“When you do something, you should to it with your whole body and mind. You should do it completely, like a good bonfire. You should burn yourself completely, leaving no trace of yourself.” Or so says Shunryu Suzuki in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. Should you really do this? No, I actually think this is terrible advice. But do I follow it, in nearly everything I set out to do, once I create it as a challenge for myself? You bet your ass I do. I can’t KEEP from burning, even when the smoke has totally engulfed me and I’m blind and gasping for air. But I always emerge transformed by the flames. Whether it’s eating a plate of brownies or walking up one of SF big-ass hills, I go into it with gusto. I’ve always been this way, and so it’s no surprise that this has been my take, the past week and a half that I have been raising Olive as a full-time job.
As you can imagine, a person throwing themselves into anything has its share of drama. We all love a good comeback story, rife with montages of getting into shape for the big fight or prepping for the master heist. However, isn’t it always a little more interesting and hilarious when the person just takes a digger and face-plants all the way down the mountain they’ve just climbed? I think so. Anyway, those montages rarely have toddlers in them. If they did, there would be a lot of boring meandering into stores that your kid has led you into because she saw something colorful, and the blueprints of the bank/casino/mansion would be covered in regurgitated lunch and soaked through with milk and pee. That’s right, pee, because the other day, when I was watching glamorous stars walk the red carpet at the Golden Globes, Olive somehow managed to pee out the side of her diaper, through her clothes, onto my dress. She’s bound for the circus, with stunts like that.
Anyway, I’ve developed a couple of little plans for this new endeavor of Work-At-Home-Mom status, and they are going off without a hitch. Right? Oh, they’re not? Okay, well, at least no one has broken any more bones. Knock knock.
1. Exercise A Shit-ton of Times a Week… AKA five. Which is a lot to me. I went from working out zero times for 2 weeks when I was in New England, unless you counted the great effort of bringing the fork to my mouth with all those complex carbohydrates on it, to working out 5 days a row, doing a combo of early morning yoga, dance classes, and long walks carrying a 22 lb Olivey weight. Am I exercising to be a super skinny Heidi Klum mom? No effing way (trying to cut down on my cursing is another thing I’m trying out, since Olive repeats EVERYthing I say now, and woke up from a nap this weekend saying, “shit”). Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of beautiful thin gals, but it is not my preferred body type for myself. (or objects of my harmless girl-crushes — have you seen the model in this article? Why don’t we see more pictures like this, of happy, beautiful, normal-sized ladies?) I just look better a little thick, so I’m pumping up the pastry consumption as well as the anxiety-reducing, joy-producing workouts. It’s going pretty well, and it is giving me a reason, every single day, to be without Olive for at least one hour, doing something that feels good in my body for me alone. I highly recommend other SAHMs or unemployed people to try this one.
2. Plan An Outing For Every Day. Even if it’s just “park time”, I’m keeping a calendar like I’m a high-powered exec. I’ve got playdates with people I barely know, so long as Olive and I have something to look forward to each day. In trying to fill said calendar, I signed Olive and I up for Rec Center class entitled “Simply Fun Tot Gym”, which consists of a basketball court strewn with a whole bunch of toddler-appropriate toys, and an incredibly loud boombox (yup, those things still exist) bumping “The Farmer in the Dell” and such jams. I had thought she would enjoy such an age appropriate hour, but my little gal tore through that place in five minutes, playing with each toy at lightning speed, and then declared herself “All Done!”, complete with hand motions, and hightailed it to the door. I dragged her back, thinking “No! I had thought this would eat up so much more time! She can’t have gotten everything out of that mini hula hoop!”, but Olive would not be thwarted. She decided the only thing she had left to do was find a sweet looking tot and poke her in the eyes. Once I dragged her off little Sarah, Olive walked around through the nerf balls and slides crying aimlessly, like she was a soldier on the battlefield, searching for a blown-off appendage. I distracted her for another few minutes by singing and dancing along to the unbearably loud and upbeat music, but then all the children crowded around me and it got a little too “Pied Piper”. In the end, we lasted 30 minutes, missing the promised story and circle time at the end. Was it worth it? Hell no. Will be back? Of course we will. I paid $24 for those 8 classes, and it’s on the schedule for next Wednesday (we’re skipping this week, to get a little distance from the trauma).
3. Take Nights and Weekends Off. This one is not really happening yet, but wouldn’t that be amazing?? To have a job you can leave at the office? With healthcare and sick days? Yes, yes it would, but that is not my life anymore. I am, however, passing Olive off to her dad for the late-night-early-morning parenting. Having me home all the time has made Olive MORE clingy and attached, not less, so she is literally stuck on my body for 90% of the daylight hours. I therefore refuse to have her sleeping on me at night. Joel has been great about this, and good thing too, because with the combination of all my workouts and outings I am completely and utterly knackered at the end of the day. Sitting with clients in their pain and attending funding meetings NEVER wore me out like this. My bones ache with fatigue, and I’m praying this is just a learning curve, that my body will get used to the endless trips up the stairs carrying a wriggling toddler, and the bouts of “Pony Girl” that leave us both breathless — her with laughter, me with exhaustion. On MLK Jr. Day, my husband was off work, so I planned an actual day off for myself, complete with a shopping trip with 2 girlfriends, to look at wedding shoes for her (is there a more fun shopping trip, ever?! The dress is a lot of pressure, but the shoes? So much fun.) and new yay-I’m-only-nursing-once-a-day-I-got-my-boobs-back bras for me. But having a toddler means your immune system tanks lower than could ever be prepared for, so my husband spent his day off in bed with a cold rather than at the park with his daughter, and I was on mom duty again. But I didn’t miss the wedding shoes part of the shopping trip! I put that baby on my back and got my ass to Nordstrom’s anyway. She liked it a helluva lot more than she enjoyed Simply Fun Fucking Tot Gym.
4. Enjoy the Little Things. All in all, I’m actually having a really great time. At the end of every day, I think, “That was really fun. I get to do this AGAIN tomorrow?” And “That was insanely exhausting. I have to do it all over again TOMORROW?” But mostly, the former wins out, mostly because my kid is a wildly entertaining creature. Here is some of the cute shit she does all the time:
a) Babies can’t wink, but mine tries, and it’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. When you wink at her, she sort of squints, and then blinks both her eyes really fast and forcefully, and smiles. It’s amazing.
b) Whenever I take her to the park, usually she gets a little fussy on the way over, and I say to her, “We are currently going to a place solely for your enjoyment! Hang on, we’re almost there!” but she doesn’t understand and thinks I’m taking her to some boring coffee shop again. As soon as she realizes we are going to the playground, she emits a raucous “YAYYYYYY!” and then begins profusely thanking me. There’s nothing that will melt your heart further than a toddler yelling, “Ta ta! Ta ta, Mommy, Ta ta!!”
c) Sometimes she puts her finger to her lips and says “shhh”. Then we tell secrets.
d) We have a morning dance party pretty much every day. The music shifts from Fleet Foxes (Helplessness Blues is pretty much telling the story of my life right now) to Michael Jackson to random Spotify playlists people upload for our enjoyment and/or judgment. Olive is an excellent dance partner, and I have come up with some killer new interpretive moves. It’s exhilarating.
5. Oh, and don’t forget to: