What Does it Mean to Have it All?

What does it mean for a woman to “have it all”? I guess it all depends on who you ask and what you read. I can tell you from what I’ve read and what society tells me, I do not, in fact, “have it all”. So, what’s a momma to do? Cry over it? Scramble to make up for all of the supposed deficiencies in her life? Maybe for some, but not for this gal.

Over the years, “having it all” has come to imply a woman has a successful career and family life and has everything in balance.

But, I think “having it all” has different meanings for all of us. There is no right or wrong definition. We all come from different walks in life that lead us to the common path of motherhood. For some, that common path does not include motherhood. You know what? That’s okay. You can still have it all. If you are happy and fulfilled in your life, you have it all.

For those of us whose lives do take us on the journey of motherhood, “having it all” can become a more complex game.

If you are a working mother who is fortunate enough to find reliable and affordable childcare and have happy children who adore you, you have it all.

If you are a stay-at-home mother to five kids or just one and find fulfillment in raising your children, you have it all.

If you are a mother who works part-time and makes it to every concert and soccer game, you have it all.

If you are a single mother who works two or three jobs and still has the energy to enjoy her blessings, you have it all.

The point I’m trying to make is that we can all “have it all” if we find the right combination that makes us happy and works for us rather than the scenario that works for society.

I’ve spent and wasted a lot of time trying to “have it all” by society’s standards. Let me tell you, it’s downright exhausting and depressing. You always feel as though one cup is half full no matter how many times you go back and refill it.

Guess what? I stopped. Instead, I started using my time and energy to focus on what works for my family, not for a friend’s or anyone else’s. Sure that meant, and still means, getting questions and strange looks. Part of having it all is being content and confident with what you have, not what others think you should have. Let me tell you, that is easier said than done. It’s still a work in progress. But, it gets easier with time as you become more comfortable with your decisions and who you are.

What makes me believe I “have it all”?

I have two incredible kids who always tell me they love me to the moon and back. I’m fortunate enough to be the first face my kids see when they wake up and the last one before they go to bed. I have a husband who supports me in whatever I do. I have a fantastic network of family and friends who are always there when I need them.  I’m able to pursue my passions and explore creative endeavors even when they don’t always work out.  I’m a happy person…except for when I get woken up.

So, to society who constantly tells me I don’t have it all…I beg to differ. I may not always have it together at all times, but I do have it all.

Mommy Guilt

I am usually the cheerleader of “Mom-Me” time, but lately I’ve had some bouts with some uncharacteristic mommy guilt. Ugh. I don’t really know why because it’s not like I leave my girls often. When I do it’s to go to the gym, do some shopping, or run an errand. It’s not real exciting stuff,  I know, but I enjoy it and it allows me to keep my sanity.

I’m beginning to think some women, myself included, are hard-wired to have mom guilt. Why do we feel like we need to be playing Barbies or cleaning dishes all the time? It’s really annoying.
Don’t get me wrong, once I’m out and about I shed that guilt faster than the celebs lose that baby weight. But, it’s all that time beforehand that can sometimes have me second guessing myself. Pre-kids I remember telling my mom friends how important it was to take time for themselves and not feel guilty for leaving their kids once and awhile. I was the crusader for alone time. What happened? Oh yeah, I became a parent.

I keep telling myself I change enough diapers, read enough stories, and wear my “mom hat” enough hours in the day that it is okay to hang it up every now and again. But yet, I can still feel that guilt creep up every now and again. The funny thing is, I think that “Mom-Me” time makes me a better parent. I think time away and a glass of wine or two is sometimes just what is needed. Coming home after having that time away can make me really appreciate and miss the things that otherwise drive me nuts 24/7. Does that make any sense? The challenge now is to remember that and ignore the stupid little guilt trips.

Title: Stay-at-Home Mom? Yes!

   What do you do? People ask each other that question all the time. It seems like a simple question that should come with a simple answer. But, sometimes it’s really not so clear cut. I was recently at the doctor’s office and had to fill out one of those patient update forms that ask you every question under the sun except for your blood type. After the name, address, and phone number areas, came the “title” and “place of employment” sections. For years, that was a no brainer. But, for once in my life, I actually stopped and stared down at the piece of paper like it was some kind of impossible S.A.T. question. I toyed with writing “unemployed”. I quickly decided that would be stupid.  I thought for a minute and then remembered a conversation I had while I was at a baby shower about a month ago. Someone had just found out that I no longer work where I did and asked where I worked now. To my surprise, I blurted out “at home.” It was one of those moments where your mouth takes over for your brain and you don’t realize what just happened. It didn’t stop there.

   I went on to say (and proudly) “I’m a stay-at-home mom”. Before my mouth could continue its hostile takeover of my brain, another woman chimed in and told me she was really glad I said that. She went on to talk about how so many people don’t think staying home is a real job. Sure there is no tangible paycheck or 401K plan to rely on, but it is still work. I have to admit I was one of those people who thought SAHM’s (as I learned we can be called) had it easy. After about a year into the gig, I can tell you that’s anything but the truth. If you think we sit around all day and watch TV, you are sadly mistaken. It’s a lot harder than I ever thought it would be. We are the entertainers, the maids, the cooks, the nannies, the drivers, the referees, the receptionists, and if we’re lucky, there’s time to just “be”, if you know what I mean. With all of those “real” titles under your mommy belt, you can sometimes question if you’ve made the right decision, although some may never fess up to the fact. But, then you hear your child tell you how much she loves you or you see your baby’s first step, and you know you got it right this time.

  So, as I was sitting in the doctor’s office having this little flashback, I decided to write “Stay-at-Home Mom” on the title line. I even thought about writing the same phone number in both the “home” and “work” sections, but decided that really didn’t matter. What does matter is that more people should realize that staying at home with your kids 24/7 is truly a job and a real title to be proud of!

You’re a What?

   “You’re a teacher, wow, that’s great you help kids.” “Wow, you’re a nurse. That’s nice, you help people.”  “You’re a lawyer. That must be a tough job.” “You’re a what? A stay-at-home mom?” Silence.
Wait for it, wait for it…”are you okay with that?”

   It’s been really interesting to hear people’s responses to my decision to become a stay-at-home mom. While the majority have been positive, there are many who feel the need to continually ask me if I’m alright with the situation. They look at me with sympathetic eyes, like someone died or something. They feel the need to tell me that being a stay-at-home mom is a whole new world (cue the music, minus Alladin, mind you). Well, yes, Sherlock, it is a whole new world, but having a child does that to you whether you stay at home or not. I am constantly asked if I miss work. I constantly say I miss the people, but not necessarily the work. It was time for a change and there is a time for everything, simply put.

  Every time one of these conversations happens I think to myself, would you say these kinds of things to me if I was a doctor? You and I both know the answer. Sometimes I feel like I get scrutinized more for staying at home then if I went to work and put my kids in day care all day.  It’s kinda sad that we’ve come to that in the wonderful U-S-of-A.

  While many have had their share of criticism, one person said something to me that’s really stuck with me. Someone recently told me they admire me for my decision and for what I’m doing. Admire me? I get spit up on and peed on constantly, and if I’m lucky I get to stick my hand in poop once or twice a week. I spend a lot of time reading board books, playing with dolls, and finding kid-friendly activities. I usually have to cut  phone conversations short because someone starts to scream for attention. Sometimes going out means going to WalMart for diapers. In between I’ll clean something or put some clothes away. Glamorous, I know. I guess I never thought of all of that as something to be admired. Tiring, yes. Admirable, no. But, from the outside looking in, maybe it is. I have to say that during all my “working” years, no one ever told me they admired me for the job I did. Maybe, that’s why it came as such a shock!

   So, this “new world” is one that never sleeps. It’s one that can be thankless at times, but hopefully rewarding in the long run. So, maybe there is something there to be admired. Who knew?

Maternity Leave…What’s Fair?

   A woman spends nine months carrying a child. It’s safe to say many women don’t get that much time to stay home and bond with their baby once he or she is born. I’ve talked to a lot of women who have had to go back to work after just six weeks home. Six weeks…seriously? That’s ridiculous. Let me break it down for you the way I see it. During the first two weeks after birth, your body is so beat up from being pregnant and labor that you can just about function. Add the duties of mothering a newborn and you’re just a hot mess looking for your next caffeine hit. So, that leaves four weeks to bond with your baby. The only bonding you’re doing is with their diapers and spit up. During the first month babies basically eat, sleep, and poop. It’s not until they reach that three month mark that they become more interactive. That’s not to say you can’t bond with them before then, but all the fun stuff happens later…just in time for you to go back to work. Other women I’ve talked to are lucky enough to get around 12 weeks off under the Family and Medical Leave Act, but don’t get paid for the entire time. That leaves many to deal with the tough choice of losing money or losing time with their child. As many people struggle to earn a buck, many have to choose cash over their child if they want to keep a roof over their heads.
   That is a sad scenario for such a world leader as the United States. I was reading that the U.S. and Australia are the only industrialized countries that don’t give moms paid leave nationally. Some states have different rules though. One article I read talked about a woman in Canada who got 14 months of paid maternity leave! That’s amazing and something that I think will never happen here in the good old  U-S of A. The article also talked about a couple in Sweden who was splitting 16 months of what they call parental leave at 80% pay. And”Czech” this out….I read that in the Czech Republic all mothers can decide to take 2, 3, or 4 years of maternity leave! The state supports them during that time period. That would never fly in the U.S. There are also other countries that have generous maternity leave policies. Wikipedia actually breaks it down in a nice chart. Here’s the link if you want to check it out.
   So, where did the U.S. drop the ball? Do we not value a mother or father’s time with their child? Would the children in this country end up better if they had more time with their parents before being shipped off to daycare or some other caregiver? No one truly knows, but here’s my two cents. No one is going to love or take care of a child like a parent, unless of course they are abusing them or on drugs or something. No one is going to instill the values you want your child to have better than you. Unfortunately, we live in a country where things like that are not valued (then we wonder why some kids have so many problems and are so screwed up). If we did, more women would have access to paid maternity leave to give them time to bond with their children when they are most vulnerable.
   I know some women who would cringe at the idea of two or three years maternity leave. Some women just itch to get back to work because staying at home just isn’t for them. But, they should have that option. Right now so many women don’t have the choice to take the time off or leave it and to me that is just not fair.

Finding Mom-ME-Time

    Every expectant mother hears it…”just wait until that baby comes, your life is going to change, forget about having any time for yourself.” Yes, your life does change. Yes, your free time is severely restricted, but does it mean you have absolutely NO time for yourself and your previous passions in life? It doesn’t have to, but a lot of times it ends up that way. You just have to learn how to put the “me” back in mommy.
   First let’s clarify..”Me” time is not doing the dishes or tidying up the house. At times, that’s what it ends up being. “Me” time is reading a book, catching up on a hobby, meeting up with friends….whatever make you happy.

   I will be the first to admit, when my daughter was first born I longed to get out by myself, but once I was out, I turned into a guilty worry wart. I constantly wondered what she was doing, if she was crying, if she was eating, if she missed me. Truth be told, most times she could care less! Yes she was fed, yes she cried a bit, but many times she didn’t even realize I was gone!
  She wasn’t taking my mom-ME-time away, I was, along with the help of my crazy runaway train of thoughts and guilt. Taking a trip to the store, or the gym, or even, wait for it…a trip to the spa ( I know craziness) is not going to ruin your child’s life or make you the worst mother of the year. It’s taken me nearly two years to realize that, but I’ve finally seen the light. I’ve also learned that if you have people you can ask to babysit or if your spouse or someone else offers to take care of your child so you can get some “me” time, take them up on it! There’s gonna be a day when no one will offer! Don’t get me wrong, I do still feel a tinge of guilt when I leave her to do my thing, but once I’m out I’m now able to enjoy myself. I also find when I get back I am refreshed and in turn feel like I can a better mother because I’m not so stressed out and am not acting like such a female dog, if you know what I mean.
  It seems like men have no problem finding “me” time. Maybe I’m wrong, but if they want to go out and do something, they just do it. They don’t seem to feel guilty. Maybe we all need to take a page out of their book.
 Now…time to go make that manicure appointment! 

Guilt of a Working Mom

   Merriam-Webster defines guilt as a feeling of culpability for offenses. This week I define guilt as a quivering lip and watery eyes of a sick child you leave as you head out the door to work as well as the utterly crappy feeling you have as you sit at your desk. At the first sniffle or cough, I will be the first one to call out sick and take care of my daughter. Unfortunately, the year got off to a rough start for my family health-wise, so I’ve used the majority of my sick time within just the first three months of the year. That’s lead me to ration the remainder of my days and feel like the worst mother of the year in the process. Even though I know she’s in Grandma’s loving arms while I’m at work, I still feel like I should be the one home with her.
   When I was growing up, I can’t remember a time when my mom didn’t stay home with me when I was sick. But, as we all know times were different thirty plus years ago. Moms have it tough today when it comes to the work-home balance. It’s an age-old debate, should moms stay at home or work? Can they do both successfully? Dr. Phil and Oprah have tried to dissect this issue like a high school lab rat, and even they can’t find the right answer! I can’t speak for the stay-at-home moms, but as a working mom, I can tell you there are days when it just plain old sucks, especially when your kid is sick. Some may say, it”s easy, just stay home.
Sometimes you can’t and other times you put so much pressure on yourself you feel like you can’t. I think the later is worse. Sometimes you worry about what your employer or co-workers will think.  Those without kids may think, oh here she goes again taking another day off. Any parent with a sick kid will tell you, it’s not a “day off”. A day off is a day at the spa, not cleaning up snot or poop and trying to translate what your crying child needs at every second. But,it comes with the territory.
   I think the guilt trip we put ourselves through as mothers is far worse than anything anyone else will do to us. At times, we try to be all things to all people and get wound up with obligations and what we think we should do. We forget to listen to our hearts and do what’s best for us. I know you would find me guilty of this one. Sometimes you just have to put down your keys and follow your heart and that runny nose for a day or two. But, sometimes following your heart isn’t so easy. What’s your take on it all?