There has been a noticeable void of writing in my life for a while now. I have been writing for my clients, completing projects and deadlines but, in terms of fulfilling the need to express my own thoughts – the well has run quite dry.
A few years back, one of my children expressed unhappiness in having their adolescence on display in blog format. I completely understood that perspective and shifted gears in my writing towards my perspective, alone – leaving the children mostly out of the picture. But, when you work full-time as a mom and part-time as a writer, well, the best material is off the table. This entire journey prompted me to reevaluate what it actually means to be me. Sara. Myself. Not mother, wife. Just me.
After 20 years of parenting, 21 years of being someone’s partner – I am not certain I even understand the magnitude of “Finding Myself” on this life journey. I found myself a mother at 21, I found myself a teacher for years. Then, I found myself a full-time stay at home mom to 4. I found myself volunteering, cooking for other new mothers or needy in my neighborhood, I found myself working on menus for holiday after holiday. I found myself filling out college applications with my growing children and preparing to now find myself all over again.
I thought that writing for others while bringing some necessary extra money, would also be fulfilling and fun. I have always been passionate about the written word, the ability to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and tap into the deep-rooted thoughts I didn’t even realize I had. I watch my emotions come forth on the screen and often stop to reread, surprised that those feelings were even in there. It’s a daily exercise I practiced religiously like one does yoga, or drinks coffee (I still insist on this as part of my ritual). But, then it just stopped. The words stopped flowing, the emotions stopped filling. And, much like the body knows the mind, my stomach aches increased, my tension built and the frustration settled. I have not found myself, and at times, like my friends that share the same with me – we haven’t a clue where to begin.
The forties are weird. We begin all fierce and strong. Forty is the new thirty! Fab and Forty! We will grab hold and show the forties who’s boss. But, for my friends and I, the forties are also a fast reality check. One look in that mirror will show the lines creeping, the gray hairs multiplying faster than I can color them. Hips that seem to grow a life of their own, despite exercise and eating a multitude of foods I think way too much about before placing in my mouth. The forties mean half-done. Time to figure shit out. I feel the pressure mounting and I’m not sure where to begin my forties fixing and finding.
I recently read a book about a woman on her life’s search. She began with her bucket list and checking them off. Great idea, I thought! I’ve never made a bucket list. So, I began.
Sara’s Bucket List
- Learn to knit. Wait, do I really want to be that Grandma that learns to knit? Yah, I think so. Maybe. Eh. Keep it on the list but, not sure I really want this one. Anyway. On to…
- Travel Through Europe. But, this one is SO expensive. I hope that one day I can do it. If only we didn’t have those college tuitions…
- Conquer My Fear of Heights Can this one even be done? Not sure. Need to ask my shrink friend. Will come back to this one.
As I sat staring at my short and sad list, I realized I haven’t had the time to even get to know what would be on Sara’s Bucket List. I felt pressure to complete the list but had no idea what else I even wanted to accomplish yet. Maybe thinking about my goals for everyone else in my life for the past 20 years has left me a little bit depleted.
So, new Bucket List :
- Figure out what I want on my Bucket List.
Stay tuned, if you care…and feel free to share yours to spark some ideas!
I have been in the same job now for nearly 19 years. Through recessions, upticks in the economy, rainy days and long summers – my job has endured.
Like any interesting job no 2 days are exactly the same. It is a job that I love and am ready to quit at the same time. I have wanted to ask my boss for a bonus, a mental health day, some time off – but, unfortunately I am employed by 4 little (and not-so-little) selves. Don’t dare ask me what I do all day, for you won’t want the diatribe of answers.
My job is a SAHM. (Stay-at-home-Mom for those not in the ‘know’).
I am sure by now, some other SAHM have read and shared the dad’s blog to end all blogs where he puts a price on a his wife’s value. I read it and applauded in my head, but this blog was no news to me. My husband and I have argued for some time over whether what I do is actually a job versus a ‘life choice’. He, afraid to insult me, always thought it was nicer to say ‘life choice’ to stay home with my kids. I, however, insist that this is a real job – one that is constantly changing and one that I am both proud of and ready to scream over, depending on the day.
Why is it so important for me that this gig is a ‘real job’? Well, I do have another gig. I am a writer. I write blogs, content for websites and pieces for a local magazine. That gig pays. Not tremendously, but it does. This work is more of a hobby, a passion, a brain challenge that I enjoy. But, my life’s work – my proudest work – is in helping my family grow and sustain itself.
No, groceries and laundry are not glorious. No, chauffeuring my kids from school to art class isn’t exciting or even life-changing. However, this SAHM job also affords me the opportunity to both impact and be impacted by 4 of the most fabulous people I’ve ever met. This job allows me the opportunity to speak to my partner about rich topics that affect lives, the economy, the future, the real estate market, and our community. No other job on the planet gives you all of that and more.
Being a SAHM is a blessing. It’s not something that every mother gets the opportunity to do or even to enjoy. I have friends who insist they couldn’t find value in doing it all day. I have other friends who insist that staying on their career path is their goal in addition to mothering. I do not judge. I do not begrudge anyone from following their life’s work or their passions. I just know that for me – just me – this is what I was put on Earth to do and do well.
I see that my job description is once again changing. Next fall, my youngest will be in school until nearly 4 pm. “What will you do all day!” I hear from others in my boat. A common freak attack we SAHMs have right about every August. (who’s with me?!)
Well, what will I do? I will grow my writing business focusing on the parts of it I love best and continue to make money while doing something I enjoy. I will nurture my passions and follow up on some lost threads I left dangling when I was too busy climbing up the ladder of SAHM with babies. And, in my new role my hours will change, not disappear. I will continue to do projects that motivate me. I will get together with friends and reconnect after all the time we’ve spent hibernating in our houses with children. I will experience what days are like filled with empty possibilities and be ready to take a 1 am phone call from a teen abroad or answer a 3 am moan and groan from an ill middle schooler. My new hours will begin at 4 pm. I will continue to be available for school trips, sick days, phone calls from school and vacations. I will be present with my children when they talk (or text), instead of preoccupied with lists or wound up toddlers running amuck in my house. I will have time to provide nice, nutritious meals – those ones that I always look at and say I’ll make later in life. Now, is later in life.
Yes, my job is changing. I will be delivering my oldest to a dorm room this fall, instead of the steps of the first day of school. I will kiss his cheek and remind him about healthy food choices, watch him roll his eyes at me and beam with excitement. I will set my soon-t0-be-junior in high school on a path for college choices and dreaming big as she learns to drive a car, instead of waving to her on the school bus. I will watch my middle schooler braid her own hair, devise her own style and make her own sandwiches instead of me doing those things for her. And I will watch my baby sit at her first desk, get her first prayer book and continue to watch her learn and grow all over again.
These parts of my job – developing free-thinkers, do-it-yourselfers, chefs, drivers, motivators and contributors are the absolute best parts of my life. These are moments no other job can provide. These are my bonuses. My mental health days. My time-off. I have earned these hours to reflect, to write, to think and to be. As CEO/SAHM of this family – It’s time to reap the rewards of all the hard work.
As we’re all scrubbing, listing, shopping and for some, packing, I remind myself that Passover is actually one of my favorite holidays. For those who cannot see the rainbow in the cloud of chaos and money spending – here’s a gentle reminder of 5 reasons Passover is my favorite holiday.
Rejiggering Inevitably it happens. I begin a simple cleaning of a space and next thing I know, I am moving a desk here, a rug there, pushing a bed across a room. Passover cleaning turns into a rejiggering of all my spaces. It’s sort of a literal and figurative refocusing. I toss old clothing, go through that shelf of old books and begin attacking that pile of papers I’ve been holding off touching. Yes, I am aware this is not the point of Passover cleaning. I don’t even recommend it to my friends. But, for me it’s cathartic and leads right to #2 below.
Payoff There is something about Passover that always makes me feel the true meaning of ‘job well done’. When it comes to cleaning and cooking, I am often lazy. I’ll happily grab a shortcut. If I’m going to have to do hard manual labor well, there has to be a payoff – and it better be a good one. When I sit down at the Seder and look around my table I always end up so grateful for the gifts we have. I am surrounded by family, good food and a lengthy (sometimes too lengthy!) amount of tradition that allows me the chance to feel fulfillment in all those weeks of organizing hard work. I have prepped weeks for this and there is something in that moment at the first seder that I feel full – emotionally and spiritually. The key for me not to feel angry or overwhelmed is really in a learned mind trick. I typically aim to be ready the day prior to the actual holiday. If I accomplish this goal that means the day of, I can just focus on a little jaunt out with my daughters to do our nails, setting up the table and sort of relaxing. There have been some years I did not accomplish the day before, and that has led me to a much more stressful and unhappy beginning to my favorite holiday.
Tradition Judaism is chock-full of every day traditions. But, Passover is the ultimate in hands-on. A tangible holiday that revolves around the children when so many revolve around shooing or hushing the children. I love to find ways to incorporate the fun in my fun-ctional Passover. As it is all about the children, I find myself being excited again as well. Maybe its the former teacher in me, perhaps its the Mommy in me or it could also be the dormant laziness I sometimes participate in other holidays – but, Passover revives me as a Jewish person. It’s out loud conversation about where we came from and how we got here. A time where talking about our history and connection to one another is discussed, analyzed and even sang about. A holiday where we are focused on enjoyment and freedom rather than the ‘do not dos’ and the ‘must not touch’.
Food No good holiday comes without a massive amount of food consumption. Like I said, I’m lazy when it comes to food and I love shortcuts. What shorter cut is there than deleting half of the ingredients I normally use! Creating simpler meals, a stronger focus on the green vegetables and the proteins, I find I actually eat healthier and happier on Pesach (minus my must-do matzo brie). I minimize my matzo intake (hello, stomach aches we not-so-lovingly call “Matzo babies”). It’s the one holiday throughout the year I tend to lose weight, rather than gain.
Family Although this will be our first Passover without our oldest, as he’s staying abroad, I am reminded of many years of all of us together as a family when I dig into our Passover boxes. There is something emotional about that moment I uncover those bins and find memories literally falling all over me. Projects each of my children made, the dozens of Matzo covers and cups of Elijah that come pouring out of their spots. Pages and pages of coloring, half-glued matzos hanging on by a thread from their construction paper. Each one a treasure only visited for a few days a year. The amassed Passover dishes and knick knacks I have collected and added to each year, remembering the fear of that first Passover I made myself. Even those memories of Passover as a child fighting over a treasured fork and knife. This is the reason, the true reason I love it. My family memories that are growing each year. Even if all of us cannot be together, there will still be remnants of them at our table and in my heart, forever.
So while Purim or Succot (and if you ask my kids, I’m sure it’s Chanukah) might be your #1, Passover for me is the ultimate. Bring on the Matzo brie!
Image Source : Huffington Post
Last year I wrote a piece for my blog on Chicago Parent discussing the Been There, Done That Fairy Mom-mother. Essentially, being a young mother has enabled me to experience everything first, before my friends, without any go-to mom to glean sage advice. I just had a few teary-eyed calls this week that reminded me of this article and made me wish for that fairy all over again.
My friends, now parents of seniors in high school, are experiencing the beginning of the grieving process as they watch their oldest get ready to leave the nest. By far one of the hardest years of my life, I can honestly say it does get better. But, it isn’t easy to go through. And, you are going to need your friends. And, tissues. Lots of tissues.
Last year, when I was stuck in the muck of it I just wrote. I wrote and wrote and wrote. Then, I cried. Then, I wrote some more. I wrote so much he asked me to please stop writing about him so much.
So, I did.
If only I had someone to go to, to ask if it would get better, to assure me that my child’s really going to be okay – more than okay. And, that yes, I could eventually walk around without feeling like my right arm had been cut off.
So, here I am my Senior Parent friends, to tell you: Not only will you get through this year, and the next, you and your oldest will thrive. It is an amazing moment when you look at your child and realize – they are their own person and that person is pretty fantastic.
Perhaps because of you, perhaps despite you.
You overthink it, you come up with every anxious scenario how they will be absolutely be lost without you there to guide them. But, then you realize, in time, and with those darn tissues, that they can guide themselves pretty well and know how to get in touch if/when they can’t.
You insist you know their path best, you have it all mapped out in your head. The school abroad or the college, the majors, the lifestyle, the food plan. But, then they eat what they want, go where they go and do what they do:
Since last year I did in fact locate a few Been There, Done That Moms and here’s what we’ve put together to share. We cannot say we successfully did all of these, but wish at the time that we had this list in advance:
Express your vision, then hear theirs One of the best pieces of advice I can give is to listen. Let them feel heard because this process is damn hard. Take the time to express what you want for their future, where you see them and how they can get there. That is valuable information. Then, shut up and listen to how they see their own. This is even more valuable information.
There will be loud discussions – Part of leaving home is prepping a long time for that big day of goodbye. It’s a lot of emotions and a heck of a lot of decisions to make in a short period of time. They’re stressed, you’re stressed. So, talk and try not to let it escalate too much – but, be understanding if and when (oh, it will) gets loud.
Push and they will push back harder – You want one thing, they want another. It’s totally normal in the process. If you push one school, or insist on something because “I’m paying” the chances of them wanting that are now greatly reduced just to piss you off. Ultimately, they have to go to class, earn the grades and have a future. If it’s all controlled by you – it will not go well.
Let this be their future, not yours – Some moms shared with me that they unknowingly tried to live out their dreams through their children. This seemed more prevalent in those I talked to with moms and daughters, but I have no hard evidence of that. This is not the time to live out your dreams, its time to let the kids figure out what they want.
Deny, Deny, Deny My go-to coping mechanism of choice was to live in the lovely land of denial. But, then it does really happen. They really leave. And it seriously sucks. But, then they will come back to visit or oddly you go to visit them (and feed them).
Don’t freak when they make a mistake I did this. Whoops. It was bad. I expected perfection and what I got was human. Nothing, short of life and death, is that bad. Let them F it up so they can learn and grow and figure it out for themselves.
Just like we had to.
There is a mean part of parenting no one tells you at the beginning when they hand you that bundle of smooshy cuteness. That is that one day you will be totally caught off-guard, by a surprise so big, so great and overwhelming nothing (not even ice cream and oh, I tried) can make it better. Until, suddenly you just move forward organically into the next stage.
Adultish (?) parenting.
I am still learning exactly what this next part of parenting means when I still pay for bills, and dole out spending money, but we’re learning to navigate the territory. Part coach, part friend, part parent, part nothing but a text at times and part in awe of what G-d let me have a hand in making – it’s weird, awesome and terrifying all at the same time.
No, I do not have my been there, done that Mom to guide me around the ropes of all of this. But, I hope I’m doing okay so far…So saddle up Senior Moms, and get ready for the ride of a lifetime.
Last night I had a dream about an old friend.
Leah and I became close friends on my first day transferring in to a new school in the fifth grade. The only person who chose to sit next to me at lunch, I was forever grateful for her. Leah had a hard life for a 10-year-old, with her father recently dying of cancer and her mom remarrying a Sugar Papa. But, you’d never know it.
Leah was raised in a super-strict household with lots of rules and little flexibility. But, she didn’t care. She was full of life and spunk always “effing off” her step-monster when he left the room, flushing her okra down the toilet when her mom went to work ou’ or sitting in the formal living room (a huge no-no) when her parents were out for the evening.
Her house is where I first learned about, tasted and subsequently vomited, macrobiotic diet. Leah’s older sister taught me the phrase “A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips”. Hers was the first house I realized what eating disorders could really look like. I didn’t realize it at the time, but her Mom was grooming Leah to become a wife. “Whaaat boy will want you if you fatten up on that junk?” she’d often be heard saying in her heavy New York accent.
Leah’s house is where I would go to escape the chaos at my house, as her siblings had all grown up and left the nest. She was a lone survivor. Often spending hours in her room, we’d dream up our fancy filled adult lives, try on her clothes and pretend we lived anywhere but Far Rockaway, NY.
At 19, her strict family insisted Leah go get a husband. In an arranged marriage, after 4 dates, (he’s not that bad, she’d tell me after date 2. I think I can learn to love him, she said on date 3) Leah married a man a few years older than her. I attended their wedding, just like she would mine, a few years later. It was my first friend’s wedding- small, intimate and missing any aspect of the romantic love we had dreamed up all our lives. It was actually one of the saddest things I have ever attended – watching a lamb to the slaughter with a heavy, draped cloth over her face.
Leah and I stayed in touch for a time after her wedding. She was actually happy, she would tell me. Living in a very right-wing Orthodox Jewish community in Boro Park, NY, Leah was surrounded by families of 6, 7 or even 8+ children. Trying to stay thin so her husband would stay interested, she would have me visit only when he wasn’t home. He doesn’t like me to be distracted when he’s home, she would tell me rushing me back on the train.
After 4 years of no children arriving for her and her husband, Leah called me one morning after months of silence, hysterical crying. Her husband had informed her that with no children they would have to get a divorce.
She was devastated. I was relieved to get my Leah back.
I had only recently become a married woman and was completely confused about Leah’s situation. I did not know how or what to do to help her. She went back home to her mother’s home, her step-monster now dead.
I called a few times, but her Mom would tell me she was ‘unavailable’ so I figured she needed her privacy. But, weeks, than months went by with no returned calls. As quickly as she came back, she left my life again.
A number of years later, with the invention of Facebook, I looked her up. Up popped Leah’s profile, with a smiling, beautiful face I recognized. Excited to hear from her, I messaged her and waited. About a week later, Leah responded with one sentence. “Call me.” And, put her phone number.
My heart beating out of my chest, I quickly ran to the phone and dialed. I couldn’t wait to hear her voice and relive our old memories. More importantly, I wanted to see how she was doing. Leah’s so resilient, I am sure she’s amazing!, I would tell myself periodically when I thought of her.
A woman’s voice answered the phone after a number of rings. It wasn’t Leah. I asked for her and she put my on hold. I heard a lot of voices in the background. I assumed after all these years, maybe she had remarried and these were her children or something.
“Hello?” It was her!
I quickly bombarded her with a million questions. She began to laugh and told me her story.
After Leah’s forced divorce she had a mental breakdown. Needing to be medicated and calmed she was required to move into a mental institution in New York. She lived there for one year and then moved into a halfway house for women back in Brooklyn. The phone number she provided me with was her halfway home. She had been living there for over three years now, she explained. She had high hopes of soon getting a roommate and a place of her own. She told me some horrific stories of abuse in the mental institution and a sexual relationship she carried on with a much older man prompting her to get moved to this all women’s home.
As I wiped the tears from my cheeks, I could not believe what I was hearing. My beautiful friend, so full of light and spunk, now living in a halfway house in Brooklyn. I was furious with her family, furious with the world and wanted to scoop up Leah and run away.
We chatted a few more minutes about my life and she said her phone time was up and she had to go. I never heard from her again.
I dialed that number a dozen times and no one ever answered. Her Facebook account still active, but never used. Her old home number disconnected. And, now she’s lost to me.
I still think about her from time to time and I have this recurring dream, like I did last night. We are at a lake house, which looks just like her old childhood bedroom. We are in fancy outfits, pulled from her closet, and we are chatting with glasses of wine about our lives. The couch is soft and comfortable and she looks so happy. But, then it all changes and we’re suddenly in her kitchen and Leah has a glazed, scary look in her eyes. I wake up.
I pray for Leah, that she has found peace and happiness. I think about her often and send her good wishes and good health. Leah made my first day in a new school a happier one. Leah made my empty middle school angst full of fun, adventure and a whole lot of F-Bombs when things got rough. Leah made my breakups in high school and my unrequited crushes seem like glamorous stories from another world she could never be apart of. From midnight sneaks into the junk drawer she had hidden in her dresser, to prank phone calling the neighbors, I will never, ever forget you – wherever you are 🙂