dirty and to be fast and to be loud. It’s totally aligned with the purpose of childhood. DSC_1449 DSC_1450

Little O, sweet baby sister, always just fine to be along for the ride.DSC_1451 DSC_1453 DSC_1455

She held a piece of paper that she had marked with stamps earlier and used it as a map. She consulted it with the utmost seriousness. We followed along. DSC_1456 DSC_1457

In a place that looks so beautiful even to the jaded eyes of adults, the tired eyes of parents, imagine how amazing it must look to the open, hungry eyes of a 3.5 year old. She was in awe. In fact she is almost always in some state of awe. It’s the best thing about her.DSC_1459 DSC_1463 DSC_1469 DSC_1470

Our seriously low peanut butter situation right now is mitigated by the environs. For now.DSC_1471 DSC_1472

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