Friday, June 19, 2009

Ask Ashley - Laying off the Sauce

Today's Question:

Dear Ashley,

As a mom, I need suggestions on how to stay sane, preferably without crazy pills or alcohol.



Your question is short, sweet and to the point. I like it!

Okay, well, first and foremost, I think it's important to remember that all moms have these moments. Even if your friends seemingly have it all together, whose children are well-behaved in public, who say "please" and "thank you", those who have the clean homes, and even those who cook gourmet meals seven night a week... Their appearances say that they're great, perfect mothers, deserving of some sort of Nobel price.

But what they really deserve is an Oscar. Cause I assure you, it's all an act.

Never let those moms fool you, cause underneath the Bree van De Kamp facade, they are just as unhinged as you.

None of us are perfect and we all struggle. Some of us are just a little more open about it. I think one of the greatest disservices mothers do to other mothers is to pretend that things are better than they are. We see these moms, we read their blogs about how wonderful their children are, we see pictures of them with a perfect face of makeup as they execute an intricate art project, we hear recounts of their apple pie with homemade crust. You can almost hear the theme song to "Leave it to Beaver" in the background. And it makes you want to grab some pearls so you can try to be like June, too.

But you're not. And you know what, neither is your perfect-looking friend. Deep down her kids are driving her bananas, she's dying for a nap, her skin is screaming for a break from the makeup, and she is getting fat from eating the apple pie.

So, my first piece of advice: cut yourself some slack. There are only so many hours in the day, and if you're feeling like you need to hit the bottle to cope, you are probably trying to fit in too much. Go back to basics. When we were kids, our parents didn't shuttle us to a zillion playdates, library storytimes, karate, dance, gymnastics, paint your own pottery, and underwater basket weaving lessons. Stay home more and just enjoy your kids instead of taking your kids places to enjoy other things. All they really want it you, anyway. You have to listen to their cues--when I see a kid having a meltdown in the store checkout line, I know that kid needs either a meal or a nap. And when I see a kid with a streak of bad behavior, more times than not he just wants attention from his parents, be it good or bad. I'd put money on it. Your kids will pester the crap out of you if they aren't getting the proper amount of attention. Sometimes just listening to them for a few minutes can abate the endless refrain of "Mommy? Mommy! Mommy... Mommy!!??!!?!?!" (And you might even get lucky and they'll say something funny. Like today when Mason pointed to the word "Play" on his shirt and said, "That's what makes the show turn on." : ) He has no idea what the word is, but he knows it's next to the triangle button that makes the TV show go. )

Second, and this goes a little bit against my last paragraph, it's important to carve out time for yourself. Yes, your kids need truckloads of attention, and you should give it to them. But also do one random act of kindness for yourself every day. Whether it's exercise, a healthy meal, a long bath, reading a good book, or even a fancy homemade cup of coffee. As important as it is to be involved with your kids, you have to take time out to remember that you are, after all, an adult! But when your son starts chucking train tracks at his little brother's head, it's time to put the coffee down and forget mommy time for the day. I speak from experience on this one.

The old me had my priorities all screwed up. I used to make sure everyone and everything else was taken care of before I did things for me like daily exercise, showering, taking a book break during naptime, etc. Now, after the kids are fed and dressed for the day we hit the gym. I leave the breakfast dishes in the sink and the beds unmade. (Trust me, it was a major feat for me to make this concession!) But it dawned on me that people rarely see the inside of my house, but they see me everyday. And the baby weight carrying, no makeup wearing, anxiety ridden me was an abomination that wasn't worth seeing. So now I put my children's basic needs first like keeping them fed, healthy and clean, and after that I workout, shower and put at least a minimal amount of makeup on so I can feel good about myself. Still, everything manages to get done somehow.... Do I make it to as many playdates as I used to? Nope. Am I able to hang out with friends as often? Nope. Am I a lot less crazy now that I pay attention to my kids and myself before the chores and everyone else? Absolutely.

Life has become more about doing things and less about getting things done.

And to conclude, I highly recommend yoga. In fact, I can't recommend yoga enough. There's a reason that BKS Iyengar is 90-something years old and still in better shape than most Americans, but I digress. Not only is it a great physical workout, it improves flexibility and balance (so when you're an old biddy you won't be as likely to fall and break a hip), and it also forces you to relax and focus on yourself.

I think of it as a natural version of crazy pills and alcohol.


Gotta questions? Email steppedonalego[at]gmail dot com.

1 comment:

The Manrings said...

okay, seriously, this ask ashley business cracks me up and is so great. i love this idea. it seems i'm always apart of some kind of mommy forum with emails bouncing back and forth with everyone's input and experiences. i will have to think of a question and post it to you soon. i always remind myself that every mom is doing the best that they can do and to think positive. love checking on to your blog.