Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Life, Lived and Loved

I work so much better under pressure. My brain, my energy level...everything. Give me a deadline and I shift into gear. It's not like I'm proud of this because, in all honesty, it's merely a by-product of procrastination. On the other hand, I developed this skill as a coping mechanism when I was a full-time working mom. (A redundancy if I've ever heard one - what mom isn't working full-time? But I mean outside the home and not with a hedge clipper.)

Back then, I was up to my eyeballs in stress, work, deadlines and what felt like hundreds of children. It was only three, give or take 97. I got things done by making mental lists. Lists that grew by the minute. Lists written on receipts and paycheck stubs and sometimes on the back of my hand. The lists could all be titled: "Things I Need to Do So the World (OK, my world) Doesn't Fall Apart." There were moments during my gig as a FTWM (see above), when I felt responsible for the world. I felt like so many people were depending on me and, failure was not an option. Of course I failed every day in so many ways, but I tried to make my failures small and unnoticeable: A toddler shirt for picture day that wasn't really washed...just aired out and pressed...under a heavy book. A snack for the class that was questionably healthy and definitely not homemade. A birthday card sent to a relative a month late. (It really is the thought that counts, right?)

It was also during my tenure as a FTWM that I became obsessed with worrying about what everybody thought. Would school notice that I rarely, if ever, volunteered? Would the kids notice that I'm too tired to read them a story at bedtime so I'm skipping pages? (Oh, stop. You TOO have done this at least once.) Will my husband notice that we haven't gone out alone or had a conversation that didn't mention the kids in 2 years? Will my boss notice that I'm thinking about how to get the laundry done tonight so that my son's basketball uniform will be clean for his game tomorrow? I cared, and yet I didn't. I knew I was doing the best I could, but when you're in that situation, you don't exactly walk around saying that out loud. Rather, you pretend like your life is a walk in the park and hope they talk about you later in hushed and adoring tones. Like the Marines, I did more before 9am than most people did in a day.

It's funny but even though my life has changed dramatically and I have the time that I used to dream about having, I still look back on those days with shock and awe. How did I do it? Would my kids be different if I had stayed home? Would my husband have been happier if I hadn't been a raving bitch at the end of every day? (Well, duh.) Would I have accomplished more in my life if I had had the time to slow down and stay home? In my case, the answer is a definite no. I needed the stress, the pressure, the deadlines, the impossible schedule to get something done.

Today, I create artificial pressure in the way of lists and appointments and social engagements. It's very pleasant and I'm sure I'm easier to live with, but I have to admit that a little part of me misses the old days. I miss not having to think about what to do on the weekends and instead figuring out what we'd have to skip. I miss the laundry baskets full of toys strewn about the living room. (No, wait, I don't miss that.) I miss the toddler bodies hanging from my neck and my hips as I tried to slip into the bathroom for five seconds. I miss the smell of my children, because they don't let me get that close to them anymore.

What is it that makes us miss the times that were the hardest of all? I think it's because when things are hectic, life is being lived to the fullest.


At 7:05 PM , Blogger Star said...

Nice post Karen. I feel much the same way. Although having my grandson living with us has taken us back to the old life to some degree.

At 8:29 PM , Blogger Juliabohemian said...

I can relate to this. I don't work anymore but when I did I was constantly thinking about what people thought of me putting my baby in daycare. After I quit I begin to worry about other things: how much tv my kids were watching, what they ate (or didn't eat, what they wore etc.

I believed for a while that because I was a Mom that it should dictate my whole look and personality. I am glad to say I am returning to my true self...dressing a little more loosely, shaving my head, getting my eyebrow repierced.

At 9:20 PM , Blogger Barbara said...

Sounds like you've found some balance. Family life is the best.

At 10:48 PM , Blogger Jennifer said...

How sweet!! I loved your thoughts!
Right now I still have the toddlers hanging around my neck. Would you like to trade lives for just a weekend? ;)

At 6:16 AM , Blogger Aginoth said...

Hi Karen Michelle sent me.

You might like my wifes blog, tends to be about stressed out motherhood :o)

Mrs.Aginoth's Blog

At 6:17 AM , Blogger Curator said...

I too prefer fire to smoke.

Boredom doesn't sit well here either, albeit I do sometimes miss the chaos of contracting gigs.

Michele sent me.


At 6:46 AM , Blogger Dak-Ind said...

i sure can relate, Karen. i think most moms can. hello, michelle sent me.

At 11:08 AM , Blogger Marie said...

Glad to see that you have a bit of time to spend on yourself. I'm still searching. Of course if I gave up my blog maybe I would. Oh by the way, Michele sent me.

At 11:41 AM , Anonymous colleen said...

"The ultimate inspiration is a deadline." I don't know who said it, but I love it. Michele sent me.

At 1:36 PM , Blogger Poppy Buxom said...

Hi Karen--you visited my blog so I'm returning the favor. Good job! I can relate even though I've never been a working-outside-of-the-home mother.

I guess we all suffer from the "am I doing a good enough job?" syndrome!


At 3:12 PM , Blogger ribbiticus said...

glad you were able to find a balance between the two without compromising much.

michele sent me today. :)

At 10:43 AM , Anonymous mercuryfern said...

Well, it took me long enough to stop by after you visited my blog last week, but here I am. Great observations and writing. I especially like your piece about the arts and sports parents. So many adults live vicariously through their children, and it isn’t good for anyone. My sister was a serious ballet dancer for fourteen years, and I was not surprised at how cruel the girls could be to each other, but many of the moms were just downright mean to other moms.

I have a love/hate relationship with a hectic pace of life, myself. On one hand, it is invigorating, on the other, when I take on too much, the break down which follows is ugly indeed.

At 7:54 PM , Blogger Marisa said...

Reading your blog makes me want to have my own family some day -- for the good and the not so.

I can totally relate to that "artificial pressure" thing. I can't get anything done without being under pressure.

At 4:55 AM , Blogger Weary Hag said...

You're quite right. Sometimes, I'll sit and recall the days when I had to commute two hours (mostly on foot and via public transportation) just to get to work everyday - then two hours to get back home. I wonder to myself "how on earth did I manage that and then go out dancing three nights a week till two in the morning? Then I look in the mirror and think "Hm. Guess there's a lot to be said for all that activity."

When I worked part time, mothered full time and went to college classes part time (all at the same time) people said I was nuts and that I was taking on too much. I never noticed it back then. It felt healthy and I felt like I was wisely using every moment. Though there are things about those days that I miss (like when my daughter was just a toddler), I use moments now by writing about those very times, and remembering them, and sometimes, just by sipping tea and looking at the birds at the feeder.

Life changes us... but I think in the grand scheme, it's all good.


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