Friday, September 30, 2011

Real Food, The Working Mother and The Mid Life Crisis

Welcome to my mid-life crisis! I am glad that you decided to join me, if at least for just a moment. Don’t be afraid, these things aren’t contagious. So let's get cozy.

Actually I am uncomfortable in labeling this as a mid life crisis because that means I would die by 64. And that seems too young. And a quarter life crisis also seems too weird because that means I would live to be 128. And that is way way way too long. I think I would like to go between 80 and 90, preferably quietly and on my own terms. But now I am way off topic.

I have had a mid/ quarter-life crisis before. The year before I met DH I had just graduated from college with a degree that wasn’t going to get me really anywhere. I was working as a retail store manager and I imagined trying on every hat to figure out the direction of my life. I had been exposed to very little and didn’t know what the inside of an office looked like at all, much less what someone in ‘marketing’ or ‘finance’ really did. Every hat felt awkward or required more schooling and with every path eliminated I felt more discouraged. I felt sure that this weird period of my life was a one time deal. Once I got on the right road I have been on a straight and path since then, work, get married, buy a place to live, move beyond an entry level position, have kids, continue to grow a career. The path has been deliberate and thoughtful, yet not so creative or even all that distinctive.

But there are things about having children that change everything. I read an article recently that showed that women tend to peak in their careers just before they have children. The article may have been specific to finances. Perhaps certain mothers' gains are offset by others who drop out of the job market completely. Perhaps others seek out other employment that allows them a better quality of life with fewer hours and a lower salary. I don’t think the study went into any great depth. Either way, having kids makes working more complicated. Be it time off for school in-service days, stomach bugs or just the old, ‘I gotta run before my daycare turns my kids over to ACS’, there are countless things about being a parent that make one less desirable as an employee. So if one wants to shine, one often has to work harder to get more accomplished in less time, be crafty with one’s schedule, and all around be more organized to get everything done.

Lately I have been feeling like a doll whose two arms are made out of one long piece of rope or yarn. You pull on the doll’s left arm and the right arm goes short. If you pull on the right arm, the left arm goes short. These days everytime I reach to put out some new fire I end up dropping some other ball that I was juggling. Surely the transition to school has been the culprit. It has only added to our routine and made things harder for everyone. I know the kids are getting less sleep than before. For someone like me, type A ever-so-slightly-lazy-overachiever all the extra drama has been unnerving. Cooking real food after so much work and commuting with toddlers is almost too much. If my kids would eat any of the local take out, I’d probably call in at least once a week. Since they don’t like Indian Korma, leftovers and hotdogs (the farmer’s market ones) have become an easy weeknight dinner. Blogging has become tough. And my recent slow traffic has me reminded that I only will get out of this what I put into it. In fact, as I am stretched so thin, I am coming to that conclusion about virtually everything.

Upon examining my life, I want to do so much more. I see my career and I want to be better, smarter and more capable. I see my kids and I want to be more involved in their daily lives, keep up with their latest assignments and get to know other parents in the school. I see this blog and I want to drive traffic to the site, participate in every blog hop that will have me and possibly turn it into a book to help other working moms. But thus far I seem squished by the enormity of it all. And all I can see through my glasses are the ‘Meet the Teacher’ events that I have missed, the late running trains, the overly emotional drop offs and the projects that I wish I was suggesting to my boss rather than the other way around. Why is it that trying to push oneself to get more done often has the opposite effect? Why does it seem sometimes that my kids make me a worse employee and my job makes me a worse parent? Six weeks ago I felt like I was balancing both fairly well and managing to continue my hobby, this blog, in my spare time. Today all I see is my shortcomings.

That would be enough to meditate on, until it hit me. The future of my career, this blog and my being a parent relies solely on me. I must have the vision to create this next step of my life. I always had a vision of what my twenties and early thirties would look like. And I have a good idea of what I want my fifties and sixties to look like. But these meaty years of raising kids and getting them to turn into functioning adults, my thirties and forties, I really don’t know what I think they ought to look like. And after waking up at 5am to run and pack bags, my brain isn’t operating in visionary territory. It is barely in functioning territory.

We are limited by the hours in the day and the simple laws of physics. No matter how rich or well connected you are, you only get 24 hours in each day and you can only be in one place at a time. Perhaps someone might tell me to get organized, do some tasks the night before or wake up 15 minutes earlier. But since making our huge tranisition I have had over an hour's worth of chores to do each night, packing lunches, dishes, laundry or making kefir. I have always believed that drive, hard work and sheer sweat would be enough to carry me through even the most trying times. Today I am saddened because I think I finally hit the outer limits of my capabilities. I am now evaluating what I have to give up rather than how to work smarter. I am finally living the stereotype of the stressed out working mother.

My conclusion? We are too busy. Most of us are. Our culture expects us to be on the go. And many of us have to be super busy in order to pay rent or mortgages. So where do we cut corners? We don't clean house every night (or even on the weekends sometimes), we skip errands, and we phone in dinner. It is so easy for a blogger, food author, editorialist or politican to slam the average citizen for not eating better. 'People need to be more responsibile and cook more! They should show some initiative and take care of their families!!', they cry as though the problem is as simple as laziness. I am far from lazy, yet I have recently found myself going to bed without dinner because I am too tired to cook anything. Is this really what we expect of the average citizen?

This should be the part of the post where I suggest that everyone take on less and get back to the land or nature. But I am obligated to the modern world. I gotta make this work. Five acres in the country and homeschooling just isn't in the plan for me. Do I ever make it sound easy? I hope I never do. And if you are trying to do the same in balancing work, kids and real food, well, kudos to you. I truly believe that it is worth the extra effort.

This post is shared with Fight Back Fridays


  1. You are not alone in your struggles. There are lots of us working moms with not enough time to get it all done. You should see the cobwebs going on in my corners right now :) I try and prioritize that looong list. Drawing with the kids after school - a must - before anything else. Even though I don't really have the time this is a great way for us to reconnect after a hectic day. You just have to let some things go. It's ok.

  2. I agree! I try to keep a healthy balance but it is virtually impossible! My house is messier than it should be, and not decorated as beautifully as you see on all the blogs, dinner is still in the freezer and I don't remember the last craft I made, oh, and my career? well, it has seen better days but I continue to plug along. It is what it is...that has become my new mantra...hopefully I make peace with it instead of beating myself up.

  3. I have actually been feeling like this myself alot lately. It didn't fix everything, but a couple of weeks ago, I decided to make the next month's worth of food in one day to keep in the freezer. I had been considering it for a while and I gotta say, It was one of the best decisions I have made in a really long time. It will definitely become my monthly routine. It has really freed up a ton of time in the evenings. I still have to thaw and cook each meal, but without any prep work and less dishes to clean up, it's crazy how much time I have saved myself! I froze enough for each meal to feed us for dinner and our lunches the next day. After we are done eating, I pack up our lunches with the rest! I actually posted about it last week if you are interested, it might give you some ideas and I guarantee if you try it you won't regret it! I get to spend alot more time playing with my daughter now in the evening and have been able to check off alot more things from my to do list!