Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sometimes Mom is a Four Letter Word | Mom's of the World, You Have Been Warned

When I became a mother for the first time, my mother gave me a book called “Motherhood is Not for Sissies.” After five years and two kids, I definitely get the joke…that is, that there isn’t one. The only thing that is funny is that it’s true, motherhood is not for sissies. Motherhood is a brutal battlefield and the kids fight dirty.

Being a mom these days is no easy job; even if it is your only one, it is enough. With the never-ending parade of diapers, bottles, snacks, toys, messes, and demands to contend with, being a mom is a baptism by fire. As soon as you think you finally have this baby thing figured out and can confidently change your child’s diaper while checking your email and updating your Facebook status, the little darling (and by darling, I mean jerk) changes all the rules and hurls toddlerhood right at your face. It’s a blindside and a cheap shot to your confidence when that adorably cooing baby snatches the bowl of pureed peas right out of your hand, chucks it on the floor…and the walls…and the cabinetry, and shouts “NO!” At that very moment, you know that it’s game on. The stakes are high, and your kids won’t pull any punches.

As moms in this modern age, we are already at a disadvantage. With the advance in technology, our kids get smarter faster, and too quickly learn how to outwit their parents. That leaves us with two choices: give in, or get creative.

Seasoned moms all know that giving in is not an option. If you think your kids are monsters now, just think of what little hellions they will become once they realize that mom has been defeated. Take the hard line, and don’t flinch; your kids will use every trick they possess to find the chink in your armor. Then they will use their little superpowers for evil and exploit it and overthrow your regime. As a battle hardened mom (and one who is highly in favor of self-preservation), I adopt the same policy as that of our own government – the United States of Mom does not negotiate with terrorists.

In order to fully embody the “no negotiating with pint-sized terrorists” policy, each mom has to fully commit. She needs to repeat her mantra to herself on an almost hourly basis: I am the iron mom. I rule over my kids like a major general over his troops. I don’t take lip, sass, arguing, bargaining, or mutiny. I am the queen of manners, rules, and discipline. I will make their lives worse if they make mine difficult and I will do it with style, creativity, and a lot of trickery. Because let’s face it, it’s Mom and Dad versus the kids, and a lot of the time mom has to hold the battle lines solo.

If you are one of those moms who doesn’t mind being overruled and overrun by your kids, or one that willingly and happily allows her kids to consume every waking second of her very existence, then this book is not for you. If you are the UberMom, the woman who lives for being a mom, who eats, breathes and sleeps everything mom, then stop reading now and give this book to that “other mom” in your play group, the one that you think needs a lot of help because she doesn’t breastfeed her kid until at least age two, doesn’t make her own baby food, doesn’t have an entire room in her house solely dedicated to overly complicated kid crafts, and doesn’t even come close to meeting your ridiculously and unobtainably high standards of Mom-dom.

For the rest of you, the moms who don’t mind a little high fructose corn syrup or processed cheese every now and then, or the moms who think the Disney Junior channel and the Sprout network are absolute life and sanity savers, or the ones who don’t have a near heart attack and break out into hives because your three year old just picked up the fork he dropped on the kitchen floor and stuck it back in his mouth, please read on, enjoy, and know that you are not alone.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Can't Fight This Feeling...Anymore

Okay, okay. Get it over with and insert snarky 80's power ballad reference here. Are we good now? Good.

As humans, we are all emotional creatures; we follow our gut instincts, choke back tears, fight down the ill-timed laugh or smile, and even make important decisions based on spine-tingling goosebumps or a clear case of the total heebie jeebies (yeah, I don't know if there is a right way to spell that, since spellcheck thinks I mean "hereby Jezebel." Fail).

As women, we are even more predisposed to lead with our emotions. Not simply because women tend to have a closer and more personal relationship with their emotions, but also because it is more socially acceptable for us to follow those instincts (ie: women's intuition). For men, they simply dress-down the term and slap some manly scruff on it by dubbing it "following your gut." Personally, it sounds like they are lending a little too much credence to overactive intestinal issues. C'mon guys. Call a spade a spade and just admit that you are listening to your (eww, yuck, gross) feelings. Okay, you can breathe now.

Whichever way you slice it, we all let our emotions guide us. Unfortunately, sometimes that leads to those same helpful emotions seizing the reigns and taking full control. After two years and three major moves, and numerous career restarts, I inevitably fell victim to the power of my emotional overlords: self-doubt and indifference.

With my husband on the career fast-track, we were constantly packing and unpacking boxes. I should have bought stock in U-Haul, since our numerous moves probably single-handedly sustained the company through the recession. However, because of the relentless relocations, I had to quit jobs I hadn't even held for a year, and then subsequently spend another six to eight months trying to get a new one in our latest location (only to quit that one to move again). This not only took a serious toll on my resume (which should have just screamed "unreliable job hopper" to anyone who opened the file) but it also took a major toll on my confidence, self-esteem, and feelings of self worth. My seemingly never ending job search left me seriously doubting my own (completely awesome, by the way) skills set, but my usually extremely effective method of BSing my way into a job that normally would have gone to someone with more experience. Put quite bluntly, I was just used to getting what I wanted in the job search department. That is, until the recession hit. Curse you, recession.

Post 2008 hit of the recession job hunts went more like this: 10 plus applications and resumes per week, 99.9% of which would garner absolute radio silence, about four calls per week from companies who will just about literally hire anyone with a pulse, zero of those jobs being ones that I would want to take unless I had a desire to hate my life even more than I already did (okay, a little dramatic, but essentially true), and the occasional call from a recruiter offering me a job with twice the workload and half the pay like it was the winning lottery ticket.

With the constant rejection, or sometimes worse, the complete lack of response, my self-esteem and self-confidence took hit after hit. I began to doubt my abilities and my self worth as a wife, mother, and a person. Worse than that, as time wore on and the jobs kept passing me up, I began to fall into the trap of indifference. Not the type where I stopped feeling motivated to find a job, but the kind where I stopped caring about myself...and for myself.

It started with sleeping later. I didn't have a job to get up and go to, so what did I care if I caught a few extra zzz's. Next came staying in my pajamas for the majority of the day, if not all day. If I got dressed at all, I would don a pair of yoga pants and a tee shirt. Essentially I became too lazy for real clothes. I stopped doing my hair or putting on makeup since no one would see me, and opted for the messy, sometimes three day old ponytail and bare face that not only looked pale and puffy, but decidedly more tired with each passing day. Sleeping and eating patterns changed since I stayed up later, but got up at the same time and my healthy eating habits I exceled at while I was working turned to indifferent picking at junky snack foods or skipping meals all together. My weight inched up and my health took a nosedive. I skipped pills that I needed to maintain my treatment of an auto-immune condition, I stopped taking vitamins, got less and less sleep, and watched my symptoms rebound from a relatively subdued and managed state to a full scale resurrection of my lupus.

I was spiraling out of control. I was no longer my own person; my emotions had taken over and were ruling with absolute authority. I felt bereft and rudderless. I had no motivation to do anything but apply for jobs and get back to a regular routine that would automatically force my life back into the path of normalcy and control.

For all my new found wisdom about my emotional state twisting my very personality, I did not come to this realization on my own. It took several long distance callouts from my mother that I was not taking care of myself and that looking after my own health and well-being should be on the top of my priority list. After several of these conversations, I began to look at my past behavior objectively, and a pattern emerged. Whenever I had to restart my career again and go through the arduous process of hardcore job hunting, my state of well-being slipped to the bottom of the priority list (if it even made the list at all). I found structure in the daily routine of work, travel, and home; it grounded me. Without it I felt lost. There was no routine, no reason to get up at a certain time, plan meals ahead of time, do my hair and makeup, be somewhere at a specific time, or go to bed at a regular time. Everything fell out of sync and my routine collapsed into a jumbled heap.

I knew that things needed to change and I needed to take better care of myself...or really just care, period. It was the getting started part that was hanging me up. So I began with the simplest step I could think of...taking my medication on a regular schedule. So far, it's been a success (if a whole week of doing something I'm supposed to being doing anyway can be called a success).

Everyone has that one thing that takes them from an organized, put together professional and reduces them to a listless, indecisive basket-case. For some it's stress or lack of sleep, for others it could be an overwhelming situation or a major life change. No matter who we are, there comes a point in our lives when we just lose all direction and can't figure out how to get it back. These overwhelming emotions begin to effect other aspects of our lives until they have moved in, made themselves comfortable, and refuse to budge. We all go there sometimes, but the key to getting back is knowing that things will get better and to keep looking forward.

For now, everything is happening in baby steps. Finding the motivation to keep going and commit to a well structured, self-imposed schedule will prove to be a continual challenge. But I think I am up to it.