Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Pigeon-holed: Mothers of America

This is what it feels like, to me, to be a working mother in American right now. #TheStruggleisReal is so much more than a hashtag to any woman who is trying to balance working, raising children, being attentive to her spouse, and managing a home. Some of us even have ailing parents for whom we have to care too. Forget defining an identity in any of that –there’s no time. There are days I don’t even recognize myself anymore because I’m worn so thin. I feel faceless to those who could change all of this. But this isn’t a piece about “woe is me”- it’s about how seriously mothers are taking their jobs these days. It’s a piece on how I see an opportunity to change things…

I’m doing what so many of us are doing- following the unspoken rules of how to get by. My fellow mamas out there, we have become less patient, more tired, less inspired- just doing what we think we have to do. We’ve got our children by the hand- but they don’t see us. We give them what we can but it’s not enough because what they want is us- at our best- and it’s also what they deserve. We are rough sketches of who we would otherwise be, given different circumstances. Just like I’d be a better artist if I had time to develop my talent. Somewhere in the corridors of my soul it still echoes that I am unique… and have something to offer to the world.

 Notice that I didn’t say “career” a few sentences back, because working is what it is that the vast majority of us are doing. Two jobs? I couldn’t handle the emotional toll that working a second job did to my children. Some days they saw me for a mere 20 minutes before I dropped them off at daycare, and then didn’t see them again until the next morning. Women everywhere are sacrificing entirely too much of their experience in motherhood without any choice in the matter.

I piece together an honest living with a hard-working husband in an attempt to keep up with a rat race against time amidst acronyms that dictate the time we earn with our children. Paid Time Off. It’s precious and mine is spent strategically stringing together doctor’s appointments. It’s spent trying to understand how I owe more on student loans I’ve been dutifully paying for 15+ years. “It gets better” we hear… but it’s the reality of where we are- and have been- the entire time and I know we are not alone. I also know there are people far more tired and battered than we are, and that breaks my heart.
FMLA- great- if you’ve been working somewhere long enough to use all your sick time and all your vacation time, IF you’re lucky- you could ALMOST piece together a full 12 weeks with your newborn child. It was a choice to grow our family to four of us. It shouldn’t feel like a burden that we created a family together.

We don’t have a budget. The deal is- I don’t spend any money- he pays all the bills- and he deals with the ulcers of juggling spreading the money out where we can so that it covers everything, barely. Our penny pinching is making Lincoln cry at this point.

My children see me at my most exhausted, my most worried, most pre-occupied and there isn’t any PTO available for me to use to give them what they want: me. And you know that’s all our children want is our attention- for us to see them and understand them and make memories with them. How do we even do that anymore? What are these children of ours learning from this? Hard work doesn’t really get you anywhere? The American dream is really just to survive? Everything society says we should do to get ahead is a sham? I hope that last one is what they hold onto with both hands.

Do you know what I want? I want to get to know my children better than their daycare providers. I don’t care about climbing a ladder- it’s not worth it- it doesn’t get me more time at home with my kids- it doesn’t pay me more so I can worry less. I want to use my talents to make a living. I want to be who I am meant to be and not who society signed me up to be. I’ve been pigeon-holed.

I see that nightmare that is a lost identity for me and a boring childhood for my kids and I don’t want to claim that as my stake in the American Dream. How do we change it? It starts by teaching our children that we must love ourselves enough to do what we want to do.  I paint watercolors and I repurpose jewelry. I write and sing songs and teach them to find the down beat and dance to the rhythm of the music we blast in the house. I give them the best half hour I’ve got in me before they go to bed at night and listen intently to the stories of their day. I teach them to create by creating myself and I don’t ask them what they want to be when they grow up- I ask them what they want to DO. 
Doing is what matters… doing the right thing… doing what makes your heart sing… and you know the only real reason I’m able to do any of this, don’t you…? It’s because I don’t let myself think for a second that I can’t. Let them hold onto that idea…. And maybe you should too, if this resonated with you. Don’t think you have to settle for this if it’s not who you are, DO what makes you who you are- start somewhere. Do this with me, please. Our future literally depends on it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Positive Thinking Goes a Long Way....

It's been an eternity since I've posted...
I've completed my Master's degree now.
I've bought another car and kicked ass on its purchase.
I'm pregnant with our second little one- 8 weeks or less left to go.
I'm still working full time but exploring my options to figure out how to make more money with this new degree.
We were in the process of trying to buy a house- but my husband has lost his job- so we're back to square one on that...and too bad too- because we were locked in on one hell of an interest rate if we had found something to buy. (it just wasn't meant to be, I guess....)
Which leads me to my point...
I've gotten pretty far just thinking positively, not allowing myself to indulge in negative thoughts which could potentially lead to my demise in any number of situations. So, I'm thinking positively that my husband will find a new job- one he'll love and be happy with. I'm putting positive energy into this whole home-buying process....that when we're meant to buy a house- we'll get a lot of house for our money- and the absolutely perfect home for us. I'm putting positive thought into this pregnancy- while we don't know what we're having, we'll be all set for another boy- and if it's a girl, we've got a lot of hand-me-downs that we've heard will come our way to help us prepare for that new joy. I'm also putting positive thought into whatever I'm supposed to be doing with my life...
So I have this degree, but music has always been my passion. I've always been too afraid to put myself out there...too afraid to be rejected or embraced....afraid that I'd have to sacrifice something of myself to make music a priority in my life...and it's all because I haven't put positive thinking into that area of my life...I haven't invested in it. I think it's time to put some good energy into something that fulfills my being, don't you?
What are you doing to invest positive energy into your life?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Embracing Positive Feedback

In this day of electronic communication, we have a unique opportunity to capture some of the positive feedback we get- in writing. As an employee who strives to be innovative, creative and hard-working, when I get positive feedback, I hang on to it! I have an email folder entitled "Yay Me!" which contains all emails telling me that I've done a good job or show an appreciation for work or collaborative efforts that have paid off favorably. I have every variety of positive feedback readily available for me to review on a day where perhaps the negative outshines the positive.
I encourage everyone to keep a "yay me" file of their own, if for no other reason to literally acknowledge the fact that someone in your life has recognized your hard work, your dedication, your victories, whatever they may be. It's important to feel validated from time to time, and this is a great way to boost yourself up! I also review these little gems before a difficult meeting, project, encounter- whatever. It helps me to feel the confidence others have in me, so that I can in turn have it in myself. So, don't be afraid to relish those moments of appreciation and recognition, they're fuel for your fire to continue to do well, or pick yourself up after you fall. It's how we can continue to stay motivated in life.
It's also worth noting that you should share your appreciation for others' work with them. It takes no time at all to recognize people in your life and tell them they're good at what they do, or offer some tidbit of inspiration. You never know when your words are the ones keeping someone going...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Dominating the Week

Being as busy as I am makes it necessary for me to put a little extra work in so we can have home-cooked meals each night. I take most of the day on Sunday to make the meals we'll eat all week, or at least get them to a place of preparation so they can be tossed in the oven to cook.
I always feel a huge sense of accomplishment by getting my meals prepped. It gives me great satisfaction to know I'm still able to take the time to prepare our meals because sharing food I have made is still one of my favorite ways to show how much I love the people in my life. I know my husband appreciates a home-cooked meal, and I know it means we're eating healthy (as long as we're not eating too much!)
It gives me an opportunity too, this Sunday event of mass multi-tasking, to feel the fulfillment I typically get out of being in my kitchen, with my apron on, cutting, mixing, and tasting away. Everyone wins when I take time to do something I love to do!
Also- it's great to start out my week knowing I have that huge responsibility off of my plate and I can focus on spending some quality time with my son before he goes to bed, and with my husband before I dive into my grad school work. I've dominated my week already, have you?

Friday, March 4, 2011

How I do what I do...

I've been asked on several occassions "How do you do it all?!"

I'm a full-time employee, a wife, a mother, a grad student, a musician, now exercising daily, counting my calories and I manage to stay motivated and positive (for the most part.)

Well, I'd posted it in a status on Facebook once upon a time, but I want to make it official here:
I do what I do and am capable of doing it for this simple reason:

I never let myself think that I can't do it.

I have too much going on to invest any negative energy in self-doubt. And while it IS a constant struggle to keep all the balls I'm juggling in the air, just going for it is proving to be completely worthwhile.

I used to put a lot of energy into self-doubt, and it just about ate me alive. I'm not the most confident person in the world, I struggle with a lot of body-image issues, self-esteem issues, and just general insecurities...but I manage to be very high functioning despite all of this.

I believe in trying. I believe in having faith in yourself and trust that you can do something and do it well...and I believe in learning from shortfalls and or failure. It's unrealistic to think you'll never fail at something, but that should never be a reason to not go for it. I'm going for it...all of it...and so should you. Life is far more fulfilling that way. Also- it doesn't hurt to have a husband who believes in me whole-heartedly and who has my back no matter what. I hope many more of you out there are lucky enough to have that, or to have it someday and know what it is to be completed by having that kind of love and support in place.

That's a shout-out to you, Luke. You make being me possible by being you. :) Thank you!