Misadventures of a 20-Something Mom: 2017   

Friday, January 13, 2017

Don't Buy What They're Selling: Parenting in the Age of Excess

     
After half a decade in the parenting trenches, I've come to a difficult realization: I just might be going about this all wrong. For someone who has essentially dedicated every waking moment to raising their children, this is a particularly difficult pill to swallow.

Whether it stems solely from biology or is impacted by society as well, we seem innately programmed to want the best for our kids. To want even better for them than we had ourselves. And for the past 5.5 years, that's what I thought I had been giving them. 

As a pregnant first time-mom, this meant purchasing every baby gizmo and gadget, brand spanking new, for our pending arrival. There was no play yard too pricey and no crib too costly. We wanted only the best for our babe. 

Then, after he made his debut, "wanting the best" for him morphed into Pinterest-worthy first birthday parties with custom cookies, themed fare, and a decorative gumball wreath that I (true story) spent around seven hours hot gluing together. 

As our family grew, our determination to provide the best for them did as well. Over-the-top Christmases that left our chubby toddlers nearly shoulder deep in wrapping paper were commonplace as was standing in line for hours in an effort to snag the latest hard to score, "must-have" toy of the season. 

While I've known for some time now that "stuff" was not the key to achieving my own happiness, I missed that memo when it came to my kids. For some reason, I bought into the idea that they needed stuff to be happy and I was hell bent on providing it. Between my own misguided attempts at creating a happy childhood for my boys, and the perpetual bombardment of advertisements targeting them, a seemingly unquenchable thirst for things has been instilled in my kids. 

This is not the life I want for my children.

This life of complete and utter excess...chock full of poorly made toys that either break instantaneously or quickly become an afterthought strewn about the playroom floor. A few years down the road, I'm sure the cost of making my children "happy" will likely increase exponentially. Their wish lists will simply upgrade from cheap, plastic toys to brand name clothes, tech, and expensive after school extracurriculars. That'll all add up quickly...but to what end?

As their parent, this is not what I want to give them

Instead, I want to save up that money that would have been wasted on accumulating stuff and give them something truly priceless. Perhaps, their first glimpse of a 1,000 year old painted Italian ceiling, that stirs up feelings inside them that they didn't know existed. Or the chance to skip rocks off of glistening coastal waters, that remind them of just how small they are in this big world.   

The opportunity to meet new people, and potentially make new friends. To immerse themselves in other cultures and courageously venture out of their comfort zones and into uncharted territories. 
To completely dismantle their parochial points of view and truly show them the world. 

In the life I want to give them, I would give my kids my undivided attention. As opposed to my half-hearted attempts to spend meaningful time together, while I scurry about the house, in a futile effort to clean up all the stuff we've accrued. I want to give them the (largely exaggerated) stories of our childhoods; as recounted on the laps of their grandparents. I want to give them time spent together as a family; making memories that are so amazing that they become forever etched into the fabric of their tiny minds.

In lieu of things, I want to give them so much more. I want to provide them with the real keys to lifelong happiness...none of which can be bought in a store. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Work Within These Walls


1700 square feet.

3 bedrooms. 2 baths. 

A dining room that somehow evolved into a playroom somewhere along the line..and a living room that now works double duty as a family space and the place that meals are served.

1700 square feet. 
That's where I've spent the majority of my days these past 5.5 years. 

Not on house arrest, nor as some sort of hermitic recluse. But instead, as a stay-at-home parent....which, if we're honest, involves a little of both of the aforementioned. 

For 5.5 years, this 1700 square feet has served as my "office;" day in and day out, as I work tirelessly to raise three little boys. 

I'm sure our so-called headquarters would sound relatively grandiose if we lived in the hustle and bustle of some big metropolis. Square footage comes at a premium when one lives amidst hoity-toity restaurants and eclectic coffee shops; where both hipsters and professionals alike, go daily to overpay for their morning cup of Joe. 

But that same square footage ranks modestly within the quiet solitude of the burbs'.

And the work that happens within these walls feels equally modest and light years away from those fancy "city folk" and their snazzy careers. Living in the suburbs with small children, means that at times, I have gone days without interacting with another person (aside from my husband) who is over three feet tall. And yet, at the same time, in the current era of social media, I am also perpetually interacting.

Interacting in such a way that I find myself constantly bombarded by the various achievements and accolades of former colleagues. And as my thirtieth birthday looms this year, I have found myself wondering, if the work I do here, raising these tiny humans, measures up. 

 I am so unbearably cliche at this point. If there was a poster child for stay-at-home moms, I'd be her. I drive a minivan, wear yoga pants with zero intent of actually practicing yoga, and maintain a "mommy blog" that ironically enough, I think only my own mom reads. Though, its worth noting that there's a surprisingly disappointing lack of bon-bon eating in my schedule. My days are fueled by trips to Target, where I inevitably forget everything on my list and instead buy holiday inspired throw pillows and toilet paper in bulk (you can never have enough of the latter in a house full of boys), wiping tiny bottoms, making eight zillion snacks/meals, cleaning up after said eight zillion snacks/meals, the occasional jam out to gangster rap in the school car line, and lots of deep, zen-like breathing so I don't lose my sh#t when I find Play Doh in the washing machine...again. And the next day inevitably brings more of the same. It's like Groundhog Day...but without Bill Murray or a catchy Sonny & Cher theme song.

All this to say, the routine feels a little mundane sometimes. The work feels a little unimportant in comparison to what all those "real" grown-ups are doing in the "real" world. Thankfully, I have an amazing best friend who happens to have the same day job that I do. Right down to the three boys. And when the mommy burnout begins creeping in, I know she will be my sounding board, and reserve any judgement. Recently, when I was in a particularly dreary mood after scrolling through those facebook highlight reels, I posited that this staying home gig was all for naught and we had nothing tangible or significant to show for it. No promotions. No six-figure income. No epic office Christmas party or raunchy water cooler gossip. Nothing. Nada. Fortunately, my bestie reminded me of the obvious: that being a part of the "working world" isn't always all its cracked up to be. What with deadlines, trying to balance work and home life, having someone to report to, etc.  

But, perhaps more importantly, she reminded me of my kids.
They are my something tangible. My something significant. When I turn 30 in May, I will have no shiny desk placard that tells the world that I have accomplished great things. However, in lieu of this, I will have something better. Three, living, breathing, walking/talking (well two of them anyways!) examples of the great work that I have accomplished, and the great work yet to be done. My three beautiful boys.

Despite my occasional insecurities, I know in my heart of hearts that the work that I have put in within these walls is hardly for nought. The work within these walls is sacred. And though the days are often long, and there are no big-time promotions on the horizon, it is the greatest and most gratifying work I will ever do.