How Did My Mother Do It?

I know I’m not unique in this feeling but can I just say that I often feel like a failure as a mother. I realize this is perhaps our generation’s invention and that we clearly have too much free time or guilt on our hands because in the grand scheme of things, who cares as long as our kids are happy, healthy, and alive?

But I honestly feel constantly torn because how I’m raising my kids seems markedly different from the way I was raised. For sure, a lot for the better (see lack of abusive father), but a lot not necessarily so. I realize most of us parents (but particularly mothers) feel like we’re failing because we compare ourselves so much to one another. So much so that this crushing sense of failure is completely fabricated in our own minds. Plus, most of it is perspective and seeing only part of someone’s life.

For instance, some people actually think I’m a Tiger Mom when in reality, I am far from it. I mean, by the time I was Cookie Monster’s age, I could already read, write, do addition, subtraction, knew my times tables, had played piano for a year, and could ride a bike. Cookie Monster can do none of those things. (Although, I suppose he can read and write over a hundred Chinese characters so that’s something. And now that I think on it, he can do very basic addition.)

I mean, compared to my own mother, I am a million miles behind already.

Also, I really don’t know how we eat.

I don’t go out to eat often with the kids so I must be feeding them something, but what exactly, I’m not sure. I buy a lot of fruit and snacks from Costco but not produce because although I hate the idea of frozen vegetables, I hate throwing away money even more. And when I buy produce, I really should save myself the extra step and throw my money into the trash can directly.

I feel conflicted because when I was growing up, my mother worked full time and yet still managed to come home and cook a Chinese meal of rice, soup, and at least 4-5 other dishes. I’m lucky if I can make pasta and dump ready-made sauce on everything.

It’s not even that I can’t cook. I can. I actually cook rather well. It’s just that I’m SO LAZY. And why cook when my kids will just refuse it anyway?

But I feel bad because food is such a huge part of culture and my kids aren’t getting much Chinese/Taiwanese culture this way (except when we go back to Taiwan – hmmm… clearly, another trip should be in the works, right??). Are my kids’ fond memories of food really going to be quesodillas and nuggets? This makes me want to cry.

But I really am SO lazy. So I make quick and easy and 80% guaranteed chance of eating type foods. And I make a lot of hearty soups. Not my mom’s – or white people’s – but some random hodgepodge. It tastes reasonably good, I guess. (But apparently, I make it too often because Cookie Monster really hates repeating meals. Little punk.)

Sigh.

My stomach is SO SAD.

I know I wrote last time about how it was a royal PITA getting Cookie Monster’s kindergarten registration stuff ready. How did my mom stay on top of this crap BEFORE the internet? I barely got it together and everything was online!

Did I mention that my mother worked full time? Sure, we had a nanny briefly, or a child care provider, but from when I was 9-10 years old, we were home alone. We were very independent and I could make rice, cook basic foods, and we watched hours of TV (with no ill effects), didn’t see much of our mom (who was for all intents and purposes, a single mom supporting us on her own without any monetary support from my dad while he was wasting our family’s money and fucking his way through Taiwan, but I digress) but I never felt deprived.

Somehow, she managed a career, our education, piano lessons, Chinese school, church, food, art lessons, horseback riding lessons, tennis, speed reading classes, and who knows what else, PLUS the daily task of keeping a household. ALL BEFORE CELL PHONES AND THE INTERNET!! AND THE INTERNET ON CELL PHONES!!

FFS, I’m a SAHM and other than preschool, my kids have no lessons. I can barely clean my house and feed my kids. WTF IS WRONG WITH ME?

AND HOW THE FUCK DID SHE DO IT?

My mom was a motherfucking Rock Star.

Did Our Parents Freak Out, Too?

So, ever since I became a parent, it has amazed me that my parents – particularly my mother, did all the activities that they did with us. We went cherry-picking, went to Taiwan, went on tons of trips to national parks in CA and the western half of the US, had tons of lessons, etc. – and all BEFORE the internet with English as their second language. I don’t know how they did it.

I’m taking the kids to Taiwan in exactly two weeks and I’m terrified. I’m going to a place where though I am fluent enough in speaking, I am functionally illiterate (unless you think having a first grade reading vocabulary is impressive). I will have three small kids under 5 – two of whom have food allergies – mostly by myself. My mom is going with us for a week so we can visit family, and Hapa Papa will be going the last week, but for about 3-4 weeks, it’s my one adult against three. My good friend with her three kids are also going to be with us, but the ratio of adult:children will still be the same.

We are going to be outnumbered. In a foreign country. I am terrified.

I know we’ll be fine. It’s just that I’ve never done this before on this scale and it’s a bit overwhelming to think of all the stuff I have to get ready and then do. I am comforted by the fact that even though I’ll be sticking Cookie Monster and Gamera in a Taiwanese preschool all day, five days a week for four weeks, (this is WAY more school than they are doing now), kids are resilient and they’ll be fine. My friend is doing the same with her older two kids (our kids will be in the same classes), and we will each have our youngest babies with us all day to eat and play through Taipei. My mouth is already salivating in anticipation.

We rented a nice apartment through airbnb.com and I am very excited to pretend to be a grown up and fake living in Taipei for five weeks. I have to tell myself it will be fine. The things I do for Mandarin Immersion. (The kicker? After paying about $10k for the trip and related expenses such as food, lodging, and tuition, my children will be getting two hours of English instruction and European history every morning at this school. Irony, you bastard!)

I WILL BE FINE.

But whenever these types of events occur to me, I always wonder if my parents felt the same way when they confronted new or tough situations. They always seemed as if they had their shit together. (Other than the marriage bit, but even then, it was my normal so I guess I thought they knew what they were doing.)

I mean, my mom pretty much raised my brother and I as a single mom – without any help from my dad monetarily – but she had support from her family and through our church. And I suppose when you are in a crappy situation with two young children, you just have to grin and bear it and somehow get to work, provide care for your children, and get through one day at a time.

It just occurred to me that I could possibly ask my mom how she felt during this time, but that would be CRAZY. Ah well. I hope that my own kids think that I know what I’m doing and that they can’t smell fear. When they’re older with kids of their own, I can tell them that I was terrified and didn’t know what I was doing. They better tell me they had no idea.

What about you? Do you plan things for yourself or your family that you’re terrified of but still really want to do? How do you deal with it? How did it turn out? Let me know in the comments.

Sometimes Showing Up Is All You Can Do

Lately I have been having a hard time writing posts. It’s not that I am out of things to say (although that certainly is a minor worry of mine), it is more that I do not feel inspired nor inclined to put in the mental effort of crafting thoughts into a coherent and interesting piece.

A tiny and ever increasing little voice in my head seduces with words like, “Why don’t you take a break? This isn’t work or anything important. Who gets hurt if you don’t post? What’s the big deal? It’s just for fun. Just skip today. Or a few days until you get back in the mood to post.”

I want to listen to this voice.

Currently, another, louder, more insistent voice is holding a slight edge. “Get up,” she urges. “If you give in now, it will be easier to give in the next day and the next. Pretty soon, you’ll blink and it will be months from now – maybe even years! Then it will be even HARDER to continue writing. And you want to write, don’t you? So get your ass up and write something. Anything. Even if it’s crap.”

So here I am. There is a post for today.

Writing on this blog three days a week is part of my goals for the year – one small goal in a series of goals I’ve set for myself. True, nothing bad will happen if I don’t do it. But that’s like most things we want or work towards in life, right? But then again, if I do nothing, nothing I WANT will happen, either.

I used to believe many lies about art and creating art. Shoot, it doesn’t have to be art – it could be anything (like getting in shape, studying, a career). I erroneously thought that art required inspiration and without inspiration, it would be hack work. That anything that was “forced” and didn’t come in a flurry or an immediate “in the zone” effect was worthless because it required effort – and True Art was supposed to be effortless. Furthermore, not only was art supposed to be effortless, it was supposed to come out perfect right out the gate. (While we’re talking about stupid art myths, how about we add the “tortured artist” to the list?)

What a load of tripe. (Mmmm… tripe.)

Most art and anything worth attaining is acquired by hard work. Yes, talent has some say in the matter, but talent can only get a person so far. (A post for another day.) And sometimes, the hardest part is overcoming inertia and just showing up and hacking away until you press pass a block. Maybe the block will last a minute. Maybe it will last years. But unless you show up, putting in the time, pounding out words (in my case), IF and WHEN inspiration strikes, you might not be in the place (talent or expertise-wise) to take advantage.

I highly recommend reading Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles (Amazon affiliate link). Here’s a sample:

Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance…Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.

This book wormed its way into my brain and I am glad. It helps add fuel to the voice which urges me on, pushing me past the dreaded blank page. “Want to be a writer? Then write.”

So here is my exhortation for you this Monday: Want to be a writer/programmer/analyst/consultant/parent/musician/runner/etc.? Then write/program/analyze/consult/parent/compose/run.

Somehow, it always comes back to this for me: Fake it til you make it.