You, too, (yes, even you) can ‘lower the bar.’ I promise.
After the birth of my first child, no one would have thought I would ever be able to lower the bar.
Let’s start with the fact that I nursed her forever, to the point where I answered to the title Dairy Queen. I made her baby food from organic vegetables, and rarely let her little tiny hiney touch the ground, a la all of the attachment parenting books I read in the continuous hours of nursing her. When I wasn’t reading anything the Sears ever wrote, I was writing in her ‘Everyday Calendar” where I documented EVERY DAY her first year of life, day by day. Like, every single day.
I saved up to have her first birthday party catered, and made little baggies of home-made chocolates for the parents, and hand-sewed cute, but totally unnecessary little goodie bags for her baby ‘guests.’ The invitations were hand-piped in multiple colors of frosting on home-baked square sugar cookies, and delivered. Really. From where I sit today, watching my kids happily eating dinner off the floor, it boggles the mind.
I pretty much baby-proofed the entire zip code, and was hesitant to let anyone hold her who had not run themselves through an industrial dish machine and stood motionless to air dry. Her adorable clothes were hand-sewn (by me), with matching hats (which she hated).
Do I have photos of my baby and me wearing matching home-made outfits? Oh yes, yes I do.
Oh, it gets worse.
I’ll stop here for the sake of my remaining and already compromised dignity, except to note that I was working full-time during all of this.
Enter second child, a beautiful boy 22 months later, and the shocking gift of his unending colic… screaming 10 hours a day, except when he was nursing, which explains why he was a gigantic baby, and still runs trans-like for the milk aisle whenever we go grocery shopping.
Hear the sound of the bar dropping, clanging, metal scraping, as it plummets downward. Somewhere my son has a baby book, with lots of blank pages, and those grocery store jars of baby food started looking like little miracles, all lined up and waiting to save me from myself.
The bar only drops lower from here (read: the total absence of baby books for some of the kids), and a chronic inability to remember any of their names especially when I’m trying to yell at them, such that we routinely refer to our youngest daughter as “Larry,” because it was the only name I could grasp a few years back, and it stuck.
Since Larry was born, we are often overheard saying such previously unthinkable things as “has anyone seen the baby?,” referring to our kids as our little ‘neglectarinos’ or my favorite general household announcement: “It’s eat what you can kill for dinner tonight, clean up the kitchen when you’re done!” I routinely remind our boys playing front yard disorganized, argumentative football, “I don’t want to hear from you unless you’re bleeding from the ears or carrying a limb.” Which, thankfully, has only happened once.
With all of this reveling in our low bar, it would be easy to get the wrong impression about us.
We are not ‘arm’s length’ parents, or uninvolved. In fact, we are very present and highly engaged with our children, often more than they’d like us to be. We monitor their electronic lives so closely as to make most parental operatives uncomfortable. We are strict, require good manners, good work habits, volunteerism and insist that they contribute at home, because we cannot manage a household this bigwithout their help.
I don’t care if the kids’ clothes are dirty for school, or if they’re at all fashionable. If I can be around them without needing supplemental oxygen, or having to breathe through my mouth, then they’ve bathed well enough. I don’t care if dinner is pleasing to the palette, as long as it meets some moderate level of nutritional value. Our house is messy, and smells like wet dog meets airing out soccer cleat. Our garden looks like the set of Jurassic Park, and periodically, I hear the neighbors talking about the Clampits, and I know it is us to whom they (sort of) lovingly refer.
None of that stuff matters to me.
What matters is that all of the kids know that they are deeply loved for the precious one-of-a-kind, and regular people they are. They know what matters and what doesn’t. And, I hope we are teaching them how to lower the bar when they are parents, to give themselves grace, and to not waste a single moment aiming for perfection.
I didn’t lower the bar by choice at first, but I did choose to let it stay in this delightfully low position, and thank goodness I did. I would have missed so much of the regular daily life stuff that a high bar blocks from view. Thanks to my low bar, there’s more time to enjoy those kids, who we’re now learning leave home all too soon.
How have you lowered the bar in your life as a working mom? Deb and I want to know all about it!
Please leave comments, questions and ideas for what you’d like Moms@Work to talk about below, and connect with us on:
Twitter @CRWomenAtWork, @debmbest and @CoreyJamisonLLC
Join the LinkedIn Group: Capital Region Women@Work
Remember: Lower the bar, and drop the guilt (today).
This blog was originally published by the Times Union and can be accessed here.