Methuselah Moms: Rise Up

In  Balance is a Bitch, I recently wrote about moms being immersed, about the struggle to achieve a life/work ‘balance’ that works, and about what our kids learn by watching us do work we love.  Older moms like me, caught between two parenting paradigms — the baby boomers and the millenials — need to hear this message about sculpting our own “balance.”

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Want help with your “bounce”?  Call me.

We older moms are established in our careers or professional/artistic paths, solid, and tired.  This very special position is an exhaustingly rich one, and one we recognize as a gift of this historical moment like none before.  And our kids are seeing new possibilities in what it means to age, to be a working woman, to be a mom.  But we are ready for a new metaphor  — to help us be happy, to help us conceptualize the often incongruent projects of parenting and careering, and to help us see our pattern and be okay with it.

The heartfelt comments that y’all wrote on “Balance is a Bitch” led me to think of  the big long swinging turns of giant slalom skiing: GS turns, strong and loving the turns, always in motion, first one way then the next.  Choose a word that fits your style: Braiding, three strands twisted around one another inextricably: working, parenting, and the self.  Or  weaving: one atop another over-under then under-over — many strands, colors, patterns, working together.  The pendulum has been my term (until the GS turns).  I go through periods of rocking parenting, and of being average, and of needing help.  Success at working, for me, is usually in inverse proportion to my success as parenting.

And that is okay.

Methuselah moms, fear not.  We have it “all.”  Where the ideology trips us up is in imagining that everything is always perfect — and of course it’s not, not in real life. Not always.

twitter-128Click to tweet:  Nothing’s perfect. But imperfection doesn’t mean failure, nor that work & family aren’t both worth having.

Imperfection does not mean it’s never good nor that it is effortless.  And in those moments of seeming failure, when we can’t gracefully patch everything together, those are the most important ones for our kids — because of what happens next.  You know what that is? You bounce.  You get a grip.  You rewind, apologize, hire someone to do it, just do your best, laugh at yourself, cry on someone’s shoulder, or reach out to a friend.  Knowing what to do is important; having coping skills is essential.  And imperfection gives us constant opportunities to model coping skills to the littles.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your braid or pendulum, or if you want someone in your corner strategizing, reach out to me at Funnermother@yahoo.com.  We can have a chat and see if we could work together on brainstorming, making some systems that work, or talking through what it means to bounce.

And as always, you can come on over to Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.  Come on, let’s hang out.  🙂

 

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Balance is a Bitch

Decades ago I was talking to my smart and artsy friends about balance.  We were graduate students, activists, feminists trying to make a mark on or a space in the world.  We went to protests, cultural theory classes, and dance clubs.  We thought deep and hard, organized conferences, started women’s groups, wrote a lot, pulled all-nighters, cooked together, talked nonstop, took road trips, or slept for an age.

ladies at a party

Click this image to purchase the digital download from Veetzy Innovations.

And when we took a pause, we wondered how to achieve balance.  We all wanted it and thought we should have it; but nobody could really do it.  None of us felt we could strike a balance.  One day, one of us said it: balance is a bitch.  Indeed,

twitter-128 the chase for elusive “balance” was frustrating;

I felt throttled, guilty for not slowing down, so that I could do all the things.  And I was not alone.  That turned out to be one of my best college lessons.

Sometimes balance is just unattainable; and… here’s the important part: that’s ok.

I tapped my fingers through a scheduled massage.  A poetry reading.  A walk in the woods. I had shit to do!

Not every time, but most times.  My fingers would type out what I was thinking while I was trying to force some “balance” on myself.  And feeling like a failure because I couldn’t do it without typing on my leg about the thing I would rather do.

The search, the struggle, for that slippery idea of balance can actually be harder than allowing yourself to live without it.  There is nothing wrong with passion, hard work, or immersion.  Passion projects lend themselves to lack of balance — have you ever been so involved in a project you love that hours slip away like minutes?  To me that’s a really good feeling.

I’ve had no bigger passion project than parenting — where striking a balance implies constant stability, regularity, discipline —  foundational to making a happy home.  IMG_20160314_091030007

And while one kid in particular may enjoy having a more organized home, a less spontaneous schedule, regularly scheduled weekly one-on-one time, it’s not happening right now.  Not every month, month after month.  Maybe two weeks in a row, maybe three.  And I have stopped beating myself up about that.  Instead, I do spontaneously say “we haven’t had our time together, let’s play a game.”  And they have yet to reach the age where they won’t come sit.  And sometimes, too, I am happy to spend a full afternoon and evening playing board or card games. Cuddling. Chaperoning. I love spending a few days in the car, traveling. Camping.

We are finding our own pace, and I’m not tapping my fingers on the sides of my legs while we take a “leisurely” walk by the river.  We still take walks, but sometimes five minutes of eye contact works, too.  And it’s ok.

They know when I’m distracted, and they know when I’m present.  They are learning to ask for time, to keep themselves entertained, and sometimes, to wait.  We all love each other and their grades are good.  They see me taking care of business, following through on commitments, making mistakes and fixing them.  They see a woman following her heart, make time for herself, and make time for them.  It’s not always balanced, and we are all learning that it’s okay.

If you’d like someone in your corner as you find or re-calibrate ‘balance,’ I have some spots in my “funner” coaching programs made specially for moms.  Message me here or on facebook to schedule a free chat.

Crossing the divide: will women ever get out of the kitchen?

Valuable recipes

1910s. Click the image to purchase this cook book from PlantsNStuff.

Thanksgiving’s traditional gender roles are getting stuffed.  That’s pretty exciting.  Want to know how I know?  Our local free paper ran that as its cover story last week! Unless I accidentally picked up an issue from the 1960s.  Or 1970s.

The article quotes one local 50-something housewife whose husband cooks at Thanksgiving: “I’m not going to complain.  I’m his assistant.  It’s nice.  Lucky lady, huh?”

refrigerator ad

1920s. Click to purchase this advertising proof from Surrender Dorothy, one of my favorite Etsy shops!

I don’t think I was supposed to laugh.

I’ve written here before about how “stress related to cooking healthy home-cooked meals night after night” is just not worth it to the women who do the cooking.  I’ve also written about the rise in diversity in the structures of American families.  And I wonder, as you probably are right now, how family structures could change –dramatically — and yet somehow the women are still in the kitchen.

SOS ad

1930s. Click the image to purchase this vintage ad from Estranged Ephemera.

Reading the cover article from our most liberal, most artsy, youngest paper I was struck not just by “the invisible stuff” women do at home (the article cites “making sure beds are made, towels are clean, and the kids have nice clothes on.”  I’m totally failing at my invisible work, but didn’t notice, haha), but I was also struck by the invisibility of women’s cultural work, which has by and large changed the shapes of our possibilities in the world.

The article does well to point out that the holiday can be a “third shift” for working women, and that “some men are crossing the divide and proving that traditions can change.”  And these are timely reminders as we rev up for a big holiday season.  Still…

vintage gas ad

1940s. Click the image to buy this vintage gas ad from Retro Reveries.

When I told a new friend what I do at Funnermother, helping lay out meal plans that negotiate diets, food allergies, palates, and finicky kids; or gathering a kit to make moving to a new school easier; or working out family sleep issues — all within the bounds of your family culture as it’s already built (how your family operates) —

dishwashing ad

1950s. Click to buy this image from Mamiezvintage.

she put her head down on her arms, and said “Oh thank god, then we all don’t have to spend our time reinventing the wheel.”  YES!  And reinventing the wheel seems to be what women end up doing over and over.

We do it in the kitchen, in the home, at work, and in culture at large, as we still press on about gender roles, pay equity, assault, catcalling…. but also home organizing systems such as meal planning, bedtime routines, moving — all with new emphases on our kids, and all things that women worked on in the 70s.

range ad

1960s. Click this image to buy it from SnowFire Candle Co.

And earlier.

If you want to work together on building flexible systems that work in your family, and take some of the “guess work” out of parenting, follow me on Facebook, sign up for my weekly-ish E-zine, or email me: Funnermother[at] yahoo [dot] com.