Saturday, May 9, 2009

3 X's:Exhaustion & Expectation & Exultation

I'm exhausted -- it's temporary, of course, and I shall recover!
But a bit grumbling first: Spring has sprung (it's GREEN!), I want to plant my garden, bake a cake for my son's B-day, clean the house for my daughter's imminent return to Alaska, and instead I collapse on the couch after a week of ushering hundreds school children experiencing "Nature"--- I need some of her restorative power about now...

I started writing this post on Friday evening, and now it's Mother's Day already!

YES, every spring I go through this: I'm exhausted & stressed. Husband & son talked me out of holding the annual BBQ we had planned for his birthday -- they argued it would have been too stressful for me to get the house ready f0r a party, esp. since next weekend Eldest is returning from Montana, and we'll be throwing her a WELCOME BACK GRADUATE party!
So we did just a small family B-day for 15-year old Wolf -- I managed to bake an UGLY but tasty cake between Volleyball, taking care of an extra 2 girls, finally getting the mosquito screens up, and a farewell BBQ of some friends who are moving to Hawaii.

Husband found this article by Judith Warner in the NY Times in her weekly column Domestic Disturbances entitled "Not-so-Great Expectations", dealing with a mother's expectations of herself. Here's an excerpt:

“At our age,” he replied sharply, “maybe we just have to adjust our expectations.”

This was a very radical idea.

I mulled it over all week. I realized that this very same not-so-great expectations theme had also come up, not long before, in a conversation I’d had with my father-in-law.

We were talking about sleep. I was ruing the fact that I need it – nine hours’ worth sometimes.

I was telling him about a woman I know who gets up at 3:30 a.m. every day to do yoga. She’s on her computer at 4:30 and on a train to work at 7:30.

At 7:30 I am usually spilling my first cup of coffee down the front of my bathrobe and screaming at my children that if they don’t get out of bed they’ll never again eat anything sweet or watch any TV or have anything they want in the world for the rest of their lives.

“I wish I could get up early,” I said, explaining all the gracious, relaxed, self-improved Simply Being I would do, if I had an extra hour or two in the day.

I was saying I wished I needed to sleep only six hours a night. Or five, or four – like the really successful people you read about.

I would wake up my children, showered, teeth-brushed and smiling, the way the magazines tell you to do. I would exercise and garden and pay bills and reorganize the kitchen cabinets and make photo albums and …

My father-in-law looked at me with genuine befuddlement.

“Why,” he said, “would you want to do anything more than you already do?”

I did enjoy reading this article -- here's an intelligent working mom writing (I wish I could blog this eloquently) about what it's really like: the expectations vs. reality.
We just can't do it all. Shall I shout it out?
We just can't do it all!

Years ago, when I was working on my PhD, expecting my second child, I asked a friend who was a successful professor and mom of 2 boys: "How do you do it? Juggle being a mom and having a career?"
She answered something along the line of " I stay on top of the laundry by running a load every night, and I read research articles instead of magazines when I wait for a haircut... it's a matter of organizing your time, and lowering your expectations -- the house is not going to look as nice as your mom kept hers"

At the time I did not appreciate this answer, and I never did finish that PhD either...
I was then (and am now) frequently feeling at the brink of lowered expectations that if I lowered them any more, that I fear that nobody will have clean socks or get a nutritious meal!

OK, maybe it's not that bad, but the stairs are piled high with "take-this-to-your-room" piles, the entryway has become a depository of items long out of season (ski boots anyone?) , and let's not look behind the toilets, shall we?

SO, on that note, I want to wish all you moms out there better luck juggling it all, and give you my advise for the day:
KICK BACK and do what YOU want to do for a day!
For me, this involves being outside and yardening today (a cross between cleaning the yard and gardening): working on my new potato planter boxes, and having a slash fire going in the firepit, hanging around with the "extended" family. Ahh, by tonight, I'll be smelling like woodsmoke and drinking a cool India Pale Ale. Relaxed and ready for another week!

Cartoon credit: David Walker from


honeypiehorse said...

Ah yes the take it to your room piles. We have those too. I don't think anyone who cooks and has a garden should self criticize. :-)

PattyP said...

Yes, you, a woman who cooks remarkable meals every night (don't you ever go to a restaurant???) will surely pull through!

Megatonlove said...

How reassuring to know that I'm not the only one who bakes delicious but occasionally ugly cakes when I'm tired. Spring is a cruel season, and it reminds me that while there's suddenly a lot more to do outdoors as well as in, the body that has to do it (mine) is still stiff and creaky from winter and, let's face it, a year older too. So I've had to lower my already lowered expectations and just do what I can. The weeds are now at full gallop, the winter clothes still haven't been put away, the summer ones are still buried I know not where, and the lop-sided rhubarb tart I made tonight still tasted wonderful even if it looked like a calving iceberg.

An expectation, according to my current definition of the word, is nothing more than a resentment or a disappointment under construction. When I can remember that I become a lot less stressed and a lot more happy.

Great post, great blog - thanks!

Dawn said...

I appreciate what you're saying here. Too often, I've lamented the fact that I can't get by on less sleep! Re-adjusting expectations is a good thing. I love that word you used..."yardening". :)