I Am A Work In Progress

For 16 years, when asked, “What do you do?”, I knew the answer. I’m a teacher.

Recently I resigned. I’m confident it was the best decision for me, and for my family; but now, without a profession or title, who am I?

I conjure up images of myself cooking well-balanced meals, wiping dirt from small hands, and explaining how to multiply fractions to a skeptical tween-ager. Oh, I know! I’m a mom.

I picture my husband and I, in the beginning, crammed together into 600 square feet with two cats. After we married, we schlepped oversized backpacks through foreign countries, choosing destinations with giant maps and train schedules spread over wooden pub tables. And now, toggled between parenthood and coupledom, we steal date nights to sip whiskey and hold uninterrupted conversation (usually about our kids) over a meal prepared by someone other than me. I’m a wife.

Now, when I am asked, “What do you do?” I’m overcome with either waves of panic or contented fulfillment – depending on the context or situation. I can think of no simple answer because parenthood brings a duality to one’s very identity. “What do you do?” has become synonymous with, Who are you?

Without a title, my purpose becomes slippery, open-ended, undefined.

The simple answer is, “I’m a mom.” Even though anyone in the business of raising humans knows there’s no such thing as being just a parent, I feel the need to belong to a category, so Mom is the one I choose.

In childhood, labels abound to describe us: we are daughters and sons, BFF’s, jocks, bookworms. The centrally defining question is one we answer with rapid-fire ease, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Declarations burst from our tongues: doctors, firefighters, astronauts, teachers. This is who we want to be.

In college, the defining question changes “What’s your major?” In a sea of pseudo-adulthood, we’re sorted and grouped again, this time into easily identifiable piles of like-minded peers. We find comfort in our label, in belonging to a group. We are marine biology, business communications, liberal arts, psychology. This is who we will be.

Over the years I’ve been shuffled and re-dealt into new stacks and groups – labeled with helpful monikers telling me who I am.

I’m a grad student. I’m a teacher. I’m a wife.

And then I became a mother. It was lovely and strange and new and everything. It filled me up. This is who I am.

“Mom” may now be my sole job descriptor, but I am more than a label. (We all are.) Balancing parenthood and womanhood and adulthood is a messy business, so my answer to the question of who I am is a messy one.

I’m a woman who wants to be the best, most productive version of herself– walking my dogs, doing Pilates, and drinking kale smoothies with flaxseed oil. But instead, I usher my kids out the door for school, do a cursory sweep of the disheveled contents of my house, and hunch over my laptop until noon in my PJs. When the clock demands it, I change from pajamas to fancier pajamas more suitable for outings – with things like paisleys or tiny owls on them. I throw whole grain bread in the toaster and rush out the door to pick up kids who like the paisleys on my ‘pants’ and accept me for my shortcomings. (This, I think, is because I always put whipped cream on their waffles.)

I am a mom who wants to be the best version of a mother, playing games and enjoying her children. But often our games of Go Fish or Hide-and-Seek devolve into a cacophony of fighting and tears because one sibling ‘peeks’ at the other’s cards, or another doesn’t take long enough to count to 20 before shouting, “Ready or not, here I come!”

In these moments, I want to be The Fixer. But more often I’m The Yeller. I lose my patience, banish them to bedrooms, and find disbelief in how slowly the minutes drag by until bedtime.

I am a wife, who by the time her husband gets home from work, is tired of talking, and answering, and thinking, and serving, and doing, and being needed constantly by the two little humans we made together, so I’m not nearly the wife I meant to be. But I’m an excellent chooser of husbands, and somehow I’m forgiven.

I am a night owl who stays up too late because nighttime is my sanctuary of quiet. No longer on the clock, I can read, write, or binge watch shows the Y chromosomes in my house do not fully appreciate. It’s in the stillness of night when I release all the worry and hopes and fears for my family I’ve been gripping tightly all day. At night, we are all safe together in one place, so I can let go the slack.

When my children are asleep, I forget about eye-rolling and yelling, and the 47,000 snacks I prepared and served (between meals). When I’m alone in my refuge of noiseless calm, I imagine my children are perfect. I fight the urge to race upstairs and brush their unruly thick hair from their beautiful dreaming faces to whisper, “I love you,” into the moonlit silence of their rooms.

I’m caught between my yearning to reaffirm my love for them, and my desire for them to remain asleep, allowing me to savor the tranquility I’ve longed for all day.

I am in constant flux.

I don’t have an answer ready when someone asks, “What do you do?” because it changes from day to day. Motherhood has not brought certainty of what my path should be, but it has brought acceptance that detours are part of the adventure.

Free of titles or monikers, I know who I am – I’m a work in progress, and that’s an okay thing to be.

 

Why I’ll Never Complain About Turning Another Year Older

 

 

I just had a birthday, and at this point in my life, the celebration is mostly for my kids. They gleefully plunge candles into frosting, and enthusiastically help me blow them out. (We don’t put the actual amount because that might be a fire hazard.)

The real truth is I don’t keep track of candles anymore. (Honest, just ask my friend who one year calculated my age as we drank wine on my couch, astutely pointing out that I was, in fact, one year younger than I thought!)

My lack of age awareness isn’t a sneaky way to avoid acknowledging that the years have continued to creep up. Mostly, it’s laziness. If I’m completely honest, my brain is so busy with calendar dates, vet visits, field trips, hot lunch orders, and the ever-present needs of my children, that keeping track of how old I am is not high on the list.

But the biggest reason I don’t keep track is that I’m unconcerned with the number of candles on my cake, as long as I get to keep adding more.

Growing up, I saw firsthand the fleeting nature of life. I lost several family members to cancer, including my mother. She turned 30 in the hospital after accepting a terminal diagnosis for which there was no treatment.

In my 20’s I was terrified I’d be dealt a similar fate due to genetics and superstitious foregone conclusions. So sure was I of my impending death, that for much of my life, I lived in fear of my 30th birthday, looming over me like the End of Days.

To my relief, I turned 30 without incident and am genuinely grateful for each year since. Over time I’ve seen friends face their mortality, lose parents to cancer, and struggle with the unimaginable ache of watching their children become chronically ill.

Months after having my first baby, I watched my husband nearly die in front of me. He was just 33 when he almost left this life for good, without ever knowing our newly born son.

Now, we are lucky to be raising two boys, who together have provided us with more than our fair share of trips to the ER, sometimes propelled by heart-thumping, gut-wrenching, please-let-my-kid-be-ok, fear.

At the risk of oversimplifying and sounding trite (which unavoidably, I do). I’ve come to realize that this life we are living is a gift.

Each time life has flaunted its impermanence in front of me, I’ve thrown out all my hopes into the universe and asked for more. More hugs, more laughter, more time, more years. I want as much time as possible with the ones I love, which inevitably means growing older.

We can look at aging as something that is happening to us, beyond our control. Or we can view it as a badge of honor, and the awesome privilege it is. Whether we focus on the destination or the journey is up to us.

The wear and tear of aging is evidence of all the living we’ve done; marking our bodies with keepsakes, reminding us of where we’ve been.

My scars are reminders of the times I tested personal limits, pushed boundaries, and learned about caution, risk, and judgment.

My freckles mark the carefree, sun-filled summers and mid-day hikes of my 20’s, tanning my skin and taking me to the tops of mountains and the shores of lakes when time stretched wide open, and there was nowhere I needed to be.

My once toned legs have been softened over the years by fewer gym visits and more giggling bodies piled onto my lap for bedtime stories, or late night starry-skied cuddles.

My tummy, at one time lean and flat, found its purpose as a safe-haven for two little humans to evolve from tiny bundles of cells into babies, my babies, ready to enter this world. Now squishy and round, it serves as a soft landing for tickle fights and frequently a pillow for my wildly-coiffed boys, while they watch clouds shift in the sky on lazy-park-Saturdays.

The lines on my face tell the story of my experience. Happiness, gratitude, sadness, fear — and everything in between — are the rivers of emotion that, over time, formed grooves around my eyes and mouth, leaving a map of how this life has shaped me.

It’s tempting to pine for a re-do of the years behind us. Given the chance, would we push pause? Preventing distance from forming between our youth and our inevitable end game— when we won’t have the luxury of lamenting another candle on our birthday cake.

I continue to welcome the candles and embrace the privilege of age. Each birthday is another year I get to be here, living this life, surrounded by friends who support me, a husband who accepts me unequivocally, and my children who have taught me more than I ever knew about unconditional love.

If I’m lucky, I’m somewhere near the middle of this journey.

So bring on the wrinkles, belly jiggles, and gray hair. Each has brought me wisdom, peace of mind, and the unmatched comfort I’ve found in my own skin, age spots and all.

When I blew out the candles this year (wedged between squealing children) my wish was the same as always — to take another trip around the sun and add more candles to my cake.

This post was featured on HuffPost 

A Conversation (Out Loud) About Raising Feminist Boys

 

Recently, I was asked by Dr. Jennifer Todd to do an interview for her Women Transcend! podcast series; which takes a look at issues facing women and girls worldwide.  

She reached out to me after reading my HuffPo post, Raising My Boys To Resist The Patriarchy. As much as I feared being interviewed, and listening to my own voice (yikes!) I couldn’t refuse. Because feminism.

In the interview we discuss the Women’s March on Washington, raising boys who are aware of the patriarchal society we live in, and the obstacles faced by women because of it.

If you are interested in listening, you can find it here: Patriarchy,Parenting And Boys.

I fully realize our discussion is a small piece of a much larger landscape that includes women of color and the LBGTQ community. She wanted a mother’s perspective* on raising boys in a patriarchy and my take on why I think it’s important to raise boys with a feminist viewpoint. 

*I absolutely do not profess to be an expert on feminism (or anything else for that matter), but I am happy to be included in the conversation…and learn as I go…always 🙂

Dr. Todd’s site is empowering and highlights obstacles women face globally–and how Women Transcend!

 

This IS a Test

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No seriously, this really IS a test. I don’t know what I’m doing. Apparently there are things called ‘Widgets’, ‘Jetpacks’ and ‘Plugins’ and I NEED them if I stand a chance of anyone reading my blog. I could barely set this page up, so I REALLY have no idea if it will even be a blog. I’d be happy for a few words on a page…searchable on Google, or anywhere in cyberspace!

So while I don’t know how to set up a blog, make it look snazzy, promote it on social media, or ensure it’s user-friendly for anyone who actually wants to read it– I do like to write. I do like to share ideas. And I do like to try and make meaning of this frenetic and unpredictable life I am living.  If any of that sounds appealing to you, then by all means, read on…