Friday, April 27, 2012

Dreading 40? Read this.

When I turned 40 almost 10 years ago I was excited. Leaving my 30's behind me meant re-evaluating my life and gave me a great opportunity for change. It was a fresh, blank journal of  time, just waiting for me to fill it with direction and accomplishments.

The How of Change was a big mystery to me. I still had a child at home, although he was in preschool, but I knew that his going to kindergarten the following year would alter my days and give me some space to figure out the changes.

My 20's had been about meeting the grown-up me, and finding someone to share her with. My 30's had been about babies and toddlers and children. The challenges of having them, the challenges once they arrived, and the challenges of raising them.

My 20's and 30's had been spent learning, I was always a newbie at something. New at self-reliance and career, new at being a wife, new at motherhood, new at babydome. In the 10 years of 30, we moved several times and I always felt like the new guy. This newness brought certain anxieties. The new was a hurdle and only in retrospect can I say that I didn't feel comfortable with all these hurdles.

While I wasn't looking forward to leaving the springiness of youth behind, I wanted to not be unsure and new any longer. I was ready for the changes of 40 even if I didn't know what they were.

If you have been following along in this blog you know: the big change was another child. Days before turning 42, I gave birth to Noah. The year prior, I had a miscarriage late in my first trimester. So the beginning of my 40's looked an awful lot like my 30's.

But, sometime after I turned 40-even while it still looked like my 30's- I realized something: I didn't sound new anymore. The words that would tumble with a power beyond my control from my mouth and fingers sounded wise. (OK, wise with a dose of wise-guy.) Apparently along the way I learned something. It continues to shock me each time it happens.

My 40's ended up being about using that acquired knowledge to learn MORE. Ask more questions, develop new interests, meet new people. Being new to things wasn't a stumbling block any more, it was a stepping stone. I was no longer worried about looking like the new mom, the new woman, who didn't know much and had to prove herself. I was the experienced person who had a base of knowledge and an eagerness to learn more.

I had wonderful experiences all through my 40's- even when it was bad and hard, life was developing me to be something. To do something. And I did what I could when it was presented to me. I didn't hesitate, I leaped.

Because of those leaps, I have landed where I am today. It may not be any grand, highly visible stage, but I am happy with where I am. Internally, it feels great and that is all that matters to me. I feel like I am, again, at the precipice of some changes, and I am looking for the next path. The path that will lead me to 50 and beyond.

You see, in less than a year I enter my 50's. Right now I have no idea what path to follow next. I am trying to look ahead, see which  steps will be the most rewarding- which are right for me. I know that I am on that journey even though on any specific day it might not feel like it. Change is slow and best viewed farther down the path. I try to make changes as I see fit: some little, some big, but I change while still holding tight to all that is dear to me.

I may have stepped into my 40's but because of what has happened in my life in the last 10 years, I don't plan to step into my 50's.

I plan to stage dive.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Monday, Tuesday...SAHMday

I posted a blog at my other blogging spot, where I carried on in polite terms about a conversation that I had with a good friend of mine while the Cyberworld threw daggers around moms. Well, not AT moms, about them. Moms who get a paycheck, moms who don't, blah blah. The point of that post was that while the drama flew, real moms were doing their thing. Whatever that thing is. We may have mentioned it to one another, but it wasn't with the vitriol of political commentary. I think that real moms have realized that the MommyWars are stupid and a fabricated method of distracting from (insert some political issue here). We have more real and important things to do. In my case it was an  honest and unheated conversation.

My friend wanted to know what stay-at-home-moms with kids in school did on a daily basis.

On the surface, a very unpolitically correct question. It oozzes of swarm. But, I love this woman, and I know that she was sincere. It's not a life that she leads, and to her, it looks very good. Managable. Satisfying. She wondered why it was considered so hard.

I didn't write out the answer to her question in that post for a couple of reasons:

1-It would have distracted from my point, and I was already way long on my wordcount.
2- It is a very public forum frequented by, mostly, women and I did not want trolls to attack them in their own home. THAT would have been a paradox: the antithesis of my point AND proving my point.

This page is also a public forum. But it's my house. And I have control of what comments get posted and what ones do not. ( Oh yeah, I will. I have.)

So here I shall answer her question because I know that it is an honest question for a lot of people. The life of a SAHM with pre-school aged children is well documented elsewhere. It's crazy and chaotic and boring and wild and energy-sapping and hard. Really hard. I'm not going to talk about that SAHM, I'm going to talk about the one who has made it through those years and is now faced with time home. Alone. Ish.

This is not a contest about which is harder, to be a working mom or a SAHM. And it's not a debate about politically correct terminology. Here in my house a working mom gets a paycheck, a SAHM does not. BOTH work. yeesh. Move on about that, k?

I'm answering one question from ONE point of view. To compare the different days of women would be futile. ALL OF THEM ARE HARD. Some are less and some are more hard, but it's like an argument about the best fruit.

Most of the former SAHMs that I know took on paying jobs or went back to school themselves as the children headed off. The ones who did not either homeschool their children, or their children have medical needs and are home because they are frequently shuttling them to appointments. The rest (which are very much in the minority) fill their days. That is the SAHM I am talking about here. (And I'm going to call her Sam, the acronym is impersonal).

But I know this: when we have time to fill we have more than enough things to fill it with. Sam is cleaning her house, paying her bills, and running errands.She is volunteering. She is writing a blog, or a book or scrapbooking or making quilts for hospitals and homeless. She is helping her husband out in his business. She is running the Band Boosters or Room Moming or Driving for Meals on Wheels.She is organizing and maintaining the County Public Gardens. She fills her time with a cobbled together job that has no income but requires a great deal of energy and time.

"But", say you (and said my friend) "I do all those things AND work from 8-5. I never take a lunch, and I manage to volunteer at my kid's school, I shop, I clean, I run errands, I am a room mom, I do all of that, too!"

(And this is where the piss you off part comes in.)

 No, you don't. Not the same way.

When Sam left the corporate world her standards changed. The usable portion of her corporate skillset and drive were put towards her new duties.  She is always looking for ways to improve, and does more of the same thing volunteer activities. She isn't a better Room Mom, but she may be Room Mom for two classes, library volunteer on Mondays and copier room volunteer on Wednesdays. (And if she is trying to make you feel bad about the time, and the methods that you use to volunteer, send her my way. We'll have coffee and I will make sure you and she are on the same page, because she is being a bitch ...ahem, she obviously needs to know that she and her project arenot the center of the universe)

For instance, if my friend were to go to Sam's house right now, she would think it pretty tidy. But Sam sees a mess. She see things that she wants to clean, or tidy or repaint or change. She sees her house as much of a mess as you see yours. She knows that her list of To-do's is unending and she has deadlines for herself. Her day is just as task oriented as yours, even if you don't think that her tasks are all that important.  And, you know what? This is a sore spot for Sam- she might not either. Because ('nother piss off moment) she doesn't get paid for them.

This pay thing is a big deal. It most likely has created a power-struggle between Sam and her breadwinner. His expectations are high because he works hard, too, and now her "excuse" of having the kids underfoot and requiring 24/7 supervision have all gone to school. He wants proof that she is working as hard as he is, and if he doesn't say it, she knows he is thinking it. They fight about this a lot.

But Sam does have free time to schedule as she sees fit. And that is nice. Maybe she has lunch out or sees a movie with a friend in the middle of the week. It's a perk. (I do this maybe once a month. Never more, usually less) Although she wonders if the money that she is spending  at lunch could go to something more worthwhile for the family. Sometimes she buys something that she knows her husband would not approve of. She knew that, but it was just a little FU moment for her. A moment where she had all the power and exercised it to her advantage. Selfishly.

See, Sam is no saint. Sure, she took some time to organize a bunch of Pinterest boards that make her look like an Interiordesigningmasterbakerfahionista, and she *may* have overdone it at the last birthday party when they took 15 OPKs ( Other People's Kids) to the amusement park and bought them all matching shirts. But she decided that this was important. For whatever reasons. And for Sam,one of those reasons is what  is impeding her saint status: Sam is grasping for some sort of measurable success. She wants some type of tangible proof that she is worthwhile and contributing something to the family and society. And she likes to hear,"I don't know how you do it!" which, to her, means she appears to have her shit together and someone noticed.

Here is her average day:

6:00 Wake up, shower, get kids up and fed, make lunches

7:00 First kids out the door,(may require trip through drop off lane)/organize day/maybe get her daily chores started

8:30-9:00 Last kids out the door, eat breakfast, clean kitchen

9:15 One blissful cup of coffee in silence, read social media/paper

9:30 -12:00 Laundry/clean a kid's closet/clean whatever gets cleaned on that day of the cleaning schedule/get ready for next week's garage sale/volunteer obligations/tackle that list the husband left for her/maybe she goes to the gym or works out for an hour in there.

12:00-12:05 Lunch of leftovers or something that she can eat in the car

12:00-2:30: Car based errands. Maybe visiting grandparents and cleaning their toilets, maybe it's her day to laminate at the elementary school, or grocery shopping or any number of scheduled volunteer jobs

3:00 Home to meet the bus as the first kids come home/ computer based tasks (yes, this may be when she screws around on pinterest or facebook or some message board)/work on projects from morning

4:00 Last kid comes home

4:00-5:30 Spending time with kids, helping with homework, making several runs for after school activity shuttling,cleaning out backpacks/ kids in and out, OPKs in and out/ iron or fold laundry or something domestic while yelling,"close the front door!" or " Who is in the fridge NOW?"

5:30- Make dinner/empty dishwasher. Maybe dinner went into the crockpot earlier, but now it's Get That Supper on the Table time.

6:00 Dinner. Husband comes home.

6:15 Dinner over, clean kitchen.

7:00-9: Drive kids to evening activities/ do something as a family/have a gullywasher of a fight about something stupid.

9:00 Wrestle kids into bed/ watch the showtime series you DVR'd that has a lot of boobs in it so you  have to wait until the kids are in bed to watch/ clean the house if spent day out at other obligations

10:00 Bed. Maybe. Or maybe stay up and work on a hobby, or a newsletter or blog.

6:00 Repeat.


Because, like all working moms, every one is different. There is no typical day.  And we can't say what should be important to another person. We might not share, but to say it isn't important is critical. And we can't be critical because it serves no purpose. It does nothing to support our friends.

This Sam is not me. On paper, I suppose I am a SAHM,- I don't make a lot of money from my work. But I fill my non-kid at home time writing, or researching topics to write about, or reading writers who write better than I do. That is my important thing.This post took up most of my Saturday morning hours. Oh sure, I stopped to take one kid to ball practice, then the other two to the library and to get a present for a birthday party tonight. Now I have to go clean the bathrooms and dust the house because I neglected that all week in favor of the aforementioned work. Just like a lot of other women I know.