Friday, June 13, 2008

I know what's best for my kids and it's me being happy...and other concepts I'm not too sure about

Me, engaged in a kid-approved activity: hovering over them at a birthday party in a gymnastic place. How often do you know what makes your kids perfectly happy, I ask you? So...I know, and they know I know, which is where the struggle comes in: every day isn't a happy birthday party at the Little Gym with mom on call.

Ha! My last post was my 800th post and I missed that, being in such a rush as I was. So this is 801.

That's pretty par for the course for me right now---catching it just one too late. I feel it from most angles, this sense of, "You're a day late and dollar short."

Despite taking the kids to the Zoo Zoobilee bash last night---earning me the "For my kids' sakes I would walk 500 miles...in the godawful heat...at the ZOO...with crowds of melting people and animals hiding in whatever shade they could find" badge---and ensuring that each day contains at least one fun thing such as a trip to the pool, the kids and I have not launched summer off well. We could call it a bang because there has been much slamming of doors and yelling.

I'm a-wearied.

The kids are not used to being together this much and sharing this house and its space and the toys and things (moms) within for so many consecutive hours. This has caused a Sibling Rivalry Flare-Up for the record books.

The kids are also not used to having to think and do so much on their own, masters of their own time. The broadened boundaries have bewildered and unsettled them. Actually, I had just gotten the little one settled in when the entire apple cart was upset by the big one coming home.

On the side, in the Julie Life, instead of the Mom of Patience and Persistence life, many and much excitement is happening with all the political goings-on. I feel myself stirring to life again.

And the kids hate it. Hate. It.

They know Mommy has a new Interest and they are jealous of it like a third grade best friend who doesn't want her buddy to like anyone else. They can't quite direct their anger to a concept so they unleash it on me with Attitude and then turn viciously on their father when he walks in the door, in case he is somehow related to the Competition.

If I had a dime for every time I explained that feeling mad/tired/upset/frustrated isn't an okay reason to act mean, so let's try X instead...my trips to BlogHer (or NetRoots, it's in AUSTIN, with HOWARD DEAN...what can I SAY! I'm torn and confused suddenly.) and the DNCC in Denver would be covered, first class.

When motherhood is a huge challenge (and yes, I know it usually is, but you moms know what I mean, when there are Special Times and Special Challenges) and you see very little payoff for your mad hard extreme efforts, it's easy to want to plug in harder and more often to the things that do positively reward and give good feedback.

In fact, if you are a bit introverted like I am, you need and crave more alone time, and in the summer, full-time home with kids and other obligations plus the work thing, that's in short supply.

It's easy to hit burn out. That leads to pondering and reflection.

How much do I owe myself? How much do I owe my kids? How much choice do I get to make for me, when I chose to be a mom and have kids?

I don't quickly and easily buy into the idea that a happy me is best for the kids. I grew up in the 70s, my friends, and saw that philosophy in action. I, and probably loads of other Gen Xers, thought it was utter BS. Kids want what they want and that is often in contradiction to what a parent wants. I also don't easily buy into the notion that I know best and ultimately it will work out and those kids will see this is all for the best.

I do buy into the idea that more than any other relationship, parenting is one of the ultimate struggles of conflicting wants.

As my kids get older, it's both clearer and more complicated that this is much deeper than just balancing. This is about compromise and sacrifice, on both sides, and nobody comes terribly easily to that. I hope my children see and learn, though, during this and coming times, that it is necessary to set yourself aside sometimes---even as a child.

The key is to balance the giving and taking, and ultimately not ask too much or anything too big of the children if I don't have to. Unfortunately, there aren't any large tags on situations that clearly state: This Is The One (too many, too big).

My kids don't like seeing me busy with things to do this summer, things other than Mom. This time is usually invisible to them while they are at school. Plus, it is a bit more than usual.

I struggle every day with where and to whom I am best served...serving. I struggle with my children's trouble with me serving myself, and so, I find myself cutting back on my usual me time since work time is taking more of me and my time. I struggle with what I want and my dreams, which don't fit what I think the kids want or what I decided was best for the kids. I struggle with the unexpected conflict between Julie and Mom.

It's one thing, with little kids, babies, when you are so dedicated to these dependent creatures, to adjust to being a mom in addition to all else you are and have done.

It's another thing, as the children grow independent and begin to move more into their own lives, to begin backfilling that space with a little more of you.

It's one thing, to juggle the demands of little ones on yourself. I know my friends and I all spoke meaningfully about needing and craving some space, so me-time, so sense of self beyond Mom. Some looked at us as if we were insane, because Mom was enough. Everyone had a theory. All moms talk about the juggle and struggle between self- and momhood.

But this...this is new and different. This is a bigger struggle than before. The demands and need for me for the kids at this age---as they grow away---is even greater, and right when I have begun doing more of my own thing.

I admit, it's taken me by surprise, especially the resistance. I didn't expect, really, that anyone would mind or notice too much that I was dashing off to my own thing a bit. But I think everyone in this family does.

It's both gratifying and frustrating.

In the end, for me, I want it all. I want the work and the kids, the in the house and the out of the house, and apparently I want it equally on both sides, because when I dig down deep: it is equal, equally weighted. So when I look for the deciding factor, it tends to come down to what's more important, who is more important, what matters most.

The clear answer to that is the kids, isn't it?

Except it's not. Sometimes it is and sometimes...it gets to be me.

Slowly but surely we are all growing to trust that what we want will all come to the top in good turn.

So...

I owe you a few things.

1. Visits, replies, comments, and emails. Yes. I will. Soon. Promise. Just don't show me your disappointment. Please. I have that piled on me in droves just now.

2. A winner from last week's Hump Day Hmm. This is Gillian, from Pocket Lint. Congrats Gillian! Drop me an email and let me know if you prefer Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me, Don't Eat This Book, or Season 1 of 30 Days, and also let me know shipping details.

3. Next week's Hump Day Hmm topic: this is "How far would you go for your kids/family/loved one/self?" I vary the who it is because really, that's up to you, as is the interpretation of the question. Maybe it's 500 miles through a hot and crowded zoo. Maybe it's a move to another country. Maybe it's setting aside something you do. Maybe it's a life change, such as getting sober.

4. Next post...the story from my point of view of meeting David Axelrod, Senator Barack Obama's Chief Strategist. Report right now at MOMocrats with photo.

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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27 comments:

ALM said...

I hear ya'. Now take that and magnify it by being at the office from 8 am until 6:30 pm, needing down time in the few hours you are home with the kids - PLUS having your kids somewhere else every other weekend. (Which is not necessarily a bad thing.. but creates a different sort of togetherness pressure...)

There's always that guilt - not having seen them all day, only the few hours in the morning & few hours in the evening before bed... How can I not just focus solely on them? Most days I feel like I have an ok balance -- but still end up feeling like I haven't given any of us as much as we need.

Blogversary said...

Good words Julie.

I am an introvert too and finding that precious me time is not always easy with two kids.

I think the act of reflection is what keeps it working for us those.

Mayberry said...

Pick BlogHer!!!!

I know it's presumptive of me to speak for your kids, but with mine, so much of the complaining is totally for show. Once I actually walk out the door, they are over it.

Spacemom said...

Ya know? I am terrified for next September. I have had Mondays off (I work PT) and next school year, Soleil will be in 1st grade. 5 days of school a week (Kindergarten was 4 days)
I will have from 8:37 (bus pick up) until 3pm (school pickup? or 3:30 pick drop off) with Luna. Just me and Luna. Yikes! I am so used to the girls playing together and letting me putter and clean and blog, that I don't know what I am going to do!
YIKES!

thailandchani said...

I can only address this from a detached view, not having children, but I'd say it's all about balance. Having grown up with a mother who was chronically unhappy and felt impinged upon by having kids, I think it's not only healthy - but critical - to find that balance somehow.

The comment ALM wrote sounds hellish.. and I can't even imagine how women in households manage to balance something like that!

kim said...

Think of this time as a weaning period, you from them. In a couple of years they will outgrow you and it will be easier for you if you have your own life. My kids dumped me this year and I didn't see it coming.

You are doing awesome things and are lucky enough to be a part of history. When your girls get a little older, they are going to think that you're a rock star.

MommyTime said...

There is such a wonderful post about getting into the swing of things in summer here that you might like. It has some very smart things to say about setting the tone for expectations in the summer. This, of course, assumes you know what you want the expectations to be -- and I can see that at this point for your right now, that is a difficult set of lines to establish. Not that it solves your problem, but it might be helpful to know that all of us struggle with those questions of where the lines should be, how much to give or not. Not that we wouldn't walk through fire to rescue our children, but that there is something unbearably sad about the life Mrs. Ramsay led, emptying herself of completely everything for her eight children until the shell of herself just quietly closed up and she went away for good. We deserve more than that (which was part of Virginia Woolf's point, I think), and so do our children. Our daughters need to see both that we have options and that we have struggles -- as women and as humans.

Ok, and rather than hijack your comments further, I'm going to think about this for a while, and then start in on my hump day essay for next week. Thanks, as usual, for making me think!

slouching mom said...

Oh, J. You're singing my song with this post.

Truly.

As of today, one boy is out of school. Next Wednesday, both boys will be home for the summer.

And I'm nervous. I don't know what the summer landscape is going to look like this year.

I do know one thing: when they are together too much, my boys, they FIGHT. Not physical fights, but screaming, crying, and whining.

Fun.

we_be_toys said...

Oh my god, girl - testify!

For the record, I think its great that you're starting to wean them off of you and give yourself more time. your kids are a bit younger than mine, and I remember well the outrage and power struggles when Mommy began to have a life again.

It is a fine line to walk - spending quality time with the kids each day, making summer vacation a fun time, and still having time to feed your needs.

My kids are 9 and almost 11 right now - they can make themselves a bowl of cereal or some peanut butter toast before I'm even up. Right now, they're vacumning their assigned parts of the house, and they packed their own clothes for our upcoming trip. Obviously that didn't happen overnight - it took YEARS to get here, but I had the plan all along to make them more self-sufficient.

I had a roommate in college who never had to do anything around her house as a kid; as an adult she couldn't wash her own clothes, cook a decent meal, or pay her bills on time. Her mother did her a disservice in pandering to her, and it was an object lesson to me, if not to her.

You're in the hardest part right now - they're just catching on to the idea that Mom might want to have a life, and of course they're going to buck that notion! I can't imagine that you would go from being a conscientous and involved mother to a Run Away Bird Maizie (Horton Hatches An Egg), no matter what the kids might tell you.

It does get better - I promise you. Hang in there honey!

Mad said...

You've been moving and shaking so much lately, Julie, that I was starting to wonder just when you would be shook to your core. Continued good will on the journey for balance in all things.

Just so you know, I don't mind whatsoever that you haven't been by in a bit. That's the way of the world out here and I do not bring expectations to the table when it comes to my readership. We all do what we can, when we can, and we take people at face value when it comes to managing hectic lives.

Having said that, when you do make it by, you'll see that there has been some major mojo shit in my life recently. I just thought I'd give you a little heads up before you stumbled into it.

Karen said...

let me just say, I hear ya. I find it hard to insist that they let me be their mother, me Karen, not the ghost of a mother who would always be available to them at moment's notice. That person is not a person and they must first have a relationship with me as an actual person before we can name it a mother-child relationship. I sit on my hands to make myself try to do it - to stay engaged with me and my work and make sure they know they are welcome but that there are some parts of mom that are "off limits" I might have to skip my morning hot shower on account of them, but I there are other non-negotiables. They tend to try to figure out what those non-negotiables are almost daily.
Sounds like you have big doings...go for it Julie, I am watching in awe.

liv said...

ummm...i think i've seen you in those clothes before.

oh, and you're an awesome mom even when you think you're not, and even if you tweet about it.

crazymumma said...

as I am a gal of very few words these days what with trying to serve both my children, and myself to find that elusive balance.

I'll just say uh huh. I get it.

flutter said...

I don't know how moms do it.

anniegirl1138 said...

Define "happy" or "unhappy" for that matter.

Is what's best for me best for my daughter?

I can only speak from my experience. When I was thrust into single parenting by first terminal illness and then death of her father, I think I knew intimately what "unhappiness" was and it sure was an eye opener. Beat the hell out of any complaint I had before or since.

So when I found footing again, not "happiness" just level ground, I could see that yes, I "happier" me was best for my daughter because an "unhappy" me couldn't do shit for her or myself.

I think we forget sometimes that as parents our job is to raise them to be someone else's parent or mate or next door neighbor or best buddy. To do this - "unhappiness" will happen more often than not (with the "more often" increasing proportionally with their age).

I think that my being "unhappy" has more of a detrimental effect on her than my "happiness", so I will try to err on the latter.

Interesting topic.

Kyla said...

I think it is in the chafing adjustment stage, for you and for them. Ride it out, I think, and it will be good for all of you.

painted maypole said...

nothing is black and white and there are caveats for everything. yes, mommy needs to be happy, but mommy also has to do what is best for the kids, and if what makes mommy happy is harmful to the kids, it's not the right thing to do.

i am NOT in the least saying that that is what is happening in your home, just echoing what you were saying about it being a balancing act. sometimes the mommy needs to suck it up for the kids, sometimes the kids have to suck it up for the mom (they do have to learn it is not all them all the time. this is an important life lesson!) and sometimes everyone has to suck it up and compromise. it's life.

Susanne said...

This post of yours hits me right on the spot. I'm just going through the monthly fight after I attended my writing group meeting. It's almost a ritual. When I go away from the house for more than an hour at a time I have to pay for it. I don't think this is fair, of course, but then everybody else feels deprived too.

I also want it all without sacrificing my family for that. Mostly, as for you, my family is more important but as you said, not always.

It's one of those balance things that always need adjusting.

Aliki2006 said...

Transitions are so tough--for everyone. Luckily the kids have been off for 2 weeks now, so we're smoothing out--but it's not been clear sailing!

Queen of the Mayhem said...

When you find that balance....could you please share your secrets? I am struggling with many of the same demons at the Mayhem.

Melissa said...

We're there, too. The guys are starting to really be independent, but woe betide me if I even THINK of having another life.

But it so cool about what you are doing. Keep it up!

And don't feel bad about not stopping by. I'm in DIY hell and won't be doing much until I can find my kitchen again. :)

Anonymous said...

Excited for your new opportunities, Julie, and I relate quite well to the challenges you are facing with your girls as you embrace them. And summer hasn't even started yet around these parts. Yeesh...

jeanie said...

Its all relative - my daughter would love a sibling to trade me in for most days - although on the days when she and the girl down the road have had their fill, I will do!

It is so important that mothers do not hang up their "pre-mother" identity and forget who they were.

And it is so important that our children can mine their childhoods and find those moments when we were goddesses.

It is also so important that every "I'm bored" is not met with *BETTER* *MORE EXCITING* *FUN TIMES* every time, because that sure ain't the whole of life - sometimes the washing up, the tidying, the connecting with other people needs to happen.

Emily said...

...And I think the heat has a little to do with the irritable little hermit crabs our children turn into over the summer months. Surely it has nothing to do with me(!!)

Are you coming to the DNCC? Can I be of assistance in Colorado? I know of some good Martini bars on Larimer. :)

Emily said...

OH! And 801!? That's amazing, and somehow not all that surprising.

Congrats.

Christine said...

oh julie. i would never be disappointed. i get it. you know i SO get it.

love,
c--

Tracee said...

DITTO! DITTO! DITTO!

Beautifully put.

You're more philosophical about it than I am today. Today I feel pretty pissed off they they want to suck me emotionally dry 24 hrs a day. I'm not being very empathetic to their jealous rage at my work. I am not a fan of summer vacation as it's been constant fighting and arguing for two weeks about their behavior and mine.

My fondest desire is to put the 2 year old in childcare 2 days a week when school starts so I am not pulled in two directions with competing needs and competing thoughts 24 hrs a day. He'd have more fun there and I'd be substantially less stressed out.