Insanity of Motherhood

Motherhood, marriage, and midlife.


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Crazy Sort of Brave

In celebration of my 50th birthday my oldest son and I decided to do something different. Not your ordinary kind of different. But something so unique that most of my friends and family were shocked that we did it.

We jumped out of an airplane. Not alone of course. We were tandem to an instructor and jumped from an airplane at 13,000 square feet. For one minute we were in a free fall and then the parachute sail went up and we glided for 7 minutes to the ground.

When I posted our video adventure on Facebook for friends and family to view I was surprised how everyone response was the same. They all told me how ‘brave’ I was. During the entire experience I never thouht for once how brave I was. In my mind I was crazy for doing such a thing.

Brave is a special word reserved for people who do heroic things. Jumping from an airplane wasn’t really brave. It wasn’t heroic. It was just something most people who never do and a little bit crazy.

After hearing how many people thought I was brave I started to think what the word really meant. Does being brave mean doing something other people would never do? Does it mean doing something that involves a risk? Or does mean doing something that requires courage?

I know some very brave people. They have endured far greater fears and uncertainty than jumping out of a plane.

Here are examples brave people I know.

The people who must continue to live after a child they loved has died.

The spouse who is told they are no longer loved and is being left alone to raise the children.

The person diagnosed with cancer and is told they are terminal with only a few months to live.

A child who is being bullied and has no support from the school or community they live in.

The service men and women who are stationed in hostile environments protecting the freedom of people who don’t ever know who they are.

The child who removes a parent from life support because it’s their parent’s wish, but isn’t ready to let their parent go.

The child who must go home to an abusive household never knowing what may happen on any given day.

Being brave doesn’t always mean risking your life. Often it means continuing to live even when doing so seems difficult or impossible.

Jumping wasn’t the scariest part of the event. It was the fear of the unknown on the plane ride up that made me feel most afraid. The fall itself was thrilling. It’s the thrill of doing something so unusual I will remember most, not the fear.

We are all brave. Not because we risk our lives, but because we continue to live despite its’difficulties.


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How I Killed the Green Eyed Monster

Several years ago I became Facebook friends with a woman I will call Betty.  Betty was a friend of a friend and when she sent me a Facebook request I thought nothing of it.  I knew who she was and thought she was a nice enough gal.

I didn’t know Betty very well, but in my early days of Facebook I enjoyed becoming friends with people I hardly knew and learn about their life.  Betty was a Facebook regular and from I could tell from the first few posts a professional at it.  When I first starting reading Betty’s posts I realized Betty had an amazing life.  As a matter of fact, I soon became aware there was nothing ordinary about Betty at all.

Betty is an attractive lady, mother of two beautiful girls, has an amazing career, super fit, married to her husband for over 25 years and rich…very rich.  Betty is the kind of person everyone loves.  She is funny, outgoing and very generous.  Each time I read about her career advances, trips abroad, marathon accomplishments I felt something growing inside of me.  It took me a while to identify what is was exactly, but finally I realized it was a ‘green-eyed monster”.

Each day I looked at my Facebook page and checked in on Betty. I read her posts and all of her comments.  I analyzed her life and every detail of it.  I began to feel envious, even jealous of Betty’s life.  Betty seemed to have it all.  And I do mean all.  Instead glancing at her photos and thinking to myself, “Wow, good for her.”  I started to plot and plan for her demise.

When Betty would go on her amazing vacations I would wish for rain.  When her daughter applied for a prestigious college I hoped the paper work would get lost.  When she ran her second marathon in three months I willed her foot to break.  My jealously seemed to over take me at times.  I allowed someone else’s good fortune and hard work turn me into a vile creature.

One day I spoke to my husband about a recent trip Betty had been on.  I talked about Betty’s trip in such a way that my husband said to me, “You sound jealous of Betty.  Why would you be jealous of her?”  I explained to him that she was beautiful, successful, rich, and a size 2.  To me it seemed obvious why I was jealous of her.  Instead of joining in on my trashing of Betty, my husband suggested I do something else.  He told me to wish Betty well and to be happy for her.

Be happy for Betty?  The woman who had it all didn’t need me to be happy for her, she was already happy.  What I wanted was my life to be more like Betty’s.  I told my husband I wished I had Betty’s life.  He looked at me and said, “If you had Betty’s life you wouldn’t be married to me, have your three boys, your friends, or your family. Is that what you really want?”  I looked at my husband.  What would I do without all the people I loved in my life?  My husband’s wise words got me thinking.

I decided it was time to kill the green-eyed monster.  I didn’t defriend Betty, but started to put positive energy toward her.  When she purchased a new car I told her it was wonderful.  When she won a prestigious award at work I told her congratulations.  And when she shared her photo of her in a bikini in Hawaii, looking stunning, I told her she looked amazing.

Slowly my attitude toward Betty changed.  I began to feel genuinely happy for her. She was a nice lady after all and had never been mean to me.  As a matter of fact she always posted kind things to me on Facebook.  I realized Betty did have an amazing life and it was okay.  I had a great life with a wonderful family, great friends and good health.  My life was the one that suits me best.

Occasionally I glance at Betty’s Facebook postings and think, “Geez.  Another marathon?”  But, for the most part the monster in me is dead.  Killed with well wishes and positive thoughts.

Wonder if all the monsters of the world could be cured with kindness?  It’s something to think about.


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20 Questions

I love fashion magazines.  My favorite fashion magazine is Marie Claire.  My oldest sister has subscribed me to the magazine for years.  Marie Claire is a high fashion magazine. It shares ideas for how to put together a fabulous outfit, as well as what the make up trends are, and usually features a high-profile celebrity on the cover.

One of my favorite sections of the magazine is in the very back.  On the last page there is always a section titled, 20 Questions.  It features an interview with a celebrity consisting of 20 questions.  The way the celebs answer the questions always cracks me up.  The answers are so prepared.  No one I know answers questions the way celebrities do.

Today I thought I would answer the March issues’ 20 Question section myself.  You could pick up a copy of the magazine and read Sarah Jessica Parker’s responses, but you already know everything about her.  My answers will be the real deal.  No pre-preparing ahead of time.

20 Questions

What brings you the greatest joy?

My husband.  I would have said my children, but they make me nuts sometimes. Besides my husband is the one who helped me create my kids.

What are your vices?

Wine and lipstick.  They go together.  You drink wine and the lipstick stays on the glass, so you have to reapply.

What is on your nightstand?

I don’t have one.  I have my husband’s dresser that is covered with books I never have time to read.

What is your greatest indulgence?

Eating out.  I love eating out. I would be happy to never eat a meal cooked by me again.

What should every woman try at least once in her life?

A Brazilian wax.  Just kidding.  No one should ever try that.  I think every woman should travel out of their country.

What makes me laugh?

My kids.  My boys are funny guys.  They make me laugh almost as much as they make me yell.

What is the one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

If I could do a career do over I would be involved in the theater. I was a theater minor in college and loved it.

What is on your bucket list?

I have so many things on my list, but the top of the list would be travel to Chile and be a grandmother.

What is on your feet right now?

Boots and yellow socks.

How did you make your first dollar?

I sold Burpee seeds to neighbors as a kid.  I walked door to door selling seeds.  I did pretty well too.  I made three bucks.

What superstition to do you believe in?

If you throw away a good photo of someone you love, something bad will happen to them.

What items in your closet do you wear the most?

Jeans.  I have over 10 pairs of jeans.  I love denim in an unusual way.

What is the best gift you have ever received?

My boys.  I love them so, so much.  They have brought me more joy than any material item I have every owned.

What is on your liquor shelf?

Nothing.  I don’t have a liquor shelf.

What is on your kitchen counter?

Dirty dishes from breakfast.  I decided to write a blog instead of clean the kitchen today.

What would you never leave home without?

Lipstick or lip gloss.  I can’t function without color or moisture on my lips.

What movie has the greatest ending?

Shawshank Redemption.  This movie is one of my all time favorites.  The ending is perfect.

Who is on your guest list for dinner?

My siblings and their spouses, in-laws, my father and his wife, the boys godparents, former neighbors, parents of the boys’ friends from school, former roommate and his girlfriend, childhood friend and her family, my boys, and Bette Midler.   Bette would be the entertainment.

What is the one thing you wish you had known when you were younger?

Stop holding onto anger and move on.  I wasted too much time in my youth being upset with people.


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Seasoned

Seasoned –  To render competent through trial and experience.

The other day I was talking to a mom at my little son’s school.  As we spoke, she mentioned she had just become aware that I was the mother of teenage boys. Apparently, she thought my little son was my only child.

As we spoke I realized how much more parent life experience I had than her.   Being the mother of teenagers is very different than being the mother of school age children or toddlers.  The main difference is that I have done the job of mothering longer.  Note I didn’t say better, but merely longer.

There is something to be said for being a ‘seasoned’ mom.  The longer you have been a mom the more things you know.  Things that used to keep me up at night with worry about the boys, no longer do.  It’s because I’ve watched my boys overcome obstacles. They survived and so did I.

Today I thought I would share a few thoughts about parenting through my ‘seasoned’ mom eyes.

Everything is a phase.

Years ago a friend of mine, who is the mother of four children, gave me some advice.  She told me, “Everything is a phase when it comes to children.  Just when you think you can’t handle one more moment…it’s over.”  When she told me this I was the mother of one small toddler and she was the mother of four school age and teenage children.  I had no idea how right she was with her advice.

Many times I have been at wit’s end dealing with a situation with my boys and then suddenly it’s over.  Potty training is one issue that comes to mind.  My oldest son did not fully potty train until age 5.  At the time I was ill with worry he would enter kindergarten as the only non-potty trained child.  I feared he would be ridiculed or shamed.  The worry consumed me, but then one day after his fifth birthday he potty trained himself.  The situation that had caused me grief and worry for months was over.

Parents are the most important factor in a child’s education.

Occasionally, I talk to a parent at one of my  boys’ school who is unhappy with the education their child is receiving.  They complain about the administration, the teachers, the curriculum, or the environment.  When I was a younger parent I used complain, but not as much anymore.  I have come to realize the most important factor in my child’s education is my parenting.

This doesn’t mean teachers don’t influence my child’s education.  It means I am the one who must find the best place for my child to be educated, I must be my child’s advocate if something is not working, I must make sure my child is supported, and I must provide a peaceful home life so my child can focus on school.

A school is my partner helping make sure my child is educated.   But the reality is I was my child’s first teacher and the only one who stay with them for their entire life.  My influence is the most powerful.

Praise alone doesn’t lead to high self-esteem.

I recently read an article recently discussing the over use of praise from parents to increase their child’s self-esteem.  Praise from a parent could include words like, “Great job getting an A on your math test.” or  “You are such a dedicated student.” The article (sorry I can’t remember where I read it) mentioned how too often parents feel positive words of praise for their child will lead to higher self-worth.

I believe positive self-esteem comes from doing and being present.  Accomplishing difficult tasks, overcoming obstacles, and following through on commitments are ways of doing things to increase self-esteem.  However, another important part of is being present.  Being present, as a way to increase a child’s self-esteem, means making sure parents are available physically and mentally for the child.  It means spending time with a child to let them know they are valued.

Imagine a friend who constantly tells you how wonderful you are, but yet never seems to have the time to get a cup of coffee or chat on the phone.  If your friend continued to say great things about you and never committed to spending time with you eventually you would begin to doubt your value to the friend.

The same idea applies to children.  The more time a parent spends with a child, the more the child sees how the parent values them.   Children need feedback from parents when they are doing things well, but words are not enough.  Providing children opportunities to accomplish things on their own and showing them how they are valued by spending time with them are far greater ways to increase a child’s self-esteem.

Being a parent has been my greatest life accomplishment and challenge.  I still have much to learn, but being a ‘seasoned’ parent means I know a few more things than the new one.

 

 

 

 


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Opting Out

Several weeks ago a friend of mine handed me a copy of a magazine.  It was the New York Times and on its cover was the headline, “The Mid Career Time Out”.  What was interesting about receiving the magazine was two other friends recommended I read the same cover article.

The cover article is a follow-up of a previous article featured in the Times called, “The Opt-Out Revolution”, by Lisa Belkin.  It discusses the what has happened to a small group of highly educated, very accomplished, and well paid women who made headlines leaving their successful careers to stay home and care for their children.

My friends thought of me because I stepped away from my career many years ago to stay home and raise my boys and now am back to work.  However, unlike most of the women featured in the article I knew from the moment I got pregnant I would stay home to care for my children.  Most of the women switched to stay home after they realized the demands of a career and caring for a family were too overwhelming.

Looking back at my decision to stay home with the boys, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.  At times I wish I would have waited a few years longer to return because my little son is still young.   However, I realized the longer I waited to find work, the harder it would have been for me to find work.

Unlike the women featured in the article I didn’t feel like I was missing out of a career when I was home with the boys.  Only in the last few years have I felt the desire to do something other than mothering.  Creating my blog was a result of trying to find out what that ‘something’ is.

The article talks about how hard the transition is for stay home moms to return back to work after a long absence (ten years or more).  Several women have returned to jobs that were much less paying and less prestigious.  That has been the case for myself.  My current job pays less than 2/3 of what I was making 18 years ago.  But like myself, most of the women featured who returned to work were happy to have found a job and when they did it was more likely to be one that was more family friendly.

When I was younger I didn’t worry about things like how I would find work, social security, retirement for myself, and having money of my own.  The early years of my happy marriage made me feel immune to worrying about such trivial matters.

However, as I entered into middle age I realized how easily I could lose everything.  Watching several of my stay home friends go through a midlife divorce, made me realize I was ill-equipped to care for myself or the boys if something terrible should happen.  In the last few years I realized I needed to find a way to not just bring in money, but to be able to support my family.  I started to panic realizing not only did I need to work for financial reasons, but for security if my husband were to lose his job.

One of the reasons I accepted my current job was because it’s a management position.  I feel most comfortable in the leadership role, even though it can be challenging.  Finding a management job, after a long absence from work is unusual.  Most women returning to work have to start at the bottom and prove their skills are up to date.  I was fortunate to have been hired by a school when people knew of my capabilities and didn’t see my work absence as a negative thing.  Few jobs view women being out of the workforce as being positive.

For myself my return to work is a result of timing and luck.  My oldest son can drive to pick  up his younger brothers from school.  He is 17 and capable to care for his brothers until my husband gets home from work each day.  So the time was right.  Luck also had a huge part of me returning to work.  The job opened at my little son’s school and luckily the school was willing to take a chance on someone who has not worked for while.

When someone asked me the other day if I felt like I should have returned to work sooner I said no.  I opted out of a career years ago to do my passion in life, being a mother.  It’s the job I have always loved most.  I am fortunate that motherhood is career choice I will never have to give up.

 


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How to Ace a Job Interview

Today’s blog may seem a bit strange coming from a mom blogger who has been out of the workforce for 17 years, but stay with me. Over last few weeks I have been in the process of hiring staff for my new job. So far I have hired six new staff and need to hire at least four more. It has been many years since I conducted interviews and hired people, but luckily the skills came back quickly.

Each time I conduct an interview I am reminded how little people know about ‘how’ to interview. It isn’t complicated stuff.  I have always been good at interviews. I know I sound like I am bragging, but it’s true. Years ago on an interview someone said to me, “That was the best interview I have ever had with someone.” Am I a natural-born interviewee?  No.  I just have been well-trained on the do’s and don’ts of interviewing.

My mother taught me the skills of interviewing. She worked for the Job Training Partnership Act as a job counselor when I was young. It was her job to help people who were unemployed get back to work. She showed me the in and outs of how to apply for a job and when you get an interview how to act.

The hardest part of getting a job is getting the interview. Nowadays everything is computerized and unless you meet all the job requirements your résumé may be deleted before you have a chance to interview. If you do happen to get an interview don’t blow it.

Here we go.

How to Ace a Job Interview

Show up for the interview.

This sound ridiculous, right? However, you would be surprised how many people don’t bother to show up for interviews. They don’t call or even email to say they won’t be arriving. It is the ultimate in rudeness. If you have an interview scheduled, but have changed your mind for what ever the reason make a phone call. It may be uncomfortable for a moment or two, but the company will think highly of you for acting professionally. Being a professional means handling things directly not wimping out.

Be on time.

Hiring someone who is dependable and reliable is always top on my list of requirements.  If someone arrives late to an interview it’s a bad sign. Sure people get confused about directions occasionally, but for an interview you must always be on time.  Be sure to arrive at least 10 to 15 minutes early.  Don’t arrive more than 15 minutes early because the interviewer may be conducting other interviews and does not want to feel rushed with someone waiting for them.

Look nice.

It’s not necessary to wear a suit to every interview, but you should look nice. Clean, pressed clothes are a must and please no jeans. When I phoned to schedule a person for an interview she asked, “Should I dress nice or dress for how I would look on the job?” I couldn’t believe she would even ask such a question.   I told her to dress like someone who would represent the company. The point of an interview is to impress and there is no better way that to dress nicely.

Use a firm handshake.

When the interviewer extends their hand to shake with you, shake their hand firmly.  Many women try to be ladylike with their handshake, but being ladylike is not what’s needed during an interview.  A firm handshake indicates confidence. That is just what you want the interviewer to think about you…that you are confident.  Shaking a hand that feels like a limp lasagna noodle is very unappealing.

Listen to the questions asked and ask for clarification if needed.

When I asked questions during recent interviews I noticed some people weren’t sure what I was asking.  It could be because they are unfamiliar to a topic I am discussing or didn’t hear what the question was.  No one will be insulted if you ask for clarification.  For goodness sake please don’t answer a question you don’t know the answer for.  Simply tell the interviewer, “I am not familiar with that topic, but it sounds interesting.”

Don’t brag.

In an interview it is important to seem confident.  Telling the interviewer your talents and skills is a must, but be mindful of how you come across.  I conducted one interview with someone very experienced.  Instead of telling me her accomplishments politely she felt the need to ‘boast and brag’ about herself.  She dominated the conversation by going on and on about how fabulous she was.  If someone is truly fabulous they don’t need to brag and tell the world.  The world will already knows.

Read about the company prior to coming to the interview.

Almost every company has a website to find information about them.  During my recent interview process I was stunned how many of my interviewees knew nothing about the place they were interviewing for a job at.  It is your responsibility to know all you can about the job you are interviewing for.  I spent far too much time during interviews explaining my organization to people who didn’t bother to research the information ahead of time.

Smile, laugh and have a good time.

I am a goofy person by nature.  During an interview I become much more serious.  I try to seem professional.  However, an interview is the time to showcase your personality.  No one can be serious all the time and it’s important to show the interviewer you would be someone who is enjoyable to be around.  Smile and relax as much as possible.  You may be feeling desperate to get the job, but your interviewer should never see that on your face. Be yourself, but your most comfortable self.

Turn your cell phone off and put it away.

Years ago when I conducted interviews most people didn’t have cell phones.  Now everyone does.  Bringing your cell phone to an interview is fine, but it should not be on or visible.  During one of my interviews a young woman placed her cell phone on the table and it vibrated every three minutes throughout the interview.  After the fourth buzzing sound I had to ask her to put it away.  Cell phones are distracting to conversations.  Keep them out of sight.

Bring extra copies of your résumé and references to the interview.

During an interview I always bring copies of cover letters and resumes. Occasionally I would forget a résumé and appreciated when an interviewee had an extra copy available. for me.  References are always to be brought to an interview. Bring a list of three professional and at least two personal references.  It is very difficult to get a hold of references, so the more people you list the better.

Follow up the interview with an email to thank the interviewer.

Sadly, I did not get many of emails thanking me for the opportunity to interview. For those who did thank me I was always impressed.  In one case where I had to make a decision between to closely skilled people, the interview thank you letter was the deciding fact for who to choose.  If someone takes time out of their day to see if you are a good choice to work at their company, be polite and thank them.

There you go.  You probably know this stuff already, but it doesn’t hurt to have a reminder.

Good luck on your job interview and remember leave the chewing gum at home.


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Back to Brazil

I thought I would re-post my blog about ‘going to Brazil’ in honor of a friend of mine who is heading to Brazil today.  Her husband has bugged her to ‘go to Brazil’ ever since reading the original post.

Maybe reading today will make you want to visit Brazil, but hopefully not.

When I started this blog I had goals in mind.  I hoped to have a creative outlet, improve my writing skills and try new things.  Being in a midlife something I figured trying new things would be a good idea.

Some people have a bucket list of adventures they hope to experience before they die.  I have a list too.  I hope to parachute out of an airplane,  attend the academy awards and ride in a blimp.  Going to Brazil has always been another thing I hoped to do.

When I speak of Brazil I am not referring to the visiting the South American country.  I am referring to getting a Brazilian wax.   At dinner a few weeks ago, a friend of mine talked about her Brazilian wax experience.  She has had them done for years and told me I should give it a try.  Apparently, removing body hair with wax is what all the young girls do today.

I told my friend, “I’m young.  I’m going to get waxed too.”  Feeling smug and confident I found a wax removal place close to my home.  I read the reviews and booked an appointment.  “If the young girls can do it, so can I”,  I said to myself.

The waxing place looks like a spa.  When I walked in I wished they served alcohol as I suddenly felt the need for a stiff drink.  The young woman at the desk asked several questions, including what type of wax service I would like.   I thought briefly about getting a bikini wax, but thought “What the hell.  Remove it all.”  Those stupid words would haunt me later.

The nice esthetician led me into a room.  The bright lights were blinding.  I had hoped the procedure would be done by candle light.  Being in the brightly lit room I started to panic.  I started cracking jokes.  But when she told me to get undressed from the waist down, I stopped laughing.

I was instructed to get up on the table…bottomless.  I have flashbacks of this moment.  “Everyone gets waxed these days”, the young woman informed me.  Who is everyone?  When I mentioned I was getting the procedure done to women my age they told me they had never had done it.  As I lay on the table, in a very awkward position, I wondered, “What am I doing?”

Having a bikini wax means some hair is removed from the private area.  I am trying to refrain from using very specific words here.  However, a Brazilian wax means ALL of the hair is removed.  I should have asked for more information before agreeing to the procedure.  I would have been spared a little less horror and pain.

I will not go into specifics, but will say it HURT…A LOT.  Hair is not meant to be pulled out by the root and certainly not in the private area.  The young woman talked the entire time while removing every speck of my hair.  After the first wax strip was removed I started laughing.  The laughter came from the ridiculousness of the situation and the intense pain.

In less than 10 minutes I went from being a woman with hair to a naked mole rat.   Not a single strand was left.  I was shocked.  What in the world was I thinking?  I was told I ‘looked great’ and to get dressed.  Since when does a bald woman look great?

After getting dressed I stumbled to the front desk.  I paid my fees.  I opened the front door to leave and felt a cold breeze.  Not on my face mind you, but down below.

I sent a text message to my husband to let him know about my procedure.  The response was immediate.  He sent me a message back.

What?  Really?  Wow.  I am packing up my things now.  Be home soon.”

Well, at least someone is happy I went to Brazil.

I guess I can take going to Brazil off my bucket list.

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