Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Getting it done...at what cost?

Wow! Whew! Repeat that a few times. What a few weeks this has been! Got done with the surgery and recovery and there I was, back in the wringer, being whipped around in a few different directions - simultaneously, for the most part. School started - A. is now in second grade - which means homework every night and questions - not necessarily academic - that are getting harder to handle and even harder to answer. At work, Windows 7 launch is right around the corner. Working at Microsoft in Windows is always fast paced but right about now, everything is stepped up a notch - make that 10 notches. Everytime I want to stop and take a breath - I remember a few things that need to get done. "Right after that," I tell myself, "right after that, I'll stop and put my feet up for a second." For instance, yesterday I was supposed to be at A.'s school for their walkathon fund raiser. I was up at 6AM to get work done so I could make the fundraiser. I made it there at 2 to walk laps around the school campus - but I had no time to eat lunch before then and felt faint after the first 3 rounds. I made it through - but barely. And then, at night, when I logged into Facebook - I saw this link posted by a friend.

I felt vindicated and sad at the same time as I read this through - everything that this article says about women and their position in soceity today, I said that about a 100 times to my husband and some friends. "Why did we have the feminism movement?" I keep asking him. Now, he just ignores the question since he knows what's coming right after that. But it is true - we created new areas for ourselves to judge ourselves and other women in, so we could do a better job of feeling bad about what we don't do. As my husband so eloquently marvelled the other day,"Wow! You feel guilty about so many things. It doesn't even enter my mind to think about half these things - let alone feel guilty." Hmmm.

I've thought this through a million times ..and counting. Where I always end up is here - As exhausting as my life is - it is also exhilirating and exciting. I love what I do - I have the grandest kids and husband in the world, bar none and all said and done, I like having a few balls in the air to juggle. Keeps me off the gossip! So then, I've asked myself the question which several people ask me - either with pity or with admiration - "How do you do it?" Here are the top things I could think of that keep things going and keep me sane - most of the time!
1. Be proud – First things first. I have to come out and say it – there is just too much guilt and working mommy bashing going around. I work really hard at keeping up with my job abd my family and I’m not about to let anyone make me feel bad about it. Actually, I’m proud of my life and that helps me to keep going every day. Whether you work for necessity, to pay the bills or or simply because you like to work, be proud of it. There is nothing wrong and everything right about showing your children that Mommy is contributing to the food they eat, the roof over their head, their college funds and that trip to DisneyLand. Or to show them that you can follow your passions and dreams and going to work every day at a job you love is a wonderful thing. There are a hundred different reasons why you work and instead of feeling guilty about it, celebrate those with your family every day. I’ve taken my kids to work, and I share with them my work events – nervousness around a big presentation, frustration that a project was not going well and we celebrate Mommy & Daddy’s successes at work – just like we celebrate their achievements at school or extracurricular activities.
2. Use your chores – The chronic complaint of time starved Moms is that they have no time to themselves. There is no time to relax or to sit back and take a breath. One of my close friends who is also a high level executive had this plaque on her desk – “2 things to do today – Breathe In, Breathe Out.” Sounds about right, doesn’t it? I’ve decided to not wait anymore for that perfect time when I will make arrangements for the kids to be cared for, find a time that works with my husband’s and my schedules, get dressed and get out of the house. Instead, I build in my relax time into chores I have to do. Once a week or so, after the kids are in bed, I bring down the laundry baskets, switch on the TV and settle down for a hour or two of laundry time while I catch up on some shows on TV. Similarly, when I’m going grocery shopping, I’ll get my iPod, if the weather is nice, I’ll roll down my car windows and make it a 45 minute getaway from the stuff that needs to get done at home. The Starbucks within the local QFC helps too – sometimes, I’ll grab a cup, buy a paper and get some reading done after I’m done with the shopping.
3. Give up on perfection – Being bombarded by ads and movies portraying idyllic families with hearty, healthy meals around the table, supermoms who have a solution to every family crisis and beautiful skin to top it all has left most of us feeling frustrated at the mundane nature of our imperfect lives. I made several plans and timetables to put the kids to bed and rouse them by a strict schedule so we could all sit around the table and have a family breakfast before we all headed to our destinations – with bright cheery smiles and pretty clothes. The reality is that most mornings, we are scrambling to get out of the house on time, I have to forcibly strap my daughter into her seat and I have a headache before I even get to work. But I’ve settled - I’ve settled for the fact that I get my kids to school on time and in one piece – my son had no tardies on his report card this semester - that’s enough for me to deserve a pat on the back. I’ve let the idea of a perfect morning go. My Achilles heel is the weekday morning – it could be any time of the day or week for you. If you can let go of that mental image of what bedtime or family time should look like, you might be able to breathe a bit and enjoy the time you do have together, imperfect as it may be. I have friends who have not been on vacation in years because they are scared to travel with babies on a plane – they stress over every detail. Why not just pack and go and take things as they come? Doesn’t stressing out so much over the planning sort of ruin the point of a stress free “perfect” time? Why not just accept that here we are – with a busy, full life and so much to be grateful for – if the kid throws a tantrum at a hotel, it will not be the end of the world. The world will deal with it, and so should we.
4. Lists are your friend – My husband likes to joke about my lists – he finds them everywhere around the house. On little scraps of paper or at the back of notebooks, even scribbled in the margins of calendars. There are the grocery lists, packing lists and shopping lists. But besides that, I make lists for tasks I need to do , bills I need to pay, people I need to call – even a list of things I need to make lists for. The feeling of checking things off as they get done gives me satisfaction and a sense that I’ve achieved something. Going down the list gives me a feeling of control over my usually chaotic day. When the kids are lethargic in getting their tasks done (everyday!), I quickly write out a list of tasks they need to do and that seems to spur them right along. My four year old cannot read yet but she asks me to read out each task to her and then loves to check it off as soon as she is done. I recommend lists to everyone – for getting a grasp on everything happening, for making sure things get done and just for the vindication of checking of the first or last item on any list.
5. Cultivate your network – This piece of advice is more personal and depends on your personality. Having grown up in a very social environment, I’ve always been used to having people around our house. Luckily, my husband and I both like to entertain, so almost every other weekend, we have a family or two over for dinner. It sounds like more work to spend your free time planning dinner parties, but for us, it really energizes us to see friends and spend a relaxed evening with them. Since most of our friends have children of similar ages as ours, it is a good time for them as well and helps them to build their friendships. When we are in need, it is these friends we turn to – if I am running late for a school pick up, if I need an emergency play date or a weekend evening out, these are the people that step in. So while we don’t make friends with an eye to using them, it’s definitely a more fulfilling and pleasant life with an active social calendar.

Above all the tricks of the trade, the biggest to-do is to slow down, relax and enjoy the many opportunities and blessings you have. It came to me one day as I was rushing to work after having a crazed morning getting the kids ready and dropped off. My husband too, had an early meeting, so we were both running as soon as we woke. As I walked along the office parking lot, I was resentful and fuming as I pitied myself over all that I had to do. And then I realized how lucky I was to be in a job where I was needed and wanted, to have these kids and to have a husband who was busy in a job he enjoyed. Just walking along the parking lot, I suddenly feeling lighter and happier and so can you . All it needs is a little shift in perspective and some good old lists.

No comments:

Post a Comment