Grace

I received the nicest text message the other day. It was unexpected and rocked me back on my heels and made my heart full.

My dear friend Grace who moved 1000 miles away last month (to a new job, with a 2.5 month old – crrrrrrrrrrrrrrazy) is good at that. She is thoughtful. When we moved into our new home she invited us over for dinner on moving day, because she knew we’d be exhausted and not want to face restaurant crowds or unpacking boxes to get to our dishes. She also got me a lovely house key chain for my new house key – I still use it. Both the dinner and the keychain were lovely thoughtful things. But what tipped the thoughtfulness into range of CRAZY AMAZING THOUGHTFULNESS was that she had had the forethought to dump out her ice tray the night before so her ice maker could make us all new ice. She didn’t do this because she thought she needed to impress us, she did this because she thought it would be nice for us to have fresh ice. Fresh ice. Who does that? Grace does.

She is thoughtful because she is full of thought. She reflects on people, behaviors, herself. She is smart, positive, forgiving and sensitive (though her lawyerly life means she has had to hide some of her sensitive self – which is a shame, because I think it is a marvelous strength – damn Lawyerland). She laughs well and often. She has a wide-eyed innocence and curiosity that is endearing and sincere rather than annoying. I’m a big fan.

So I was touched when she sent me an out-of-the-blue text message telling me that she admired me for setting high standards for myself, but still managing to be kind and forgiving to myself. In all my years of navel-gazing, I had never reached that conclusion about myself. But it was nice to hear it, because it is something I work towards. After too many years of judging myself harshly (why do we do that?), I’m trying to be kinder to myself.

I understand where she’s coming from. New mom, new city, new job. She’s set expectations for herself of how to be the best mom, employee, wife, sister, friend, person she can be. We all do. But time, patience and energy are not available in endless supply – they just aren’t.

So many of the moms I know feel tired and stretched thin, meting out their time and energy to the various parts of their life that cry, “Me! Me! Me!” All of those parts need attention and nurturing but usually there’s not enough to go around and we end up feeling like we’re getting by, but not truly succeeding at any one part. We end up feeling like we’re not doing our very best job at any one of our jobs. We fall short of our own standards – professionally, emotionally, personally. And it doesn’t feel good. It feels hard. And it feels like failing.

But I don’t know one mom who is truly failing. They are all working incredibly hard, and they are raising secure, capable little doodles. They are doing the best they possibly can. And sometimes it feels good to hear that that is enough.

So thanks for your (never-ending) thoughtfulness, Grace. I’ll take some time today to try to pay it forward to my mom friends who are getting by, struggling, working hard, working towards balance, keeping all of the balls in the air and being so much to so many. And Grace, be kind to yourself, because you’re doing a great job. No really, you are.

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Things that would make me feel great…

#1 – Leaving the house feeling at least a LITTLE put-together in the morning.  Usually my hair is wet, my shirt is wrinkled, and I’m sans make-up.  I would guess that most folks think I look fine, but it isn’t how I look that irks me, it’s how I feel.  I feel like a running-behind, I-guess-this-shirt-is-clean mess most days.  Today it was cold, so I used that as an excuse to turn up the heat and the fan in my car.  Please raise your hand if you’ve ever attempted to use your car’s heating system as a blow-dryer.  (Sheepishly raises hand.)  More times than I’d like to admit.  Even in the summer.

#2 – Exercising more.  This is a no-brainer.  In addition to the physical and mental benefits, it would also allow me to catch up on the 175 podcasts that I have not yet listened to.  These poor, unheard podcasts cause me to suffer from psychic guilt.  A little time on the elliptical –> podcast listening –> a minor item checked off my to-do list every day + the feeling like I am not falling completely behind when it comes to popular culture.

#3 – Putting on make-up.  Even typing that makes me cringe.  I’m not the made-up type.  I regularly leave the house un-showered, wearing outfits that make me turn and run from anyone I recognize in the grocery store, lest they see me and wonder what has happened to my sanity.  But a little eyeliner, a little mascara does make me feel a little better – like I made a small effort not to look so tired and frazzled.  Instead, I always feel tired and frazzled, like I’m running behind the put-together train shouting, “Wait for me!”

I have one child.  A woman I know has three children under the age of four.  She always looks perfect.  And I’m pretty sure she exercises and is caught up on her podcasts.  In order to accomplish these things,  I imagine that she either has to (a) ply the kids with caramels, lollipops and TV; (b) lock them all in a small, child-proofed room for 30 minutes every day and allow the sound of the blow dryer to drown out their pleas and screams; or (c) wake up at 4am.  Maybe all three.  Actually, she’s probably already up at 4am sewing their little matching Halloween costumes, ironing her husband’s shirts and baking mini-souffles for her mommy-and-me group.  Me?  I’ll sleep as long as my little one will let me, and attempt to remember mascara tomorrow.  Baby steps, right?

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!