Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Mom identities: the MIKs vs. the MILOS

I have a ton of grading to do, so that means I must procrastinate with something so uberimportant as a blog post. Sigh...

Since first becoming a parent 6 years ago, I've begun to fully understand the Stay At Home Mom vs. Working Mom thing. Actually, I don't think it's a VS. thing at all, but some people see it that way. What seems like more of a VS. thing to me is a mom's identity, i.e., my identity is my kids (MIK) VS. my identity is lots of stuff (MILOS). (Hey, if SAHM can be an acronym, why not MIK or MILOS?) I know plenty of SAHMs who are MILOS, but I also know a few who are MIKs. I can't think of any working moms who are MIKs, but surely they are out there. (To be honest, I also know a couple MIWs -- work is my identity and MINs -- nothing's my identity, and those are also problematic!)

So, why am I writing about this? Well, since becoming a parent and meeting a few probable MIKs who were also SAHMs, I've been bothered by them*. I couldn't quite figure out why. I knew I didn't have a bias against SAHMs. In fact, some of my best friends stay at home, do what I think is the toughest job day in and out, and also pursue their own interests and passions. Way to work it ladies. No, it's not these folks that are a burr under my saddle. It's the MIKs. And are the MIKs bothersome because they are doing all the stuff I would like to do but don't have time or energy for? Is a little jealousy or guilt going on? No, that's not it. So why do I care?

How healthy is it to focus your entire life and identity around your children, both for the mom and the kids? All that energy put into making the best possible childhood for wee ones may actually be a disservice. Our job as mothers is to nurture, protect and teach our children. One of the ways we teach is to be a model. Do I want my kids to learn that my entire existence is about them? Wouldn't they learn more about pursuing and creating a productive, satisfying, and less insular life if they learned from both parents' examples? This also means that I may not have as much time to volunteer at the school as some other moms, or ferry my kids to as many activities as them, but that's teaching them something too. Maybe mom and dad can't be around as much as they'd like, but learning this kind of independence (and dare I say it, disappointment) is good preparation for life.

My mom was a wonderful SAHM, and I had a great childhood filled with lovely memories. When I became an adult, I really struggled to picture myself in a career. I made a lot of missteps (more than a decades worth) before finding my calling, and still really struggle for how its suppose to look with kids in the picture. I don't have a model for this, other than the women that I've met as an adult. Everyone's path is different, but I would've liked a model for how to do this general type of life.

When I talk to probable MIKs, where they exclusively discuss every facet of their kids lives and activities, I can't help but wonder what happens in 10-15 years. Childhood is not that long, and what do moms do when the kids become more independent, don't have that school project, and don't want lavish birthday parties anymore? What do you do if the better part of your adult life has been laser focused on something important, but temporary? This must be a huge, and for some, devastating, identity hurdle.

So MIKs, wherever you are...next time you're on Facebook, post about something you are doing for YOU today. Tell your husband or babysitter you're going out some night soon to take a class or brainstorm or work on a project unrelated to kids. When on Pinterest, pin some stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with small people, their activities and interests. Because while you will be a child's parent for 18 years, you will be YOU for much, much longer. Diversify your identity and make it count, all of it.
 
* Example of bothered: talking to a probable MIK the other day who expressed her sympathy that I "couldn't" participate in XYZ kid function. Uh, really...that's okay.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

"Try again!"

Parenting is such a mutual-learning experience. Today I caught myself apologizing for a bad return when August and I were hitting the ball around. Do I want her to think she needs to say "sorry!" for this kind of stuff? No! I'm teaching both of us to say "try again!"

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Slow learner

Very, very slowly I am learning that it really does make a difference to do a couple of simple, small things to decrease stress and maybe increase productivity. The bad news is that these things seem so obvious that I can't believe I didn't figure this out before. Duhhh. So building upon my list...

1. making the bed in the morning (why is this so effective?)
2. heading upstairs to bed no later than 10 at night
3. reading something for enjoyment before trying to sleep; little to no screen time
4. getting up at 6ish early to do a brief, intense workout AND/OR stretch
5. regular fun activity wholly unconnected with work or kids: tennis lessons!
      - well, I sprained my ankle pretty seriously on lesson 2, but I'm registering for the next session
6. conquer the 1-2pm slump: stop spinning wheels on actual work and instead clean/organize/declutter/catch-up on little mindless things.

...and the goal for this week...

7. Get friends on the calendar regularly!

Monday, September 23, 2013

If this blog was named "Trying to manage time and live healthy, but not often succeeding," maybe I would post more frequently

Crunch. That's the sound my life makes, and has for some time. It's difficult to blog when you feel like you're a broken record theme-wise. But who cares: attempting to manage stress, frustration about time, figuring out schedules -- that's gonna be on my mind for the foreseeable future.

Thankfully, I have made a little bit of progress on the healthy living/stress management front. Let me record it quickly so I can get back to work ;)...

The following small activities appear to make a difference in my stress level:
1. making the bed in the morning
2. heading up to bed no later than 10 at night
3. getting up at 6ish to do a brief, intense workout
4. starting up something wholly unconnected with work or kids, just for me: tennis lessons!
5. having good sleep habits (little to no screen time in bed...sorry iPad)

Later, I hope to write something about the source of stress/time management challenges, i.e. being a parent and forging a life in academia...

Sunday, May 12, 2013

I'm baaack

It has been one year and 4 months since my last post. Life has been busy in that time. I've not only felt as if I've had no time for creative writing, but also nothing to say. My mind was so focused on research that I gave myself little room for other writing beyond a Facebook or Instagram entry. However, I need to write, and I need to write more than just for work. And as I'm typing these words now, I'm realizing that blog thoughts used to just flow, and now I have to think about it. I hope to change that.

I am 3 days out from my dissertation defense. I think it will take awhile to get used to this major milestone and what it means, not only through how it changes my career, but also because it marks the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. I'm using this new start to reconfigure my life priorities. It will take a while to habituate to the adjustments that I have set for myself, but I need to push through. Some of them are critical, others of them will make life more balanced. All of them are intended to help me take a step back from the hectic pace of the last 2 years as that pace can't, or at least shouldn't, be maintained long-term. I expect this will be a difficult transition as the use-every-moment-for-work multi-tasking has become a habit. So, I am embarking on an exercise in "retraining the brain" -- and I hope to make permanent.

Daily
 o stretch/meditate every morning
 o make bed
 o pick up one space

Weekly
 o exercise 3xweek (beyond walking/dog park)
 o declutter/organize one room
 o take bus to work 3xweek
 o blog
 o visit friend(s)
 o yard clean

Monthly
 o 1-2 date night
 o 1-2 friends over for dinner

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Caffeine-fueled, obligatory New Year's post

Today is the first day of 2012. This year I would like to learn about balance in my life. The last 6 months -- no, 18 months -- have been all about pushing myself to the next deadline. Everything that was not work or family got seriously squeezed out. Like exercise. And friends. Not good. This year I'm going to do things differently.

There are two reasons to change in 2012. The first, and obvious reason, is I need to exercise and see friends to be healthy. Period. The second, and less obvious reason, is because I am nearing the end of my degree and starting a new phase of my life. This next year needs to be an "experiment" in how work should look within the entirety of a balanced life, giving me good information on how I should shape my career.

The importance of this task is especially fresh in my mind. This holiday "break" has been anything but. The new quarter starts on Tuesday, and instead of refreshed and ready, I'm exhausted. I've spent every free moment reading, writing and stats-ing for a mid-January deadline, sacrificing time with family, sleep, household upkeep, etc. This is not acceptable. I really don't mind this level of intensity sometimes, but it has persisted for FAR too long.

This must change immediately. Overall, I am going to get way more cozy with my calendar. First, I am scheduling time at the gym like I schedule everything else in my day. Two one-hour sessions during weekdays, and one on the weekend. Second, I am riding the bike at home for 30 min on 2 other days during the week. This should not be that hard to do, right? Second, I need to start scheduling times with friends, even if it has to be weeks out. This can start with some email blasts to friends with some potential dates. Third, I am refocusing on cutting out most white sugar and flour. This has been pretty successful lately, but I want to continue and improve on it. Oooh, thought of a fourth: I need time for some creative pursuits, like writing, or creating things, or seeing things other people have created. I can double up this items with the friend time often as well.

So, those are the things I'd like to add, and now for what I'd like to take away: First, I want to decrease email time to just a few times a day. Second, I want to decrease Facebook time to just once a day. These are time sucks, which while they help keep in touch with people, are not usually terribly productive.

One other thing I want for this year, like every year: a made bed every day. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Enough already with “War on Christmas”

A few weekends ago, our lab hosted a holiday party for research participants and their families. During the party, I noticed the diversity of the group. I also realized that of the 75 or so guests at that party, at least one-third likely do not celebrate Christmas for either cultural or religious reasons. Which makes me wonder…why are some people so angry about saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas?

I’m pretty sure most people who do not celebrate Christmas are not offended by Christmas greetings and d├ęcor, but what’s wrong with making our sentiments a little broader and more gracious in more public contexts? There are lots of people who celebrate Hanukah or Ramadan or Hindu holidays, but I’m wondering if the "War on Christmas" people know any of them. If they did, maybe they’d have a change of heart. It’s really not difficult or offensive to be inclusive. Really.