Time capsule entry. Although I suppose every parent since creation felt that the time in which they were raising their children was somehow novel, I’m moved by our 21st-century digital connection to share a transparent take on being a mom and pediatrician today. It’s the end of 2015 and overwhelmingly, I think many of us are stretched thin. And although our children are more-than-ever-before extraordinary, somethings gotta give.
First things first, as a perhaps totally-exhausted-working-full-time-emotionally-laden-at-baseline mom trying to find center, I keep reaching for poetry from Mary Oliver. Here she sets me flying in a portion of her poem, Spring Azures:
Sometimes the great bones of my life feel so heavy,
and all the tricks my body knows–
the opposable thumbs, the kneecaps,
and the mind clicking and clicking–
don’t seem enough to carry me through this world
and I think: how I would like
to have wings–
ribbons of flame.
Oh, how our minds always seem to be clicking and clicking and clicking and clicking…and those blue wings, the ones of flames? Yes, please sign me up.
A friend, a few years ago referred to their spouse as having a “busy brain” and I’ve thought on it since. Don’t all parents? Or is that the 2015 talking?
The 2015 realities aren’t surprising to any of us: the earnest tether to a smartphone, the wild ease to immediately compress and access news from the entire globe, the immense pressure to have a career wed to the impressive surge in being asked to be wildly productive everywhere (at home, at work, at volunteering, at exercising, at being present). The heavy burden of being told to elegantly role-model (hello, parenthood), the urgency we feel to then perfect raising children, all the advice (!!) out there floating around and intentionally pushed our way in social networks. And then the never-ending stream of in-arm’s-reach science of what we know to be good for us (sleep, flossing, daily exercise, leafy greens, friendship, “balance”, a job with purpose, BPA-free) and what we know even more is bad for us (sleep deprivation, unemployment, stress, smoking, divorce, bad cholesterol, processed meat, sedentary days). I mean….
The pressure to pull this all off may be the modern meme of parenthood. Nearly 1/2 of all U.S. children are being raised by parents who both work full time. As this 2015 New York Times title suggests: Stressed, Tired, Rushed: A Portrait of Modern Parenthood, it’s a rigorous yet oddly fortuitous time to grow little lovely people into adults.
Stressed, tired, rushed, overwhelmed, distracted, disconnected. Maybe. But maybe not.
It’s 2015 and we know now that multiple concussions are really bad for our children, we know if we keep using our automobiles and our energy at current capacity the planet will only heat up more, the majority of parents trust and are thankful for life-saving vaccinations (9 out of 10) but mind boggling numbers of scared parents refuse vaccines which has led to scary outbreaks of 20th-century things like measles, whooping cough and unnecessary influenza. The mommy wars are real and alive IRL (in real life) and online which degrade trust in personal choice, mass shootings seem to be a part of American schools, pay isn’t equal (women earn just 78 cents on the dollar compared to working men), the Miss Universe pageant still exists, electric cars are starting to creep around our neighborhoods, and all of us still don’t re-use as many Ziplocs as we could. It’s 2015 and because of changing realities and the way new media can warp parents, we worry more about mass shootings than lice, we spend more “quality time” with our children than our parents did but we’ve overwhelming governed by guilt that it’s just not enough. And it’s not just a mom thing because in 2015 more full-time working dads (50%) say they don’t feel they spend enough time with their children (39% of full-time working moms say this).
It’s 2015 and we’re all so desperately in love with our children.
Are we distracted, despondent, and off-track? Maybe, but maybe not.
No question everyone’s trying to create the hack. Just yesterday a friend texted me overwhelmed and giddy that our local co-op would deliver groceries within an hour for only $3! She packaged the news in a text with the working-mom hack language of “best news I’ve heard in a while. Sat with my NYT recipe books on one side of the screen and my order slip on the other. So fast!” I mean this is parenting now and she’s a superwhiz. And I dunno, sometimes I just know I can’t pull it all off. I also know I’m not alone in that feeling.
How to squeeze it all in, digitize the waste, hurry up and save the world while also making sure to have buddhist perspective that there really is no other single time but the present. And yes, it’s important to use that education you were given thanks to all those in front of us who fought for us to acquire it in the first place.
Thing is, most of the time we just want to know we’re enough.
“Everything in our lives,” she said quietly, “leads up to everything else in our lives. So a moment in the present has a reference point, both in the past and in the future. I want you to know that you—as you are right now and as you ever will be—are fully enough for this moment. One way or the other. Whatever it brings.”
From: George, Elizabeth. “With No One As Witness.”
Raising two little boys certainly is the luxury of my life. And like everyone else I feel that truth in all sorts of ways. Pure overwhelm with how good that little hand can feel in my own, the remarkable penetrance when my 7 year-old sings, “I see The Moon, The Moon Sees Me…” as we race down the highway, and the cozy, irreplaceable intimacy of reading books together before bedtime. It can be a thunderous shudder when we find the time to reflect, absorb, and capture all of this. And it happens constantly, despite all of our elders telling us to slow down and appreciate.
It’s love, lust, pride, and unfiltered mesmerizing adoration I feel every single day for these little boys and for the privilege to be alive.
But meanwhile at work while being productive and (hopefully) helpful I can run across a quote like this, “You will never have this day with your children again — tomorrow they’ll be a little bit older than they are today. Today is a gift. Feel and pay attention to it will be over before you know it…” And as if in a chorus we all wonder, is today the day it is supposed to be? Was that twenty minutes I had with my babies before I left for work ENOUGH?
4 Potentially Useful 2015 Tips For Overwhelmed Parents
- Detach: The “Bored and Brilliant” project. Basically one week of quick exercises that promise to disconnect you from your phone and dial you into your creative, happy place. Try it?
- Recline: Consider “reclining” instead of “leaning in” at work? Maybe if we work less while parenting and stop pushing so hard we’ll find ourselves more, well, ourselves? If you’re interested in reading an opinion, this editorial “Why I Hate Sheryl Sandberg” in The Washington Post (from 2014) is worth a peek. And if you’re sick and tired of reading about this perhaps just turn off the phone. See #1.
- Forgiveness: I’ve written this before but a beloved friend once said some of the best parenting advice I’ve heard for those prone to overwhelm. “Forgive yourself in advance” and then go on and enjoy the choices you’re making as best you can. Clearly there is always time to pivot when necessary, too.
- Change: If something about your “balance” or the way you’re living isn’t working, commit to changing at least one thing this upcoming year and see if it improves your experience. Limitless possibility here. As we roll into resolution season, consider checking out one psychologist’s, Dr. B J Fogg, perspective on what really leads someone to make a change. He calls this insight Tiny Habits:
- A) an epiphany like “MY LIFE IS OUT OF CONTROL AND I DON’T ENJOY IT”
- B) a change you make to your environment like de-cluttering your desk or changing where you live
- C) take baby steps as in you don’t have to slash and burn things in your life, you can gradually live into what you want different
Nadine Bolliger says
Thank you for this. Great timing, great content. You nailed the complexities that plague me daily as a single working parent. It helps to see in black and white that I am in excellent (and insightful) company! I love that you used Mary Oliver’s poetry here–just seeing her name in a publication at work helps me feel all the more at home in my workplace of choice. Thanks again for this well-written piece.
Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE says
You’re welcome. So thankful that it reached you and helped you. Mary Oliver is a lifeforce….
Dying to know the co-op’s delivery area! Here’s to a little less overwhelm in 2016! Happy New Year, Wendy Sue!
Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE says
Here’s more info: https://www.pccnaturalmarkets.com/sc/1510/pcc-grocery-delivery.html
Yes, here’s to less overwhelm! Happy New Year to you, Heather!!!