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.”

LittleRedHeadshot

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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The New Judgement Zone: Parents in the Public Eye

free range kid

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Parenting is becoming — or has become — a sort of turf war. The “mommy wars” of course are not new.  Nursing moms, formula moms, working moms, stay-at-home moms, homeschooling moms, public school, private school…. the debates go back as far as women have worked (and working class women have always worked).  Over the last few months we’ve seen several families brushing with the law about their parenting decisions.  We’ve seen uproars over representations of interracial and same-sex families on mainstream tv (remember the great Cheerios outrage?). We’ve seen lines drawn and sides taken.

I have written before about a study that I think is related to this increase in public judgement — the one proving increasing diversity in what constitutes a family, and the consequent lack of one particular family shape as the “typical American family.”  No family shape constitutes a third or more of US families.  I claim that the recent increased battles over kids playing or walking alone, free range kids, junk food as child abuse, and criminalizing parenting decisions, are various reactions to the quick and drastic changes we have seen in what families look like. As though we might think that if we can’t recognize what a family is, we can at least recognize what a family should do.

working mom

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We’ve also seen some interventions in this recent swell of side-taking.  This short video is great until you realize that it’s a commercial (I’m not for or against your decision about formula; I’m wary of business interests).  But it’s funny and has a nice happy ending and I’m a sucker for that.  🙂 Jen Hicks over at Real Life Parenting wrote a very funny letter to a Mom on the I-phone that got a huge response.  Over on The Mid, Megan Larkin tells free rangers that recreating 1985 isn’t doing anyone any favors.   I tossed my hat in the ring with a very personal admission about my own helicoptering style — though I’m trying to jump out of that helicopter.

World's Okayest Mom

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I want to suggest that the real change in family structures, and the inevitable cultural representations of these diverse families, has set off a new cultural anxiety about families.  What is a family, what does it do, and how do we make sense of it?  Has there been a time that “we all” felt such freedom to judge another family’s actions? Is the rage to judge driven by technologies of voice and opinion?  By fear of the innumerable shapes and sizes of families? Do you feel unsure or downright worried about your family or parenting decisions?

I propose that we band together, no matter where you are politically.  The no-judgement zone is so important to my Funnermother projects.  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, or on Funnermother on Facebook — come on over and chime in.

“I have an ice cream and you can’t have one”

ice cream print

Click this image to see more fine art from Laura Row Studio.

“I have an ice cream and you can’t have one” Eddie Murphy chanted in a singsong voice. Decked out in a red leather suit in 1987.

Oh, we laughed at the ice cream skit, how manic the kids get when they hear the ice cream truck coming, telling everyone on the block “ice cream man is coming, ice cream man is coming!” — and how they lorded it over the other kids when they got their ice cream.

blue milk poster

Click this image to shop for lots of amazing prints from Poster Fresh.

Do you remember the next line in Eddie’s song? “I have an ice cream, and you can’t have one, coz you’re on welfare.”  Yes.

And we laughed — little kids marching out someone else’s parents’ distress and gloating over junk food.  Would we laugh now?  Probably not.

Because it seems like now, the adults are saying it, and it’s serious. “Is junk food child abuse?”

Google called up over a million articles when I asked, and lots of people are saying yes. And they’re not on crazy hippie web sites; they’re in the UK’s Daily Mail, Huffington Post, TED talks….

I have scowled to myself at the playground, haven’t you?  But, our judgement gets in the way of solutions.

compassion

Click this image to see more inspirational ceramic art from Acme Humane.

Poor folks need knowledge, in their language, to help them make good choices. They need access, in urban centers AND in sad rural wandering roads, to grocery stores. Here in Pittsburgh, folks take several buses to get to an affordable grocery store. Growing up in rural Maine, it was a long haul to one. Folks need the means by which to purchase foods, or foods need to be affordably priced or grown at home — or all three.  I’ve written before on how folks also need time to cook at home.

So that trigger response of “what are they feeding these/those kids?” is a sign.  A sign that compassion and social action are called for. What to do? Go to a town meeting about public transit and make sure poor neighborhoods have access to grocery stores, vote in local elections about zoning laws, support your local WIC program (Women, Infants, Children – a nutrition program started by president Carter targeting at-risk kids), donate to a food bank.  Or start by exercising your compassion — on the playground. In the grocery checkout behind someone with food stamps. Or when you see kids of different sizes.

For more talk on food and kids, join in on Funnermother on Facebook.  We can make a change.

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.

I love Mondays.

vintage black and white photo

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“I’m always hungover on Tuesdays.”

On the phone scheduling a date, we laughed, but it’s true!  Monday nights are moms’ night out.  I go with my neighbor to the local pub, where they can set their watches by our arrival.  We catch up, comment on the news, and laugh. Those hard and long belly laughs that cause chemical changes in your brain.  Have we been doing this for half a decade?  Yes, I think so.  That’s a lot of chemical change!

ladies at a party

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This is part of my self-care.  I love Mondays!  Who can say that?  It’s just a couple of hours, but it erases so much strife — like how exhausting the mundane can be, especially when there are bumps in the road. A system can’t just be implemented for kids; it’s constant change.  Rethinking the same questions over and over: rules, food, screen, bedtimes, friends.  Keeping them fed with healthy food, fresh air, challenging books and some kind of spiritual wonderings…  Exhausting and mundane is not part of that sexy cultural narrative that convinces us to choose parenting.  But that’s a real part of the experience.  I say that with love, but I don’t know if I could, were it not for Monday nights.

ladies in hats

Click the image to purchase this postcard from Sundew Rose.

On Mondays we talk about those mundane things too, though her kids are grown. There’s still so much to laugh about, so much the same.  And it’s working.  Our proof?  Our mates!  They bend over backwards to drive us, rearrange schedules, give us cash…  They make sure we don’t miss a Monday.  We laugh that we must be pretty hard to live with when we miss a week.

What’s your treat?  Your regular self-care?  Let me know in the comments.  And if you’d like to chat about managing the mundane, drop me a line.  🙂

News-Free Parenting

The best gift I’ve given myself is a news blackout. Yes, this is in opposition to my politics of love…those desires for inclusion, problem-solving, healthcare, respect… you know the ones. They are usually entwined with activism of all sorts.  But a news blackout means I sleep better.

representations of parenting

News-free parenting – Funnermother.com

I heard Jimmy Carter on the radio, talking about national news coverage.  During his presidency, news was a national evening event, covering national and international politics.  With the advent of 24-hour news on multiple stations, “news” changed dramatically. Carter pointed out that with the pressures of so much programming, all of the stories covered are elevated to headline status to hook a wide array of viewers day and night.  Weather events, ongoing legal battles, celebrity dramas…. Katrina, Zimmerman, Michael Jackson.  Notice that they have their own logos specific to the story, perhaps their own intro music, often a designated reporter.  Parenting issues are also part of news coverage: family tragedies, drug-resistant illnesses old and new, predators, bad parenting, dangerous trends, the latest drug craze, celebrity teens acting out, this year’s must-have gifts… it seems endless.  Engulfing.

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News-Free Parenting – Funnermother.com

All-headlines news coverage seems to be asking us for two things: first judgement, where we side with Miley Cyrus or against her.  With Jon-Benet’s parents or against them.  Second, fear, where we self-screen our kids for autism, keep them out of the dirt, or fight so they can have the last Cabbage Patch doll in town.

For a high strung gal like me, it’s a recipe for militance.  Continue playing in the dirt with a scraped knee?  Playdates with school friends I barely know?  Walk to the wooded park with the older neighbor kid? The news is on in my head all. the. damned. time.  Wait.  It WAS.  Getting in touch with my inner helicopter pilot means extricating my voice from Dan Rather’s, Diane Sawyer’s, and especially Dr. Phil’s.

I listen to headlines on PBS or BBC, and that is all I need for now.  Spend three days without news and tell me what you think.  Do you find it easier to focus?  Are you more likely to break out in song?  Do you suddenly want to go outside with the kids and… play?