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Friday, September 16, 2011

How Does She Do It?

There is a new movie out this weekend called "I Don't Know How She Does It," starring Sarah Jessica Parker.  Well, in real life SJP does it with a full-time staff, but that's another story.  We are talking about real women, not the ones who play them on TV or in the movies.

No, we real women are struggling every day, trying to meet the needs of all the people in our lives, often sacrificing the hopes and dreams of the three that are most important: Me, Myself and I.

For those of you men out there reading this...Fear not, I will not be bashing you.  I am speaking from my perspective-that of a woman's, therefore my perception is from that stand point.  I do not discriminate against our male counterparts, nor do I suffer from Freud's theory of penis envy.  But I have to admit, I wouldn't mind trading places for a day, I mean just to see what it's like to pee standing up. 

I am just stating the opinion of one woman sprinkled with colorful ideas shared among other women who have experienced many of the same feelings and circumstances that I have.

So this begs the question, really "how does she do it?" I'm afraid that the answer is not so simple.  In the real world, most women juggle careers and family, while trying to find some space for themselves which is often the last and most challenging part. 

See, somewhere along the way, we (women) decided that we must be able to "have and do it all," at once, that is.

I do believe it's possible to "have and do it all," but I am not so sure that it can be accomplished all at the same time.  I think that there are different stages where the various pieces of the puzzle fit together nicely and things run quite smoothly.  I think there are other stages in our lives where you've only got three corners of a 1000 piece brainteaser and the picture on the box is torn off.

Let me share...So as we've discussed before, I went to college for the better part my adult life, from age 20 to 35.  During that time, I was married, bought a house, worked, had a kid, worked and tried to create harmony and balance in my life. 

It's all sort of blurry because the time tends to creep along while you are in it and then -poof- it's suddenly over.  Well, I can remember this much, it wasn't easy.  There was an awful lot of stress, self-imposed I might add.  Learning to depend on others was quite challenging for me.  Surrendering expectations and allowing things to flow is still something that I constantly struggle with.

So when I graduated, I did it with honors and an award of Professional Promise from my academic department at Cal State Fullerton.  I try not to boast about these accolades but damn it, I worked my ass off for them and once in a while it's nice to mention.  Miss Piper came along nine months later and suddenly my career path and ideas about my future changed completely.  My diploma is hanging on the wall above this very computer, but the award is collecting dust in a cabinet somewhere in this house. 

I had the opportunity to become a stay-at-home mother which was something I had only dreamed of when Gavin was young.  The first six months were truly filled with bliss.  Even with the lack of sleep, Piper was an easy baby and Gavin was a great kid, already quite self sufficient and easy to please. 

But...after 20 years in the work force and 15 of those spent in the academic world, I definitely got itchy and frustrated with trying to figure out what to do with myself.  The transition to being at home was not an easy one and the part of me that wants "it all" still struggles daily with not having an office or a specific place to be. 

See, I am one of those who thrives on structure, in fact I NEED it.  Now that my kids are getting older, I toy with the idea of going back to work but then I realize that, probably now more than ever, I need to be available to my kids, especially my nearly 13 year-old. In order to remain focused,  I must create my own structure which is very difficult at times.  I find that making lists and goals is one way of staying on task.  I have heard that following a routine is key.  It takes self-discipline, not my strongest quality.  I am better at "managing people" (okay, so I am a little bossy) so in the times I am home alone, I have to remind myself what my "job" requirements are.  This can be tricky but I do my best.  Hey, already did three loads of laundry this morning, check!

I chose to become a mother and therefore, making certain sacrifices is part of the deal.  We all make sacrifices as parents and it is a humbling experience at the very least.  Our ideas of who and what we thought we would be change the instant a child enters our world.  Another reason why having kids after age 30 is a good idea, that way you can fulfill your dreams of becoming a trapeze artist, professional roller skater or fashion designer before the kidlets come along (wait, was that just me)?

On the flip side of things, being able to stay at home has afforded me the opportunity to pursue my writing and inspired me to take chances that I may not have taken if I had still been working in the corporate world...Okay, I know the surf industry is not that "corporate" but I did pay my dues with the 9-5 work days, travel and meeting professional surfers.  Wait, that suddenly doesn't sound so bad!

My job definitely didn't suck but I saw it as more of a transition to what would become my "dream career," but little did I know, as of now~that was a career of sorts. 

Now that I am home, I feel like I can't win.  Some are quick to criticize, saying that I lead a life of leisure, others argue that I am doing the hardest job in the world.  There is an ongoing fight between stay-at-home and working parents and I am equally sad and angry that there is even a debate.  Every parent knows how hard it is to make the decision to work or not, and for most, it's not an option.   I have been on both sides of the fence and I can say without a doubt,  each situation is difficult and challenging, but also rewarding and satisfying.

Blowhards like Dr. Laura would tell you that you are doing an absolute disservice to your children by working but what that nut job doesn't take into consideration (as she sits in her huge home spewing off advice with a cold heart and self-righteous attitude), is that people have bills to pay and mouths to feed.  And, they actually might like, dare I say, LOVE what they do.  And guess what, they can still be amazing parents.

So for me, at this stage in my life, I do have it all, all that I need, that is.  Life is unpredictable and it leads us back full circle in knowing that there is only one thing you can count on for sure...Change.  So being in the present is key to recognizing we are perfect right where we are.   And even if things are not perfect right now, we can take comfort in knowing that we can depend on the one constant we have. 

And even though we think we must be on every committee, bake cookies for the class, submit an extraordinary proposal, dress to the nines, have perfect hair, a spotless house and the perfect relationship, know in your heart that what really matters is what you already have.  You might have to dig around a little to uncover it, but I promise you that it's there.

And don't be afraid to depend on the people around you. Relinquish your hold on every little detail and you might be surprised and delighted in knowing that you don't have to "do it all," alone that is, and you can still "have it all."

And that my friends, is how she does it.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Back to school...

Summer is certainly a time for relaxing and enjoying warm sunny weather and lazy mornings. 

Unless you have kids.

We all think that summer is going to be a welcome respite from our usual hectic schedules but for all of us who are parents or caretakers of kids, we know there is no such thing.  In fact, summer tends to be the time we are the busiest. 

Whether you are a stay-at-home or working parent, your days are filled with shuttling your kids or arranging rides to and from various theme parks, friend's houses, camps, summer school, the mall~the list is endless. 

You see, kids-at least the smaller ones-don't know the meaning of "slowing down and taking it easy."  They are rip-roaring and ready to go as soon as they wake up, at least the ones under age 10.  The older ones are content to sleep until noon and then, just when you are ready for a nap they are asking for a ride or to have friends over (I might be speaking from personal experience here...)

This is where I am caught in the cross hairs of a very loaded shotgun.  You see, my children are nine years apart...yes, nine years.  We did this on purpose, to a certain extent.  We started out with the intention of having our kids about three years apart but then three became five and five became seven and then the ole' biological clock started not just ticking but rather POUNDING and well...I wanted another baby.

This took some convincing on Chris's part because our life had gotten so very easy.  We were traveling again, our nights were filled with peaceful sleep and diapers, wipes and high chairs were looooonnnnnng gone.  Or so we thought.

There was a bit of a baby boom among my friends and I wanted to hop on board the mystery ship.  What, with turning 35, the illusion of running out of time was on the forefront of my mind.  I was also graduating from college after the better part of 15 years and really, school was one of the reasons we had waited to have a another crumb cruncher. 

Turns out, I happen to be pretty lucky in the fertility department (which, incidentally I am very grateful for) and got pregnant almost immediately~a graduation present if you will.

So when my daughter was born nine months later, we became a family of four.  Well actually seven if you include the dogs and hamster...wait I think the hamster was dead.   Well six I guess.  Anyway, we were blessed to complete our family with 2.0 children (who gets a .5 kid anyway).

Now here I am, staying home with my kids, probably busier than I have ever been in my life.  My heart and respect goes out to those women that work and have kids because it's tough any way you slice it.  If you aren't the one driving them around, you are arranging for them to be driven.  Schedules and classes and friends!   Ugh~it's enough to make you want to scream sometimes. 

With one kid in 7th grade and one in preschool, I am starting to see the light again and this train is chugging along just like the "Little Engine That Could."  I have at least 15 more summers ahead of me but hey, this is what I signed up for, right?  Didn't we all?

This is really what it's all about and the time is surely fleeting.  I mean, look how fast this summer went?

When our kids head back to their classrooms, that's the time that we actually get a break, until Christmas vacation at least! 

And, like the sound of enchanted melodies from our favorite musicians, to most of us parents hearing the phrase "back to school," never sounded so sweet.