Being Invisible

“So, what do you ladies do?” The hairy, overly tanned middle-aged white man asked.

My friend, Laney, and I had been busy chatting in the hot tub on our last day together when Bob*, with the self-importance only a middle-aged white man can project, interjected and proceeded to monologue for the next 45 minutes wherein our sole purpose was to murmur sweet, appreciative assents while we seethed yet somehow were trapped in societal expectations and did not extricate ourselves. After all, we were there first! Why should we be forced to move? And yet, who was the big loser in this encounter? Us.

I am still pissed about this.

Anyhow, Bob had now moved on from what he thought about himself and was now, however briefly, willing to share the spotlight with one of us.

“What do you do?” he asked again as Laney and I hesitated. Do we engage more? Do we reply in a way to seem interesting? Or do we reply in such a way as to shut down conversation?

I knew what I would do.

“I’m a stay at home mom,” I said.

I watched as the interest in his eyes died before I even finished speaking the words. He turned immediately to Laney

I was uncertain whether I was relieved or furious that he did exactly as I had ensured. Hadn’t I answered in this way so that he would dismiss me and my life? So that I could deflect and not have to endure him any more than I had to?

And yet. And yet.

Every now and then when I think about my life, I think how it is the perfect NOC (non-official cover for those of you not in the know) for spies, cons, and surveillance personnel. After all, there is nothing more nondescript than a mother with her children. No one expects them to be anything but what they are – which is innocuous background noise (at least, until one of those kids has a very public meltdown).

We blend. We are scenery. We disappear.

Today, I walked into a cafe without my usual coterie of babies and for a brief second, I made eye contact with a man sitting at the counter. My mind wandered to where it normally wanders in a split second. I wondered, what would I be like now if I were single? Would I still be attractive? Desirable?

When I meet men now, do they even see me? Or do they only see my SAHM uniform of sweats, unwashed face and hair, long sleeve tee, thick ugly socks, and double-wrapped scarf?

And why does it matter?

Every time I ask Hapa Papa if he is ever worried I will have an affair, he always laughs. Not unkindly, mind you. But still. He laughs.

Nothing is as flattering as your husband laughing at the idea of you having an affair because who would want to have an illicit affair with someone encumbered with three small, young children?

Hapa Papa sure knows how to make a woman feel desirable. Sorry, ladies. He’s taken.

Incidentally, this is not a post to elicit reassurances from my lovely and dear friends.

Lately, I wonder if I ever felt as if I were visible or if it is solely a consequence of my current identity. Did I ever feel as if I owned a place? Secure with my place in the world? My role? My identity?

Or is this merely another manifestation of feeling as if amazing and I are mutually exclusive states of being?

Whatever the reason, I’m done. 2016, you’ve been warned. And you’ll see me coming.

 

*Not his real name. Or it could be. I have no idea. I’m still pissed off about it but I forgot his name in its entirety.

Radical Self-Care

So last week, after I cleaned my laundry room and cleared my kitchen table (I would post a pic but I fear jinxing the situation), and then doing and folding several loads of laundry, I was exhausted. I think I also cooked most of our meals. (Hapa Papa couldn’t figure out whose house he was living in but he wasn’t complaining.) By the end of last week, I was tired, cranky, and barely homeschooled Cookie Monster.

I went into my session with Dr. T feeling defeated and bleh and annoyed with myself.

want to be an excellent homeschooling parent, keep my home clean/neat, and cook good, nutritious meals for my family. But I often feel as if I can only have one, or maybe max out at two of these desires. So, because this week I cleaned and then cooked, I sucked at homeschooling. Like, totally blanked out. I’m surprised Cookie Monster learned anything at all last week. Especially after I yelled at him several times while working with him on math and piano.

I remember back in May, Dr. T asked me what would nurture me and give me life. I had no idea and as a result, got really sad, feeling as if I were no longer a person.

When I think of things that I assume should bring me life such as going on Mothers’ Night Out, hanging out with my friends, running off to the spa and getting massages or pedicures, reading, or watching TV, they are things that I enjoy, but don’t really give me life.

To me, all these activities are escapes. They are my alcohol or drug. I flee my home but come back more exhausted (usually due to staying up too late and not having the energy to take care of my kids and then feeling shitty about that). They don’t actually solve any of my problems.

Then, Dr. T told me something that in retrospect, seems so obvious. Also, suspiciously “easy.”

She told me that for me, self-care would be when I chose not to stay up late to finish a book in one sitting and instead, retired at a more reasonable hour so that I wouldn’t be tired the next morning. Self-care would be when I chose to communicate with Hapa Papa and let him have moments to rest so that I wouldn’t feel guilty about being an entitled prat. Self-care would be when I chose to go through the mail every day and pay bills immediately rather than have mail stack up for months and years at a time. Self-care would be when I chose to walk away from my kids when I feel like I’m going to explode and scream at them for whatever ridiculous reason at the time.

Self-care looked nothing like what I thought it did. And also, seemed semi-doable once I stopped freaking out about doing the self-care “right.”

After some thought, here then, are some things that I can do to make myself feel nurtured and cared for:

1) In order to not feel guilty all the time regarding feeling entitled to tons of free time and shunting the brunt of house and childcare onto Hapa Papa, I will:

– Let Hapa Papa sleep in and I will take the morning shift on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. (Currently, he lets me sleep in every morning unless he is out traveling or needs to be in the office early.)

– Check in with Hapa Papa to make sure he’s doing okay. (I know, I know. It’s weird to actually communicate – but apparently, that is what people do in marriages.)

– Thank Hapa Papa and choose to be grateful for all that he does rather than feel entitled to his kindness and easy-going attitude.

2) Eat regularly (such as breakfast).

– This includes making simple but nutritious food for my family on a more regular basis (we’re talking rice/noodles + meat + veg + fruit).

– Making and drinking more smoothies/popsicles

– Eating fruit. (I realize I buy all this fruit but I save it all for my kids. I don’t actually eat them myself.)

– Taking my vitamins/supplements consistently.

3) Sort and take care of mail daily. (Including paying bills immediately.)

4) Kitchen table daily. Otherwise, the mail and art and stuff stacks up on my kitchen table until we have a party/event at my house and then we shove all that stuff into a bag and then we shove that into the laundry room. And then, I have just piles and piles of bags full of stuff that I have to sort again a year later.

5) Tidy up play areas 15 minutes daily. Force the kids to be part of this in order to earn their screen time for the next day. The place doesn’t have to be spotless, but tidier.

6) Exercise/stretch. Since I have so many things I want to do to care for myself, I’m going to combine this with the children, too. Make them stretch and exercise with me.

7) Meditate. Also, with the children. Likely, right before bed so we can calm down a bit before the nightly ritual of them getting out of bed a million times until I scream at them to stop.

8) Go to bed before midnight. That’s really still not enough time, but I just need to consciously choose to stop choosing to watch shows when it’s 11:30pm or to stop reading even if I’m not yet done. Otherwise, the brief feeling of satisfaction is occluded by my bitchiness due to lack of sleep.

9) Fold laundry and/or do dishes ASAP(This will likely not happen – but one can dream.)

10) Walk away when mad/frustrated. This will hopefully help me not scream at my kids.

11) Write/journal.

12) Put down my phone. I need to stop using my phone so much when I have downtime and just take out a pen and paper and write. Or read. Or whatever. I have the time. I just waste it.

Even looking at this list makes me sort of tighten up inside. I feel anxious and as if I’m setting myself up to fail. However, I just have to tell my all-or-nothing personality to STFU and chill the fuck out.

So, I just have to remind myself (and perhaps you dear readers can help, too). This post is just a gentle reminder of the things I can do to cut down on my anxiety. It is not supposed to make me feel more anxious. (Ah, irony.)

I mean, this is silly and too easy, right? And I say, “easy” because if I had only been doing this already, much of my cycle of angry cleaning then exhaustion would be solved, right? This post is seriously just a Mash Note to the proverb: A stitch in time saves nine. (Incidentally, I didn’t even understand this saying until a few years ago. When I literally was stitching/patching Cookie Monster’s pants. This is probably why I have so many fails at adulting.)

So, this is just how it looks for me to self-care. What does it look like for you?

 

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction

What is it about life that it just piles and piles and piles on top of everything and everywhere?

I mean, I realize that entropy is the default state of being and the Second Law of Thermodynamics so why fight against The Universe?

And yet.

No matter how much (or let’s be real, little) I do, it’s never enough. I always feel behind the 8-ball.

Is this a Woman Thing? Or a Mom Thing?

I mean, I don’t really hear Hapa Papa bitching and moaning about the state of the house (although, lately, it seems to be pressing on even him) or feeling as if he’s always behind or never caught up on shit.

However, now that I think about it – and I mean this in no way to diminish what Hapa Papa does because he is quite the involved father and provides pretty much all monetary support for our family – he really only has two major areas of responsibility: providing monetarily for the family and being an involved father.

Everything else is on me. Now, usually I don’t mind because quite frankly, I’m a control freak and I rather enjoy having everything be what I want it to be (or think it should be). But then, when things aren’t quite right, it’s all on me.

Hapa Papa is an easy-going guy and a good sport, so other than a few things, he really doesn’t have a particular opinion on whatever new parenting philosophy I’m trying this month or homeschooling or sports (wait, he does have an opinion on sports) or food or household chores or whatever. As long as it doesn’t particularly bother him, Hapa Papa mostly just gets out of my way and lets me do my thing and tries to support me as much as he can.

He is a good man.

But just like I (God-willing) will never have to feel that singular burden of providing financially for our household, he will never have to feel that singular burden of everything else. The staggering amounts of minutiae in the daily lives of five living and growing human beings.

I am overwhelmed.

(Although, I can’t say I have ever felt whelmed.)

It doesn’t seem as if it’s that much. I mean, I am a competent person of above-average intelligence and ability, right? Right?

So why do I feel so shitty? And so dissatisfied?

And now that I think about all the stuff that is within my purview, it really is a lot! I mean, I am not exaggerating when I say that Hapa Papa only needs to think about (and do) his career/making money and being a good father/husband. (And to clarify, Hapa Papa does a ton more than the “average” husband – so please know that I definitely appreciate him!)

Here’s just some stuff off the top my head that I have to take care of on a regular basis:

– Follow up with Car Rental Company to make sure they submit the missing paperwork to our credit card company re: a claim
– Follow up with Health Insurance Company re: multiple claims/missing money
– Submit FSA receipts
– Take care of all benefits
– Physicals and dental appointments for the whole family
– Saving/Investing
– Paying everyone and every institution that we need to pay
– Enrolling/Scheduling kids and their classes and paying on a monthly/quarterly basis
– Shuttling kids to all their activities
– Feeding/Bathing/Clothing/Maintaining/Keeping Alive/Disciplining children (and self and Hapa Papa)
– Keeping track of extended family birthdays/special events/visits/illnesses/etc.
– Keeping in touch with family friends
– Scheduling car maintenances
– Insurance (life/health/car/home/flood/umbrella WHATEVER)
– Shopping (food/clothes/home/educational/etc.)
– Cooking
– Cleaning/Laundry/Dishes/Garbage
– Mail (absolutely my LEAST favorite)
– Diapers
– Potty Training
– Parenting
– Taking out the garbage
– Compost
– Returning library books
– Sleep training
– Homeschooling
– Ovulation/Fertility Tracking (if we are still trying for a fourth)
– Taxes
– Anything that requires a phone call or a live human

Look. I know this shit is what life is made of. And again, it’s not like Hapa Papa doesn’t contribute in terms of housework (I am always elated when he unloads the dishwasher – one of my LEAST favorite activities even though it is incredibly simple). Furthermore, Hapa Papa is amazing at giving me space to decompress and disappear from the family. He gives me entire WEEKENDS (on a regular basis!) so I know I have it good.

But if I have it so good and am still feeling crushed, how the fuck are other people doing this?

Is everyone else just better at faking it?

(Ok. I do know some people who are terrible at faking it and when I look at them, I judge. I know. I’m a hypocrite. But seriously. Come on, people. Get your shit together.)

What do you think? Are we all just sucking at “adulting”? Did our parents have these problems, too? They must have, right? Let me know in the comments.