Sunday, September 28, 2008

Moms Night Out

Friday night my friend L and I went out to dinner; sans kiddies, sans hubbies. Since L went back to work, we've made it a point to get together every few weeks or so and have a night out big-girl style.

During the course of the evening, our conversation roamed over several, standaed topics; the children, naturally; our husbands; housework; L's job; me being home with the kids; the pitfalls of working vs. staying home. One topic we spent a bit of time I find particularly intriguing - dads staying home with the kids while the moms go to work.

The topic of dads staying home with the kids stemmed from a recent conversation between my husband and I. I quit work because the amount of money I made at my company didn't offset the costs of daycare. My husband owns his own flooring company, but with the economy the way it is at the moment, people aren't exactly champing at the bit to get new floors in their homes. So, needless to say, money is a constant topic of concern in our house. I have a higher degree than my husband, so if I were able to land a higher paying job, we could probably afford to have him stay home while I went to work. My husband says he's perfectly fine staying home with the kids; in fact, he'd love to do it.

Part of me honestly thinks my husband would be better at staying home with the girls than I am. At this point in time, I'm finally starting to feel like I'm getting the hang of being home full-time. It's taken me about 6 months to adjust, which, I guess, is standard when one switches jobs. But did I really switch jobs? I was a mom when I was working and I'm still a mom. I'm just a mom who doesn't leave the house quite as often as I used to...and a mom with a significantly smaller paycheck. Hugs and kisses, while adorable and a daily necessity, don't pay the mortgage.

In terms of my husband staying home, in some ways I think it might be easier for him than it is for me. The whining gets to me. I find it irritating, grating, annoying. The constant needing can be exhausting, depending on the day. I can't say I'd mind going a day or two without having to wipe 2 extra butts. Nor would I mind not having to cajole the kiddos into eating...or playing nicely...or being polite.

I think this is where some of the fundamental differences between men and women come into play. The whining gets to me because I hear every single second of it; my husband doesn't seem to hear it on the same level I do and it simply doesn't bother him as much as it does me. The girls' constant neediness doesn't faze him and although dirty diapers don't thrill him, he doesn't mind taking care of them...too much. And if the kids won't eat, he'll just keep suggesting things until they're hungry for that suggested item.

So, readers, what do you think? Benefits to the dads staying home? Downfalls? Better if both parents work? Anyone have the magic secret to winning the Powerball, so we won't have to worry about working at all?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Kudos to the Mother Runner

The other night, my husband lucked into White Sox/Twins tickets (the game of the year, according to him) and even I couldn't think of a good enough reason for him not to go, so I made plans to go over to my friend's house for the evening. L was planning on going for a run, and taking one of her kids with her, so I brought the jogging stroller along and we attempted to go for a run. L, typical mother that she is, has a route that includes a popsicle stop at the local drug store, so this seemed like an excellent idea to my little ones.

Well, the run went something like this...we left from L's house, jogging strollers in tow. L's neighborhood is a little hillier than the area I usually run, but no big deal, right? A few hills never hurt anyone. I kept up with L for about the first block and shortly thereafter I realized I was insane to think I could run with this woman. As we reached the first turn, I was huffing and puffing like a banshee and she looked like she was floating on water. I told her she was under no obligation to run next to me...I didn't want to hold her back from her run. (L works full-time and doesn't get to run as often as she'd like.) She stuck close for a bit, until I knew where the store was, and then went on her merry way. In the meantime, I followed her up a monster hill at a snail's pace and tried not to curse her name. When the girls and I finally reached the store, L and her daughter, replete in her princess dress, were waiting patiently for us, and were kind enough not to laugh at the spectacle of the red-faced, sweaty, crabby woman making her way toward them.

A few disclaimers, not meant to demean L and her running prowess, but simply to make myself feel better:

1. I was pushing a double stroller; L had a single.
2. L has run several marathons, including Boston and the Twin Cities; I am merely a running impostor...and not a particularly good one at that.
4. L honestly enjoys running; I prefer reading...or cooking...or sleeping...or...
3. Hills are HARD!

In attempt to make myself feel a little better about my running, I went for a solo run yesterday afternoon. I did 6 miles in under an hour which is pretty good for me. I didn't have to stop for any breaks and there were a few hills involved.

In spite of the ugliness of the joint "run", at least on my part, it was a good experience. While there is a good chance I will never subject myself to running with L again, it did make me realize something...trying something new, even if you aren't very good at it and even if a whole lot of people are a whole lot better at it than you are, is totally worth the experience.

So, for you runners out there who look like my friend L, running seemingly effortlessly and enjoying every minute of it...good for you! You've obviously found a passion and have put the time and effort into the project to make it a good fit for you. Keep up the good work and keep doing what you're doing. The rest of us look up to you.

For you runners who look like me, huffing and puffing and sweating and possibly cursing...good for you too! You're trying something. You might not stick with it, but you're giving it a go. You might not be good at it, but you're embracing the possibility.

And embracing the possibility, after all, is what Living Imperfectly is all about.

And you, dear reader, are you embracing any possibilities? Or perhaps you have some expertise to share?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


When I quit work to stay home with the girls, I decided I needed a goal. Something to make sure I was still in touch with me. Something that was mine and pretty much mine alone. And, apparently, I decided to make the goal really hard, because who doesn't need a really hard goal, right? So, I decided to run a marathon. The Twin Cities Marathon.

Now, when I started training (and I use that term very lightly), I was still carrying baby weight... from both babies. Having gotten pregnant four months after giving birth to #1, I was still about 20 pounds heavier than normal when I got pregnant with #2. And guess what? I'm still carrying baby weight. Lovely, right? Don't get me wrong...I've definitely toned up. In fact, my ankles and wrists have never looked better. I finally lost that lovely "shelf" between my stomach and pubic bone. When I suck in my stomach, it visibly moves, whereas before I could suck in my stomach and although I could feel it suck in, when I looked in the mirror, it appeared nothing actually moved. The weight, however, is still there. I know, I know, muscle weighs more than fat. I would still prefer for the scale to register a smaller number when I step on it, but I digress...

My goal in running a marathon, however, was not to lose weight. I thought it would be an added bonus, definitely, but I wanted to run a marathon simply to be able to say that I've done it. I mean, that's a pretty major accomplishment, right? Running (jogging/walking/limping/crawling) 26.2 miles in 6 hours or less? It's a feat of endurance, strength, stubbornness and possibly stupidity. For some reason, I'm determined to do it. I am not a runner. I don't get a runner's high. I don't even enjoy running all that much. My only goal for the marathon is to not have to be picked up by the sweeper bus at the end of the race. I want to make it all the way to the finish line of my own accord and I'm 85% sure I can do it. It won't be pretty, I won't be running the whole time, there could be some throwing up involved and I may not be able to get out of bed the next day, but there's a very good chance I will be meeting my goal on October 4.

And you, readers, have you set yourself any goals? Obscenely difficult goals or perhaps daily goals? Immediate or future? Just for yourself or maybe some family oriented goals? Please, share your goals. Maybe it will give the rest of us something to shoot for...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How Many Hats?

I take my girls to classes at the community education center three days a week. During each class, there's a nice little added bonus of parent discussion time. I was not aware of this feature when I signed up for the classes, but I find myself looking forward to them now. It gives the parents a chance to discuss current issues, do a little ranting and/or raving, and ask questions of the other parents. Each parent, as each child, is in a completely different situation; we've got a stay-at-home dad, a couple stay-at-home moms, some moms that work, etc.

Each week, there's a different topic. This past week, the question on the table was "How many hats do you wear?" Some of the parents had short lists, some had longer lists, but I think the vast majority had one thing in common - we didn't actually realize how many hats we truly have.

Here's a sample list of my hats, in no particular order: wife, mother, sister (in-law), daughter (in-law), granddaughter, niece, friend, personal shopper, chauffeur, cook, menu planner, scheduler, amateur runner, creative person wannabe, reader, semi-writer, laundress, jungle gym, yadda, yadda, yadda...

Now, I think the question is a great one, and really gives one pause to think. And so, dear reader, I ask you, how many hats do you wear? And, do you wear them all willingly? Are there hats you'd like to wear in the near or distant future?

Monday, September 15, 2008

To Schedule or not to Schedule

I am a person who likes a schedule. This is ironic, being as my husband is possibly the most spontaneous person on the planet and has zero sense of time, and my children are not particularly inclined to any one's schedule but their own. I, however, thrive on a schedule and not having a specific one most of the time tends to distress me a bit.

When the girls were born, I was very deliberate about allowing them to set their own schedules. This went against every fiber of my being, personally, but I felt it was what was best for them. They ate when they were hungry, slept when they were tired, they were awake and playing when they wanted to be. This worked out well for us. Both girls established their own, pretty dependable schedules and started sleeping through the night at relatively early ages (6 weeks for the oldest, 7 weeks for the youngest). As the girls have gotten older, I have had to manipulate their schedules at times, but I still pretty much allow them to set the pace. It seems to keep us all a little less stressed and a little more relaxed.

Since it is fall, and we basically muddled through the summer with no sense of a specific schedule, I decided it would be a good idea to enroll the girls in some community education classes and some swimming lessons. I thought this would be good for the girls - they could meet some new kids, play with some new toys, learn some new things. I also thought it would be good for me - I would have some sense of stability on a day-to-day basis. So, we have community education classes for the girls in the mornings on MTW and swimming lessons on TTH evenings. Sounds great, right? A type A personality's wet dream? Scheduled learning time. Scheduled exercise time. Nap times in the middle. A free day on Friday. Weekends open for quality daddy time.

Well, let me let you in on a little secret...scheduled time is just about as stressful as "free" time. We have to be certain places at certain times. On certain days, ole mom here is in charge of snack for the class and if she didn't do her snack shopping ahead of time, then she's got one more thing to get done before she goes to school. And if we walk to school, which I thought was an excellent idea, then we need to schedule another hour (each way) out of our day. And you have to pack lunches if you're walking home during lunch hour and...and...and. You get the picture. Let me tell you - after one week of schedules for the girls, I was one exhausted mama! And let's just say that housecleaning...while always on the back burner as far as I'm concerned...didn't even make it to the burners last week.

For my first week, I think I did relatively well. I hadn't planned on being so tired, but knowing that my girls enjoyed themselves and that I really enjoyed myself too, really made it all worth it for me. We started the grind again today, but I drove to class this morning instead of walking, and that helped relieve some of the stress. We're going to walk to class tomorrow and on Wednesday, so we'll see if those days feel crazier than today did. And I do already have my snack ready for tomorrow's class, so I won't be getting in trouble with the teacher...

So, I ask you, dear reader, how do you feel about schedules? Are you a free spirit? Do you schedule every minute of your day? If your schedule goes awry, are you a basket case for the rest of the day, or are you able to maintain your composure? Please join in the discussion and share your words of wisdom with the rest of us...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

History Lesson

Before I get too in-depth with the whole "imperfect living" theory, I thought you, dear reader, might appreciate a little personal history background, so you know exactly where I'm coming from on this topic. So, here goes:

Currently, I am a stay-at-home mother of 2 young girls. My girls are exactly 13 months apart - to the day. We celebrated 2nd and 1st birthdays over the summer. I live in a small house in a smallish town. In our house, we have 2 cats and 2 dogs, in addition to the girls, my husband and myself. We have lived in this house for 5 years now and my husband and I have been married for 4 years.

Prior to the stay-at-home phenomenon, I worked as an editor for a legal publishing firm. I worked there for 4 years and quit just about 5 months ago. Once we took into account the cost of full-time daycare for 2 small children and took a good look at the amount of money I actually made, it basically came down to working to pay for daycare or me staying home with the kids. We decided to give the stay-at-home route a go and so far it's working. This is not to say that it's not a financial burden for us, but we're hanging in there for now. My husband owns his own flooring installation company. He works long hours and lots of weekends, but he's definitely keeping us afloat.

So, there's your basic rundown of how I got to where I am...abbreviated version of course. In the coming days, I hope to address various issues in my (and possibly your) daily life - issues of imperfection I experience as a wife, mother, housekeeper, driver, mind reader, etc. I hope you will stay tuned and join me in the battle for living an imperfect life and being OK with it. Feel free to pass this blog along to other people in your life, if you feel it would interest them!

Monday, September 8, 2008

I am not perfect

I admit it...I am not perfect. In fact, I'm incredibly far from perfect. What?! I must be kidding, right? A person, a woman, a wife and mother, no less, is not perfect?! What is the world coming to?

While it may not be a shock to you, dear reader, that the author of this blog is not a perfect person, woman, wife, mother, etc., it's not the easiest thing for said author to admit. I'm your typical type A personality and perfection, or the pursuit thereof, sort of comes with the territory. The other day, however, I was listening to a local talk radio station and the topic was "living imperfectly." I was intrigued. Being so intrigued, I figured at least one other person on the planet had to be intrigued; thus, the birth of a blog.

Now, seriously, who truly wants to live imperfectly? We want to be the best we can be, right? We want our kids to have better than we had, we want to be good at our relationships, we want to be strong and independent women, we want to be supermoms, we want fulfilling careers, we want, we want, we want... Well, truth be told, I want a nap. A good, long, left lines on my face, my shoulders and hips ache, I don't know whether it's Tuesday or Sunday nap.

About 5 months ago, I left my job as a "publishing specialist" to stay home with my 2 young daughters. My husband and I made this decision after much time and consideration. We knew it would be somewhat of a hardship for us, but decided it was what would be best for our girls in the long run. I was making enough money to cover the cost of insurance and daycare, if I stayed working full-time, and that was about it. So, I became a stay-at-home mom of a 5-month old and a 18-month old. Yep, they're 13 months the day.

The transition was quite a shock. I've literally been making my own money since I was 12. Not that I haven't had help along the way, but to go from working at least 40 hours a week, to running after a toddler and her still-nursing sister all day every day...well, let's just say it was an adjustment...and not a pretty one. 5 months later, I just feel like I'm starting to get the hang of things. Which brings me back to our topic - Living Imperfectly.

When I was working, I felt like I should be home. Now that I'm home, I feel guilty for not contributing to the household income. When the girls are napping, I feel like I should be cleaning the house spotlessly when I really want to sit down for a few minutes and collect my thoughts. When I play with the girls, I feel like I should be mowing the lawn or doing another load of laundry. When my husband comes home from work, I feel like I should have a made-from-scratch meal on the table and a martini in hand.

The reality is this...I get sick of playing the same games with the girls all day long. I hate cleaning my house. I'm tired of coming up with things to cook for breakfast, lunch, dinner and lord knows how many snacks - every day. Some days, gasp, I let the girls watch cartoons for longer than 20 minutes. Some days, I have a short temper. Some days I dream about the days when I was single and didn't have to answer to anyone. Day to day life can be hard. I am not a supermom. And here's the kicker - I'm pretty sure I don't want to be.

What I want to be is a good person, a strong woman, a loving wife and a kick ass mom. What I want to do is be all those things without falling into the trap of being some kind of crazy super woman who looks like she's always put together but inside is screaming for some Valium and a dirty martini at 6:30 am. What I want to do is live my life imperfectly and be OK with it. And part of me needs to know that other people will be OK with that, too.

Will I be able to pull it off this lofty goal? Stay tuned...