Tight Bod with a Pod: A Boulder of a Different Color.

Among the various metaphoric boulders I juggle up the hills these days is a very tangible boulder-shaped physical burden—I am eight months pregnant with my third child.

But never mind all the implicit blessing-gift-miracle blahblahblah.  My point here has nothing to do with the baby-to-be, nor do I intend to address the myriad physical “challenges” and “discomforts” (ahem) associated with late-stage pregnancy, or even labor and delivery.

(And for the record, I profess that the process of gestation and birth does not a mother make, no, no, no.  But I digress.)

The burden I carry along with this ever-growing hitchhiker is a campaign against one certain phenomenon, the cultural inception of which is unclear to me:

It is “The Hot Mama.”  WHY on EARTH should a woman in full womb-bloom continue to be a sex symbol?

And at what moment in our society did this infuriating standard come to be?

When, for example, did A-list celebrities begin flaunting their reproductive prowess?  When did “the bump” become a must-have fashion accessory?  When did the media’s fodder for physical self-image comparison expand to inform all pregnant women that two weeks is an acceptable time period for recovering one’s pre-pregnancy figure?

I’m no well-read student of feminist theories, but it smells to me an awful lot like an extension of the objectification of women.

For sure, it’s fabulous that maternity wear has evolved to allow women to dress in a more flattering, fashionable way during her big-belly months.  But why pressure her to have a “tight bod with a pod,” as one web ad proclaims?  Why does a pregnant women need to look sexy in a tube top and mini skirt?

Power to her if she can, and if she wants it and gets it, good for her.  But while it’s a lovely option, it really shouldn’t become our standard.  The last thing our national health needs is to pressure pregnant women to the point when more and more are battling eating disorders, as plenty already are.  The risk of such to the unborn is just not cool.

To be clear, I have friends who are naturally predisposed to a perfectly adorable “all baby” pregnant countenance.  And I begrudge them nothing.  But I am built to bear children while plowing peasant fields while nursing toddlers in a sling and am genetically prepared to do so throughout long winters of famine. In reproductive mode, for certain, this body simply will not risk letting itself starve.  (And yeah, okay, in non-reproductive mode this body clings to the same survival instinct.)

Taking this quickly on the trickle-down, the conspicuous consumption machines have also transformed the world of baby gear:

If celebrities are having babies on the front page, there exists an opportunity to convince the child-bearing public that a $500 (or could you believe $999!) stroller is indeed worth coveting. That there are ten thousand essential items to buybuybuybuybuy.  After all, why plunk the baby in a sink for her quick semi-weekly bath when you can have a bathtub that filters out the dirty water during the 60 seconds it takes to bathe an infant?  Why stick a pacifier in the pocket of your purse when you can buy a pacifier carrier?  After all, it comes in the same pattern as your iPhone carrier and there’s a coordinating $40 changing pad.  Heaven forbid your child’s dirty diapers be changed on a towel or blanket that doesn’t match her Gucci diaper bag.

Okay.  I’ve made my point.

Perhaps it’s just an embittered, uncomfortable hormone machine rambling now, but this is what’s on my mind.

…Because someday the daughter I’ll meet in a few more weeks may decide to have children, too.

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Watch for falling rocks!

Despite overwhelming internal urges to please others rather than let them down—thus spawning within them unflattering opinions of me—I have indeed dropped the occasional ball over the years.  Stuff happens.  Unexpectedly.  Whether avoidable or not.  People aren’t perfect, nor is this world.

But these days, after 30-odd years of accidental ball-dropping, I’m pursuing the fine craft of intentional ball-dropping.

How many proverbial rocks can a person simultaneously roll up the proverbial hill?  Only so many.  Human, we are.  We need to focus on managing the BIG rocks rather than juggle so many small ones that we risk dropping what truly matters.

Perhaps you’ve seen this demonstration or heard it described before, but I find it quite effective:

Picture a big glass jar that represents life.  Fill it to the top with big rocks.  Is it full?

Nope.  Pour in some smaller rocks, to the top.  They’ll fall in the gaps.  Is it full now?

Not yet.  Pour in some gravelly sand.

Then pour in some water.

NOW it’s full.

…But if you filled the jar in any different order, it wouldn’t work.  The biggest rocks have to go in first.

I’m discovering what my biggest rocks are and trying to let the smaller stuff fall away.  This doesn’t mean that smaller stuff doesn’t matter at all.  It just means that I have bigger boulders to keep on the mountain, and I’m giving it my human best.

So watch for falling rocks, and please, don’t judge…

Maybe I meant to do that.

What are your big rocks?

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“Sometimes even Mommies make mistakes.”

This is a theme line from a masterfully-crafted children’s book by the genius Judith Viorst, My Mama Says There Aren’t Any Zombies, Ghosts, Vampires, Creatures, Demons, Monsters, Fiends, Goblins, or Things. When I was little this book was my favorite because it soothed my fear of imaginary monsters.

Now I’m a mother and this book remains my favorite because it illustrates—repeatedly, realistically, honestly and humorously—how fallible mothers can be.  In doing so, it soothes my fear of the singular imaginary monster that still haunts me:

The Perfect Mom.

By reading this book with my kids, it is this monster in particular that I hope they realize doesn’t exist.

Perfection isn’t something I expect from my kids.  (Thank goodness, or I’d have been crushed by my devastation years ago.)  Forgiveness, acceptance, and grace are the gifts I strive to provide for them in hopes that they learn to do the same for me and for others.  And when I say I strive to provide it, that means I don’t always do so flawlessly and consistently.

There are plenty of moms out there who far outshine me in PTA involvement, coupon clipping, vegetable gardening, housekeeping, creative meal planning, spiritual guidance, patience in discipline, what have you.  We all have different gifts that we bring to the parenting table and mothering is not a competition.  I can’t say I don’t have a competitive side to me, but these days I’m better at keeping her confined to the Scrabble board.

I am grateful to know that there’s no such thing as a perfect mom.  My lingering concern is that my kids learn this too so they don’t think they’re missing out on anything.

I want my kids to hear me say, “I was wrong.” “I’m sorry.” “I made a mistake.” “Please forgive me.”  “I shouldn’t have done that.”  I try to model this for them so that they can admit their own wrongdoings without hesitating.  They know they still love me even when I mess up in some way, so they can be confident that I’ll still love them when they mess up.

I’m pretty sure I’m on the right track with this.

Because, as Judith Viorst puts it at the end of her brilliant book,

“Sometimes even mommies make mistakes…

…but sometimes, they don’t.”

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Don’t Look Now….

Now for something not-so-completely different.

This probably reveals something terribly symptomatic and unflattering about our marriage, but whenever one of us is out of town, the one at home inevitably tackles a major project to surprise the other upon return.  It has become tradition.  Painting a room, refurbishing a bath vanity, rearranging furniture, cleaning the garage, adding new flower beds—you get the picture.  For some reason we are both ever so much more productive when working alone, attempting to impress (outdo?) the other.

As I write, it is day four of a six-day trip for my husband.  The majority of items on my to-do list still remain unchecked, but my career as a procrastinator is a long and distinguished one and I am confident my shock-and-awe campaign will definitely wow him.

So why so much more productive during these brief single-handed stretches?

For starters, my hands are freer to push those way-sided boulders up the mountain because in his absence a few other boulders can be left unattended.  In this week’s triple-digit heat, Cheerios have served as a crowd-pleasing dinner on two occasions, beds have gone unmade, and far fewer dirty dishes (especially coffee cups) have required attention.

Also, I am freed by not having to consider another adult’s needs and feelings throughout the daily routine and planning.  Even though my husband is a fabulously hands-on, helpful partner and father without whom I cannot imagine functioning, in his temporary absence, it is quite empowering to be the head honcho instead of just a co-captain.

Still, I must admit that for me there is something else about being sans spouse that makes completing a significant project so much more doable than when he is around to help shoulder the load:

It is the lack of Expectation.

Something about feeling expected to do something creates a strong resistance within me.  It feels like a “have to” instead of a “want to.”  More like a job pending performance evaluation, rather than an act of service to carry out in love.  And naturally it goes back to the old four-letter f-word, FEAR—that the judgment won’t be positive.  That the report card will have a D on it.  And even a B- would sting.  “Approval” starts with “A.”

So I’ve waited to take on this week’s to-do’s until being the only adult under this roof.  The boulder still gets up the mountain.  For some reason, it is just easier for me to do it when no one is looking.

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My Sisyphean struggle against the cowardly approach to life’s Sisyphean challenges.

I have just left yet another mountain of clean but unfolded laundry on my bed to punch these thoughts into type.

Non-confrontational.  Peacemaker.  Goof-off Goose.  Indecisive.  Lazy.  These terms have often been used to describe me—sometimes endearingly, more frequently frustratedly.  In self-defense I declare a primary inner motivation behind my outward inertia:

Fear.

Doing something wrong.  Not doing something enough.  Making the wrong decision.  Getting started and finding no satisfactory stopping point.  Putting in a good five hours of heavy-muscled cleaning and straightening only to see my efforts thwarted, results vanished, in a mere five minutes at the hands of my two sons.

With housework or I suppose with any feat at all, there will always be more that could be done.  And whatever does get tackled simply needs to be done again.  In fairly short order, too, given those two young boys live here too.

My ideal task is stripping wallpaper.  Visible progress, definitive results, and no one can go behind me and undo it five seconds later.  When it is done, it is done.  Forever and ever, Amen.

One day this spring during my five-year-old’s baseball practice, my three-year-old entertained himself by gleefully relocating rocks.  Rocks of all sizes.  From pea-like pebbles and gravel chunks to hefty lumps roughly the size of his torso.  If he dropped a single crumb en route, he combed the grass until finding it and then reuniting it with its fellows.  When he met with a rock too heavy to lift, he kicked it loose, then pushed and rolled it to a spot that pleased him.

His point WAS moving the rocks.  He took joy in the task and threw his entire being into getting those rocks into place.

Albeit, there was no right or wrong about where the rocks belonged.  And when he grew bored, there was no reason he could not stop.

But laundry is not the sort of thing one can simply choose not to do should it become tiresome.  Nor is feeding one’s children or washing up the dishes afterward.  Or weeding.  Or vacuuming.  Or sorting the mail, the recycling, the kids’ outgrown clothes.

So it is time to learn to take joy in the process, and give up on being afraid of the inevitable—that I’ll miss a spot, that I’ll throw out something important by mistake, that I’ll have to do it all again tomorrow, or at most  next week if I’m lucky.  Give up thinking that it’s about results.  Quit sissy-footing around and get down to it.

Now the dryer alerts me I have another load to add to the mountain awaiting folding, sorting and putting away.  Off I go.

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