Please Stop Telling Me I Should Do Things For A Living

The title, alone, sounds ridiculous. Please stop telling me I should do things for a living? What do I expect – to sit around and do nothing as a grown ass adult?

No. That’s not what I mean at all.

A couple weeks ago, we had a little family and friend get together for my toddler’s second birthday. It wasn’t too extravagant. About 20 people came by. We had burgers and broccoli cheese soup, a cake, and a donut display. Truth be told, he slept for 75% of it, having started his nap that day a little late.

As I always do: I made the party set up a little on the extra side. The table of desserts and foods looked Pinterest-perfect, which truth be told I always do. Not because I feel that I have to, but simply because I want to. It’s what I do to feel alive.

Yes. I want to have personalized water bottles and theme-specific drink glasses. Yes, DIY tables cape projects actually make me feel like I’m living my best life. This is just something that’s important to me as a parent, to give my kids some of these fun picturesque memories that I didn’t have as a child.

Sue me.

Just as with all parties I throw, meals I cook, or hostess gifts I bring, the comments almost immediately rolled in:

 Oh Heather, you should do this for a living! Seriously you should get into event planning, think of how much money you could make if you did this for a real job!

You are doing too much for someone that doesn’t get paid!

Imagine how nice this party would be if you were getting a paycheck to throw it!

[Insert drawn out eye roll]

I completely get that this is meant to be a compliment, and isn’t it just so late-stage millennial of me to be offended by something someone said that was meant to be nice?

But honestly: is there ever going to come a point when a woman can be a mom and have that be enough?

As in this is just what mom does – she throws parties, and those parties are extra.

Or when a woman, who is a mom, does something nice and it’s just a part of what she does as a mom – not something she should do in another sphere for a financial payoff; will that ever just be enough? That Mom did something really nice for us?

And really, when did we fall into this black hole of equating the things people do solely by how much money they bring in?

When people tell me that I should event plan or personalize shop or bake for a living, they are telling me that what I am actually doing for a living – raising and educating three human beings while running a household so my husband can pursue his dream job – is of little or no value to them. Like it’s temporary, or just something I do for fun while figuring out what I’ll do when I become a real adult.

Every time I am told that I should do something else for a living than what I am actually doing, a little piece inside of me breaks in half and turns on itself. What if what I do has no value?

Moreover: what if my children heard someone say that to me (which they have)? Will they begin to find no value in anything I do? If they want to do what I do when they grow up, will they feel as worthless as this makes me feel?

And the big one: what in the hell am I doing spending all this time with people who share values I don’t espouse, or want to raise my kids to learn?

There’s a folly to it all because it is meant to be a compliment: that I do something so well I could make money by doing it professionally. But does it really teach our children the value we want to teach them – that something is only really valuable if it brings home a paycheck? And, taking it a step further, that if someone does something for free they are either wasting their time and energy, or not contributing to some grander vision?

I’ve asked so many questions, to which I have one answer: a mother’s contribution is not defined by how much money she does or does not contribute to the household budget.

As I said, I do these parties, the Sunday dinners, the homemade gifts because I want to. The things I do that I do not get paid for as a stay at home mom go well beyond that, too. It’s the homeschooling, the Mom Therapist Mode. The extra curricular activity taxi cab driver. The scheduler-medication administrator-personal chef- laundry woman-housekeeper. It’s all of it.

Becoming a stay at home mom was the most valuable decision I ever made, and one even my husband continues to believe is not what I really want. Women have come so far, how could I ever want to define my life as just a mom? You could do so much more if you did something for a living.

Please stop telling me to do things for a living. As I see it, I am. I’m doing a lot of things for a living – not for a paycheck or a promotion. But to live.

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5 Ways I’ve Accepted Mediocrity As A Mother In My Mid-30s

I don’t know if it’s the fact that I have 3 kids now, and my life is a total and utter shit show 90% of the time; or that I’m just getting older. But I’ve accepted mediocrity in so many ways.

1. I’m okay with being an okay mom

Honestly. There was a period of time that I wanted to be the best mom. The coolest mom. The mom that always made the treat bags, chaperoned the field trips…and did it in sparkling Converse and trendy hairstyles.

Somewhere along the line, though, I realized that being a stressed out but spectacular mom was not what my kids wanted. They wanted a happy mom. To be a happy mom, I have to be a little mediocre. Not like a do nothing mom, just an okay mom. The okayest mom ever. Like yeah-I-breastfed-but-also-you-had-cheez-its-for-lunch. Like sure, let’s throw a big birthday party, but I’m definitely not DIYing shit for it.

2. With that in mind, I don’t beat myself up about screen time

Look: I’ve read all the articles and examined all the studies. I know the affects of too much screen time on every age group.

But remember…I’m okay with being just okay. Which means I’ve accepted my limits of what I can do, how much I can facilitate, and to what extent I can resist. When it comes to screen time, I’ve just given in, but not so much that it’s gotten out of control. Like not 100% given in, but a lot more than my pre-mom self would have ever imagined. 

Here’s the thing: if you can tell me how to keep a toddler happy and entertained, as well as a tween not bored and behaving well, all while a teenager plays hour after hour after hour of sports …I will probably still let me kids have the screen time to keep them under control. It’s just where I am in my mediocrity as a parent and person.

3. Sweatpants and Target t-shirts > Pinterest outfits

I used to spend hours – literal hours – staring at magazines, and – later – Pinterest boards, to put together stylish, yet practical outfits. My outfits always had a theme, or were appropriate for the activity. I even paired my makeup to the outing, which was also paired to the outfit, and by the way even my underpants matched perfectly with my pajamas when I went to bed.

I was just so put together.

Then I turned 30 and had 3 kids, Advil and caffeine became my best friends, and all that went out the window.

Now my wardrobe can best be described as: 76 black shirts in various styles, Target brand t-shirts with food stains on them, a million and one sweaters (in spite of the fact that I live in California), a variety of yoga pants and leggings, most of which have been worn to the point that they are no longer black, but a slight off-black-ish-gray; and exactly one pair of jeans.

3/4 of my clothing is stretched out, stained, or contains some sort of a child-related rip/tear/breakage.

And, for the last couple of years, my decisions of what to wear have been largely determined by how comfortable I will be, coupled with how easy it will be to lift my shirt up so my kid can have easy access to his boobsnacks.

4. Holidays are pretty blasé now, and honestly that’s how I prefer it

One year I made seven desserts for the Christmas Eve party at my in-law’s house. I’m not sure where I was going with that, but here I was showing up with box after box after box of desserts. Some old lady who is a family friend showed up with a box of Otterpops and stole the fucking show, though, so my carefully crafted Santa belt cupcakes and Christmas tree brownies wound up in the trash.

Since then, year after year has grown to be less of an ordeal from me for the holidays. I still do all the stuff for my kids I do every year – the decorating, the light drive tradition, the Elf on the Shelf, the cookie baking together… 

But as for the over the top shit, I’m done with it. Beyond being under appreciated, it’s just too much work. Santa belt cupcakes look cute and all, but mediocre Otterpops win every time.

5. Cheats, hacks, and short cuts have become my lifeblood

For those that aren’t familiar with me: I have 3 kids.

One is a teenager who homeschools and plays competitive tennis. She is training to play in college.

One is almost 11, so a tween, and if you know anything about pre-teen girls, it’s that they are a handful of emotions and drama.

My third is a toddler and he’s crazy. Like saying he is quite the handful is an insult to handfuls.

Since the birth of my little ball of terror complicated life as a picture perfect mother immensely, I’ve adopted the philosophy of Ockham’s razor: the simplest answer is always the best answer. Or, the easiest way to do literally anything is the way I’m going to do it. Otherwise it ain’t getting done.

So I’ve become someone half-assing her way through life – sue me. So I’ve embraced my mediocrity and decided it’s better to be mediocre and present and happy than amazing and perfect and miserable all at the same time.

For some people, doing all the things and being great is essential to their happiness in life. To me, being good enough seems to be just that: good enough.

I Am – At My Core – A Sanctimommy.

Opinions are like assholes. Everybody’s got one.

I’ve said many versions of that over the course of the years writing on this blog. And in life, in general. It’s probably one of the only cliches I can really get on board with. I’m just not a big fan of them – at least as far as talking in cliche goes.

(My most hated cliched phrase is “the grass is always greener on the other side.” Fuck you. My grass is dead, like my heart. Ain’t nobody want my cold, dead grass.)

But then there’s the becoming a cliche thing, which I have done through my adult life over and over and over again. It’s just how I live – one standard, societally-dictated role after another. You name it, I have probably – at some time until I’ve hated myself enough to stop – fulfilled it.

The biggest one, the one that persists in spite of the self-loathing it creates within me, is probably the worst. I am – at my core – a sanctimommy.

If you don’t know what a sanctimommy is, in short it’s: a woman who becomes a mother and then suddenly has an opinion that she believes to be absolute fact on what is right and wrong for children. All children. Every child in the world, regardless of their situation. Regardless of whether those children are hers or not, her positions are the universal imperative. The Kantian maxim of absolute moral right.

It’s almost as cliche as meeting your husband at the door when he gets home from work every night with a smoking pipe and a martini. (For me, I’m lucky my husband works nights, or I’d probably have fallen to that one too.)

So I fell to the cliche of the sanctimommy pretty quickly after becoming a mother, and my list of sanctimonious views on mothering and raising children has continued to stack up over the years. And they just get worse. I have an opinion for just about everything, and believe those opinions to be the absolute right in my world of black-and-white, never gray, rights and wrongs.

It’s just the way things are, and I am.

12729097_1126111397433349_2977683069917066235_nThat doesn’t mean I share these sanctimonious views with everyone. I don’t take it the step so many do to judge others, and foist those judgments upon them. I’m rapidly becoming an Internet troll, making comments on news articles just to test out jokes or ideas for my blog (like my most recent: a comment on Starbucks when I don’t actually drink coffee…). But when it comes to parenting, I keep the tippy-typing in the comments to a minimum.

Were I to wield my sanctimommmy views upon the world: on the Internet, in my Facebook, at family gatherings and the kids’ weekly sports shit…it would be a wasteland. A wasteland of my universal maxims and everyone else hating me. A wasteland where I have zero Facebook friends left, and my invitations conveniently “get lost in the mail.”

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In fact, only recently I shared one of my particularly new sanctimonious views on being a parent in the form of a joke meme. In it, I basically said that people with only one child have no idea – NO CLUE – what tired is. Because I have two. And I’m fucking tired – no doubt way more tired than if I only had one. You might say double tired. Well all the backlash came within minutes of me sharing what I thought was a hilarious meme I, myself, crafted, and suddenly every parent of one child thought I was some asshole who had not a single fucking clue what I was talking about.

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Usually, and especially now, I’m so scared of the reactions I might get, that I typically only share my views on parenting with my husband. I’m not even sure if he agrees in earnest with me on most of this shit, some of it totally inconsequential to our current lives as parents. And often I wonder how he even tolerates someone as judgmental and sanctimonious as I.

But he does, and then there’s that whole thing where it seems like a lot of people in our lives hate me anyway. Like I said a few blog posts ago: I’m not everyone’s cup-o-tea. For every sanctimommy view I keep to myself, there’s at least three on other issues that I won’t shut the fuck up about. Many an invitation has been “lost in the mail” over the years.

So…why not just go full sanctimommy? Take the leap from holding my beliefs in my mind to outwardly and verbally judging others?

Why not tell people that I think at least one parent being at home with the kids at the very least part time until said kids graduate high school is what’s right? And that through sacrifices I have made, I know that oftentimes people claiming that they have to work is more a statement about their priorities in liking vacations and expensive things than what has been scientifically and statistically proven to be what is best for kids. (Note: I said oftentimes, and I am completely aware that in many families both parents need to work even multiple jobs each to meet the bills; though this does not change the fact that it would be categorically and factually beneficial for their kids if one of them were home at least some of the time.)

Or I could admit that for a brief period of time I seriously considered keeping pacifiers in my purse to slip into the mouths of infant family members whose parents – I can only assume on principle or the belief that they know better than trained medical professionals – had ignored the warnings of doctors that pacifier use decreases SIDS risk by 95%. That I believe people who put shoes on their children before their children can walk outside look at their children as a fashion accessory. And that people who pierce the ears of an infant – except in the case of Hispanic families, who have a cultural reason – are teaching their kids from the earliest age possible that their body is not something with which they have complete control over.

(I came close to outward sanctimommy recently on the piercing the ears of infants issue at a family dinner when I let a joke slip that I was going to buy my husband’s goddaughter big hoop earrings for her first birthday. When someone told me that was crazy, I said ‘almost as crazy as piercing an infant’s ears.’ But I knew then to shut my mouth and move on lest my true sanctimommy be released.)

There’s so much more I don’t share. About school work (kids should have a lot). About playtime (kids should have even more of that than school work). Like parents who line their kids up in so many extra-curricular activities that they have no time to be kids (that this is one of the worst things a parent could do).

My list goes on and on and on. I’ve already shared too much, and anticipate a backlash.

My point, though, is that I withhold from sharing most of it because it’s not my place to. I may think someone is doing something wrong by their children, but unless it’s actually endangering the life of the child – like legit endangering the life, for example when people choose not to vaccinate their children because they are insane and have no grasp of reality – then who am I to tell others how to live? You want to teach your kids particular lessons and values, by all means – do it. In the end, you will be the one to answer for that.

Just as I will be the one to answer for the lessons and values I have taught mine. And in that vein, no one has a right to share their own sanctimonious views with me on the way I raise my kids.

In the end, I think we are all sanctimommies. In our core of cores, it’s a mandate when you have kids. Otherwise, your kids flounder around, living life according to what a whole gaggle of people believe, and then you have taught your children something very damaging – perhaps the most damaging – that making decisions for yourself is not the way to live. That the opinions of others bear more weight than your own beliefs and feelings.

I would much rather feel like shit about myself for having so many judgmental views in my head, than raise my children to believe that they can’t make decisions of their own accord. If there is anything I’ll be sanctimonious and loud about, it’s that.

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