Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Myth of Doing it All

I found this today. Nearly a year late, but I'm not going to apologize for that. Because keeping up on blogs is not something I do anymore, although I once did. And what's more? I needed this today. I read through all 82 comments, and each and every one was a balm to my poor, angsty soul (I find myself embarrassed by the naval-gazing angst I'm able to summon at 35. I thought I was done with that after 17. Apparently not. I'm a veritable fountain of naval-gazing angst these days. You short on it? No worries. Just fill me in on the details of your situation. I can probably summon some extra angst on your behalf. I can gaze at your navel too! Life is hard for everyone. I find myself particularly skilled at bemoaning that fact on a regular basis these days. ).

So, in the spirit of myth-busting, here are the things I don't do:
  • My appearance doesn't really matter a fig to me right now. I color my hair from a box, less frequently than I ought to, if the goal is really to cover the grey. I wear yoga pants daily. Sometimes they even have bleach stains or small holes (that I tell myself nobody else notices). I'm 30 25 pounds overweight and have VERY few clothes I fit into. I don't buy new clothes because I'm cheap, and I'm broke, and I fully intend to lose this weight, even though I've accepted that it might take me a long time to do so. (I just took up jogging and lost 5 pounds in 10 days. Exercise is one of the things I DO do.) I almost never wear make-up, and I pull my dirty hair back into a tight ponytail, imagining that no one can tell how dirty it is far more often than is recommended by any standards whatsoever. Manicures and pedicures are foreign concepts to me, and I'd choose a massage first anyway, if offered the choice. There are so many things in my life that need work. My appearance is simply not one of them that matters enough to me. I'll be beautiful on the outside when I'm beautiful -and balanced- on the inside. I'm content to wait, and focus my attention on the inside for the time being.
  • I don't fold the kid's clothes. At some point in the last year, I realized that all of my children's clothing are made of cotton and/or fleece. WHAT is the point of folding that? I separate them into piles and stuff them into drawers. Far from apologizing for this, I think it's genius. My only regret is that it took me more than 2 years of my son's life to figure it out. I'm also pretty bad at keeping up on the laundry in general. I do it, but not in a timely fashion. And then once I wash it, it takes me forever to fold it and put it away. We live out of laundry baskets is more or less what I'm sayin'.
  • I'm really floundering, professionally, and I beat myself up over it pretty regularly. I plan curriculum for the kids, but infants and toddlers don't care that much about curricular plans, and so I fail as often as I succeed. I started a professional blog, and then froze, afraid to ask the parents for permission to blog about their kids. It's sitting, a series of incomplete drafts, waiting. And judging me. I need to ease up on myself here. And I also need to just ask permission, already. I'm stuck at frozen, though. And maybe that's okay. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's okay. But at the same time: I have a really hard time just letting it be okay.
  • I've always been okay with letting my housework suffer. I frankly don't give a shit if my floors are clean. But suddenly, I can't ignore dirty floors! My house is my classroom. This: Honestly, it SUCKS! I actually kind of miss my dirty house. But, I've hired someone to help me keep it clean, and I have no qualms or guilt over this at all. Just grateful it's an option, and determined to do what I have to do to balance the budget and make it work (no new clothes? no problem! as long as someone other than me cleans the friggin' floors!!!).
And -because I haven't done it enough recently- I want to look at what I AM doing:
  • I'm a kind, loving parent and child care provider. I don't give myself nearly enough credit for this. Some days I really beat myself up over being "short tempered". And then I really think about it and realize: I sighed. That's all I did. I sighed a few times, and inside my mind, I'm suddenly a terrible, terrible teacher, ZOMG! The kids don't seem to notice. And that's because I am -the vast majority of the time- patient, loving, and kind. And the kids who come here know it, and they're happy here. And MY kids know it, and they are loving and kind to me in return. That's important. And I do it well. I should pat myself on the back for this more often.
  • I exercise nearly every day. I do yoga stretches almost daily, and pilates and jogging a few times a week. I've always hated jogging, and this past month is the first time I've stuck it out. Tonight I walked a half-mile to a reservoir near my house, and jogged 2.4 miles around it (3 laps). Then I walked a half-mile home. For the first time ever, it felt great to jog. I'm proud of myself for that.
  • Since September, I've been working very hard to eat intuitively. This is SUPER HARD for me because I HATE to pay attention to my body. I'm NOT a sensory learner, and it takes a lot of hard work and concentration to tune into sensory cues. But I've done it, and I've gotten better with practice. I didn't lose any weight at all between September and January, but (like I mentioned above) I lost 5 pounds in 10 days as soon as I started running. I believe this is due not just to running, but to the fact that I've been practicing listening to my body, and feeding it healthy food that makes it feel great for the past number of months. We also plan our lunches and dinners, and eat whole, fresh, homemade foods regularly. This is very hard work, but we make the time and effort for it (my husband gets the credit for cooking it!), and we're doing a better job with it now than we've ever done before.
  • I make the effort to plan curriculum, and carry it out with the kids. Not all the time, and it doesn't always work. But it would be easy not to make the effort at all, and I do. And when I fail, I come back to the drawing board and try again. This, too, is an area where I tend to see my failures looming larger than my successes. But I think making the effort, again and again, is a success of it's own. Both of the boys have significantly improved language skills since starting here, and while I can't claim all the credit for that, by any means, I can probably claim some. I'm a good teacher. It's often feels like I'm teaching in a vacuum, where no one cares if I bother or not. I'm used to reporting directly to the state department of education. I'm used to having big names in Albany in my rolodex, and my in-box. So what I do now often feels like less like a step down, and more like a leap off a cliff to the no-man's land below. But I haven't given up. I practice good teaching in no-man's land. Nobody sees it. Nobody seems to care. But I keep doing it.
  • Finally, my husband and I both deserve some credit for this: we are in what's probably the hardest season of our life together so far, and we are kind to one another. We are soft, and supportive, and loving. We make each other better, but we also make each other feel better, when it might be easier to blame or bicker. Sometimes I am so full of the overwhelmed it seems impossible that it won't leak out the seams and spill all over the one person who can take it. But I breathe deeply, and ask him how his day was, and then rather than fight, we sit together and talk about how hard life is for us right now, and we offer each other permission to forgive ourselves our failings. We're in it together, a good team. And sometimes it seems the way we baby each other through the hard is the very best way to survive it.
What do you do best? What could you give a flying fig about? Tell me in the comments, pretty, pretty please. I need to hear it! And maybe, just maybe, it would do you some good to say it, too.


  1. It sounds like your family is in the middle of a difficult transition right now, but given your willingness to change and your willingness to grow I have no doubt you'll get through it.

    I've been feeling overwhelmed by parenting messages lately. There isn't any consensus about the right way to do this job, but the stakes are terribly high and *everyone* has a different opinion. I love the idea of thinking about what we're doing *right* in our lives though (and it's actually something I've been writing about lately) and I thought your list was fantastic. Stacked against the things you aren't doing, I think the list of things you *are* doing clearly takes the balance.

    As for me, let's see: I hardly clean between housekeeper visits. My husband does most of the cooking. I only fix my hair and/or wear makeup when I know I'm going out. And I agonize too much/feel too guilty when I pursue interests that don't involve my children.

    But I also wake up early so I can make healthy breakfasts and school lunches. I encourage my kids to create, explore, and make messes. I get down on the floor. I read stories. I play an active role in imagination games. I lose myself in fantasies and then I remind myself, sternly, that it's okay to take my independent-self seriously.

    I'm trying.

    This was a great post! I always enjoy naval gazing. :)

  2. First of all, I love this: "And sometimes it seems the way we baby each other through the hard is the very best way to survive it."

    What I could not give a fig about? That the carpet on my main floor is stained beyond all help save replacement and that my dog's hair is EV.REE.WHERE in my house. The stains were there when I bought the place--unbeknownst to me--and started emerging over the first couple of months of living there. The steam clean the sellser ahd done was total subterfuge which used to piss me off but now I see that stained carpet as permission to let Zelda run in straight fomr outside without trying towrestle her muddy paws through the towels she shreds in her excitement to see me. And the dog hair is a sign that she is an active girl and we play in the house and I love her too much to be able to ever see that as a downside.

    What do I do well? I am really good at loving other people. When I love someone, there is no holding back, no doubt, nothing I won't do to support, protect, encourage, comfort, ease, and accept them. I have yet to learn how to do these things for myself, but I believe that someday I will be able to, and that belief gets me through more than I could ever imagine.