When I wrote that inspiring post back in early January, the world fresh with 2016 promise, I had a few goals in mind.
One was to create more material to write about. More mini, and actual, adventures. Because the thing is that I'm not an entertainment writer, and watching TV every night wasn't gonna get me there. I admit that I made the plan, in part, to force myself into writing some good essays, or maybe even a book about this year's-worth of major to-do items.
But there is more to it than that. I've spent the last several years being pregnant and feeding, comforting and otherwise caring for young children. That's not all I've been doing, obviously, but it's utilized a lot of my energy. It took me awhile - certainly past Nora's babyhood - to realize that reveling in that new-mom downtime was not only ok, but a pretty great way to spend your days.
I don't feel that anxious concern I once did when I had my first baby, lost my job and then wondered if I'd ever complete all my professional goals. In fact, I haven't really been sure what my professional goals are anymore. I think I'm getting them back just now, at 38-years-old. That's ok with me, too.
Listen. I could get all philosophical with this topic. I could talk about the importance and value of caregiving, but Anne Marie Slaughter has already done a terrific job on that. Or I could talk about how it doesn't matter if you work, stay home, or do something in between, parenthood is challenging, but, like, one billion mothers have already done that in compelling online essays.
I think what I need to do, instead, is voice personal feelings about my role as a mother, as a writer and, you know, just in general. And the truth there is that I have been feeling kind of dumpy.
"Kind Of Dumpy: The Cara McDonough story." You'd buy that book, right?
Let me clarify that I don't think I have been a bad mother, or wife or employee or any of those things. I actually think I've been really good at those things since J and I had children. And let me also say that I think the modern parenthood movement (mothers in particular) have done a wonderful, persuasive job of assuring everyone out there that you don't have to "do it all."
Sometimes, though, and I feel like I have to be careful here, it feels TOO persuasive to me. Rejoicing in doing the bare minimum feels good when you need it, but it doesn't feel good all the time.
I don't feel the need to do it all, per se, and I also don't feel the need - anymore, anyway - to write about "doing it all," or the modern day challenges of family life. I'd rather just do the best job I can at home and at work and with my freelance career, and support politicians and other influencial types who are championing important legislation and ideas.
But while I know - I know, you guys - that I don't have to "do it all," I'd still like to do more. When I do relax I want it to feel really good, and justified.
Plus, I'd love my downtime to at least sometimes consist of things I used to find truly relaxing, like reading. Running, even, is often a huge stress reliever for me. But most of the time I go for the most expedient route to "relaxation." My phone. Sweatpants in bed. And it doesn't feel as good as those other activities would feel. It really doesn't. It's like when you want something sweet and you opt for the pure sugar rush of the leftover Easter candy (which someone may or may not have just gotten into right now) rather than indulging in some quality dark chocolate. There's room for the former, for sure, but you should do some of the latter, too; that more worth it, less accessible thing.
So, another reason I made that year-long to-do list was to make my time more satisfying, productive and relaxing. And maybe even do some good for the world, and myself, in the process.
Most importantly, though, I want my kids (especially Nora, simply because she's at such an impressionable age) to see me doing things I love; things that mean something.
That's why I really wrote that list.
I've been doing an ok job so far. Not great, but not bad either. I'm flailing on the recipes thing and going to South America seems unlikely. But I'm raising money for the American Cancer Society for a guaranteed spot in the NYC Marathon, and I applied to a writing program (and entered a writing contest too...I didn't win). I've already seen a few shows this year and have some volunteer ideas. "Ulysses," well, I'll get there, I guess. Damnit, Joyce!
Anyway, I thought I'd share a little background on my thinking since, like I said before, I'd planned to write about this process and I haven't been doing too much of that. There's time, though. Just like there's time for listening to Spanish tutorials in my car, which could be helping me learn that language, another of my goals.
Although, minor victory, Nora - whose school curriculum is half in Spanish - has already taught me two words. "Rana," which means frog, and another one...which I have already completely forgotten. So, a rather minor victory, but I'm on my way.