Friday, March 30, 2012

Purgatory in the Land of Motherhood

I don’t fit in anywhere…

It’s reminding me of middle school during lunch…

In the past few months, I have found myself is some strange type of motherhood purgatory. I am currently stuck in the ‘in between’ world of stay at home moms and working mothers…and I don’t seem to belong to either.

Ever since quitting my job to pursue my ‘real passion’, I feel a lot of gratitude and happiness. But in between those moments, there are some days when I feel a bit lost. Here is what I am struggling with…

A mom from my son’s class recently asked me if I wanted to help her wash lettuce from the school Garden for a couple of hours. I just stared at her like she was crazy. Why are we washing the lettuce? Shouldn’t that be something the kids learn to do? If we are teaching them to be farmers in a 4x4 clearly non-organic garden, don’t they need to know how to harvest and clean their own crops? I knew at that moment I would never fit in with the overzealous, always smiling but a little stressed out, stay at home moms. Earlier last month, I had showed up at the end of my daughter’s preschool Valentine’s Day party and one of the mothers said, “Oh, I can’t believe you didn’t help with the party. I thought since you were staying home you would be getting more involved?” Nope, no Valentines day party set up and no cleaning the semi-organic lettuce.

When I see the stay at home moms in the carpool lane, dressed in Lulu lemon sweats driving Honda Odysseys or Toyota Sienna’s (I have the Sienna but my work out clothes are from Old Navy), they look so serious. Each time I ask them how they are doing, they always say, in a very peppy, yet exhausted voice, “A bit crazy…as usual! But aren’t we all!” No, I’m not…should I be? Would it be wrong to tell them while they were hanging up red Valentine’s Day hearts and passing out tootsie rolls, I was at home reading my Kindle and taking a nap?

Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful for the parents that are always helping out…our kids and teachers need all the support they can get. Honestly, they are better people than me. But I have now realized that in one seemingly innocent agreement to help chaperone a trip to the museum, you can quickly be convinced/pressured to be present and involved in all room parties, fundraisers and fall festivals. I have a great fear of being swallowed up by my son’s elementary school, so for now, I am going to take it easy.

After my brief time as a stay at home, I am convinced that we have a nationwide problem of women who are overcommitted. Didn’t most of us choose to stay home because we wanted more time and freedom to do what we wanted? I know myself well, and because the fact that being responsible for bringing snacks to my son’s little league team after their game makes me nervous, I am very clear that I must choose my involvement carefully.

Unfortunately, I have nothing in common with the working mom’s anymore either. When I see my old working mom friends, they always seemed to be stressed out, walking while on conference calls, or typing away on their computers at Starbucks. When I ask them if they can do something, the answer is always no. “I would love to but my boss has me working on this project and I will probably KILL him before it is over.” I remember those days well. They tend to be well dressed, smelling good, and overall put together. Yet beneath their ironed shirts and stiletto heels, it looks like their heads might explode. They come running in late or sneaking out early to school presentations and I feel their pain. When you are working full time and have small kids, a lot of days you feel like you are barely hanging on. Personally, I still have PTSD from my last three months at my job…every time I hear a blackberry ring, my stomach tightens up and I think I might get sick. When these moms see me, they always ask me how my new life is going. I tell them, “So far so good” and they look amused. They smile and say things like, “Really? That’s great! It is so good that you get to be with them. I love my kids but I could NEVER stay home! They would drive me crazy!” I tell them they do drive me crazy but because I am with them so much, I no longer have the need to constantly talk or engage with them. It’s wonderful…as a matter of fact I have gone days without saying much to my two little ones…you won’t believe the things they have painted and built while I left them alone.

Right now, I don’t work outside the home and I haven’t gotten into volunteering yet. (I am VERY clear it is a great privelage to even have this choice and MOST women in this world do not have this luxury.) But where does that leave me as a mom? Does that mean I am super lazy or super smart? The truth is after I drop my kids off at school (my daughter only goes three days for three hours so don’t get too jealous), I really don’t know what to do next. Yes, there is all the typical stuff that I can always do. The laundry, the cable people, the cell phone bill, the drain won’t drain, the Internet search for a new career, Facebook research, mopping the floor, and of course the groceries. But for some reason, it seems to be that the exact moment I come home is the same time that the morning sun shines into my house in a special way. At that moment, two things are very obvious. First, every dirty window, nasty floor and piled up dust ball is immediately glistening in the morning light. Second, as I pass a mirror, that same sunlight also magically highlights every dark, stray hair on my face. Therefore, whatever plans I originally had are now immediately replaced with a tweezing and cleaning marathon. I have tweezers in one hand and a swifter in the other and the rest is history. Before you know it, my free time is up and it is time to go get the animals from school.

I didn’t think it was going to be like this. In my mind, I was to spend my time home writing great articles, insightful blogs, and possibly award winning screenplays. In terms of my kids, they were going to grow and improve in every area. I had great plans to enroll them in educational summer camps, piano lessons, and Japanese immersion classes. We were going to laugh together, tell stories about our days, and become the happiest family on earth. When I wasn’t writing, I was going to research the best place to buy kids shoes that support their arches, go on nature hikes around our 6x12 backyard, and make homemade everything. I had so much to do in so little time and I needed to get moving.

But then I just got tired.

I have found myself taking naps and reading a lot. My kids are wearing the same Target shoes from before and I am sure they don’t support their arches. When I sit down to write, nothing comes in my head except the word “relax.” As I read mom blogs with titles like “People I Want to Punch in the Throat” and “Mommy Needs a Drink”, I realize I am not the only one that needs to chill out. What has happened to all of us? Why are we are flying around our lives in a state of low-grade hysteria? How did we get here and how the hell do we make it stop? I know that for the first time in history, many women (not all, most don’t have a choice) have the opportunity to work, stay home, do both or do neither, and yet we are more stressed out, depressed and unfulfilled than ever before? What if we all took a collective breathe and realized we don’t have to do it like this anymore?

There is a scene in the movie American Beauty where the husband and wife (who currently hate each other yet have a rare moment of attraction to one another…sound familiar?) started to make out. Right as they begin kissing, she suddenly stops him because she doesn’t want to mess up the pillows on her Italian couch. My husband always tells me that I was that woman the last couple of years...not exactly the type of fun, warm person you dream of growing old with.

So, I have come up with a new plan. I am going to stay in purgatory for a while and just chill out. I am not going to do much of anything…not much volunteering, not much worrying, and not much working. For the first time in my life, I am going to try to enjoy the moment and get a grip on my anxiety, stress, and need to achieve. My kids are going to be under-scheduled and I am going to shower more. I am going to be more joyful and less judgmental. I am going to be aware of my addiction to Facebook, cheese, and white processed bread. I am going to try to have sex with my husband without rolling my eyes or saying things like “Now? Are you crazy?” I am going to yell at my kid less and put us all in time out more. I am going to go to church, go on walks, and pray everyday. This is going to be my non-traveling, suburban version of Eat, Pray, Love…

And if none of that works, I am going to become an expert on Groupon. Either way, it is going to be great…


  1. I seriously LOVE this. Your writing is true and raw and exactly what needs to be said!

    A passage that gets me is, "Be still and know that I am God." Basically its saying, "Stop striving. Stop trying. Just "be"." Gosh, that's hard! A life lesson for sure.

    Love you, keep being you!
    Grace Kladnik

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