Seeking Balance: A Parenting Myth

GUEST POST from Kelly at Beer and Junk. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

Author’s Note: This post originally Appeared in the Emmetsburg Democrat and Reporter in March of 2014. We no longer have an 8 month old son with a saturated diaper. We have an almost 3 year old son who refuses to wear underwear and craps on the floor. My apologies for the confusion.

The most recent issue of Health magazine arrived in my mailbox last week, with the headline: Alison Sweeney and Her Super Balanced Life! Allison Sweeny is an actress, host of The Biggest Loser and star of the soap opera, Days of Our Lives. She also has two children, a husband who works full time as a state patrolman and has written two novels, one of which was written in half hour increments while her children did their homework.

I have a hard time believing that Alison Sweeney’s life is super balanced. I’m guessing that it took a lot of make-up, forgiving lighting and some very creative journalism to make it appear that way for this particular article. And I would put money on the fact that when the interview was over, there were five text messages from her son who forgot his homework in the car, two missed calls from her agent regarding a contract change, and one voice mail from her husband saying that an accident on the 101 was going to keep him at the office late and could she possibly pick up the kids from soccer.

Alison Sweeney, Hollywood actress, gets paid to tell you all about her super balanced life, but let’s pretend for a minute that Alison Sweeney is your best friend. What Alison Sweeney, BFF, would tell you- when the cameras are off and the two of you are sitting in a quiet cafĂ© drinking lattes… no scratch that- when the two of you are on the phone three states apart respectively chugging sugar free Redbull and reheated coffee while simultaneously putting away groceries, feeding the dog, and translating algebra homework- is that her life is bat crap crazy.

And that is ok. I’m convinced that seeking balance has simply become another way of chasing perfectionism. We continue to believe that if we could only make our lives more balanced in the multitude of ways thrown at us in the media- Less Caffeine! More Yoga! Work Less, Play More! Declutter! Detox! Destress!– we would be happy. “Balance” may have become a popular buzzword, but it is incredibly over rated.

My life is not simply unbalanced, it is saturated. Occasionally it is saturated like my eight month old son’s diaper, when I have to realize that I simply cannot cram one more thing into my schedule, no matter how economically fantastic it may be to make homemade laundry detergent. Most often though,it is saturated like the perfect color of burnt orange paint on the living room walls of our first home; a color that both took over the room and yet somehow made all of its lovely details- the newly refinished hardwood floors, coved ceilings, and intricate woodwork- stand out in contrast. Balance simply can’t compare to the sense of accomplishment that rises up out of chaos, the creativity found hiding among the mess, and the sheer joy of doing everything you love, all at once.

And now if you will excuse me I need to run to the store, we seem to be out of baby formula and Red Bull.

The Night Sky

This week, as I walked the dog through my suburban neighborhood, I gazed up into the night sky to what seemed like an infinite number of stars spread out in haphazard fashion. It was as if someone took a large container, shook it, and twirled around and around peppering the heavens with glittering, wondrous lumonsity. I imagined Jackson Pollock filling his paintbrush with yellow stars, and frenetically splattering--the sky his empty canvas. I was delighted at first. I recalled moments of first love, wet grass under tippy toes, on a humid July night. I had glanced up into the same night sky filled with hope and longing for the future, staring into the eyes of a would-be soul mate who would never play such a role.

I Am Not The Person I Thought I Would Be. Are You?

I am standing in my kitchen wiping the counter tops when the first wave hits. It is a moment of sheer panic, frightening in its ability to stop me. The crippling seconds are a monster I have only recently discovered. Piles of papers glare at me from underneath the microwave, the broken dishwasher lies dormant beckoning me to call a plumber and have it fixed, the linoleum bathroom floor is peeling in a conspicuous spot directly by the door. I cannot hide it in a closet or throw it in a drawer as I do with so many other things lately.

"Fix me," the house screams as I break out into a cold sweat. I cannot move, but if I could I would brush every last bit of paper into the trash without thought, pound on the dishwasher with a sledge hammer or a meat mallet (a more likely find), and tear up the bathroom floor. My immobility is a blessing then, at least I can't ruin the house filled with flaws and reminders of my inability to be the adult that I had always hoped I would be. 

And there it is, the truth, the confession, one I am not even sure I was aware of: I am NOT who I wanted to be. I am the woman in the kitchen who has forgotten how to care for herself. I am the woman who never built a foundation so now I float in the puffy clouds, which while beautiful, actually have the potential to suffocate me. After attempting to sit down, I begin the list in my head. Having always been a list maker this seems both reasonable and comforting to me. Who am I? I need to answer that question before I can figure out how to become who I want to be. 

I am a 41 year old mother of four. I am an introverted 41 year old mother of four with few friends. I am a 41 year old cashier at a grocery store with a Masters Degree. I am a 41 year old woman with varicose veins, a lazy eye and a sour disposition. I have no career. I have never built that. I have no idea what I'm doing. I am angry. I am sad. I am disappointed. The list is made. I am all these things. But, I find myself wondering, am I only these things? 

I begin the list again. The list must be revised, I realize, because it is not entirely right. Things are missing. 

I am a 41 year old mother of four who was abandoned by her parents and now needs to be with her children as much as possible. I am a 41 year old mother of four who works at a grocery store because it allows me to spend the days with my kids. I am a 41 year old mother of four who is writing a book and is teaching her children to follow their dreams even when life has told them they are too old, or too impractical. I am a 41 year old woman with a family I love and a house with a peeling bathroom floor and other defects. It matches me in its imperfection, but it is comfortable and big enough and it is home. It is a place where memories are made and I am thankful.  

I am a fighter for the underdog, the misfit, the truth (even when it hurts) teller, the introvert who sometimes enjoys the company of others.  I am a 41 year old with veins in legs that work and are strong, and eyes that while lazy are able to watch my children change from day to day. I am a 41 year old woman who has lived 11 years longer than the mother, my mother, who didn't get this far. The mother who never had a house with flaws, or a marriage that she worked hard on, or children who counted on her, and knew her. The mother who could never truly be a mother because she succumbed to an addiction she couldn't fight. 

I am so many things I realize as I mentally refine my list. Fine, I am NOT the person I thought I would be. But maybe that's okay. Maybe it's time to stop comparing and being envious. Maybe it's time to embrace the life I have, instead of the life I thought that I was supposed to. No, I am NOT the person I thought I would be. Are any of us? Does life even allow for that? I am NOT that person. Instead, I am this one. I am a flawed, imperfect dreamer. I am all the things that I need to be. Maybe you are too. 

The Vag Gadge--Getting Personal with an FUD

I can't believe the things people come up with. Recently, after my rant about Period Panteez, a friend of mine tossed a gem my way. The Female Urination Device (FUD, yes FUD) or STP (stand-to-pee device, no I'm not making this shit up) offers ladies the ability to stand while peeing, or to piss like a guy.

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