The Essentials of Time

I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for about two and a half years. And something was giving me an itch to work. An itch that felt a lot like debt. So, I did some contract work with a local adoption agency for whom I’d worked in the past.

And, it turns out, that trying to work part-time, and parent full time, and juggle children’s appointments, baby sitters, and kid school, and clients’ appointments, and meal prep, and budgeting, and laundry and cleaning house, and my own sanity is just too much.

It turns out that the work I do at home is actually important. And, that if I’m going to have to balance work and home, then work needs to be compartmentalized, rather than running rampant through my days and weeks.

Because that is not balance. It’s insanity.

So, three months after I started, I quit.

And I haven’t looked back.

In social work, you deal with people who are in constant crisis. Their crisis happens at 4 AM, and 10 PM and every hour in between. As it also happens, being a stay-at-home mom involves your children’s crises, which happen at almost exactly the same times as your social work clients’. And so, one day, eating lunch with my husband and children, I stared as my phone went off with over twenty texts, my children threw their food across the table, and I spent equal parts of the meal yelling and ignoring my husband. Who’d taken off work. To eat lunch with his lovely family.

And I thought, “this is too much.”

I used to want to be a multi-tasker; an over-achiever extraordinaire.

And then people dear to me started getting sick with cancers, and immune system disorders, and strokes.

And then they started to die.

And I decided that this multi-tasking was, perhaps, not the way to lead a fulfilling and meaningful life. At least, not for me.

So, I had forgotten all that. And by dipping my toes back in, the universe slapped me around a bit and said, “Are you insane, little girl?”

So I stepped back. And started looking at the life giving things that I’d rather spend my time doing.

Not to say that helping people is not in my blood.

I just think I’ve been doing it wrong.

And possibly, balance is just a thing that you can accomplish in yoga, and not in daily life. I’m still working on these things.

How To Be a Happier Parent

Y’all, I consume Pinterest parenting articles like chips and queso. I inhale them. I eat them up. I keep hoping that one day the magic answer will be divined upon me and Jackie Kennedy will descend from the clouds and say, “You’ve reached maximum potential. Excellent job, momma.”

I’ve really been impacted by articles with tips to being a happier, more productive mom. I’ve got some thoughts on this so I’ll start with an overview of the generally accepted and continuously posted ideas and my thoughts, followed by suggestions of my own for reaching full Jackie Kennedy aura.

Get up before your kid. 

S.O.D. O.F.F. You must have children that sleep predictably, and through the night; kids who brush their own teeth and pour their own cereal. For me to get up earlier than my kids, I have to hire a fortune teller, because I never know when they’ll arrive in my bed.  I’d most often have to get up around 4:30, but sometimes 3 AM. Because I’m not bloody tired enough.

When my kids (that plural is important) take a nap, it is a glorious thing. I revel in it. When my kids sleep until 6 AM, I am grateful. Someday, when they are older, I might consider getting up before then. But right now, that idea is bollocks.

Stick to a schedule. 

I tried this one. It was wondrous. Then my toddler stopped taking daytime naps, and my meal planning, food prep, cleaning at nap time turned in to, “I’ll do it after they go to bed.” Turns out that getting two kids down for bedtime saps all of your energy, so I mostly only can recall a few words after getting my kids to tap out, which include “Where’s the wine?” I generally follow that with a face plant on the couch.

I look at that schedule on my fridge while herding my kids out the door and silently curse Productive Jennifer. Seriously, girl. You’re a git.

Make a to-do list. 

See my thoughts on a schedule. Also, my to-do list looks a lot like this: SLEEP. When it doesn’t look like this, it’s so overwhelming that I just think I’ll go back to work and hire a housekeeper. And a nanny. And a gardener. And a pool boy. (We don’t even have a pool.) I will just hire someone else to live my life. Which is the feeling that made me want to stay home to begin with. So, no.

Keep up on housework.

Is that like Keeping Up With the Kardashians? Because we don’t have cable. I mean, I let my pantry go a few months ago. Like, I open that door and Gozer comes out. It’s scary in there. After I dropped the pantry upkeep, I let the laundry room go too, and Cthulu moved in. I recently invited Darth Vader to summer in my kitchen. I don’t plan on every getting those rooms back. So, I write lists of the housework I need to catch up on, and then tape it to the fridge, so I can laugh at myself.

Parenting advice doesn’t always jive with my life. And it won’t always work with yours. Take it all with a well salted margarita.

Here are my true thoughts on ways to happiness:
HAPPIER PARENT

Play with your kids.

Kids don’t care if the house is a mess and the laundry all smells. They want you. They want you to laugh and play and dance. People tell you that this time is so fleeting, but that’s hardly descriptive enough. Their childhood is like a kiss in a relationship you know won’t last. Savor it; it will end. Your house will return to clean, someday. Play with your kids.

Share what you love with your children. 

I love knitting, but my boys like making squirrel nests out of my yarn. So I share knitting podcasts with my kids while we play. I share finished knitting projects with the boys, and usually they claim it all immediately, which I love. I ask Carl to help me pick patterns, and enjoy seeing his thought process and preferences. I’ll share adult music that gets us all dancing. When we start doing screen time together, I’ll share movies and video games my husband and I have enjoyed. Share the things you love with your kids.

Let other people watch your kids.

If you’re a SAHM, consider enrolling in a PDO, or joining a gym with childcare. Let other people work and play with your kids. The time away is good for you both. I’ll admit there have been plenty of days where the gym has saved us all from my exhausted wrath by giving me a space to work it out. Plus, there’s something magical about seeing your child through someone else’s eyes, and people who work with kids all the time may have input about developmental delays, or ways to manage particular behavior you hadn’t noticed or given up on.

Share your time with friends.

Finding people that “get you” may be a challenge. Find them. Laugh with them; vent with them. Get out of your house with them. We need human connection, even us introverts. Good friends who can commiserate or laugh with you, or bring you coffee after the longest nights make this parenting thing so much more.

Let go of perfection.

This may sound simple, but it’s not. My Type A vomits all over my house almost every time I walk inside. I’m learning to let that go. If a sink of dirty dishes means that my two year old and I were laughing over a puzzle, or watching ants in the backyard, it was worth it. If a sticky floor means that I snuggled an extra 20 minutes with my baby, it was worth it. Let go of the ideal home you see on Instagram; those posts are snippets of a life. No one lives their life in snippets. Clean, crisp, and perfectly poised doesn’t have to be you everyday.

 

Practice self-care when they nap. 

Some people like to tell you to nap when your kids nap. I love this, I think it’s smart. But, more broadly, you should care for yourself. Sometimes that means a nap, sometimes it means a Netflix binge, or reading. Or writing your blog. But, crikey, don’t spend it cleaning. Unless that feels like self-care.

Be kind to yourself.

You are enough. Your family is enough. This does not last forever. Snuggle in, and enjoy this short kiss of a moment. You’ll be too exhausted to remember all the dirt and mess in a few years anyway.

 

 

 

 

A Letter to Social Media Regarding Brock Turner

I promised myself to stay out of this, but my brain has been thinking about the Brock Turner sexual assault case for days now, and I can’t let it go. My heart breaks and rages simultaneously, and I know that yours does too. But, here’s the deal:

If this incident truly hammers at the core of your being, talking and screaming and fighting on Facebook about who was more wrong, about the inhumanity of Brock, about the injustice of it all, does not fix the problem. I do not know that the problem of Brock can be fixed (more on this soon), but slacktivism does not fix the problem. Tomorrow a new, heart-wrenching cover story will arrive to make us forget about all of this. I pray that you don’t.

I have been wracking my brain trying to determine what to do with this heartache of mine. I’ve come up with some thoughts. You can, of course, sign the petition for the removal of Judge Aaron Persky from the bench, but that is not enough, nor will it necessarily make the difference that you want it to. In fact, any of these suggestions alone are simply not enough. Do them anyway.

  1. Donate your money or time to a sexual assault center in your area. Survivors like the one in Brock’s case utilize the services of these centers. The workers there support her in court, at the hospital, through counseling, and in a myriad of other life-advancing ways.
  1. If you do not have a local center, donate to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN.org) so they can keep running their hotline for survivors.
  1. Support sexual education in your schools. I could not be more serious about this. If we cannot even talk about sex, how can we ever address consent? If parents do not discuss this at home, it should be happening somewhere. These programs often suffer from low or no funding, but work diligently to educate thousands of students in a year. Support these programs.
  1. Support your state sexual assault organization. For example, in Texas, you can donate to Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA.org). They are often the clearinghouse for trainings all over your state, and lobby at the state and national levels for change. If you can, attend one of their trainings, try and stream it, or sign up on their website to do a virtual training.
  1. On that note, if the sentencing in this case burns a fire in you, pay attention when it’s time to elect judges.  Help fund the campaign of a judge you believe in. Learn about their judicial record.
  1. Find out if your local legal system requires sexual offenders to hear from Victim Impact Panels, if they require classes educating offenders about consent, or how the courts work with a local rape crisis or domestic violence center. If they don’t, advocate for these changes.
  1. Talk to your children about consent. Talk to them about sex. If you don’t know how to do this, look it up on the internet, where resources abound. Ask the sex educator in your school district. In our town, there’s actually a church that provides classes on this to teens. But do not pretend that your kid gets it. Even after you talk about it once, keep talking about it. It’s uncomfortable. So was birthing them. Some things just have to happen.
  1. On that note, talk to your kids about consent in front of their friends. Because you never know. Talk about consent as if you were trying to convert the nation to a culture of consent. Because you are.
  1.  Set limits for your children. Tell them no. When they are very young, teach them about personal space, about asking to give and receive hugs. Do not force them to hug and kiss when they do not want to or are uncomfortable, this teaches them that they have no control over their bodies.
  1. Pay attention to how you talk about this case, and other cases. She is a survivor. Rape survivors often have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), from not knowing whether they will live through their rape. They do not sleep the way you probably do. They do not have relationships the way you probably do, or at least, not for a very long time following their experience. If you know a rape survivor, call them that: Survivor. It is a powerful word. Understand that they may require hospitalization, therapy, medication. They are not crazy. They have survived. They are fighting for their lives. Still.
  1. If you disagree with someone’s opinion on Brock and the entire situation. If you think they are not strict enough, or cruel enough, or that Brock’s sexual organs should be removed because of his acts, try to have a civil conversation about it. Do not scream at them as if they were an idiot. If you feel the need to scream at them, do all of the action bulletins listed above first, and if you still have energy after that, feel free to yell. But civil discourse can lead to community action, rather than polarization. Talk about it.

And finally, let’s have an honest discussion about Brock and his future. These thoughts may not be popular, but before you rake me over the coals, read all of what I have to say. Brock raped a woman. Brock ended life as she knew it. No sentence received will change Brock or the survivor’s past. Brock and his family have received so much public attention regarding this case that I think his life is over in ways he could not have imagined. HOWEVER, he has money to change his name. He has connections to obtain a good job that pays well and provides him the lifestyle he is accustomed to. A life of privilege. We, collectively, have painted Brock as a vile, inhuman, animalistic rapist. Think about that. We make rape the verb of Brock’s life. We have decided this is who he is. In that decision, and despite a sexual offender website, we make it possible for him to rape again. Because that is who he is according to this universe.

Unless. Unless he were to be educated about consent. Made aware about the difference between wanting something and taking it. Educated about the difference between drinking to lower inhibition versus drinking for an excuse.  Unless, somehow, Brock could become a voice of education regarding consent, of awareness for campus sexual assault, a voice of change. Because that would truly be the only thing his survivor wants of him.

But it might be too late for him, because we decided that he’s not capable of that.

Do not decide for him. Push for him to survive as well; to meet the expectation, and regain his humanity. We are capable of change if we, and those around him believe.

Educate. Fight. Advocate. Listen. Do not let Brock of the past win. We cannot afford to lose.

PPM

 

(Also, just in case you have no idea what this case is about, or wonder how I really feel about it, read this.)