I had a great talk with MyFriendJen on the way to pick up the kids from school today, about how we both feel like we are just treading water in our lives with our nose barely able to breathe (her awesome analogy). We both feel like we’re constantly on the run, just frantically trying to keep up with our houses and our kids and our schedules, and there’s no time for just relaxing, let alone work on major projects.

She’d like to give up her part-time job, but as a stay-at-home-mom, I can say that not working does not seem to equate to more free time. Maybe it’s because I am not as well organized as a working mother is forced to be? More likely, it’s because I devote too much time to volunteering and party planning, but these things are necessary to make me feel like I’m still an adult, still a valuable member of society. I’m sure my kitchen would be much cleaner if I gave up all my extra curricular activities but I wouldn’t be as happy, and that’s just as dangerous.

I was thinking the other day that maybe this is why parents put so much stock in their children’s futures. Why they are disappointed if their kid becomes a career waitress, and conversely, so personally proud if their kid becomes a doctor. I think it’s because so many parents gave up their own dreams just to make it through parenthood, and so if their kids turn out well, that means it was all worth it. The sacrifice of yourself was worth it for the person you nurtured.

But that kind of sucks.

I’m not sure how to get ahead of the game. How to get my head above water, how to feel like I’m living life, not just surviving life. Who do I want to be? What do I want to say?

And don’t give me that about motherhood being the most important profession, blah blah. I need more. I’m not ashamed to say it.

I don’t really mean for this to be a negative or complaining kind of post. I am absolutely not unhappy. I love being home with my kids, helping them with homework, taking them on fun outings, feeling the satisfaction of an empty laundry hamper (SO LAME, I know, but it makes me smile). I don’t need to be famous or fabulous or feted all around town.

It’s just a reflective time for me, a time to think about what life is, and what it should be.

I guess this is what they mean by mid-life crisis.

14 thoughts on “Reflection

  1. CapnPlanet

    Agreed, parenthood takes “swamped” to the next level — or maybe “slammed” is a better word. I have the same feeling that I’m constantly in firefighting mode — with the small amount of free time I get when not either working or fulfilling parental responsibilities, I just go from one urgent task to the next, with no chance for doing anything beyond what should have been done two weeks ago.

    A little while ago I finally realized that being “on call” in one form or another for every single waking moment was starting to tax my ability to focus on anything, particularly at work. I finally decided that I needed to relax and watch TV or do something which didn’t require a lot of exertion, either physical or mental, at least one night a week. That means that the thing that should have been done two weeks ago has to wait another day, but honestly, that rarely really matters much in the long run.

    So, while this won’t make you feel any better, rest assured you’re not alone.

  2. Boy, was this post ever timely.

    Just today, while driving to pick up my kiddies at daycare/school, I peered out my car window at a stop light to see a perfectly fit woman, clad from neck to ankle in spandex, waiting for the light to turn so she could continue on her cardio-enhancing, fat-burning run. She was a fine specimen, I must say.

    When I saw her, I thought to myself, “hey, I used to care about that sort of thing (ie exercising). When was that again, when I used to care?” And then I looked down at my Buddha belly and thought, “shit it’s been a while”.

    And then I thought, “will I ever care about that kind of thing again? And if I do, will I care enough to juggle the rest of my life to accommodate it?”

    And then I thought, “one day at a time”.

    And then the light turned green.

  3. I guess it’s not surprising that this very day I was putting away the Halloween decorations thinking that I really hadn’t optimally decorated yet again, and had that always being under everything instead of on top of it. Then I thought, my life would have to be pretty empty to have enough space around everything for it to take place perfectly.

    That’s my theory and I’m holding it in a death grip at the moment, so don’t mess with me, woman!

  4. There’s a constant struggle between my expectations for what I should accomplish in a week and what I actually have the motivation/energy to accomplish. When I decided not to take any classes this year, but still stay part-time I thought I would get sooooo much done around the house. And I have gotten some things done, but not as much as I’d hoped. Our house does not look spic-and-span, and it probably never ever will because (let’s face it) I’m just not a spic-and-span kinda gal.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong at all about wanting more. I want more, too. I just have a hard time pinpointing what I want more of.

  5. I don’t have kids (for a reason – I couldn’t handle the extra work), so it may be naive of me to offer my opinion, but I will anyway:

    Can you make some cuts?

    A big part of being mindful is acceptance. Could you learn to accept yourself if you did less than you did now? If so, you could cut out unnecessary activities or scale back your awesomeness a bit. Think about how lousy our mom was and how great we turned out. I don’t think you have to do *everything* to produce great kids. A lot of it is nature. A lot of it will be them figuring it out for themselves.

    You already made a step by ditching the PTA. Good! Think of Pareto’s Law. You don’t want to spend 80% of your time on something that’s contributing only 20% of your output. Identify what has the most impact for the least amount of effort, and just do those things.

    And don’t be afraid to be less than perfect!

    It’s kind of like back in university. I feared that if I didn’t study my ass off, I’d fail. But when I did slack off immensely, my marks dropped only by a few percentages. What did that teach me? That I was putting 80% of my time to get 20% more of the marks. Not worth it.

    If you look around, you’ll find a lot of stuff fits into the 80-20 rule. If you can accept to drop the 20% that’s requiring 80% of your time, you’ll be surprised how simpler life gets without that much degradation in quality.

    Just my 2 cents…

  6. You are writing about what goes through my head about every other day. Today is not one of those days. Milestones have a way of making us reflect too much. I could go all “Oprah” on you but I’ll refrain from telling you to find your inner-bliss or closet diva.

    What I will say is that you are not alone in this. It’s good to recognize the discontentment because it makes you look beyond the drifting day-to-day. Take the time to think it through and seize the things that appeal to you as they come. They will come, just not always on your schedule.

    If you haven’t done so already, let go the idea that there is such a thing as perfection. The whole “Life is what happens when your making other plans” thing works for me. When you look back, you may see a whole lot of “perfection” in the way things worked out, especially when life deviated from the grand plan.

  7. Betsy Mae

    I often feel many things you said in this post! And like Mary Lynn I can’t figure out what it is I want but I also want something.

    I know that this experience of raising my kids is one I will never regret, and that I will cherish having spent so much time with my kids. It’s just so hard when I don’t know where the looooong days have gone, and when I don’t feel all that inspired to do the tings on my to do list (you know the one that never is completed?). I don’t feel like there is much to show for how I spend my life lol!

    Ugh…and blech. Is it the season? Who knows…but I def feel like I barely keep up and if I do feel like I am it’s short lived!

  8. Gosh I think about that all the time. This is the time of year when it all kind of catches up with me though. for me I think things would be much easier if I got more sleep, but then every night I find myself up way too late because I’m just unwilling to give up the stuff that makes me…. me.

  9. Marianne

    I think you’re right, every parent struggles with this to some extent. In knwo in our family my husbadn and I have run ouselves ragged the past 2 years with both of us working full time. Last spring we made the decision: prgannat or not, I wouldn’t be returning to work this fall, I’d take an unpaid leave so we could get our family back on track. Luckily for us, we did get pregnant (daughter # 2 arrived a week ago today!) so I’ll be on mat leave for a year, and then I’m taking an unpaid leave of absence. Luckily, my job will allow me to apply for leave extensions for up to 4 years after a year of mat leave, so as longa s our finnaces stay above board (as in, my engineer husband keeps his job), I’ll be home until our second child is in school. I’m hoping this will get us all back on track. Now I just have to figure out this business of being a stay-at-home mom!

  10. I think you know this, since you stopped in on my own mid-life crisis angst on my blog, but just in case … if there is any consolation — working moms feel exactly the same way as you do too. Most of us are working jobs that we are not, in fact, passionate about. It pays the bills better than passion.

    I gotta go now and inspect the colour of the lint in my naval. 😉

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