Saturday, June 30, 2012

And now that his heart didn't feel quite so tight

I like the scene in How the Grinch Stole Christmas in which [SPOILER ALERT] the Grinch hears the Whos singing even though he stole all their presents, and the little heart measurement thing shows his heart growing bigger and bigger until the frame around it breaks.

I am feeling a bit of that right now.

Back when I was first expecting Chris, and then Norah, and even when I had first met Ben, I felt like there was a little something inside my heart, stretching it from the inside and making more room for love and happiness. I feel that way with my family right now.

To put it mildly, it's been a very up-and-down high stress year so far. It has been good, and many good things have come of the struggle, but there have definitely been some rough moments! Now that things begin to come together again, I have been "waking up" at these moments with the family and suddenly realizing that I am head-over-heels in love with my kids. I am just in awe. It's that cliched thing, but it's so true.

Chris especially is amazing me right now. He has really left the terrible twos behind him for sure, and he is noticing so much about the world around him. We were at the beach today and he asked me if I wanted to go on a beach walk with him, and he started a conversation with me. "I like crabs the best. They are my favorite thing that lives in the sea. What is your favorite thing that lives in the sea? Is it crabs, too?" (It's killer whales and dolphins, just FYI.) It's these little things that make my heart burst just like the Grinch's did. I absolutely love it. He says hi to people all over the place, and is less shy than I am. He notices if Ben is napping and asks me to turn down the TV so Daddy can keep resting. He helps his sister all the time, about half the time without even being asked. Today we were making our way to the car over some bumpy terrain at the beach, and I turned and saw Norah instinctively reach out her hand to him, and he took it and helped her. I mean, they are 2 and 4. What amazing gifts.

I'm sorry, this is just becoming a stereotypical mom post. But holy cow, what an amazing pair of kids I have.  I love them sooooooooooooooooooo much it hurts, but I like it.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Business of Life

I have been a full time worker for a few months now, and while it may leave me with less time to blog, I have to admit that I really, really enjoy it. For me, it's the peripherals that really make the job worthwhile. Being in charge of my own time, for one thing, is fantastic. I love being able to work as long as I want, then take a coffee (decaf tea) break, and then go back to it. I love being professional. I even like meetings. (Yes, I know. I'm weird.)

This experience has been challenging in many ways, and it's hard for me to get a handle on it, which is part of why I haven't written in so long. I am not sure what conclusions to draw, so it's hard for me to really write about what's going on. All I know is, when I am working this much, I get along with myself and with my family much, much better. I find that I am a better mother when I am not doing the 24/7 parenting. I really like not being in charge of everything with the kids. In a lot of ways it has helped me be less neurotic. I didn't realize before this just how much I worried about the kids, and even more, about myself with the kids. (Am I a good enough mother? Have I done the right things? Have I properly compensated for the things I have not done well?) Now, I have a general sense that just living a normal, everyday life is good for the kids. They are more self-reliant these days. They are creative and they can make their own fun for certain periods of time. Ben and I joke that we are doing our best to give them a 1980s upbringing in the middle of the 2010s. 

Letting go of the neurosis is a huge gift. Seeing bigger numbers rolling in on my paychecks honestly makes me feel good. I don't know why I should feel that this is not a good thing -- to be satisfied to be earning -- but I do like it, and I sometimes I have to fight back should-shame (not real shame) that I feel this way. But I do. Maybe I have always liked a little quantifiable progress. I don't get grades anymore, so paychecks have to stand in. It's not an obsession, but let's be honest. It feels good to make some money. And friends, it feels good -- SO good -- to use my whole brain again. It's like I'm breathing air for the first time.

After writing all of this down, I can see that there really is a moral to the story, and a thesis for my self-essay. But it's a thesis I am a little afraid to admit, because of the myth of motherhood I tried to dive into headfirst, tried to draw up around my shoulders like a fur coat, tried to acclimate myself to in a thousand tiny ways. The truth, though, is that I hate being a stay-at-home mom, and I love being a working mom.

When I really think about it, it makes sense. My whole entire life I have been a worker. I set my mind to achieve things that didn't matter at all in the grand scheme of things when I was a girl. I was the first kid in my class to read a "chapter book" in first grade, and I did it more out of pride and spite than out of any real desire to read the biography of Ben Franklin (yep, that's the one I picked. Wonder where the Professor gets his inner drive?). I put my own nose to the grindstone all through school and was never happy if I wasn't achieving one thing or another.

I could look at this as a pathology, and I suppose I could dig up some deep-seated reasons why I feel "driven" to work. Or I could see it as something that has always been a part of me, and turn it into a strength.

I will always have to watch out for working myself too hard, and I will always have to carefully guard my sleep even though I sometimes have an open disdain for resting. And at times I will have to be careful to keep work and non-work separate, so that I stay fully engaged with my husband, children, and friends. But in the end I am a happier bird when I work. So, I will work. Paradoxically, it's one of the few things I do almost entirely for myself.