Life is (still) good

I often think to myself how good I have it. I am so over the blog posts and feature articles about how hard parenting is. Yes, I have my grumpy days, but most days I really do think, “Damn! Am I lucky!” This “Don’t Carpe Diem” one was really popular recently, and while I get it, it really didn’t resonate with me as much as it annoyed me. I kind of actually do carpe diem (to use her parlance), and while at the end she gets to the point that we should pay attention to the good things and be grateful, and offers some lovely examples, I really don’t buy  the “parenting is like climbing Mt. Everest” analogy. Really? Something like 1500 people in all of history so far have climbed Mt. Everest. Billions of people have had children. In the comments to the Carpe Diem post, there were actually people saying that if you don’t think it’s hard, you’re doing it wrong! I don’t think people should feel bad about themselves or feel guilt if they have a bad day—or week. But, I think people need some perspective.

I just saw another one today—14 Reasons Why Being A Stay At Home Person Sucks. And then there’s the pissing contest about who’s got it harder, working moms or stay-at-home-moms. What an odd thing to want to argue—I’ve got it harder than you! Well, I’m here to say that I love my life—sure it probably is easier than many people’s, but “the complainers’” lives are also probably easier than most of the world’s population, and people throughout history as well. And I am so grateful.

I am hesitant to post this because in some ways, in the “mommyblogosphere” it actually seems subversive to be happy, without qualifications, about your life and your kid. People will think you’re bragging, or maybe just misery loves company more than someone saying how wonderful things are when another person may not be feeling so wonderful. But, I think it’s important to talk about when we’re happy, too. I think the “parenting is so hard” meme has just gone way too far.

I would challenge the Don’t Carpe Diem types to actually, yes, try to savor the moments, even the “screaming Target” ones (I seriously don’t understand how asleep at the wheel one has to be to find themselves in a situation where their kid has taken merchandise off the shelf or opened food in the store unbeknownst to them, and I don’t get the tantrums in stores thing, but I digress, maybe those anecdotes are for effect). But savor those, too, yes, do try. Much has been written about mindfulness and how it actually alleviates stress and makes people happier (Google it). Counting the minutes til your day ends? On a regular basis? Something is wrong with how you manage your days.

I remembered in the back of my head a post I’d written before, generally on this topic, though I didn’t remember it being quite so far back in time—actually when my kid was in the supposedly “terrible” twos! It’s heartening to know that more than two years later, I still feel the same. Maybe the good times can last! My post doesn’t even touch on comparisons between the average American mom and those in Africa who have to walk 5 miles to get water or something. Doesn’t even touch on the blessing of having healthy kids (as most of us do) versus a kid in the cancer ward (imagery my dad, who works in a hospital, was quick to invoke when we were discussing the relative hardness of parenting). My post is about much lighter things than those.

I was discussing this with my mom the other day. How happy my life is now, these golden years of long days (but for me, seriously not long enough) at home with my young child. I worry about the transition out of these days. I often envision my mom with me, back in the 70s, before my siblings came along, just us. Long days. Baking. Playgrounds. Doing art. Reading. A young, young mother just in her early 20s. I envision idyllic days for her. But, they had less money than we have now, and presumably more worries (?) She didn’t have the internet (for better or for worse). And, she was so young. I asked her if she had any fears or anxiety in her time about what would happen someday if X, Y or Z happened—because the flipside of gratitude can often be anxiety about losing what you’ve got. At least for me, if I don’t keep it in check. She told me she used to think, “OK, what is the worst that could happen?” And, she told me, she saw those “worst things” actually happen (including the death of a child). She observed that all these things happened, and, there she was, surviving. And there she was that day on the phone with me, dropping some serious knowledge on her daughter. Maybe she ought to have a blog.

Anyway, here is my old post:

From October, 2009

Reading The Women’s Room, fiction from 1977 that paints a really ugly picture of women’s lives in the 50s and 60s, I am struck with what a very easy and pleasant life I have. My mom suggested we read the book; one of her friends is reading it for a book group. So far, so good, if not a little much. Nobody’s happy. I suppose there are moments of happiness, or at least of relief, but overall, the women seem so unfulfilled, oppressed, and, well, sad. In addition to this novel feeding my obsession for mid 2oth century American socio-realist entertainment, I have become a big fan of the popular Mad Men series, watching every new episode and catching up on the old ones on DVD. The women of Mad Men do a little better than those in The Women’s Room, but there’s still much to bristle at.

I want to know, was it really like this? My mom was a hippie artist type in the 70s, married to my dad, a long-haired herb toking guitar god who worshipped her as his “primordial woman,” while making the modest living a non-college grad with smarts and a work ethic could still make back then. So this stuff was actually before her time. She told me she didn’t think it was quite like this for all women, reminiscing about her own mother, who would’ve been living this life during the period covered in the book, and thinking of her own mother-in-law. Both worked outside the home (one in a canning factory—sad, monotonous labor—the other as a milliner and in retail—something she liked) neither were sexually repressed (as far as we can tell), and both had nice husbands—my grandpas. My mom said she thought maybe it was a New England upper middle class thing, these tortured women. She said our lowly Eastern European immigrant people in the working classes in the city were different. Our people simply didn’t have time for the ennui. They were too busy getting by. I don’t know, but, boy is life different for me now than what’s described in The Women’s Room and what I see on Mad Men.

I live like a queen.

I don’t have to keep a particularly sparkling clean home. Although I keep it orderly, basically clean, and bug-free, my husband doesn’t really have any expectations of me in this area. Or, maybe I just haven’t tested him, but why would I want to? I have a certain standard for my own surroundings, of course. I get to go to the gym, go shopping (I’m not a big shopper, so by this, I mainly mean grocery or house supply shopping or toys), hang out with my adorable one girl child. It’s a dream! I also get to work a little bit, earn some money, stimulate my brain and interact with serious adults just enough to keep myself “sharp” with a foot into the door of the “real world.” We’re not wealthy, but I don’t worry about money when I go on myfrequent stops to Whole Foods for a snack, Starbucks for a smoothie for my girl and a coffee for me, Walgreens for some fresh Play Doh or new markers, Macy’s for an occasional Clinique treat for myself, or books, books, books from Amazon. (I swear, this post is not a commercial and I am not being paid by any of these companies!) Oh, and my husband is not selfish or brutish in the bedroom, either, although he can be a little bit messy in other rooms of the house. He’s just a normal guy and my best friend.

Women back then were expected to keep a spotless home (or so it seems) and had fewer modern technologies to help them do so. The “exotic” foods that light up my days (sushi, kombucha tea, chips and salsa, dark chocolates, microbrews) weren’t readily available. I mean, in Mad Men, even cosmopolitan Don Draper admits he’s never had Mexican food! Most women had more than one child, increasing the work load and decreasing the magic significantly, in my opinion (but that’s fodder for a whole other post, and purely a matter of individual choice). Women didn’t get to choose whether to get pregnant, at least not as easily as we do today, with so many birth control options available to us on one hand, and fertility help on the other. Women didn’t get to choose whether they were going to work or not, what they would do for work, or when, either.

I realize that even today many women don’t have that choice about work. Some need to and don’t want to. Others want to and can’t get it. And then there are the very lucky ones, like me, who have the rarefied experience of doing just enough satisfying work, on their own terms, and I get to do this while enjoying the cool experience of raising a “perfect” (wink wink) daughter in her early pre-school years from the comfort of home.

I gush about my girl because she is so gorgeous, so smart and so good. She is a genuine pleasure to be around. I actually enjoy hanging out with her, going to the coffee shop, doing art at home, going on outings to farms, playgrounds, museums and such—just us. Sometimes I think a mom who really likes her child is rare, too (from some of what I read online), and I don’t know whether that’s just them or their lousy circumstances that detract from the pleasures of parenting. (Or maybe complaining makes for more of a sense of camaraderie? Or website hits?)

Anyway, so often I find myself thinking how good I have it and that maybe it’s not so common to have it so good. Other times, I do get into minor slumps, feeling a little bit of that spoiled, suburban ennui that seems so shameful. I get testy with my husband, thinking he doesn’t help enough around the house or something. But, when I look at the whole picture of the world around me, and history falling off behind me, I am struck by what a glorious time in my life these years are, spent basically just chilling out and enjoying life with my small child at home.

Someday, I will have to either go back to work for someone else or build my business with more intensity. My girl will get older and will want friends other than me. Maybe the fact that these golden years of my daughter’s babyhood are but a short stage of my whole life adds to their fun and beauty, and tolerability—knowing I don’t have to stay home, forever, with a gaggle of children and do housework, the lifestyle that seemed to ruin so many women back in the day. (But, maybe I would even have liked that, who knows? I could see finding happiness in that.)

Everything changes. And, I do worry, just for a minute here and there, about what if this all got taken away from me. What if I lost my contract or my husband lost his job? Things would be harder. We’d be OK, but the ease of it all would vanish and I’d have to readjust a few things, for sure. I don’t even venture into the territory of worrying about if something happened to my child. That’s too scary.

I’m sure I will find plenty of happiness in my future, but damn, are things great for me now, and I just want to be able to look back and remember it in this post.

14 Responses to “Life is (still) good”

  1. Jason says:

    I find it interesting that you think the “stay at home vs working mom” thing was sad, yet here you are “carpe diem vs no carpe diem”. How one individual feels about parenting, yet still LOVES it, doesn’t necessarily mean how everyone should feel about it. It doesn’t take all parents to be exactly alike to make them good parents. I think you missed the entire point of the article (I also noticed you only pulled out, like politicians, pieces of sentences without the entire context). Kudos to you, perfect mom!

  2. admin says:

    ^^ See? It’s subversive to say you’re happy and you generally enjoy the day-to-day of your life! You get accused of thinking you’re the “perfect mom” when you are, in fact, the one who knows there’s no such thing—and that knowledge may actually be what allows you to enjoy life. Letting go of “perfection.” That aside, I think I did a good job of acknowledging the main ideas of her post, and of course I am going to excerpt the bits that stick out to me, that I would choose to comment on to make my own point.

    • Jason says:

      You know what? I completely agree. You are a happy mom! I don’t mean to bring out your defensiveness. I just think that every mom has her way of being happy through parenting. No one ever said enjoying the day-to-day life is wrong. I just don’t believe attacking someone for the way they do it is the best way to handle it. As you can now tell, when I did it, you became defensive, you didn’t decide to change. So it is with other moms. Your article was well written, and granted, wasn’t to different from the one written by Glennon Melton, just a different opinion.

  3. molly says:

    I get where you’re coming from–I think my kids are amazing, funny, creative, wonderful little people and I would choose to spend time with them over anyone else in this entire world. I recognize exactly how lucky I am to have healthy, happy children and that we can provide nutritious homemade food, enriching experiences, and a nurturing environment for them as they grow into (hopefully) considerate, smart, likable adults. I don’t often complain about how hard it is, because I recognize what a great life I have. That doesn’t mean it isn’t hard sometimes.

    However, you turned me off with your closet criticism of the other author at Target. It’s clear from that snarky parenthetical about how “asleep at the wheel” one has to be to have a child misbehave at Target or even (gasp) throw a tantrum that you only have one child who isn’t very old yet. Normal, well-raised children still do the unexpected, and do it very quickly. When and if you have three or four small children and can manage your shopping efficiently while making sure that they are perfect angels every time you turn around to put something in the cart, you’re welcome to be critical of those of us who do our best while people like you glare at us from their glass houses.

    • admin says:

      Guilty as charged with the snark. But, zero-snark posts can be so boring! It was just a touch. I actually, honestly, don’t quite understand how these situations spin so out of control for some parents. It’s true, I only have one kid and she’s past the age that these kinds of things tend to happen, so I guess I’ll never know. I should note that I don’t think poorly of parents who have trouble with their multiple little ones at stores and such, there’s no reason why a Target has to be some temple of serenity. I do wonder why they do this to themselves when I read about it, though, and think there are probably ways to minimize the difficulties.

  4. Lori says:

    Gretchen,
    I agree that the momosphere seems to be getting hyper-competative in the “who has it worse” catagory. I also am so over the trend that goes hand in hand with it the “I hate my child trend”. Who are these mom’s? I don’t hate my child – and I can’t imagine saying that I do. Just between us, I think my kid is pretty cool. Are there traits about her, or me, or our life that I’d like to adjust? Sure, in theory, but as you point out my life is pretty good just the way it is.

    I embrace starting a new trend:

    Dear Momosphere,
    It’s not bragging to acknowledge that things are going well for you and that you are enjoying many of your activities day to day. Noone on earth likes ALL their chores, you don’t need to scream about how you don’t like them, or how your house is not clean, or how you don’t like all of the activities that you do everyday. We get it. It’s not unique and it’s not a secret you need to share.
    Thanks – Lori

  5. Sandi says:

    Well, since I posted the Don’t Carpe Diem article on Facebook, I feel compelled to respond … I was a little bit put off by the article when I read the first few paragraphs, but then after that I thought there was a lot of good stuff. I didn’t agree with it completely, but I liked the chronos/kairos distinction because I feel that way often — that I don’t get to enjoy every moment as much as I would like to because life interferes. My overall attitude toward parenting is that I am very very happy with my life and there is no place I would rather be than with my kids, but I can also acknowledge that there are difficult moments (as I’m sure you can too). A lot of what you say DOES in fact come from having only one child, which was your choice, and of course it was my choice to have more. But having had only one child for a while, and occasionally being alone with one of mine, I can say that it is so, so, so different than having more than one. It is actually often easier than I thought to handle three kids, but it is definitely harder than one (even if that one was my oldest, lol).

    Anyway, I totally get what you’re saying about it feeling subversive to say you’re happy, but I don’t think the carpe diem author was saying she isn’t happy … just that there are moments (like in Target, and yes, it is hard to manage 3 kids and shop at the same time, and yes, I go by myself as often as I can) that aren’t that much fun at the time they are happening and there is no reason to feel guilty about that. I actually love for the older ladies at the store to tell me to enjoy it, because it allows me to stop for a moment and have that kairos. But when Casey is antagonizing Reed and making him cry for the 20th time in a day … yeah, I don’t enjoy dealing with that. It’s part of sibling dynamics, and it is my job to referee, but it sucks. It doesn’t mean I’m not overall happy as hell with my life, though. :)

    • admin says:

      Thanks for commenting! I totally get that I am a parenting lightweight, having only one kid, and even made the observation to myself that there’s actually only one other person I know of in my circle of friends/acquaintances that has one kid and doesn’t work fulltime out of the house. So, yeah, I have it easy and I am lucky–for now! I have a little anxiety about doing the juggle of fulltime office work and being a mom someday, as I pretty much expect will be in my future, and I guess that makes me savor this time even more

  6. Laurie Mathis says:

    I so totally agree with you! I equate it all to perspective. The moments that Glennon describes as chronos moments are actually kairos moments for a lot of parents. Whether a child is getting into mischief, having a temper tantrum, or demanding my attention, parents can lovingly see a child who needs guidance and love. Kairos time: magical moments in which time stands still. Whether the child is a sweet angel or a raging preschooler, these moments are magical. Therefore, changing perspective from the child is annoying or **being bad** to the child is simply acting like a child– and with your attention, patience, and love, the perspective then changes.

    I am not panicky or paranoid (as Glennon stated) about capturing every second– I just pay attention. I am not cynical about parenting like Glennon. I have noticed that some parents are happy-go-lucky, enjoying the special times with their kids and dealing with the challenging times as they arise. These parents are excited to share experiences with their child and take extra efforts to participate in their child’s life. When obstacles happen such as temper tantrums or poor behavior, the incident is dealt with and the parent moves on. Then there are some parents who are always focused on getting the child to a babysitter or to a nap or to the grandparents– seems they are always trying to find time away. These parents groan when school is out and applaud the days their kid(s) go back. The key is BALANCE. And if the BALANCE is out of whack, the perspective is out of whack too. And thus you get the perspective of the panicky and paranoid parent (Glennon) who is questioning their ability to parent and counting the hours until their child goes to bed. So with perspective, one must have balance. AND what your balance is may be completely different to another person’s balance.

    I noticed with some of the comments to Glennon’s piece that the parents that enjoy every second are the parents who have faced adversity or challenges with parenting: a woman who couldn’t get pregnant that finally conceived, a man who has gone through the wringer in a bad divorce… does it take a bad situation for someone with Glennon’s perspective to finally see how to CARPE DIEM? Is it that Glennon’s balance is tilted more toward herself; therefore, her needs are as important or more important than the child’s? So in the case of the Target scenario where her child shop lifted and interfered with a customer’s financial transactions, Glennon was more concerned about how the situation effected HER (ie: she’s tired, doesn’t want to deal) than to lovingly handle the child and find humor in the situation? That incident could most certainly be a kairos moment!

    I DO try to soak up every second. I DO try to capture every single moment. Time already has flown in the first 5 years… and I have seized the day since the day she came into this world. I do my best to make a positive impact on my child’s life– and to appreciate all she has to offer. I pay attention to what she has to say, what her observations are, how she feels, what she sees. My perspective is that I am a parent– and parenting takes being selfless. I am not needing “me” time away from my child– there was plenty of that time before my child and there will be plenty of time after she’s grown. Right now is the time for me to be a PARENT, giving of my time & energy and focusing on her best interest.

    Does that mean I ignore my needs? Certainly no. But I am not hurrying to get her to bed because she had an emotional day. And I am not oblivious to what she’s doing, allowing her to shop lift as well as interfere with a shopper’s financial transaction. I am in tune with what my child needs– and I love it. I, first and foremost, am a parent.

    I don’t wish away those moments or feel the time is dragging OR count the hours until she goes to bed. Quite the contrary! I can’t wait until she gets up in the morning to start our next adventure. I enjoy seeing her eyes light up when we experience something new. I relish hearing her creative stories about life. I adore her questions and innocence about the world. And I even chuckle inside when she gets aggravated when she can’t figure out to wear, writes her name on the walls & furniture, and refuses to eat the way I did at that age. Sure, I take a firm stance and guide her to the proper reactions, actions, and responses BUT I cherish the moments of being able to have the HONOR of being the PARENT of this child… I am humbled that I have been BESTOWED THE RESPONSIBILITY of raising this child.

    Another comment about Glennon is that she compared parenting to an excruciating physical activity (climbing Mt. Everest). Again, her perspective of parenting is not favorable or positive. Parenting is not a pain-staking and agonizing challenge that very few people are successful at completing! Heavens no! Parenting is quite the opposite. Reverse the Mt. Everest scenario and you have parenting. The climb is highly enjoyable and magical. And with unconditional love and patience, countless parents are successful.

    I have tired days. I have grumpy days. I have sick days. BUT my patience and PERSPECTIVE to parenting doesn’t change. I am determined to give my child the best I can, and I will seize the day– EVERY ONE OF THEM– and soak in every single moment.

    Anyhoooooooooooo, I concur with your sentiments. Keep on writing! Cheers :) )

    • admin says:

      Thank you for commenting! I agree that BALANCE is so critical, and I think your comment added an interesting facet to this that I didn’t emphasize enough and only touched on when I was saying people should be “present” for the Target meltdowns…and that is what you said about embracing the difficult patches too, maybe admiring the child’s headstrongness as a sign of them developing their personality and preferences, or letting yourself be dazzled at the carefreeness of their messmaking.

  7. Kara says:

    Actually, I think you missed the biggest point of the article by turning around and doing exactly what the piece was about–looking at someone’s life from the outside and feeling compelled to give an unsolicited opinion about the state of that person’s life.

    The people whose kids are grown who come up to you in the store and say, “Oh, it goes by so fast. Love every minute,” are trying to say, “I’ve been where you are, and I know it was hard, but I miss it now.” But, you know what? They don’t miss it really. They miss the best parts–like we all do when we get to thinking about the one who got away. They remember the Kairos and they forget the Chronos, and telling someone to “love every minute” is their way of saying, “I made the choices that you’ve made and if I’d known then how much I’d cherish the good bits, I wouldn’t have let the daily slog of it all get to me so much.” But you can’t give a stranger your own hard-won insight. It’s like trying to get your girlfriend to break up with the skeevy guy who treats her like dirt. It’s easy to see what’s important when you aren’t in the thick of it.

    If you, Gretchen, don’t get bogged down by picking up the laundry that you just re-folded before you turned your back for five minutes and the little darlings dumped it out and flung it all over the room…again, or scrubbing the crayon marks off the walls…again, well, more power to the power of your positive thinking. But I think I speak for many more mothers who really appreciate having someone say out loud what I actually think it has become trendy to deny: a majority of the day of a mother of young children is spent in unpleasant drudgery and self-doubt, and it doesn’t help to receive insight and advice from people who are convinced we will one day regret cherishing the time spent soaking up urine from the wall-to-wall.

  8. oilandgarlic says:

    I’m glad that you acknowledge that it’s easier to enjoy parenthood with one child (vs. 2 or more) and staying home. Like you, most people I know either work or stay home once there’s more than 1. It’s a lot more to handle!

    Anyway, even with work and 2 kids, I do feel that I’m able to enjoy. My secret is to take time-out moments where I just play and watch the kids play, in between doing tons of laundry on the weekends!

  9. [...] SAHMs who would say that they have more time than those working, so my theory is based on reading blogs and personal observation.  When I’m off on weekdays, I run into calm-looking moms strolling [...]

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