Leisure Time

Once a year my husband heads to Maine on a Friday morning with all three kids. This means that when I get home from work on Friday night, I get the house all to myself for a glorious 12-14 hours.  Sure, I’ll be sleeping for 7-8 of those hours but the other 5 or 6 hours?  I can do whatever I want!  And those sleeping hours?  They will be uninterrupted! (Except maybe by the confused cat, wondering where the rest of her noisy family is.) And the waking hours?  No one asking for anything (except maybe the hungry cat)! No one needing dressing, changing, wiping, feeding or any of my attention!  OH HAPPY DAY!

 

My mind spins with all of the possibilities!  I will make a plan!

THE PLAN:

I will…

… go to Target on the way home, or maybe Whole Foods, or maybe Trader Joe’s!  I never go to Trader Joe’s! I will get their margarita mix!  And some onion bhajis!  And croissants! And flowers!  And mango babka!

Image from Trader Joe's. Click on photo to go there!

Image from Trader Joe’s. Click on photo to go there!

… swing by Starbucks for an iced tea! That I won’t have to share!

… stop by my regular grocery store to pick up some items on my list! And wander slowly through the aisles, contentedly humming along to the piped-in grocery store music! And I won’t buy goldfish! Or yogurt in a tube!

… go home, preheat the oven and make this chocolate cake! While listening to 80’s hits and dancing around the kitchen!

Smitten Kitchen's Everyday Chocolate Cake. This is her photo - isn't it gorgeous?! Click on the link to visit her site - it is one of the very best!

Smitten Kitchen’s Everyday Chocolate Cake. This is her photo – isn’t it gorgeous?! Click on the link to visit her site – it is one of the very best!

… clear some toys from the toy room while the cake is baking!  Finally get around to moving the toys we are keeping into the newly-finished basement!  Prep some toys for donation! Good deeds! Tax write-offs! Less legos to step on!

… clear some of the 5,000 photos (I’m not joking) off of my phone!  Back everything up to the Cloud, my laptop, and my external drive!  Add photos to my family photo share site!

… figure out my Amazon Fire TV stick!

… unpack my suitcase from my Midwest trip! Do a load of cold delicates that is just mine!

… go out and get a steak or something decadent, and sit alone, sipping a cocktail (or two!) and reading!  No picking up pieces of cold, slimy mac & cheese off of the floor when I’m done! No rushing through dinner! No asking for the check when I order the entree!

Yes, please.

Yes, please.

… put on my PJs and watch a movie of my choosing, with an R rating, from the seat of my choosing, on my own couch! While eating cake!

… sleep a glorious 8 hours! Wake slowly! Drink an entire cup of coffee while it it still hot! Take a walk then a long shower using all the hot water I want! Eat a piece of chocolate cake for breakfast! No need to set a good example!

… swing by the farmer’s market for raspberries! And tomatoes! And veggies! And anything else that strikes my fancy!

… pack my bag for the journey up to Maine! Listen to podcasts on the way! Stop at my favorite outlet in Kittery! Make it up to see the kids at lunch, feeling fulfilled and refreshed!

THE REALITY:

I will go home, put on my PJs, and order Thai take out.

I will then realize I have to get dressed to get the Thai food, throw on a sweatshirt (in July), and hope I don’t run into anyone I know who is out and being social and fun on a Friday night.

On the way out, I will realize we are out of cat food but skip the grocery store, lest I run into one of those social, fun, productive acquaintances. This means I will have to listen to the cat loudly lament the terribleness that is dry food (disgusting death nuggets, stupid human!) for the rest of the evening.

I will half watch The Great British Bake Off (go Ian!) while playing Plants v. Zombies until my eyelids droop at 9pm.

I will wake up to pee twice, and to a meowing cat three times.  And I will wake up three more times for no good reason, other than that I’m really used to sleeping next to my husband.

I will leave early to go to Maine, because I’m inexplicably up at 5:30am and have no coffee or half and half in the house, because I anti-socially skipped the grocery store.

And I’ll drive straight through, because I should.  And because Maine is awesome.  And so are my kids and my husband.

And lobster.

 

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Permission Granted

By the power vested in me by… well, no one, I’m giving you permission.

A friend called me, concerned. She had breastfed for a year, and didn’t feel like stopping but thought that somehow she should. “Can I keep breastfeeding?” she asked, unsure of herself. “Of course you can!” was my response.

Speaking with the receptionist at my dentist’s office, she worried aloud about her daughter, a new mom, who was barely keeping hide and hair together, sad, working full time, commuting too far, pumping and nursing around the clock, with a grumpy baby who didn’t sleep. (Okay, maybe my dentist’s front office staff is prone to oversharing, but I don’t mind, the ladies are lovely.) “Has anyone told her she can stop pumping or nursing?” The receptionist was caught off guard by my suggestion, probably figuring that her daughter already knew that. But I wasn’t worried about whether she knew that, rather, I wondered if anyone had ever told her so, out loud.

So let me say it outloud, er, in writing. You have permission. Sometimes you just need to hear someone else say it.

These are breastfeeding examples, but there are so many more.

Motherhood, strike that, parenthood is really just improv. You do the best you can, as you go, guided by instincts, friends, family, doctors, books, and the internet. It’s no wonder that so many of us second guess our choices and decisions. I do it all the time.

So here’s the thing. Odds are very good that you’re doing it right.

We don’t tell each other that enough.

So stop second guessing.

Do you want to stop breastfeeding? Stop breastfeeding.

Do you want to keep breastfeeding? Keep breastfeeding.

Do you want to name your child “North”? Go ahead.

Do you want to circumcise/not circumcise your son? Do it.

Do you want to make your child wear a onesie that says “I heart titties and beer”? Um, no. Please, don’t do that.

But you get my point.

Everybody’s Working for the Weekend?

I’ve decided to stop feeling bad.

I’ve got a job I enjoy, with hours flexible enough that I get to spend a lot of time with my kidlets, and a dual-income household that may not afford us an extravagant lifestyle, but allows us luxuries like dinners out, newish cars, and grocery bills we don’t worry too much about. I usually get enough sleep (as much as can be expected with two small people in the house), and I don’t work weekends.

But I also have a Princeton degree, and a never-ending, nagging sense that I should be on a faster track, in a higher paying position with more responsibilities, a leadership role, room for advancement and more respect.  My little internal – and it is mostly internal – voice tsk tsks me, whispering of missed opportunities and talents wasted.  When someone asks what I do, I tell them, but feel like prefacing it with, “I’m just a…”

I’m not sure why staying close to my childhood hometown, not pursuing an advanced degree (at least not fully and/or not yet), and working at an average job (and one without clear social value – because at least that would be something to hang my hat on, and is, perhaps, why I now tell people who ask what my job is that I am also a mother) feels like a failure, but a lot of the time, it does.

The conversations aren’t new – Anne-Marie Slaughter, Marissa Mayer, and scores of others are influencing the recent discussions on work and life issues specifically as they pertain to women (and mostly highly educated women), but really, as they pertain to all of us – as employees, employers, fathers, sons, mothers, daughters, you name it.  (Because really, you can’t impact, influence or re-balance half of the population without impacting the whole, can you?)

Tock

Here’s what I want to know: when did our priorities get turned upside down?  Work, goals, achievement, financial security – all good things, worthy pursuits. But this slow shift towards the worship of work? When did our self-worth, respect earned, and societal importance start being measured by long work hours – and not just long hours, incredibly long hours and constant work contact in the 8 hours a day you’re not physically at work?

“Fifty years ago, Americans signaled class by displaying their leisure: think banker’s hours (9 to 3). Today, the elite — journalist Chrystia Freeland calls them “the working rich” — display their extreme schedules.”

I’m crying foul.

Maybe I’m just trying to justify my own life choices here – I probably am. We all do that. And I am not blind to the fact that to even have these life and work choices was not something afforded my gender until recently and that my class and geography play a huge role in the availability of these choices, too. (K.J. Dell’Antonia touches on this today.)

But by choosing to opt out – even partially – of this world of work worship, you are necessarily choosing to give up status, give up income, give up respect, and potentially waste talents and abilities. I have done that, and though my reasons are clear, and my life fulfilling, it doesn’t always feel good.  In fact, it often feels bad.  It feels, well, lazy.

Friends who have opted in –  have they missed milestones, family time, sleep, negatively impacted their health, and missed out on lovely, average, every day experiences? The answer is probably yes.

Friends who have opted in later in life, and tried to catch up – have they suffered discrimination for being older and out of the work force? Have they suffered an income gap that they won’t be able to make up? The answer is probably yes.

Friends who have opted out – have they taken pay cuts, felt financial burdens, felt their societal value, or self-worth somehow diminished because the opted out, and potentially wasted their talents and aptitudes?  The answer is probably yes.

Who is winning?

It’s All Wrong!

Ah parenting. And guilt.

I’m not really a guilt-ridden type of broad.  But now that I am a parent, it is a constant choice every day to avoid the guilt.

One thing I learned quickly after Mr. Pickle Pumpkin was born – before he was born actually! –  is that every choice you make for your child can be judged. By someone.  And it usually is.  To have fetal genetic testing or not?  To circumcise or not? To breast-feed exclusively, or not? Cloth diapers, disposable, or some sort of hybrid? Co-sleep or not? Whatever choice you make as a parent someone you know has made a different choice and won’t hesitate to tell you, kindly, with a concerned look on their face, why their choice is just a little bit better.

It can make you crazy.

So I tell all new mothers to give up the guilt.  There are a million different ways to parent, there are a million decisions to make every day.  Do your very best, don’t worry too much, and realize that some kids with all organic toys will grow up to be psychopaths, some will grow up to be world leaders most will grow up somewhere in-between.  Make the choices that work for you.

Guilt be gone!

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An upcoming post will deal with the other side of this coin – judging!