The Irreverent Professor

Unvarnished realities about life, teaching, learning, and change in this wild, wild world

Archive for the tag “motherhood”

Insides Outsides…Reprised

Never compare your insides

@gapingvoid (swoon) http://www.gapingvoid.com

You know that saying, “Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides“?  It’s a great saying.  One of the best.  Right up there with “Fake it ’til you make it” (my personal favorite), the Golden Rule, and “Life’s too short to drink bad wine.”

The thing is, I thought I had really taken the saying “Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides” to heart.  I am very comfortable with who I am.  My whole 47-year-old, BMI of 27 (is that good or bad? I’m not even sure), high-cholesterol, chocoholic self.  I’m comfortable with eating out alone (in fact a lot of times I prefer it, but that’s probably because I have a 4 year old).  I’m comfortable with going out in public without (gasp!) any makeup on.

This is not to suggest that I don’t have insecurities.  Several people in the last week have expressed surprise when I have mentioned being insecure about something (see “Fake it ’til you make it” – I must be doing that pretty well. Ha!).  But I’m comfortable having some insecurities too.  I work on them.  Some improve, some don’t.  Eh.

"Every child is different" Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I know.

“Every child is different” Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know.

So imagine my surprise today when I found myself all the way back on square one with this issue.  I walked my 4 year old into his pre-K class and there he was–this other kid writing his name on a piece of paper.  Perfectly.  Upper case, lower case, beautifully formed letters.  And I cringed.  Because my kid writes an almost recognizable W…backwards.  And he does a decent 7, 4, and E.  But otherwise he’s all scribbles.  And the thoughts jumped into my head before I could stop them–“Why can’t my kid do that? Is he not developmentally on track? Are we not teaching him enough at home?”

Before you accuse me of being a Tiger Mom (or a Slacker Mom), you should know that I know that I have the coolest kid in the world.  And he has gifts–mostly athletic and social.  Writing is just not one of them.  But the kid can order a complete meal by himself, call a waitress over to correct something, eat a plate full of cooked broccoli (voluntarily), talk the ears off a cornstalk, climb a rock wall by himself and walk across the top of the monkey bars with perfect balance.  He just can’t write his letters yet.

And I happen to know this other kid (the show off…kidding) has three older brothers.  So he has probably been exposed to such things as writing for quite a while.  Still…I think after karate, we may practice writing some letters and numbers.  Then we’ll have pizza at our favorite pizza joint and kill some zombies in Plants v. Zombies. ‘Cause that’s how we roll.  And it’s ok.

Carpe insides!

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Don’t Have Kids

This is what my mother said to me.  Well, actually what she said was “No” (in response to the question “Do you think I should have kids?”) but I didn’t think that made a very good blog title.  I asked her the question just before I surprised her with the news that my husband and I were going to adopt a child, so I set myself up to be especially dramatic and distressed by her answer (dysfunctional much?).

Image

My mom in a field of Texas bluebonnets

The reasons she said I shouldn’t have kids were two-fold:

1. She said no woman should have a child unless it was her intense heart’s desire to be a mother.  And since I had spent most of my married life saying, “No, we don’t want kids.  We are happy with our life as it is.” she felt pretty sure it wasn’t my heart’s desire.

2. She pointed out that I didn’t like kids.  I didn’t.  And I still don’t really like other people’s kids.  (Except the kids of my friends who are reading this.  I love your awesome, talented, wonderful kids, of course.  Really…)

My mother was a smart woman.  But she and I never really understood each other.  She didn’t understand my life choices, I didn’t understand hers.  We had exactly three things in common: a love of animals, a love of food, and a sense of humor.  But I loved my mother very much and am sad that she never got to meet my son (she died of cancer earlier the year he was born).

And here’s the thing: she was right.  I totally, completely, vehemently didn’t want kids…until I did.  And the fact that I was over 40 when I finally did…well, that’s just the way it happened for me.  There was a spell just after we were married that we “tried.”  And when it didn’t happen for us in spite of the evil, crazy-making fertility drugs that I took, we stopped and said, “Wait.  Is this even what we want?  Or are we just doing this because we feel like that’s what we’re supposed to do–get married, buy a house, have a kid?  So we embarked on a fun-filled 10 years of living child-free by choice.  Getting lots of education, traveling, building our careers.  Until we were 40-somethings saying, “What are we going to do for the next 40 years?”

Now I have an awesome, incredible, smart, hilarious son who is four and a half and I can’t imagine a life without him in it.  Sure I get frustrated and tired and aggravated with him (as I’m sure he does me).  That’s part of being a mom.  But he’s the best part of my life…other than my husband, of course.  (Dodging bullets left and right.).  My sweet son makes my life richer.  I have become more mindful because of him.  I stop and look at bugs, pick flowers, sing songs, dance in the rain.  Image

So mom was right.  And wrong.  Don’t have kids a moment before you are ready for them.  But if you do have them–by choice or otherwise–give them your whole heart and embrace your “momness” (or “dadness”).  No matter what anyone says.

Carpe momness.

Happy Mother’s Day.

To Endings…and New Beginnings

This weekend I attended a college graduation.  It wasn’t my graduation.  And it wasn’t my first graduation.  As a professor (and serial student myself), I have attended a few graduations.  What made this graduation different is that it may have been my last.

Look at all the shiny, happy almost-college-graduates

Look at all the shiny, happy almost-college-graduates!

I resigned from my professor job to move to the place where my heart is and has always been.  The place I call “home” even though I haven’t lived there in 20 years.  The place I grew up, learned to ride a bike, had my first crush, my first love, my first heartbreak.  My first prom, my first…well, nevermind.  You get the gist.

I resigned from my professor job because…well, I’m not really sure why.  My husband said, “Why don’t we move home?”  And I said ok.  We move about every three or four years at the suggestion of one or the other of us, so this wasn’t a shocking idea. But for the first time, we are moving for the quality of our lives and not for our careers.  And that makes it very different.  But home is the where of our happiness so it must be a good thing… right?

I have mixed feelings about this ending.  Although I’m excited to be moving “home,” I’m not sure what this new beginning means for me.  Sure, it means living at the beach (yay!).  And it means raising my son in the place where I grew up (yay yay!).  But what does it mean for ME, you know, professionally?  My husband teleworks, so he takes his job with him.  But I’ve been working at a brick and mortar university.  And now I’m…not.

Beach boy

Beach boy

People keep asking, “So what are you going to be doing?”  Some persistently believe I’m retiring at 47 despite my efforts to dissuade them of the notion (it probably doesn’t help that my flippant answer to the question is occasionally “be a kept woman.”  It’s a joke!).   Answering “I have no idea” seems to make people uncomfortable (including me) and if I’m not mistaken, I’ve gotten a few pitying looks…and a few envious ones.  🙂

My goal is to relax, get quiet, and spend a few months figuring out who I am.  I call it a self-imposed sabbatical, in keeping with the professorial mindset.  Marlo Thomas (whose awesome webcast I attended last week) would probably say It Ain’t Over and Jane Pauley (whose book Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life I am reading now) might call it a step toward reimagining my life.

Endings are difficult…but exciting, because they mean new beginnings.  New beginnings are scary…but exciting because anything is possible.

Carpe new beginnings.

Today I am Grateful…

I’m selfish.  And self-centered.  And I have (as Meredith Grey on Grey’s Anatomy would say) a dark and twisty side that sometimes takes over.

And boy, do I complain.  I complain at work.  I complain at home.  I complain on social media.  I complain about my kid, my family, my work, the weather, how hot my office is, my weight.  I complain.

But today I am grateful.  Today I am thinking about two friends roughly my age who have recently had serious health crises.  One had a double mastectomy after getting breast cancer for the second time.  She’s a single mother of two girls in and barely out of high school.  The other is a man I know professionally, but now feel like I know personally after following his journey through stomach pains that turned out to be a plum-sized tumor that now has surrounding blueberries, which is scary.  It is being taken out today (“fruit extraction”) and my thoughts are with him.

Today I am thinking about my mother, who died at 69 of cancer, six months before I got my son, the grandson she’ll never know.  (Although I’m convinced she does know him from wherever she is because I swear I hear her laughing when he does something that makes me crazy.  She loved the “payback” concept of her kids having kids.)

Today I am thinking about friends who have been through divorces–or worse–in their marriages.

How can I not be grateful every day for these two awesome guys?

How can I not be grateful every day for these two awesome guys?

Today I am thinking about people who have lost children, truly the most horrible experience I can think of.

And today I am grateful for things that I complained about yesterday.  Today I am grateful for:

  • Having so many opportunities to do work I love that I’m overwhelmed.
  • Having an energetic (and healthy) kid who runs me ragged.
  • Having a sweet and loving husband who doesn’t mind being portrayed as either “robotic” or “stable.”
  • Having students to teach (some of whom actually want to learn!).
  • Having the opportunity to live my dream when I get to move back “home” in six months to raise my son and be a multipreneur.
  • Having no answer (because there are so many possible answers) to the question, “What will you do as an entrepreneur?”
  • Having so many kind friends and family members that sent my son birthday presents and cards that I can’t find the time to write all the thank you notes.

Sure, I’m still hurt that my own father said “No, thanks” when I suggested my husband, son, and I come visit after Christmas visit (after 1,000 “Come visit us” comments from him).  But today I’m trying hard to remember to be grateful that between us, my husband and I still have one parent left.  Our son has one grandparent left.

And I’m impatient to move home to the beach.  But today I’m trying to be grateful that I have a job that gives me the chance to help (when I can) college students figure out their careers.  Because I totally dig that.

And I get frustrated at students who go through the motions and give me snarly faces in class.  But today I’m trying to be grateful for the ones who “get it” and who are making the most of their time in college.

So dark and twisty or not, today I am grateful.

Carpe gratitude.

Treat Every Time Like the First Time–for Everything

This was the first week of the semester at the university I teach at.  I taught  pretty much the same courses I’ve taught every semester for the three years I’ve been here.  Shoot, they were basically the same classes I’ve been teaching for the last 11 years I’ve been a college professor (at several different universities).  Yet I was nervous as heck about walking into class the first day.  Some of my colleagues said they were too.  We decided that was a good thing.  Being a little nervous keeps us sharp and on our toes.  It may even have made us better professors this week.

A few nerves might be good thing to keep me sharp as a speaker

A few nerves might be good thing to keep me sharp as a speaker

The same thing happens to me when I speak to a group.  Although I have been a professional public speaker for nearly 15 years, I still get nervous each and every time I step out onto the stage (or dais, riser, carpet, or whatever).  And maybe that’s just the natural state of things for an introvert like me.  But I think it’s a good thing.  The fear at the beginning makes the feeling of accomplishment at the end all the sweeter.  Especially if it’s a hit (I ad lib and go rogue on myself sometimes, so what comes out isn’t necessarily exactly what I’d planned–sometimes a good thing, sometimes not).

I was recently reading this post “16 Ways I Blew My Marriage” by Dan Pearce at SingleDadLaughing.  What struck me was (a) he’s hilarious and (b) he was saying basically that we should treat our relationships as new all the time (my interpretation, not necessarily his).  When we get too comfortable, we get lackadaisical.  When we get lackadaisical, we stop trying.  And it shows.  Apathy and discontent ensues.  Fade to gray.

I have over time gotten apathetic about things like friendships, restaurants, vacation destinations, and activities. But maybe that’s because I started taking people for granted, ordered the same dish every time, didn’t research new destinations, and didn’t challenge myself, respectively?

I fortunately have yet to feel apathetic about my marriage (14 years and still going strong!), but I do occasionally ask my husband if it’s absolutely necessary that we walk around the house dressed like hobos in our very worst looking (but absolutely most comfortable) clothes.  [Despite this post, I do not anticipate putting on heels and slathering on make-up every day for my husband.  There is a limit.]

And if I’m completely honest about why we had a kid (in our 40’s), it was at least in part because of an outburst (ok, melt-down) I had one night about the boring predictability of our lives (work until 5:00, dinner at 6:00, watch television 8:00-10:00, rinse, repeat.  With an (almost) 4 year old now, nothing is predictable.  And it’s pretty awesome…because every day is a brand-new experience.

I’m going to try harder to find the “new” in everything and to treat every experience like it’s the first time.  Join me?

Carpe new!

New Years Resolutions of a Teacher…and More

It’s almost New Year’s Eve here and so of course I’m thinking about my new year’s resolutions.  And all the resolutions that came before and were not achieved (or were – but mostly not).  Which makes me realize that I need to frame my New Year’s Resolutions a bit better.

So this year, I am not going to make my new year’s resolutions…

  • To lose weight (although I need to)

    G and TW

    My cousin G was kind enough to say that I was “the thinnest she’d ever seen me” on this visit. I’ve gained it back. Viva la chocolat!

  • To exercise regularly (although I need to do this too)
  • To be less stressed (although I desperately need to be)
  • To travel more (although sometimes I want to)

And so on…

Instead this year, my New Year’s Resolution will simply be this: to be a better me.

  • To be a better professor to my students. For any students reading this: that doesn’t necessarily mean easier or higher grader.  But it does mean trying really hard to come up with new and improved ways of conveying information with the end goal of helping you gain knowledge and experience that will help you in the “real world.”
  • To be a better wife. My husband is a saint and does far more than his share of everything…well, everything except shopping for our son’s clothes.  He hates that.
  • To be a better mother.  Everyone has gifts.  Patience is not one of mine.  Having a child has not improved that.  Fortunately, one of my gifts seems to be acting completely silly, so that helps.

    The greatest motivator of all for improvement.

    The greatest motivator of all for improvement.

  • To be a better friend.  I am not a great friend.  I prioritize a number of things (including all of the above, as you see) above being a friend.  I want to be a better friend, whatever that means.  I hope it means happy hour once a week with my friends, but we’ll see.

    Friends at PCMA Dinner

    Dear friends at a fancy pants dinner in 2012

  • To be a better professional.  I love the field that I’m in and I enjoying speaking, presenting, and training.  But after a while, it becomes easy to “phone it in.”  And that happens when I start getting bored.  So this year I’m going to figure out how I can provide something the industry needs and be true to my own interests, too.  No compromises.

Stay tuned for improvements to be made.

Carpe the new year.

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