I sacrifice my nails.

You know these busy lives we lead, where most things feel unfinished and many things overwhelm us? We want to do it all, and for a while we will try, but eventually we have to make room for what really matters and weed out what’s “nice” but less essential.

This might mean embracing the piles of clean laundry that never make it from the couch to the closet before being picked up and worn again, because really – it’s the worst chore ever.

Or it might mean you eat take out for dinner and don’t feel bad about it, because it means less stress and more time with your family. And no dishes!

Maybe you forgo cleaning the kitchen floor, even when you walk on it barefoot and things stick to your feet, because when you mop it the cleanliness lasts for approximately three hours before you can no longer prove it ever occurred.

Sacrificing and prioritizing is ok. Motherhood has slapped me in the face with this a time or two this past year. We all do it and then pretend that we don’t, and then admit it and make fun of ourselves, but that’s a complicated process so I am here to tell you that we don’t need to feel bad about our choices. The more time we spend chasing the illusion that things should be a certain way, the more we wind up going in circles and overlooking some awesome stuff in our lives.

But what does that have to do with my nails?

For the most part, I try to make myself presentable. I bathe regularly, despite hating the process, and when I go to work or appear in public I dabble in the whole hair and makeup thing (I use the term dabble loosely here). But despite it all, I realized long ago that I was never going to be one of those women who had nice nails. Never ever. Not because I don’t like how nice nails looks – they are lovely – they seem so fancy and professional and a general indicator of being put together. But it’s just never going to be my thing. Especially with a toddler.

Manicured nails, or gel nails or ‘tips’ (I no idea what those even are) all sound divine, but they are not for me. And at 32, I’m ok owning that.

Instead of feeling bad when I see other ladies with perfectly shaped and painted nails, self-consciously curling my own fingers to hide my own plain-jane fingertips and lack of lacquer, I realized I really don’t care anymore. It’s eerily freeing to stop giving a damn about things that are trivial. Take my fingers as they are!

I sacrifice my nails. I’ll save the $30 a month and time breathing in fumes and I’ll use it for something equally unproductive, but more fitting for me.

Like the baseball player who sacrifice bunts to let a teammate advance, I will go back to the unmanicured dugout and let the polished ladies stay on base.

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Wrapped in love

We spend years of our lives eating every meal strapped into a strange chair, yet we won’t remember any of it.

We won’t remember if our food was cut into perfectly sized pieces, or if it was organic or purchased on sale. We won’t recall whether we had protein at every meal, if our puffs were the store brand, or how much food ended up in our hair.

We will always grow forward though, as a result of these endlessly calculated decisions, knowing only that we were wrapped in love. 

   
 

“My entire life is unfinished business.”

I have these thoughts, these big, evolving and powerful thoughts. They’re etched into my brain and daily life and it’s hard not to process most everything through the lens of them. I don’t write about them though because they’re complicated. They mean too much. And I don’t know everything – all the facts and history and studies – and I fear that to misphrase any part of this would be a disservice. Fortunately, though, others are paving the way.

I’m talking about the way work culture in America fails to flex to the needs of caregivers.

When I read this interview with Anne-Marie Slaughter last week, it felt like someone had extracted sentences from my brain and put them on paper. Like I had been spied on.

I hope that you read it. My favorite excerpts are below:

“What’s really going on here is we are discriminating against people who have to care for others, which is a role that society needs people to play. Right now we’re focusing on the problem that, if you’re at the top and take time out to take care of others, you’re knocked off your leadership track. But much more important is that, if you are a woman in the middle class or a low-income woman and you take even a day or two off to care for others, you could lose your job. You get docked pay. You don’t have access to affordable day care.”

“If you talk to a woman between 30 and 50 who is taking care of kids and holding down a job, she will say, “My entire life is unfinished business. I never get to finish anything. I never feel like I’m ever doing anything all the way.””

“We should get rid of “stay-at-home mom” and “stay-at-home dad.” I find that to be very offensive. It says that the place you’re supposed to be is the workplace. If you’re at home, you need an adjective.

We should also talk about “working fathers” as well as “working mothers,” right? We constantly say a woman has two jobs: She’s working and she’s a mother. But we don’t say that about men. We need to make clear that they have a dual identity the same way women have a dual identity.

And let’s get rid of the word “help.” Let’s stop saying, “My husband helps”—because that is really saying, “It is my job to run the household, but he helps me do it.” No, no, no, no, no.”

“What I want to see is: How do we work flexibly enough so that people who have children or parents or spouses, or who want to care for themselves, have time? It’s not about how many hours you’re in the office. It’s about getting the work done on time with the quality that is demanded of you. And then if you take advantage of flexibility policies, you shouldn’t be stigmatized for it. Some companies have all these really progressive policies, but, the minute you use them, you’re not a player. Somebody just told me they were taken out of the bonus pool the minute they started working part time. That’s ridiculous.”

A Day in the Life

When the little one is sick and momma has to work. And make it all work, somehow.

This was one of those days where you either choose to feel guilty about everything, and pick it all apart until it feels like a failure. OR…you can cherish it, because it sorta kinda went ok and you survived.

All day, during every meltdown, every thrown sippy cup and all the drool and crumbs down my shirt, I was amazed at how this was MY life to live, and my love to give.

Special thanks to Shakeology and the internet for helping me survive.

Lila @ 14 months

Next week you’ll be 14 months old, and it preemptively upsets me that one day, I won’t know your age in months.

You’re a constant chatterbox, triumphantly proclaiming, “DAAA,” while pointing at the dogs, or showing us the dog in your books. You walk around chattering to yourself, busy busy. Constantly picking things up and moving them, leaving us interesting surprises in some unexpected places.

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You’ve become a confident explorer. On walks outside after school you take in your surroundings and examine everything with great focus. You enjoy picking up rocks and moving them to new places, and running your hands through dirt. New textures fascinate you and you are intrigued by new sounds. Occasionally you’ll just sit down and stare, taking it all in.

If we ask you to “Bring us your ball,” or show us, “Where is your book,” you will dutifully wander off to retrieve it and bring it to us. If we ask you where clothes go, you will carry them through the baby gate to your hamper in your room. You sign for more, milk and all done. You blow kisses and wave (when you feel like it). You love putting your wood puzzle together and clap for yourself when you put a piece in.

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You love to bounce and climb all over mom and dad. You love playing with bubbles in your bath. And eating them.

Speaking of eating, you enjoy it quite a bit. You will eat anything, and have yet to really turn anything away, except for cold brussel sprouts, which is perfectly acceptable. We sometimes have to work to stop you from feeding everything to the dogs because that is SO FUN for you.

You’ve finally stopped falling asleep in our arms before bed, which makes me sad, but you’re generally great about going to sleep and are a solid sleeper at night. Naps are finally a normal part of your routine, and you take one around noon each day.

You love being tickled, rolling around on the dog beds and spinning around in our arms. Your laugh is the single best sound in the world.

You do not love getting in your car seat, having your diaper changed or being dropped off at daycare right now.

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You continue to show us what love and patience and sacrifice are all about.

Lest You Think I Have My Sh*t Together

I feel like the theme of last week was the emotional version of what it feels like to walk on ice. You start out gingerly, slowly gaining a bit of speed…then BAM! Feet fly out from under you and you’re flat on your tush. Every time. Disoriented, you get up and start moving again – with a little more knowledge of the process – but still sore from the learning.

Last week wasn’t a bad week but it was a hard one. Lila switched daycare rooms, and while day one went off without a hitch (yes, she slept on the magical baby cots), days two through five were less good. Each day started with her losing her mind screaming as I tried to leave. The kind of screams where I furtively duck out of her room because the entire building can hear “that baby.” It’s a natural phase and it won’t last forever, but it kind of makes me feel like garbage to walk away from my screaming child. I choose to work, and I like to work. Some days I feel like Super Mom; others I want to cry under my desk and eat Rolos because it all feels terrible.

It was just a week of small struggles. Getting to daycare and realizing Lila has one shoe on. Getting to work and realizing my lunch is on the kichen counter and there’s somehow black grease all over my skirt. Driving across town for meetings before learning they were cancelled. Leaving extra early to get the baby’s medicine, only to realize your local Walgreen’s doesn’t open until 8, because of course. Small stuff, just stuff.

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Sometimes I think about the different views people get into my life, based on the snippets that are visible to them. Not in the sense that I’m censoring things, but purely as a matter of timing. In the midst of last week I got a few messages from friends with unexpected compliments or kind words. And I kind of felt like a fraud accepting them. And wanted to respond, “Heyyyy if you saw what was actually happening in my life at this very moment, you’d eat those words.” Says the mom who just watched her child fingerpaint the kitchen floor with vomit.

I almost felt defensive about not wanting people to think I had my act together, or that it ever feels easy for me. Not in a self-deprecating way – I just don’t think it’s fair to let anyone else think that my life is easier or better. We all struggle with our own stuff everyday. No one’s doing it better than anyone else.

I was exchanging messages with a friend about some of this and the other things we struggle with as women. Little things and big things. Body image, messy houses, time management (there really aren’t enough hours in the day, we know this). Nothing extraordinary, but things I think a lot of us worry we’re battling alone. And it’s not that misery loves company, but there’s something amazing in knowing that whatever you’re struggling with has happened to others. It makes you realize that: a) you’re not alone, or unusual for what you’re experiencing, and b) it gets better.

I was wowed again at how often the most reassuring words in the world are some variation of “me too.”

My friend explained her son went through the exact same stage with daycare, and that he’s fine now. And that I’m doing ok. She also reminded me that behind every challenge we pass, there’s usually another waiting in the wings, but just knowing others are making it is so powerful.

If you’ve ever run a race and wanted to quit toward the end, but then saw the folks who finished before you on the sidelines cheering you on – it’s that kind of goosebump feeling. We’re all in this together.

Can we talk about daycare for a minute?

Lila graduates from her current room at daycare this week, her first room, and it’s been an unexpectedly difficult transition.

For ME, not for her. I mean, sleeping on cots? WHAT?

It’s something to celebrate: hitting milestones and preparing for new adventures, but I am going to freak out for a little bit about the fact that A: my child is growing up, and B: she won’t spend every day with the loving teachers who have cared for her for almost a year. Waaaa.

If we travel back to Before Land — that far-off place before marriage, pregnancy, motherhood and such — there were lots of things I didn’t understand. At the center of this ignorance cloud was child care, and what that might look like for our family one day.

It’s funny because I don’t actually know what I thought was going to happen — that one day we’d magically have a baby, and then childcare options would fall from the sky? Perhaps Mary Poppins would show up in our recovery room at the hospital, bag in hand and ready to assist? I’m flabbergasted at how little I considered this, given what a tremendous decision it came to be.

Ultimately, daycare was the right option for our family.

I don’t feel like moms are conditioned to love daycare. I just don’t. Despite every bit of progress and equality in life and the workplace, we’re still often made to feel that we should want nothing more than to be home with our babies, and that any deviation from that ideal is a failure somehow, in ourselves or our situations.

While I knew it was the right option for us, and we loved the center we chose, I was still incredibly apprehensive. I felt guilty. I was waiting to hate it, constantly seeking out things that might be going awry.

But as each week went by, I was able to exhale a little further. I started to accept and appreciate this as our situation.

What I’ve learned the past year is that daycare — what I once feared would be a default option, and an agonizing place to leave my baby — has instead been one of our greatest blessings.

Our daycare is a remarkable place where Lila has been nurtured and loved, day in and day out.

When she was a teeny babe, her teachers wore her throughout the day to comfort her and make sure she got to know them. When she was colicky and refused to nap, the entire staff got a workout, taking turns bouncing her on an exercise ball. And everyone wore the badge of honor of her reflux.

The baby rooms at any daycare are a sweet space. This is where parents leaves babies, often for the first time, and entrust their most precious gift to others. Exhausted, confused new mommas get gentle guidance from baby teachers on everything from paci brands to napping strategies. An initially awkward balance is formed, wavering between wanting to give all the instructions, and not wanting to be that mom. Moms in suits and heels pass moms in yoga pants and messy buns making kind but fleeting eye contact while juggling bags and bottles. Dads proceed gingerly, equal parts confident and confused, often the minority in the drop off cycle. Everyone is fighting the good fight.

No one in a baby room judges you for having spit up on your shirt or bags under your eyes.

No one holds it against you if you freak out a little about work, or forget your sippy cup, or call or email to check in three times a day.

Baby rooms are a sacred place. Teachers may see your baby take a first step, or say a first word, but they won’t tell you until you ask, knowing you need to see it as the first time yourself. They may have a really, really rough day with your baby, but will still greet you with a smile.

Our life and routines aren’t perfect or exactly what I wish they were, in terms of work/family balance. But I’m so thankful for the innumerable ways daycare has helped and supported our whole family.