Anthem of a Middle Aged Mom

I had some time alone yesterday, which for a mom is a precious commodity.  It was unplanned, this time alone, and most of it was spent in the car and scouring a variety of Targets (city and suburban, yo) for half price Reese Peanut Butter Trees.  Mary Tyler Dad's winter coat had been left at a relatives and said relatives were planning to ditch Chicagoland soon for a warmer climate.  Chances are, despite global warming, that he might be needing his winter coat before March, so off I went, dutiful wife that I am.

I do some of my best thinking in the car, especially alone and on a quick moving expressway.  Open roads get my mental juices flowing.  Something about speed and music lets my thoughts wander.  And so it was yesterday.

The holiday chaos was weighing heavy on me.  Yet another year had passed without me sending Christmas cards, doing much baking, wrapping gifts before Christmas Eve, and on and on and on.  Holiday fail.  Again.  I want better for myself and my family, but every year it is the same.  The mailbox is full of beautiful shining children and families wishing us the best the season has to bring.  Damn, our friends have some attractive kids.  Our countertop has a small mountain of baked goods from close friends and neighbors.

I can't help but notice that most of the moms who baked these treats and mailed their family cards are moms who work both inside and outside the home.   How do they do it? is a question that plays on constant loop in my head.  Seriously, ladies, how do you do it?

Once I was thoroughly ensconsed in my inadequacy, THE THOUGHT hit me:  I feel like that tiny little metal ball in a pinball machine, getting whacked about here and there, willy nilly, utterly overwhelmed by bells, whistles, lights, and obstacles.  I just bounce around, hitting walls and getting whacked,endlessly, until I fall into the black hole.  Ugh.  It is exhausting.  Worse, there is a screaming, jolly child at the controls.  Ugh.

The pinball analogy felt so right, so on target, that I knew I had stumbled onto my truth.

Years ago, before middle age and before kids and before cancer, I worked with a group of women, all of whom were 10-25 years older than me.  Most were lovely, smart gals.  One wasn't.  She bugged the hell out of me.  She was mealy and frumpy and irritating and basically unqualified to do the work she was paid to do.  She would endlessly complain about how "fractured" she felt.  She had her home life, and her work life, and her daughter life, and her mother life and her wife life.  To 30 year old me, she sounded crazy and lazy and a little unhinged.  To 42 year old me, I shudder to say that I recognize what she was talking about.  I identify.  Yes, I surely do.  Ugh.

There is one vital difference, though.  I refuse to become a victim to my life's circumstances.  I refuse to whine about my middle-aged angst with colleagues 10 and 20 years my junior.  I refuse to throw in the towel and continue to be that little metal ball getting whacked about by the levers of my life.

I am not a little metal ball.  I am a strong ass woman who has done impossible things with grace and dignity.  I am a strong ass woman who is capable of things I have not yet imagined.  I am a strong ass woman who can do better.

And I will.


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  • I'm 34 and feel like the metal ball. Maybe it's a living after death thing? I read somewhere something along the lines of prior to losing a child, you are living the world in black and white. After, it's like you've been given glasses that allow you to see in technicolor. A bereaved parent really does see the world in a whole different lights. It's a beautiful world full of many opportunties to grasp. So much to remember NOT to take advantage of. Every breath is a gift. Well, thinking like that is damn exhausting! Plus missing your child is exhausting to boot. Loving your life is exhausting.
    Those super moms you write about. They intimidate me. I work full time, have three kids, and it's surprising I remember to wear underwear every day. :)
    If you find the key to NOT feeling like the pin ball, let me know. I'd really like in on that!
    Kraft och Omtanke!

  • In reply to jkrings:

    I had never really thought of that, but it makes so much sense to me. It IS exhausting to always be so appreciative for what you have and know that awareness that it could be gone in a blink.

    Thank you for reading and writing! Little Metal Balls Unite!

  • I'm about your age, but my kids are older (four kids ages 19, 17, 15, 13) and I also work fulltime, always have. What I have learned is to only do what you WANT to do. For some people baking homemade treats is enjoyable, but maybe they never read a book and that's the choice THEY make. There is no "should", so don't feel guilty about what you aren't doing. I have scaled way back and feel more balanced for it, but it's not easy. :)

  • In reply to annekip63:

    But what if I WANT to send those adorable cards, and I WANT to bake more, and I WANT to be organized and wrapped up before Christmas Eve? I do want all those things, it's just that my execution sucks. Ugh.

    Thanks for reading, Anne!

  • I COMPLETELY agree with annekip63! I am a mother of three and have always worked full time outside of the home. I suppose I am one of the mom's of which you spoke baking and sending out Christmas cards... because that's what *I* enjoy doing. But believe me, there is *plenty* else that doesn't get done because of it (and, yes, I feel inadequate about *those* things.) You do what you can and don't worry about what you "should" be doing... and make a little time for the things you enjoy! (Now I will just keep repeating that to myself!)

  • In reply to Staciesg:

    Thanks for reading! I will try. Like a good Cubs fan, there is always next year.

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    I am certain that each and every one of your capable, unfrazzled-by-holidays friends is a wonderful, talented woman. (You would have no less.) But ... could any of them do what you just did so artfully in this blog? I think not. You DO do better. Every freaking day. Go on with your strong ass self. Let the bakers bake. Writers write.

  • In reply to mary w:

    I heart you, Mary W.

  • What Mary W said! This year I made and mailed 10 Christmas cards (first time in my 32 year life) and it was fun and I enjoyed it. As for wrapping gifts? Invest in some cloth gift bags (my aunt made a bunch of simple cloth drawstring bags out of festive material) and reuse them year after year - you'll save the environment and your sanity!

  • In reply to catmcroy:

    Okay, I kind of love the cloth gift bag idea, and as I don't sew, but Mary Tyler Dad does, I will totally share that with him. So smart.

    So this year I wrote out 5 Christmas cards (three family and two friends). Not a single one got adressed or mailed. Ugh. I half-assed my half-assed attempt at cards. I quarter assed it!

    Thank you for reading, Cat!

  • I completely agree with what Clay William said - sometimes you just need to go online and make $86 every hour...

    Seriously, having the pleasure of not only reading your posts, but actually meeting you, I am extremely impressed with what you can do in your free time! You are a great writer and you offer so much to those who read you.

    I've gotten to the point in my life where I only look at Christmas cards to laugh at the pretentious names people give their kids. I stopped eating holiday cookies, too. But I won't stop reading well written blogs like yours!

    Yours is "the gift that keeps on giving, Clark" - keep up the great work!

  • In reply to Brent Cohrs:

    Remind me to never send you a Christmas card, Brent. But now I'm curious, do you really think "Mary Tyler Son" is a pretentious name?

    Thanks for reading and commenting, Brent. I turned my husband on to your blog, as he is a city cyclist, too. Happy new year to you!

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    One more thing ...
    Just because you remind yourself of that slightly unhinged annoying character in your past, does not mean you resemble her. (I doubt you would ever whine like that to coworkers, younger or older.) It might mean, however, that you were a little judgmental bitch, back in the day. ;)

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    In reply to mary w:

    That was supposed to be a joke, but it doesn't read like one. Sorry.
    See? That's exactly what I'm talking about! Some people have profound and meaningful messages to convey to the world. And some people have the talent to convey those messages via the written word. I have neither. You have both. Rock on, sister.

  • In reply to mary w:

    Back in the day?! Ha! Yes, I judge. I suspect all of us do, but not all of us share it. And, hopefully, speaking of judging, I do not resemble that gal from so long ago!

  • I don't read many of the blogs here (I should--I have one!), but I'm glad I took a second to see yours. I've explored the very ideas you mention. There's just something about mothering and feeling inadequate at times--perhaps the lack of control trying to respond to everyone's wants and needs (one's own?) in a timely, appropriate, and dare I say, spirited and creative manner. We're supposed to be high-achieving at all this stuff, too, and there just aren't clear lines drawn for the position. I think the holidays are the worst time for feeling like we need to meet expectations, those outside and our own.

    As a now 46-year-old mom, worker of several part-time jobs, inside and outside the home, I just had that old feeling you describe, yesterday. I went across the street to attend to the neighbors' cat. They're away--on yet another fabulous family vacation. (the mom's the main breadwinner, too). I noticed the 2 kids' report cards on the kitchen bulletin board (all A's) and the MANY holiday cards with beautiful, happy children tacked up attractively in the living room...we have far fewer, not as picturesque, cards at OUR house.

    I snapped out of it (mostly) because I have, like others have said, learned to do what I WANT to do. It's one of the few advantages to piecing together flexible work and home time (it's sure not the money!). There will always be folks who measure success by how MANY things are accomplished, or the quality of their "stuff," at the unspoken but socially-endorsed levels. For me, it's one of the "advantages" of living in a vibrant, upper-middle class community where EVERYbody seems high-achieving, incl. the kids' test scores.

    If you are a reader, writer and thinker, you are contributing in ways "regular" people often don't understand, enriching your and the lives around you in interesting and meaningful ways. Don't stop doing it. Bake if you want to. Send cards if you feel like it. Or come up with a new tradition--try it out next year and see how it feels. Happy New Year!

  • In reply to the Sub:

    Oh, will you please adopt me? Would it be odd to explain that you have a daughter that is just four years your junior? I love everything you just said and will repeat it to myself as a new mantra.

    What blog do you write, Sub? Do tell and I will check it out. Happy new year to you and yours, too! Thanks for reading and commenting. MTM.

  • You are way too hard on yourself. If it means anything, I just remarked last night to my hubs how crazy positive you are in spite of things. You work, you run a charity. Geez. I can't tell you i'd have ever made my way out of a pint of Ben & Jerry's.

    PS- I just noticed we both wrote about Target. It really is the Mom Capitol.

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