The Not So Supermom Days

The Supermom moments. I’ve had those. The days where I’ve gotten 5 things done before work, the kids sent off to 2 different schools on time, tackled tasks at work, made great sales at work and established relationships with clients, came home to a gorgeous husband who has cooked dinner for me (or maybe I made it ahead that morning in the crock pot) the children are (relatively) clean and homework is done.  Max and Hudson hide and jump out to “surprise” me and greet me with hugs. We sit together and eat dinner. We cuddle at night while I read them stories and they (eventually) go to sleep.

Flash to this morning.  Somehow we’re all running late. I’m on day 3 with no sleep. Max is recovering from a combination of pink eye, an ear infection and a cold. Hudson who threw up the day before is sluggish.  We’ve missed the bus, I pile the kids in the car and shuttle them to Max’s school only to realize it’s 8:45 and they don’t let any students in until 9.  At this point, I will have no time to get Hudson to school and myself ready for work. We make a quick drive back to the house, I leave the kids in the car as I dash inside to throw some food from the pantry into a lunchbox for Hudson, I grab his tote bag and pull out all the work I never looked at from the day before. There is some kind of newsletter in there. I hope it’s not important. I throw some make up in a bag and take it with me. Back in the car. Max just sneezed and yellow snot pours down his face. Back inside for a tissue. On our way to school. I’m not sure where they typically drop kids off from school but Max instructs me (I have no clue how he knows.) A kind teacher is there to greet him with an umbrella. It’s raining and Max isn’t wearing a coat. He hands me his wad of dirty tissues and waves good-bye. Off to Hudson’s school.  Somehow along the way, perhaps when shoving my pregnant calves into a pair of brown boots the zipper pops leaving a gaping hole exposing my grey striped socks.  I slap some make up on in the parking lot of Hudson’s preschool from the bag I brought, smearing a little lipstick on my cheeks in lieu of blush. I am sure it’s just a little too much. My hair has frizzed out thanks to the rain, my sock is still exposed and I’m not entirely sure that my clothes match.  I struggle with my boot zipper as I’m getting out of the car and helping Hudson into school.
The teacher informs me that she’ll be calling about Hudson’s behavior in class.
Fantastic.
I get back in the car. it’s 9:30 and I already want to call it quits.
I remember two things, the boys didn’t get their medicine and I didn’t pack myself a lunch.  Too late now because I’m off to work.  Late.

Things continue to deteriorate from there.

I get phone calls and texts

Jeff is feeling sick.

Hudson cried that it was not me who picked him up from school, he is also sick.

Max has cried because he was not able to play with his friends.

Meanwhile, I faced some of the rudest customers I’ve ever had.

At the end of the day I take the last minute of the work day right after locking the doors to hide in a dressing room to allow myself a few tears before collecting myself and my things and heading home.

I get home at 6:30 and gorgeous husband is asleep, Hudson is just waking up from a late nap and grumpy and Max barely turns from the TV to say hello. My poor exhausted mother-in-law tells me she doesn’t know how I do it before heading out the door.

I reach into a bag and pull out a cold hamburger I had delivered to work at 3:00 after scraping together some cash (since the boys doctors appointment and medicines left my bank account with $90 to be desired). I had not gotten a chance to eat it until now.
Today (and yesterday, and the day before) was not a Supermom day. Tomorrow may also not be a Supermom day. In fact, I feel like this week will probably be a wash when it comes to Supermom days.
But that’s alright.

I suppose I could pretend like today didn’t happen, focus this blog and my attention more on the Supermom days…

But we’ve all had some version of this day. Or at least, I like to think we do. In fact, I have had many.

And despite my miserable failure of a day, (or week as it may be) as I sit and eat a mushy burger (which was probably delicious at 3) I remind myself that it’s not about either the super or the not-so-super days.

Despite my failings (and I have many) I’ve got a couple of little people who want nothing more than my love and attention. I have a beautiful (albeit small and frequently messy) house and that is more than some. A cold burger to eat and clean water to drink.  And a husband who has a good enough sense of humor to love me.

So tonight I sleep (hopefully all night) and tomorrow I give it another go.

Maybe we’ll even make the bus.

I already have all the stuff.

It is now perfectly obvious that I’m pregnant. It’s no mistake, you can’t miss it.
A lot of people ask me if this is my first, and when I reply that it’s my third it eventually comes out:
I’m having another boy.

Three boys?!
Yes. Three boys.

And you know what? I’m looking forward to it.  No, I’m not crazy.

Here’s a typical conversation with a stranger, client, or acquaintance:

“Do you know what you’re having?”
“We’re having another boy”
“And your other two are…?”
“Both boys”
“Wow. Three boys. You’re going to be busy.”
“Yes, it should be lots of fun. We’re looking forward to it.”
“Whew. Well good luck. Do you think you’ll try again for a girl?”
“Thank you.  You know, honestly, I was hoping for another boy, so it all works out. If we decided to have 4 we’ll be trying for a 4th, not specifically for a boy or a girl”
Pause “well I guess that makes sense, I mean boys are easy, and you already have all the stuff”

I already have all the stuff?

Do people really hope for one gender or another because they already have the “stuff”?

I should say, I’ve always understood boys a little better than girls. I relate to them a little easier. I appreciate their humor and the way they look at life.  Admittedly, I was always a person who related to my male friends better than my female friends (if I had any) and it wasn’t until I became an adult and after I was married that I established more close relationships with women than with men. I’ve found having a house full of boys feels quite natural to me.

But not only do I have the “stuff” for boys… I actually like raising boys.
Yeah, the parenting part.

Now, I wouldn’t have been disappointed to have a girl either. I can see the appeal. Yes, the clothes are cuter. But also, it would be nice to have someone to “pass down” things that are unique to being a woman.  There is a bond there and I can certainly appreciate that.

At one time I imagined having a daughter, and teaching her to be a strong, confident, feminist woman.
And yet, it is just as important to start teaching our boys to be strong, confident, feminist men. It seems to me that raising boys who value and respect women is just as important than raising girls who assert themselves. Imagine if we put the same amount of effort into raising confident, feminist boys as we spent empowering our daughters.

So, I’ll take my thoughtful, affectionate, sweet and sometimes overly energetic boys. We’ll knock down the biggest block towers, build cities out of Legos read adventure stores and watch superhero movies.  I’ll break up the game war (where they kick each other until one of them cries), spot them when they use the bunk bed as a jungle gym, laugh at the fart jokes and play tag. I’ll comfort them after they’ve fallen doing exactly what I just told them not to, and occasionally, if I’m really feeling generous, we’ll even battle with action figures.

I’m ecstatic about having another one in the mix. I wouldn’t change it for a thousand tiny dresses.  I have plenty of things about being a woman that I get to pass on to them, just, in a different way.

And besides, I’ve already got the stuff.

Redefining Happiness –A Dangerous Attitude

A Facebook friend of mine recently posted The Atlantic article “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” on her business Facebook page, asking what her followers thought.  I have been interested in reading women’s responses to this article, which primarily argues that despite great advances in women’s rights, the balance between family life and professional life remains elusive to women.

But I found a few responses to this article (on Facebook and on the web) rather disturbing. The most upsetting response was that women needed to  “redefine what having it all means”.

My instinct was to fly into a feminist rage. We wouldn’t ask men to redefine their career goals for the sake of their family. Women have been trying to make it in a man’s world for how long and now you’re asking them to give it up? Be satisfied with less?  But it was the sense of passivity that concerned me the most.

I understand where this sentiment comes from. It comes from a conciliatory “all moms are working moms, we’re all winners” attitude. “Don’t set such high standards for yourself — you don’t need to be a super mom”  seems to be the general idea.  And I appreciate that on many levels; if we were discussing Time Magazine‘s Are You Mom Enough?, for example, I would have been right with her.  In this particular case, however, I found that kind of message downright dangerous.

Imagine you have a very close friend that comes to you and says that, though they are completely in love with their spouse, they are nagged with an unhappiness in their marriage. Some part of their marriage isn’t working for them. They are tired, and they feel like they are losing touch with themselves and their needs aren’t being met. They feel their marriage is sliding out from under them and, with it, so many other parts of their lives.

We would probably react in a similar way: we’d take a moment to listen to their feelings and express sympathy, then try to find a solution, or help in some way. We might say something like “What do you think needs to change so that this marriage works for both of you?” or “What do you feel is missing and what do you need in order to be happy?” Then we’d encourage them to take action, we’d tell them to talk to their spouse, get a hobby, go on vacation… whatever changes they discussed. Then we’d express our confidence that things will get better and if there is anything we can do, call.

It is unlikely that we would turn to our suffering friend and say, “Well, I think you really need to redefine happiness. Let’s just say how you are feeling right now is happy, and anything beyond that is just icing.” We probably wouldn’t tell our friend to “let it go” or “that’s just the way it is, I guess” because we know it doesn’t solve the problem. What we want for our friend is true happiness, and we have hope that their marriage can fulfill that for both partners.  We wish the same for ourselves.

At this point in our culture, most of us can agree that women have a lot to offer in the workplace and that companies, businesses, etc can benefit greatly with women playing a key role.  The women mentioned in Slaughter’s piece are extraordinarily hard working, intelligent women. The kind of women “super moms” aspire to be. And this isn’t working for them. That’s a real problem. We can’t simply brush it off by asking these women to desire less, nor should we ever do that to ourselves.

Asking women to redefine their goals, dreams and desires for their home and professional lives is like telling your friend to redefine “happy”. It doesn’t solve the problem and doesn’t empower anyone to make the changes that are clearly necessary.  Our response should have the same consideration and care as it would be to a friend.  We should respond with questions: How do we fix it? What do we do so that women (and men) can have the best chance of building successful careers while living fulfilling family lives? At the end of the conversation we should encourage each other to take action.

Creating a workplace and a society that places a higher value on the balance between work at home doesn’t only benefit women; men and children need that balance, too. We should be moving toward this goal anyway. When these issues are presented, it is in everyone’s best interest to keep this conversation going.  Slaughter offered the framework on addressing this issue. Our job now is to ask our own questions and brainstorm solutions.

The value of pretty.

I’m going to ignore the fact that I’ve been away and go right into the blog part.

A friend of mine shared this article yesterday How to Talk to Little Girls.

If this were part of an article in a parenting magazine, it would fall under the heading “Common Mistakes Parents Make and How to Avoid Them.”  Parents complain a lot about what society/media bombards our children with.  Photoshopped images, damsels in distress, and 6′ women in a push up bra carrying giant, 80lb angel wings while walking in stilettos as the absolute height of perfection.  It does pretty much come from everywhere.

But the sneakiest, most invasive brain washing is coming from us. I am not discounting the media’s impact. But we teach little girls through the way we talk to them.  We teach them by watching our own weight and trying to attain exactly what we say we don’t want for our kids.  We teach them by complementing their looks and placing value in it.  Sure, as parents we need to boost confidence; we can’t ignore what is going on around us.  But there is a fine line between “You are a beautiful young woman who is valued in our society for your talent and insight” and “Society values you because you are beautiful.”

But I don’t have girls. I have boys.

I have a responsibility, too.  It’s up to Jeff and I to teach our boys that we value women (and men) because of who they are and not how they look, that a girl’s looks does not equal their worth.

I’ll be the first to announce that I have already failed. Or rather, I have made the first step in teaching my 5 year old that we judge a person’s value based on their looks.  Max was in a talkative mood (when is he not?) and he was eating cereal and telling me all the gossip from his kindergarten class (apparently P asked L if J was her boyfriend and L said yes!)  I asked him who the smartest person was in class and he said K.  A little while later he mentioned a little girl in class and there was something really cute about the way he said her name and I asked him he thought she was pretty. He said totally nonchalant “yeah she’s pretty, she’s a girl.”

I didn’t ask if she was nice, or if she was smart like K, my first (and only) question about the little girl was whether or not Max thought she was pretty.  And this, is step one in sneaky, unintentional, “pretty is better” brainwashing.  It came out of my mouth before I even thought about it.  Things so small, they seem like they don’t matter. The very first conversation about-who-is-who’s boyfriend in kindergarten (oh, and for an update, J totally didn’t want a girlfriend, because girlfriends are gross. So S is now L’s boyfriend. S is ok with that.)

So, while I’m not about to beat myself up over it, I have some things I’ve already started that I need to undo.   I’m thankful that my friend passed this article on.  I probably would have a lot more to undo if she hadn’t.

 

 

The eclipsed child.

“I just need a lot of your attention” Max told me when snapped at him after he interrupted me for the 4th time while I was trying to hold a conversation with a friend.  Max likes to play, but it’s only interesting to him if I am watching him narrate his entire game and providing occasional commentary.  If Max wants your attention he demands it. And he demands it a lot, whether it’s ‘watch me play with dinosaurs’ or ‘ what are you guys talking about’ when Max is in the room he’s a part of what is going on. It’s delightful and frustrating all at the same time.

But I have another son.

One who, when the spotlight is on his brother tends to retreat into his own games and toys.  The one who can count to 10 in 3 languages, loves to learn new things, can do 4 puzzles at once, can stack a perfect tower taller than himself, has never once held a pencil incorrectly, and can jump higher and father than his brother.  An empathetic child who sits with his brother when his brother who is supposed to be in time out, who says “it’s ok, don’t cry” when people are upset. A complete and utter goofball on the occasions where he does hold the spotlight, clever and silly. Little Hudson, who will ask you to color with him or to build a tower with him or sit with him but will be fine to go do something else if you are too busy.

It’s not about loving one any more than the other or favorites, but when you’re balancing 4 careers between two people, a busy life and two kids, the one who demands your attention gets in the way of time with the one who asks politely.

I had the realization this past weekend that when it comes to my little Hudson I need to adjust my parenting style. I’ve always felt confident on how to parent Max because he’s a lot like me.  There is no mystery to Max in my mind, I know what he’s going to say  or do before he says it.  Hudson is different from all three of us. Not better, not worse, just different.  If you want to go all zodiac about it you’ve got 3 fire signs (Me: Aries, Jeff and Max: Leo) and here comes Hudson, the Aquarius who leaves us all a bit mystified.  There’s so much we can learn from Hudson and discover about him, but we have to slow down and pay attention.

I haven’t been as good of a parent to Hudson as I could have been because I’ve been waiting for him to tell me what he needs as loudly as his brother does.  I need to listen closer. So it’s time to adjust our focus. Max will get his attention regardless.  Hudson needs to get the focus and attention now and since he won’t demand it, it’s up to us.  This is, in fact, dawning of the age of Aquarius (sorry, couldn’t resist).  Jeff and I need to change tactics and get more involved, after all, he needs a lot of our attention too.

Honesty.

Max came in to the bedroom this morning saying “HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!”

“Thank you Max, you remembered!”

“How could I forget your birthday? I could never forget your birthday!”

“Aww thank you honey”

“besides, Dad told me.”

 

Thanks Jeff 😉