Sunday, January 8, 2012

Moms Under the Influence

"Well maybe you should just put your kids up for adoption and get a goldfish instead!"

Over the holidays, as we caught up with loved ones and talked about our plans for the new year, we let our friends know that my career break (which had been so enthusiastically welcomed by the crowd) is coming to an end and I'm gearing up to return to work.  Let's just say not everyone is keen on the idea.

And I can handle that - mostly.

The comment above was an obvious tease from someone I love.  I laughed politely.  Ha ha ha ha!  But hours later, I found myself wondering, preposterously, if maybe I shouldn't be going back to work yet?  Even though I am excited - like, really excited, about rejoining the working world.  Luckily I caught it, and was able to link the thought to the comment and discard it. I haven't always been able to do that.

I haven't always been clear on my choices as a working parent.  I gain a lot from exploring the topic.  But not all of it is helpful.  Sorting through the masses of opinion to pinpoint your own can be a bit of a minefield, especially for new moms in demanding fields.  For anyone with even a hint of conflict, the opinions of others can be as tempting and treacherous as forbidden fruit.

Much has been said of the influence mothers have.  Aren't we collectively responsible for the future of therapy as an industry?   As parents, as consumers, as a voting block, moms are an influential group.

But what about all the things that influence us?  Whether we are aware of it or not, we are influenced by a barrage of information and opinion from the media, advertisers, bloggers, online communities and friends, families, and of course, most powerfully of all, our own mothers.

Judith Warner's 2006 book, "Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety" in part recaps an exhausting history of dominating opinions about where and how mothers should fit into society and the socio-political factors that have ebbed and flowed over the last century and longer.  And how often, the attitudes of a generation of mothers is driven by the desire to avoid the perceived misery of the mothers before them, whether that was being stuck at home, or working full time.  Reading it you can't help but feel like a little bit of a chump for falling for any of it.  What a frustrating relief to find that generations of women have.  How liberating to recognize when the noise is, well, just noise.

How do you filter out the noise?  And what are some of the soundbites that have rattled you the most?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Relapsing vs. Relaxing Resolutions

It seems this New Year's I have accomplished one of my most important resolutions without even noticing it.

That illusive goal to Lighten Up.

Because more often than not, 'chilling out' seems to get lost at the end of the year when we look backwards and forwards and think about all the coulda, shoulda, wouldas, and lament the fact that so many of the things we aimed to accomplish in the past year go straight back on the list again.

And then to contradict all of that, always on my list, is to let go a little more, and sweat the bullshit less.

This year, I didn't engage in any of that. I think I forgot to.

Perhaps all that Who Cares! is finally sinking in.  Maybe I am just getting old and complacent.  Or is it possible that I am also, at long last, on my good days, finding the serenity to accept the things I cannot change (gasp!), the courage to change the things I can (shudder!), and the (really?) wisdom to know the damn difference.

I've discussed accepting the things you cannot change - but what of that courage?

I only realized my lack of resolutions when I saw this post from New Jersey CASA: "Working on that New Year's Resolution - why not give your time to a child this year and become a CASA Volunteer [?]"  Because for years I had wanted to become a CASA advocate but was afraid to do so - mainly fearing that I wouldn't have enough time.  It is just the kind of post that would have simultaneously crushed and motivated an earlier me. This year it has been six years since I took my training, and 4 years since I took my case, and two years since joining as a trustee of the Essex County organization.  I am deeply engaged in my work with CASA and this post reminded me again of how much fulfilment it brings.

So even though I have an acre-long to do list, a house in disarray, am drinking a glass of wine for no reason on a Wednesday night and just booked my son's birthday party two full weeks after the fact - I am using the time that I do have on things that are most important to me.   And I am squandering the little time that I do have messing around on the internet and blogging rubbish into the worldwide inter-web-o-sphere when I should be focussed and accomplishing more.  But you know what? I am otherwise at peace with my priorities.

So it turns out for me that the way to get rid of resolutions is to tackle the biggest ones and let the rest go.  I quit my job, in a terrible economy, to take a break and find one I could enjoy more.  I started a blog.  I volunteer my time on the things I care most about.  So pesky things like checking my phone too often, piles of clutter, a few extra pounds or being occasionally judgemental don't seem all that important afterall.

What recurring resolution keeps coming back at you?  What's really holding you back?