Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I Don't Know How She Does It

I attended a very lovely graduation party last weekend, and no less than three people gave me crap about not posting on my blog, which is flattering that they care, of course, but then I start getting antsy and my chardonnay seems less crisp and cold and I start thinking about all of the things I need to do that aren't getting done, and as I looked at every woman at this very large party, every one of whom was impeccably dressed and seemed to have their shit together, I thought,

"I don't know how she does it."

I say this about approximately three in every five women I meet.  Single, married, working, at-home, multiple children, no children.  They all seem to know what they are doing.  Here is what I know for sure - I like food, I have children, my clothes are probably wrinkled and/or inexplicably stained, and I am always Beverage Impaired.  After that, it's all a crapshoot.

I recently read Tina Fey's book, Bossypants (which I loved, by the way).  In it, Fey says the bolded statement above is the worst thing you can say to her.  Here is an excerpt from her book:

"How do you juggle it all," people constantly ask me, with an accusatory look in their eyes. "You're screwing it all up, aren't you?" their eyes say. My standard answer is that I have the same struggles as any working parent but with the good fortune to be working at my dream job. Or I just hand them a juicy red apple I've poisoned in my working-mother-witch-cauldron and fly away.

About six years ago, a friend and I sought the answer to the "How Do Good Moms Do It?" question like Indiana Jones searched for the Holy Grail.  Was it through the use of well-organized binders with color coding and menu plans?  Was it through gluten-free, sugar-free, and video game-free lives?  Was it through carefully scattered vintage postcards and framed family photographs, organized by season and decade and kept in hermedically sealed Rubbermaid Tubs in the storage facility sectioned off by month and seasonal holiday themes?  Was it through the generous and abundant use of Xanax?  Perhaps only truly good mothering was to be hired off to an army of housekeepers and tennis/golf/sailing/engineering lessons with the "right" coach and college-aged nannies on speed dial.  Because we know people who have done all of these things and more, and on the surface, they all seem to be Norman Rockwell families with The Answer. 

We also talked about the book "I Don't Know How She Does It," by Allison Pearson, at great length.  I've been all the flavors of professional motherhood - full time working, part time working, owed my own business from a store, owned my own business from home, full time at-home mom, and guess what?  The employment situtation does NOT make the mother.  I was, and am, the same type of mom no matter how many hours I spent working outside or inside the home - disorganized, well-intentioned, funny yet slightly manic depressive and a totally incompetent housekeeper.  In the words of the great philosopher Popeye, "I yam what I yam."

"I Don't Know How She Does It" and the like do women a disservice by basically saying you ruin your children by working outside the home.  You can also equally ruin your children by devoting your every breathing moment to them by being at home all the time, or worse, re-living your childhood through them.  I know women who are really awesome volunteers at the school, who do it for the betterment of the school and the kids, and I know women who use their "status" at the school as a tool to bully other moms and make them think they are "less than", which really pisses me off, because aren't we all just trying as hard as we can?  Give a sister a break!  However, Betty Freidan also did women a disservice by essentially putting forth in "The Feminine Mystique" that women should say To Hell With All That and leave the home behind them.  Where is the happy medium?  Why can't we work and donate store-bought cookies without judgement?  Why can't we be at home and blow off one volunteering "opportunity" without judgement?  Why can't we be without judgement? 

Sarah Jessica Parker is starring in the movie version of "I Don't Know How She Does It", which is already a tiny bit disappointing because it is now American, whereas before it was set in London, and I do love me a British accent in my films.  Here is the trailer:

So after six years of careful study, here is my conclusion...are you ready?  The working moms generally love to work outside the home, love the paycheck, wish they had more vacation or could work out a schedule of three or four in-office days a week.  They feel guilty when there is a child event and they get to see other moms who don't work in action.  The at-home moms love being at home but some days are going stark raving mad and just want to dress up in something nice and feel respected, and feel guilty when their daughter raves about the mom who is the doctor.  There is a consensus in both camps that they would like it if someone else would PLEASE CLEAN UP THE DAMN KITCHEN.

The best nugget of parenting wisdom? 
"To each her own."

News Flash - there is no "right" way to do it, and anyone who tells you that she's got it down pat is completely delusional and should be given a pitying hug and a chocolate.  Every home has a closet with No Vacancy for skeletons, and for the people who look perfect, you don't know what goes on behind closed doors and applause to them for making it look so awesome, but realize that they cry themselves to sleep sometimes too.  The best thing that could happen is that we all stop being our own worst critics.  By the way?  Sometimes those people who look like they have The Answer actually do - sometimes they are honestly happy, well-balanced people, and we can all quit mocking them for being happy.  (But we can still be a little bit jealous, that's okay.)

And so, I propose The Ovarian Revolution. 

The first rule of the OR is that you don't talk about the OR.  Oh, wait, wrong club.  The first rule of the OR is Love Thy Ovaries, Love Thy Self.  Sorry guys, but we DO actually do more than you do, and we should stop the self-flagellation and go out and buy ourselves a drink and get a pedicure.  I'm willing to bet OPI will name a color after the OR, like "O-Vary Pink" or "Good in the Kitchen, Better in Red" or "Volunteer Violet" or "Working Mom Wine".  Then we should all get on a comfy couch and watch an Italian film and dream of Tuscany.  We'll always have Tuscany, darling.

Ovarian Toes Unite!  This rant is over.


Anonymous said...

Funny I didn't see you at the gathering I was at in Evanston over the weekend-it sounds as though we were thinking and doing the same things there! We will have to talk!

Anonymous said...

I know how you do it....CH

Monique said...

OR Unite!!! viva, le revolucion... Ha ha ha this was awesome and so true in many ways. We are our worst critics and it isn't easy all the time but it is the most rewarding!!!

Awesome read and love your blog...

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