Monthly Archives: February 2012

My call

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Last Saturday was a rough day for me. The day didn’t quite go as planned–my mommy-daughter fairy tea party date fell through, my husband ditched the home improvement project he had promised to do (fixing a doorknob) and went to play basketball instead, and the kids were restless and ready to get out of the house. But the house looked like a rocket launch site. So I grumpily turned on a video game for the kids, bracing myself to clean and fold the last load of laundry, thinking angry thoughts about my husband and my life in general. Why does everyone get a Saturday except me? When do I get a break? 

It took about an hour before I realized something. Who was the intended recipient of my cleaning tirade? At first, I thought it was my children. After all, wasn’t I cleaning the house for them? Providing a peacefully clean learning environment, being a good example, giving them clean clothes…right?

Except for one thing. All my four year-old really wanted was for me to play the video game with him. “I can’t right now,” I told him in my best martyr voice. “I have to clean the house.” Do you think he really appreciated my efforts to clean, or would he have preferred some time with mommy? Does he really care if he has to wear his sweatpants and monster truck shirt again instead of a freshly washed pair of jeans and a collared shirt?

When he remembers his childhood, what will he remember mommy doing?

OK, so maybe I don’t do all that for the kids. Well, what about my husband? Wasn’t I a good wife to provide a clean kitchen and folded laundry? Isn’t that what our husbands want us to do?

When my husband came home, he could sense the chill in the air. He didn’t seem to notice the smell of Simple Green cleaner in the kitchen or the sound of the dishwasher and the running clothes dryer.  He came bouncing in from a fun basketball game with his friends, saw me avoiding his gaze on the couch as I folded laundry, and his smile deflated before my eyes. My toddler ran to him for a hug and he said, “C’mon, buddy. Want to learn how to fix a doorknob? Come with me.”

Do you think he cared about all my work? Sure, but it wasn’t the most important thing right then. What he wanted was a happy wife, not a martyr.

Well, then. Who was I doing the work for? My mother? My neighbors? Martha Stewart? Me?

I grew up in a home where The House was the number one priority. It had to look good at all times. It was good in many ways, because I now have a high standard of cleanliness in my own home. I don’t have a heart attack when people stop by, because the house is already clean. So in some ways, I was doing it for my mother. I’m sure she’s proud. My neighbors? They probably doing really care, as long as the yard is decently clean. Martha Stewart? Yeah, she’d probably be appalled. Oh well.

Me? Yep. Definitely. It’s the inner voice that says, “You aren’t worth anything if your kitchen has dishes in the sink.” “You are a terrible mother–your son has jelly on his face and shirt from an hour ago!” “You cannot be happy until your bed is made. Go make it. Go do it now. Now go do something else. Now clean the bathroom. Now go clean…” The funny thing is, that happy break never quite comes. The house is never truly clean, the work never truly done. There must come a point when we say, “Now is my break. It is done now because I say it is done.”

Who do we work for? We work for ourselves. We work not because society tells us to, or because our husbands expect us to, or because our children need us to. We work because we know deep down that it is right, that it is a choice, and that it is our calling in life. And since it is my call, it is also my call–my call whether to be grumpy or grateful. Whether to be stressed or content. Whether to shove the kids aside to work, or put the work aside and focus on my kids. It’s my choice.

Sorry, Martha Stewart.

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No Judgment Zone

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One of my Christmas presents was a membership to Planet Fitness. I had gone to Gold’s Gym in the past but didn’t like the atmosphere–walking into a wall of sweat stench, metal-banging, and manly grunting just didn’t make me want to spend much time there. Plus I felt like I was being scrutinized with every move. Men with buzz cuts and tank tops would watch me and smirk as if to say, What a veakling. I eat veaklings like that for breakfast. And the woman beside me on the treadmill would glance over, altering her speed to go just faster than me or stay on just a little longer. Or maybe that was just how it felt.

I’m pretty simple-minded, I guess. I just want to work out and lose weight.

So we were impressed with Planet Fitness, whose philosophy and tagline is the “No Judgment Zone.” They actually prohibit tank tops, weight-dropping, and yes–judging others. Now we’re talking. People actually just work out, without the element of competition. My kind of gym!

The other day I was using the machines and found myself doing exactly what I didn’t want others to do. There was a lone woman, rather large, sitting on a machines I was waiting to use. She looked uncomfortable and awkward. My first thought was, “OK, please don’t break the machine.” Ugh! How mean is that! This poor woman was trying to work out and lose weight at the “No Judgment Zone,” and here I was, condemning her for something that she was trying her best to control. Me, the hypocrite.

That night, my husband came home from playing basketball and we got in a little tiff. (My parents used to call them “disagreements” or “discussions.” Basically, we had a fight.) He was upset about something I had said and then, in the heat of the moment, threw in other examples about why I was a bad person and why he was right and I was wrong, and blah, blah. My chain of misdeeds were, in his mind, proof that I had some serious changing to do. I looked back at each instance and remembered a very different meaning behind my words. But realizing how it had seemed to him, I was horrified at the misunderstanding. Can anyone else relate to this?

The next morning I was still steaming. How can he judge me so harshly? He obviously doesn’t appreciate me or what I do… The reasons why I was right and he was wrong were flowing through my mind like a stream of molten lava down a slope, hot and angry. My poor kids probably wondered what was wrong with mommy.

 It wasn’t until later that I began to realize something. I am my husband’s biggest critic. I know his weaknesses and I sometimes beat him over the head with them. I criticize him when he doesn’t jump up quickly enough to help with kids at bathtime. I judge him when he throws his pants on the floor next to the bed instead of in the hamper. I roll my eyes when he leaves his used tooth floss on the counter. The harsh judging that I thought he was doing was actually being used right back at me, and I deserved it. We were even. The score was tied. It was time to make a choice.

I’ve made my choice. I choose to make my home a “No Judgment Zone.”

I want my husband to come home and feel safe and relaxed. I want him to be excited and happy to see us, rather than worried about how he will be attacked for not taking out the trash. I want my kids to come home from school excited to tell me about their day, rather than worried about their score on a math test. I want my family to come home to a haven–a safe place. A place where they can be themselves without being scrutinized and criticized.

Welcome to my home, the “No Judgment Zone.” We’re not perfect, but we don’t expect each other to be, either. And that’s the whole point.

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The busiest of busy jobs

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One of my first jobs was selling hot dogs at a football stadium. I was in awe at the utter size of the venue, being that it seated 64,000 people and most of them were cute college guys (ok, I was 15…give me a break). I’m sure that incentive is a powerful one, as all of the others who worked with me were also teenage girls.

We couldn’t stop grinning during the five minute training (“Here are the hot dogs…here is the soda…try not to make too much of a mess…”) and didn’t bother to hide our gazing at the college-age stadium workers as they passed our window.

Then came the game-time rush. Swarms of blue-clad fans with painted faces–and sometimes chests, which made me blush (hey, I was 15)–descended upon our dainty and unsuspecting little group. It took a few minutes, but we finally got into a rhythm: Put hot dogs on machine. Take off the hot ones and put on buns. Wrap with foil. Put under heat lamp. Sweat under my hairnet. Swampy hot gloves. Hurry, hurry! The line is getting longer!

Before we knew it, it was the third quarter and the crowd was gone. The roar of fans and the pounding of feet overhead to “We will, we will rock you!” was deafening. My last thought as we finished cleaning up was I can’t imagine a busier job! I’m never doing this again! 

Fast forward fifteen years to three very active kids and a minivan. Go figure. Motherhood is THE busiest of busy jobs. And it doesn’t even pay minimum wage.

My kids are 6, 4, and 18 months. My life is a constant construction zone. Everything and everyone in our family is constantly changing and demanding attention. The kids love my enchiladas, except when they don’t. The baby just tried to ride his baby car down the stairs backwards. The painter ruined our new custom wood floor–great, we get to refinish it AGAIN. Mommy, I need a piece of green cardboard for my class tomorrow and I don’t care if it’s my bedtime! Mommy, will you put new batteries in my Innotab? I know you just replaced them yesterday. I have an owie! I need a Band-Aid right now or I’m going to DIE!

Do you ever want to just record your day to see how many demands you get all day long? How comic would that be? No wonder we are stressed as mothers.

Hot dogs! Hurry, the line’s getting longer!

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I am a mother, and therefore I cannot control everything.

Well, let’s be honest here. I have to relearn that lesson every day.

We have a lot of demands placed on us as mothers. The most important demand being our children, of  course. Just having children is a huge responsibility for which we are all profoundly grateful, at least when they are finally asleep in bed! But society, the media, our religion, family, and parenting books and websites are constantly shooting advice at us from every direction. Feed your kids this! Don’t let them watch that! Make them wear this! Help them learn that! Do this, do that, don’t do this, stay away from that…

Don’t you ever get tired? Do you ever want to just turn it all off?

Life with a family is crazy enough without inviting in even more stress. How do we sort it all out: take the pieces we want and throw away the rest like the gooey bones of a Costco rotisserie chicken?

Hot dogs! Wrap ’em up, quick!

Yes, I do know what is in hot dogs. And yes, my family does still eat them occasionally. (Gasp!) When I put my husband in charge of dinner, hot dogs are usually on the menu. I take a deep breath and try to forget.

This blog is one mom’s journey to find that out. How can I simplify my life? How can I be a better mom? How do I find a balance between housecleaning and motherhood and career? What is the secret? What can I control, and what should I let go? Each blog post will focus on a different aspect of motherhood: balance, control issues, good days and bad days, personal interests, organization vs. going with the flow, etc.

The best blogs have the best readers. Please let me know what you would like to discuss here and what you are interested in. I would love to hear your comments.

Writer and Mother

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Profile of a Writer:

-Two Reflections Awards for short stories at Mountain View High School

-Honorable Mention in the Internship Essay Contest at Brigham Young University

-Published an essay/memoir in the literary magazine at BYU in 2004

-Wrote for Schooled Magazine 2006-2010

-Wrote for KSL News and Deseret News in Salt Lake City, Utah beginning in 2011

Profile of a Mother:

-Um…three kids.

-They are well-fed, clothed, and happy, which I consider to be the greatest accomplishment of all. Mostly.