I was listening to NPR this morning when they featured a segment about women in the workplace trying to negotiate between family and career. I have heard this conversation SO much lately from my girlfriends with kids. Several of the folks on the NPR panel were shaming corporate America for the lack of “sameness” with which they treat women and men. Others were discussing loop holes, compromises, and historical data.
I tend to be pretty pragmatic. I just turned down a full-time job so that I could stay home with my kid more often. Would I have done that if I didn’t have Abe? Heck no! I would have taken it in a heartbeat! It was a dream job! But it just didn’t work for me right now. I don’t think that means my choice should have to be everyone’s choice. I know plenty of women who love working full-time. I also know women who don’t work at all and spend all of their time with kids. Why should we be generalizing what’s right?
Men and women are not the same. I’m sorry, but they’re not. Women make the babies. We are the ones who are biologically attuned to our children with a force that can’t be reckoned. I don’t care how plugged in your husband is (and mine is in the top 1%), a man does not have the same connection with infants and toddlers that moms do for the first couple years. So if we’re not the same, we can’t be treated the same. And sometimes that means we’re not treated “fairly”. We don’t get the jobs because we have the babies, we make less money because we have the babies, but you know what we get out of it all? WE GET TO HAVE THE BABIES! By the end of the NPR segment I had to wonder why no one was talking about honoring women for mothering the future while having careers. Maybe if women felt appreciated for all that they do, the “glass ceiling” wouldn’t feel so frustrating.
This is me on a high-horse about my opinion but I’m open to other opinions. What do you think about women and careers? Kind of confusing, right?!
Knowing that Abe’s second birthday is coming up, just about everything people say to me makes me nostalgic. A friend of mine recently said to me that she was jealous I’d gone through pregnancy and (nearly) the first two years of my child’s life already.
Holy crap. That’s true. I did it. I so vividly remember sitting and staring at my friends whose babies were talking and walking and feeding themselves thinking you bitches and your babies that do stuff.
And now I’m the bitch with the baby that does stuff.
Today Abe walked into the kitchen shouting, “More! More! More!” He was frantic. It was close to a panic attack.
“More what, baby?”
Abe pointed to the pantry and started marching rapidly in place. “More! More! More!”
“You want a snack?”
“MORE! SACK! MORE! SACK!”
“Ok. Well what do you want? Do you want Veggie Booty?”
“Do you want a cereal bar?”
“No! More! NO NO!”
“Do you want Goldfish?”
Abe grinned at me like I’d asked him out on a first date. He coyly raised his pointer finger with his shoulder digging meaningfully into his cheek and declared, “Fsh.” Then he walked into the living room with his bowl full of Goldfish and ate it while playing with his caws.
Do you realize I just had a conversation with my child? That we do that now? I have the ability to find out what he wants and then give it to him. HOW FREAKING COOL IS THIS?? (If you don’t have kids, just smile and act like it’s cool. BECAUSE IT FREAKING IS.)
And on an unrelated note, my husband bought me one of those Keurig automatic coffee machines and now I drink way too much coffee. But what I really want is this: The Top Brewer. Can you imagine? I WOULD NEVER SLEEP. I would just sit next to it and talk to it about how beautiful it is and then ask for a latte with my finger.
Abe was up for a majority of the night last night not feeling well. It’s been about 3 months since we’ve had a sleepless night in this house. While I tried to fall back asleep after another episode of screamy fury, I began to hear phantom cries. I was immediately transported to this time last year. I completely forgot how phantom cries used to rule my life. Every bird. Every door creak. Every whiny spiggot sounded like a baby crying. Wind sounded like babies crying.
I thought about how different my life was a year ago in other ways. Abe couldn’t walk yet and was barely starting to crawl. I fed him every meal and nursed him in between. I took a change of my clothes, his clothes, extra diapers, wipes, teething tablets, mylicon, clip-on toys, pacifiers, his blanket, his stuffed hippo, a nursing cover, and a bottle with me everywhere I went. My husband and I had sleep shifts. Abe took 2 naps a day so I had 3 short windows for which to run any and all errands. I couldn’t leave him on a bed, couch, or chair unattended. Baby Einstein was my babysitter. He had no teeth and peed through his diaper every. single. night.
It’s so amazing what can change in a year.
And now that I’m staring down the barrel of 2, I can confidently say that I am so much more comfortable with a 2-year-old than an infant. I understand him, I know him. As fast as this last year has gone by, I realize that the next 3 will be a blink and he will be in school.
This week I was offered a full-time temporary position at a local high school. The job is in my field, one that I have been wishing for and praying for since I moved here. As I shared the good news with friends and family, it slowly dawned on me how much my life will be changing. How much of Abe’s life I would potentially miss. How I will never get these years back. While the job I currently hold is not in my field and not what I saw myself doing at 30 years old, it fills me and gives me the freedom to be with my son. Suddenly, my blessed life was re-illuminated. Here I am, not where I thought I’d be, and exactly where I want to be. NEVER in my life did I think I would turn down a job I earned a graduate degree for, but I always knew I would choose my family first.
So that’s what I did this week. I turned down my dream job in favor of my dream family. I have to believe that there are more dream jobs in my future. But I only have now. And now I need to go to bed so I can wake up tomorrow and spend the day with my son.
Two months ago I had a cyst removed from my back (which was later deemed “benign” meaning “ugly and worthless”). Unbeknownst to me, the surgeon used dissolvable stitches under the skin. Had he told me that’s what he was using I would have shouted, “STOP EVERYTHING YOU’RE DOING,” because my body rejects those stitches and attempts to kick them out like the deadbeat boyfriends that they are. Well, my body did that and it was disgusting. I called yesterday and when the nurse told me she could get me in this morning to have the incision re-examined, I said, “Ok,” without thinking.
Abe does not have school on Tuesdays (today) so I whisked him into the car early to take him to my appointment. I assumed that since we were just re-examining I would be there for 10 minutes. Never assume.
When I got Abe out of the car the first thing I noticed was that I am the mom who forgets to put shoes on her baby. Yep. Barefoot in Florida. Super classy.
I casually carried Abe inside as if I HAD his shoes but was just CHOOSING not to put them on him because “I love holding him so much.” After about 5 minutes I finally had to put him down. Cover blown.
We were immediately called back to an exam room and the surgeon took a look. No, more than a look. He started jabbing at my skin with a saw and a hammer. I’m pretty sure. “Oh. Wow. Yeah, we’re going to have to open this up and re-stitch. It’s not going to heal this way.”
“Oh wow, ok,” I said, “Well, I can make an appointment to come back.”
“No need,” the surgeon replied. “We can do it right now.”
“No, I have my son with me.” And he’s barefoot. In a surgeon’s office.
“That’s ok. The nurses will entertain him.”
He left the room and the nurse asked me to take my shirt off and lie down. Ordinarily I would make a joke about her moving too quickly for my taste but I had to get this over with. I set up a Mickey Mouse for Abe on the iPad and got him a snack. I got up on the table and the nurse began to numb my back. Then I heard that sound that cereal makes when you pour it out of the box directly onto the floor. In the surgeon’s office. While my kid has no shoes on. I’M AN AMAZING MOM.
I did my best to get the cereal away from him with my one arm hanging off the table. Then he turned off his movie. So I turned it back on with one hand, repeating, “Bring it here. Let mommy fix it. Now don’t touch it again. Let mommy see it. Right here.” I was then forced to hold the iPad with one hand while gripping the table with the other hand, trying not to cry while the nurse administered the lidocaine. It took 2 full syringes because of the scar tissue that already started forming. That’s about 10 minutes of numbing and, if you’ve ever been numbed, you can feel the entire process contrary to its purpose.
I amazed even myself with the amount of fun things my left hand is capable of doing to entertain Abe. One of the nurses blew up a surgical glove which was both incredibly creepy and very sweet. Abe actually hated it and started to cry. I made faces and tickled his tummy and talked to him. He stopped freaking out and started watching Mickey. And then it happened.
That’s the sound the iPad makes when it’s running out of battery life. We had 20 minutes before Mickey Mouse left and Tantrum 2012 entered. WHERE IS THE SURGEON?
The surgeon finally came in to do his thing while I tried to pretend like I wasn’t scarring my child by letting him hang out in the room while I had my back cut open. I ended up getting 10 more stitches before the ordeal was over. All while I held an iPad off the table with one hand.
Before he left, the surgeon casually said, “Ok. No heavy lifting or aggressive movements with your torso.” I looked at Abe. Then I looked back at the surgeon.
Mickey miraculously lasted through the entire little surgery which could only remind me of the Hanukkah and the oil burning for 8 whole days. Tonight my back feels like someone cut it open and then stitched it back together with a needle and thread. And Abe still doesn’t have shoes. Tomorrow HAS to be a better day, right?
I got completely annoyed last week when I grocery shopped at Whole Paycheck and paid $5 for a package of organic popsicles as a treat for Abe. Enough to deter me from buying them? No. But I acted completely aggravated while Abe ate them and reminded him that if we couldn’t afford college, this was why.
Walked into the Target cheapie section near the front of the store later and decided on two or three hundred things I should buy (because, hey, it’s $1) when I came across a popsicle mold. Flashback to Whole Paycheck, flashforward to $1 popsicle mold.
I get the big bags of organic berries from Costco everytime I go. Frozen bananas are a staple in our freezer. And we still have coconut oil leftover from the GALLON my husband ordered. (I’d say it’s time for me to stop rubbing it in considering the amount of times I’ve referenced it due to it’s endless uses and bargain price, no?) I tossed it all in the blender and added some flax seed because I could and he would never know. Water and blend.
I made about 2 cups worth, which was enough to fill all 8 of the popsicle molds with a little leftover for Abe to drink.
But he wouldn’t drink it.
I prepared myself for all of my work and thoughtful money-saving work down the tubes.
The next day I ran a little warm water over one of the molds and removed it in one piece. First step, success.
Frankly I was satisfied with the fact that I’d even made popsicles, but then I gave it to my kid. It was the greatest day of his life. He wanted to stand, sit, and be everywhere he could while eating this popsicle. And he ate the whole thing. He kissed it. He told it goodbye when it was gone. It was a beautiful love story. Does he know he ate flax seeds? No. Coconut oil? Not a clue. Next time I’m adding spinach and brussel sprouts.
I went out of town last week to spend some much-needed relaxation time with friends. I returned feeling blessed I have a husband who lets me do that and joyful to return home to my little family.
Before I left I bought Abe about 15 matchbox cars, or CAW as he calls them. I bought them used from a local kiddie consignment shop because I refuse to pay $1 per car when I can get them for $.25 and all I have to do is dig the crusty applesauce out of the wheel wells. When I returned home from my vacay, there were 2 cars. IN THE WHOLE HOUSE. I searched every drawer, under every pillow, behind every dresser. What invisible force is stealing all the cars? And why can’t it wipe down the refrigerator shelves when I’m not looking?
I laid down on the floor next to Abe so that we could play with 2 cars. I watched his sweet little eyes studying the wheels, the way they turned, the way they’d spin when he flicked them. Then I watched him slowly push one little orange car into the bass-port (hole) of the subwoofer in our living room. I reached out and said, “Abe! You lost all your other cars! You don’t want to lose this one, too!” He screamed (argued) and pushed the car in again. “Abe, if you do that you’re going to lose your car.”
Did he listen? Nooooo. He was all I do what I WANT. And plop. The car rolled all the way in to the speaker.
“Caw?” he asked.
“Yep. Your car is lost now.”
“Caw?! CAW?! CAAAW?!” he asked frantically.
“Ok, ok, let me try and get it out.” I picked up the subwoofer, turned it over, and like a rainstick with a thousand little nails inside creating the soft pitter patter of warm Florida summer afternoon showers, I listened to a small army of matchbox cars make their way from the top to the bottom of the inside of the subwoofer. I looked at Abe in disbelief. He smiled.
I tried shaking the cars out until I worked up a sweat but I couldn’t get them perfectly lined up with the hole. I waited for Dad to get home to find out if it was safe to take this thing apart because, God knows, if I broke one of his 400+ speakers I couldn’t live with myself. He took the back of the speaker off and this is what we found:
In total, we found 9 matchbox cars inside the subwoofer. And for Abe, it was like Hannukah. Or Christmas. Or whatever religion we are. He lined them up on the coffee table and played with them like old friends it’d been years since he’d seen. He has been lining them up like a parking lot for the past 2 days, overjoyed to have all his little buddies back. I’m thinking we should check the Honda’s exhaust pipe next. And maybe the bathtub spigot.
My family gets an organic produce delivery once every 2 weeks. Most of them time we spread the goodness out over a week, but weeks like this week require creativity. My husband is out of town and when he returns, I am going out of town. All the organic goodness will go to waste if we’re not smart. So, you guessed it, I just make soup.
Soup seems daunting until you’ve made it once. One time and you’ll realize how easy and amazing soup is. I make HUGE batches and freeze.
Today I started with what was left of a chicken I roasted over the weekend. (I usually strip the bird and freeze the leavin’s until I’m ready to make stock.) You can start with a boat load of vegetables and achieve the same result. I filled the pot with water, the chicken, a chopped up onion, and the tops from the organic carrots. Carrot tops (unlike the comedian) are incredibly useful. You can’t eat them without swearing off anything green forever because they’re too bitter, but they add wonderful flavor to soups, stews, and sauces. I also had about a cup of dried black eyed peas that have been abandoned in my pantry for way too long.
I left the water to stew for about 3 hours. You don’t have to let it go that long but I had stuff to do so I did.
I unloaded the vegetable drawer. I pulled out zucchini, broccoli, kale, fresh corn, carrots, onions, and some frozen peas. Then I searched the pantry for more beans and brown rice.
The trick is to throw the longest cooking vegetables in first, and add the fast cooking ones later. I chopped up the carrots, onions, and the broccoli stalks. I also grabbed about 2 cups of sprouted beans (I got a big bag of them from Costco) and a cup of brown rice. I threw it all in and let them hang out in the simmering pot for about an hour. Then I threw in finely chopped kale, broccoli tops, zucchini, and fresh corn. I didn’t end up using the frozen peas (I forgot about them).
I let it all hang out until the soup got thick, maybe another 20-30 minutes. So I started at about 12pm and finished at about 5, just in time for dinner. We ate and then I jarred enough soup for 8 big portions.
The great thing about soup is you can add different low-calorie condiments and get a new experience every time you thaw a jar. Add greek yogurt for creaminess, curry powder, sriracha hot sauce, fresh herbs, croutons, or even melted cheese! It’s a new dinner with every jar! And when my husband gets home he doesn’t have to worry about dinners or figuring out how to use all these vegetables. Viola! Just make soup!
Living consciously is this sort of hippy dippy saying that I used to equate to being in a constant meditative state without highs or lows while drinking lots of green tea and standing in yoga poses at Target. I’m not completely sure why I defined it that way or what sad experience I had at some point to leave that impression in my head.
I am learning that living consciously is way easier (and harder) than I thought. Defining it is easier, doing it is harder. How many times have you walked into the laundry room to flip the washer to the dryer, noticed that you’re almost our of dryer sheets, walked into the kitchen to add it to the grocery list, and then left to run errands? You get home hours later and realize you never switched the laundry. That’s living unconsciously. It’s not ADHD. It’s not “being a parent”. And we all do this, right? I have been so incredibly unconscious since my son was born (and didn’t even realize it) that I started resembling Nascar race car, constantly in a hurry but getting little accomplished.
The worst consciousness-sucking experience in my life is my computer. I can sit down to do some work, pop on Facebook to see if I have notifications, notice that someone commented on something they just bought, Google that thing, price shop, read the reviews, remember that I need to buy something on Amazon, buy it, close my computer, and go brush my teeth. I can do this over and over again, remembering I had work to do and never actually getting it done. Adorable.
The almighty check-list is my number one consciousness ally. Brain dumping at the beginning of the day and then doing my damnedest to get through that list before bedtime is usually really successful. But now I’m also trying to keep my brain engaged in what I’m doing. When wandering thoughts pass by, I acknowledge them. Sometimes they’re important enough for me to write down so I don’t forget later. Sometimes I just say hello to them and brush them aside. Then I continue to focus on the task at hand. The moment those unrelated thoughts stop by uninvited (and with muddy shoes) is the moment I get to make a choice to stay conscious. Like authenticity, consciousness is a daily practice. But by taking this “stay present” approach to life, I also notice that I remember my day. I remember what I did yesterday with great clarity and I remember what I need to do today. I remember to tell my husband funny things Abe does. I remember to water the plants.
What little ways can you stay conscious during the day? Remember, staying conscious means honoring yourself, so your “staying conscious” may require a nap.
If you didn’t read Vulnerability yesterday, read it first.
Alright, shame. Bring it on.
So Brene Brown says shame is, “I am wrong,” whereas guilt is, “I did something wrong.” The guilt is a healthy signal that says, “Hey! Time to clean up a mess you made!” Healthy people feel guilt on the regular. They don’t wallow, but they take to time to right the wrong as a result of the guilt.
Shame, on the other hand, encompasses the whole self. Just like vulnerability, everyone experiences shame in their own ways. How does shame relate to vulnerability? Because shame is the feeling we feel when we aren’t vulnerable. And shame goes SO deep that you often don’t even know it’s shame you’re feeling. For example, most women look at themselves in the mirror and say, “I need to lose that 10 pounds of fat around my middle before I’m going close to the bathingsuit section.” The response to the 10 pounds of fat around your middle is not about the 10 pounds of fat. It’s about the whole self. If you can’t look at your exterior and be fine the way you are, then you’ve got some shame buried in there. (Sorry, it’s cliche, it’s no fun to admit it, but it’s the truth.)
Good news: we’ve all got shame.
Better news: we can all practice vulnerability and self-love and shame diminishes.
Bad news: shame doesn’t completely disintegrate overnight. It takes ages to recover from.
Where does shame originate? Mostly from perfectionism, a need to be accepted/loved. Everyone needs to be loved and accepted, it’s part of our biology. But our culture does an especially good job of using shame to convince us to assimilate to someone else’s idea of “lovable” and “acceptable”. According to research at Boston College, the accepted societal norms for women are to be:
Use all available resources on her appearance.
Men are supposed to:
Be in emotional control.
Put work first.
That stuff is floating around in our DNA right now because of how deeply it’s been ingrained in our culture for generations. Fall outside of these norms and what do you get? SHAME! Shame is what hangs out in the between who we are and who we’re told to be.
It takes great courage* and great vulnerability to rid yourself of shame. Here, I’ll start: I feel great shame when my husband comes home and starts doing dishes that are in the sink. I want to be the wife that gives her husband a quiet, clean home to inhabit after he works so hard to pay for it. I get defensive, almost angry when he starts doing dishes. “Leave them alone,” I say, “I’ll just do it later, you don’t have to worry about it.” Of course, he’s thinking, “I’m helping my wife, I’m doing something nice for her.” But my shame inhibits me from being grateful (remember how you can’t selectively numb emotions?!). It throws up my anti-vulnerability wall and makes me mad. Stupid shame. If I can get past the shame of my husband doing the dishes for me, I might open a door for connection. A heart-felt thank you, my husband feeling proud he could help me, a wife feeling blessed her husband wants to help. We can have that if I’m able to step out of the shame.
*Brene Brown says: The root of the word courage is cor — the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage had a very different definition than it does today. Courage originally meant to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart. And if that’s not the definition of vulnerability, I don’t know what is…Vulnerability is not weakness. It is courage!
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