Monday, January 31, 2011

Balance Shmalance

It seems to me that the achievement of life/work/family balance is the holy grail of modern motherhood. Balance is this seemingly attainable goal. If I just get up early enough and multi-task through-put my day, making lists while waiting at school pickup and doing my keigel exercises at the same time that I am packing my daughters nutritious school lunches, I can live this fulfilled, balanced life. I too can have a toned body, well planed meals and a happier marriage, one on one time with my children and time to myself. For years I have read countless articles and heard this statement of living a balanced life presented to me as a lifestyle – an achievable goal – and it all can happen in ten steps.

Since I have been one of these women who this steaming platter of promise is being peddled to, I have recently come to one conclusion. The achievement of balance is a crock of shit. It is snake oil sold by charlatans to a bunch of suckers. It is a mirage, a carrot that is dangled in front of millions of women, me included, that I don’t think I will ever reach. In my constant pursuit of this goal that I never really quite achieve, I feel like a failure.

I think this idea of balance was invented by the marketing geniuses who invented "tweens, which is linked to the same sadistic group that came up with Justin Bieber, the Atkins diet and spanx.
I’m done trying to Balance. I’m not buying into this anymore.

Why? Because the way that Balance is peddled in magazines, seems not like balance, but perfection. And there is no such thing. You know how endless and hard this entire crazy endeavor of children and being a grown-up can be. There will always be another pile of laundry to do, errand to run and lesson to reinforce to my children. But you know what? My house doesn’t look like it will featured on Hoarders, my children are smart and social and my husband and I have great booty, so I must be doing something right. Also, there is no way that I am getting up to exercise at 5:00 in the morning.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I call do-over

I knew it was going to be a tough day when I received the 5:30 am robo-call from our school superintendant, letting all parents know to batten down the hatches. Yes, it is a snow day and school has been cancelled. I have been trying my hardest today, to turn that frown upside-down, make lemons into lemonade, and just basically try to sideswipe this sinking feeling. Now, I don’t want to sound like a negative Nelly about snow days. We just had a snow day last week and I loved every hot chocolate-y, basement playing, snow ball filled moment of it. Our house was filled with kids and yummy things cooking and it was all things cozy around here. However, we just had off for MLK day. And a snow day just a few days ago. It was time to send the kiddos back. But this is Mother Nature, New England style. And that bitch doesn’t check in to ask we want, so here we are.

There are some days that I love this mothering thing. Where everything falls into place, and like an Olympic athlete, I can feel my groove and hit the stride and I am one with parenting universe. I have a full night’s sleep and my children listen to me. They crack jokes, and Sophie’s missing front tooth to so cute I can’t even stand it I have to squeeze her like a crazy lady. My girls can do no wrong. And then there is a day like today. Where I feel as though I can do no right, I am a droning machine of mothering boredom - “Eat over your plate.” “Stop tattling on your sister.” “Hands to yourself girls.” All the cliché’s are true, it goes in one ear and out the other and somebody ends up in tears.

I think what I am finding hard today is that sometimes as a mom, I just can’t win. I feel as if I can’t get ahead of the endless, sprawling list of what needs to be done just to keep everyone a float every, single day – let alone all of the thousand other items on the list of life that warrants tending and nurturing. I have never worked harder at anything else in my life, so when it sucks and goes wrong, I take it personally.

But the beauty is that I can tuck the girls in at the end of a long, confusing, frustrating day, kiss them a fair goodnight and know that tomorrow is a new day. We all have a fresh start.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Outing Santa - but I still believe in make-believe

This was originally supposed to appear in the paper I write for. It didn't make it. Apparently, they are a family publication and can "never, ever out Santa". I am not a family publication, so this seems like a perfect place to begin.

When I was in the first grade my teacher, Mrs. Plastino, arranged for us a special visit from Santa. Leading up to the visit we were vibrating with amazement, and endless questions of, “How do you know him?” or ”How is he visiting our class when he is so busy getting ready for Christmas?” Since we were going to be granted a private meeting with Santa we wanted to make sure our lists were spot on, so we spent most recesses hashing out our lists. That year my particular list included a Baby Alive doll and Little House on the Prairie books.
I would spend hours in the afternoons leading up to Christmas pouring over Sears and Toys-R-Us catalogues, circling my fantasy gifts, endlessly discussing my choices -- “Mommy, I also want Santa to bring me a Snoopy Sno Cone machine and an Easy Bake oven!” However at this tender age, I was already having my doubts about how this Santa guy worked. I believed he lived in the North Pole with the Elves, cobbling wooden trains and blocks on ye olde benches. I believed in Rudolph and all of the reindeer. But I started to have some questions because I didn’t have a chimney for him to come down. My parents explained that millions of children didn’t have chimneys, but had fire escapes – like we had - and that was how Santa magically delivered presents.
I still had two points that stuck in my brain, nagging at my six-year old belief system. First, were those dime-a-dozen Santa’s that we saw in the mall. To me, Santa and all that accompanied him represented magic, like the fairies that I so feverishly believed in. The fact that I couldn’t see the fairies only fueled my total belief that fairies existed. By seeing Santa at the mall, it eroded the fantasy for me. The other point that I could not reconcile was the fact that the Baby Alive doll that I so desperately desired, was easily purchased in any toy store. I didn’t believe that Santa made them, so what was he making with his elves up there? Nothing but simple wooden toys? I certainly didn’t believe that he went to the mall. And I did not believe that he made any of the toys that were mass-produced. I was in a crisis.
Mrs. Plastino told us that because Santa was so busy, it was going to be a surprise when Santa would visit our classroom. One day, as we settled into our morning routine we heard sleigh bells jingling away down the hall. Glee erupted in our classroom, and a palpable wave of nervous excitement spread throughout. We were all a little scared -- I mean, Santa, here in our first grade class? The sound of sleigh bells grew, and then we heard the classic bellowing of “Ho, Ho, Ho!” To say that thirty kids freaked out is an understatement.
Santa burst into the class, shaking his belly, being merry and bright, talking to us about being good girls and boys. He even had a list with our names on it, confirming that we were all indeed on the good side. Mrs. Plastino passed out cookies and juice and Santa settled in to listen to each of us on his lap. As I settled in with my snack, and watched the scene I began to watch Santa and Mrs. Plastino, with growing suspicion. They smiled at each other; she put her hand on Santa’s shoulder, intimacies that I couldn’t quite piece together.
It came to my turn on Santa’s lap. I was excited to discuss my well rehearsed list but I was warily skeptical at the same time. I was pulled into Santa’s gregarious embrace and as he asked me what I wanted for Christmas, it struck me whose lap I was on. Nothing could hide Mr. Plastino’s thick New York accent or the equally thick black stubble that peaked out from under his snowy white beard. Mr. Plastino was also my after-school theatre teacher, who I loved, so I was very familiar with his voice. I played along with the game, telling him of the Baby Alive that I wanted, and throwing in a bike for good measure. I would swear we made knowing eye contact with each other confirming what we both knew.
After Santa left, many stunned students kept asking, “Mrs. Plastino, was that really Santa?” “Oh yes” she replied, “That was Santa!” Even though the visit chipped away at my belief in Santa, I was at peace knowing it was Mr.Plastino. I was still a child filled with fantasy and make-believe - I had my fairies, whose existence I was absolutely sure of. The experience solidified my connections with these teachers - each of them encouraged my love for reading and theatre, which I have to this day. And as a grown-up I admire them for going through with an elaborate plan to be Santa Claus to surprise and delight a class of first graders.