I shared in a previous post that my mantra for this year (having turned 30 a few days ago) is: stop complaining and throw your own damn party. One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone complains about something all the time but does nothing to change it. I’m not saying we can’t complain--we all need to vent--but we MUST DO SOMETHING, or we are just annoying. (I call this concept the “bitch and switch.”) Here are some examples that I hear frequently:
Bitch: I hate my hair!
Switch: Get a haircut.
Bitch: My boyfriend never spends time with me, and he’s NEVER going to propose.
Switch: Break up with him and get a life.
Bitch: My kids drive me crazy!
Switch: Get a part-time job.
Bitch: I never get to see my kids. I feel like they’re growing up too fast.
Switch: Quit your job and stay home.
Obviously, these switches are generalized and the actual situations require more complex solutions, but you get the point. Why sit around and stew in your misery when you are in control of your life?
I think we’ve all had moments when we assess our current situation (unhappy about lack of purpose, stuck in a job we don’t like, unsure about a relationship we’re in, etc.). I found myself there in a bad way over the last year. Even though my life was overflowing with fulfilling elements, I’d grown sad because something was simply missing.
In so many ways, I have it all. I’m married to one of the best human beings I know, a man who knows how to support without being overbearing and how to let go without neglecting. I have healthy, smart, downright handsome children. I am surrounded by fiercely loyal and dependable friends and family. I live in a place and time when I have more opportunities than all the women who came before me. I am so keenly aware of all these things and thank God daily. Really, I do.
So what was it that was making me uneasy? I came up with several possibilities. My husband and I are definitely experiencing the “seven year itch” (I didn’t think this was real until I was here), trying to balance his job and grad school demands with the demands of the rest of our life. I have been contemplating my next step--maybe going back to school, maybe to seminary, maybe just trying to write and actually publish--so many possibilities with a lack of direction. My kids, as wonderful as they are, drain my energy so quickly, especially when I’m the only one here to parent. On the bad days, I start ruminating on the fact that I have a Masters degree, completely wasted on piles of laundry and grocery shopping. I have created ways to flex my brain muscle on these days by making up laundry poems:
Pit stains, grass stains, ink stains, too,
Eek! Batman undies smeared with poo,
Stinky socks and underwear streaks,
I’ll be doing laundry for the next three weeks.
It’s not Rumi, but it’s the best I can do on four hours of sleep. When I really want to challenge myself, I play memory games with the grocery list:
I have a friend who is working on her second engineering degree but is currently a stay-at-home mom, and she calculates how much water is displaced when she steps into the bathtub to keep her mind busy. I’m not the only one.
Like I said, I’m not one to bitch without finding a way to switch, though, so I started thinking of ways to start feeling better about my place as an individual in this family, in this community, and in this world. Thinking back on times when I felt more fulfilled, I came up with a list of things I thought would help me get back on track emotionally and mentally.
WRITING keeps me grounded. My journals from elementary and middle school are full of stories about the teachers I loved and hated, book reviews (mostly about how much I hated the books we had to read in school), and lots and lots of “I LOVE ________!” entries with a different name in the blank approximately once a week. My high school and college journals are slightly depressing because I can tell I was self-editing in case my roommate/mom/boyfriend ever read it. (How uptight do you have to be to not be honest with your journal?) After college, I stopped keeping a journal. Don’t know why. Anyway, clearly, I have started writing again (which is why you have been staring at your computer screen for the last five minutes), and I am more than grateful for this outlet. Not only do I feel better, but I also love all the responses I’m getting from a myriad of people--other SAHMs, working moms, single friends, elementary school friends, even guys! Makes me feel like I’m not so alone.
HAVING A HOBBY is something I think of boy scouts and retired men doing, but I now officially have a hobby. Being the only female in a house full of boys (even our dog, Bokonon, is a boy) certainly has its pros and cons. I love that they have “guys time,” which provides me with ample opportunities to get much-needed “me time.” There are times, though, when I feel I’m losing the battle with testosterone. I’ve never been a girly girl, but I am definitely a woman and like to feel like one every now and then. This is difficult when everyone in the house is wearing Ironman underwear, peeing in the backyard, and watching football. At the peak of my 1/3 life crisis, I googled “ballet in Summerville” and found a studio close to our house. The instructor was kind enough to allow me to join the advanced class (due to my prior experience as a dancer--ha!), and I finally have a way to connect to my femininity in a very real way. I love the leotards and tights, the bun on the back of my head, even the clucky-clucky conversations of all the teenage girls. Plus, after I took Will to the studio with me when I signed up and he told me “Ballet is too girlish,” I know that I have something that is and will remain just mine. All mine.
TRAVELING is like cocaine to me. One of the things that I consider a constant in my childhood through pre-marriage/pre-children life is that I always had the opportunity to travel. Whether on vacations to the Caribbean or mission trips to Africa, I always had a trip on the horizon, and that was honestly my saving grace at times when life was all monotony and responsibility. Between the Air Force and my children, my opportunities for travel started to dwindle more and more as time went by, and I finally came to the realization this year that if I really wanted to do something to get over this slump, I needed to make traveling a priority. I’m not talking about two-week trips across the world. I’m just talking about leaving the bubble. In the last six months, I’ve gone to NYC and Atlanta on trips by myself, and I have a trip scheduled for November to Houston. (I have to be realistic--my husband is gone all the time, and my kids are still relatively small, but it’s a start, right?) In reality, the fact that we took Will to Africa when he was two proves that I haven’t lost sight of this aspect completely, but it’s so important to me that I want to make sure we keep our traveling shoes on, ready to run when we can.
SPONTANEITY is the spice of life. (Will corrected me when I said this one time, telling me that it’s “variety” that is the spice of life...I think he learned this on one of his cartoons, but it’s still weird having a 3-year-old correct your aphorisms.) Any parent will tell you that when children enter your life, spontaneity dies. It’s a a quick death--like decapitation--one day you can leave the house at 9:50 to catch a 10 o’clock movie, and the next day, you can’t leave the house between the hours of 9 and 11 and then again between 1 and 3 because the baby has to take a nap (and Lord knows, it’s better for everyone involved for baby to get those naps). Then there’s the stuff you have to have to leave the house--the diapers, the wipes, the snacks, the toys, the extra clothes for poop explosions, the medicine for the rash, the blanket, and the strollers (the one for short walks through the park and the one for long walks in case baby wants to sleep). Okay, I might be exaggerating a bit--I am actually a very minimalist mom compared to a lot of moms I know (most places have a Walmart in case we forget any essential item), but it’s still a challenge. It’s getting infinitely easier to be spontaneous as the kids get older, so I’m making a conscious effort to get away from our rigid schedule.
So, that brings me to this last weekend. Scott put some leave on the books because he was going to lose the days if he didn’t. At nearly the last minute Saturday morning, I booked a hotel and googled “u-pick apple farms in NC.” We had to take family pictures Saturday evening, but I figured we could grab some Mickey D’s for the boys and head out after pictures, spend the night in a cheap hotel and explore our options in Hendersonville, NC all day Sunday. It would be a quick trip, but it would satisfy 2 out of 4 of my new resolutions--travel and spontaneity. (And obviously, now it’s satisfying the writing resolution, too, so triple score!) This post is getting LOOOOOOOOOONG, so I’ll stop here. To be continued in part 2...
(P. S. I'd love to know what kinds of things are keeping you sane! Please share.)