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Confession of a Working Mom: Living My Best Life, But Not How Oprah Describes

Working Mom on a good fashion day
When I attend events with other working moms the conversations tend to relate to a common theme. The phrasing varies depending on whether I am waiting in the carpool lane, at the playground, or at a “real” networking event.

However, it tends to go something like this: 

I have so much to do, and not enough time to do it. Is it possible for me to do it all, spend quality time with my kids, see my husband, and not lose my mind?!

Love Oprah, but her tips don't work for most moms

The problem is that Oprah and other self-help gurus advise the moms to merely “prioritize” their lives and focus on what’s important. I understand that line of thinking as much as anybody because I followed Deepak Chopra and that crowd for a while. I read the “Seven Spiritual Laws of Success” and when I was single I did a fairly decent job of applying what I learned.

Then my life changed. 

My zen filled life got invaded by my kids and my husband. I failed to predict how my life would change.  I didn't realize that that they would arrive unfamiliar with Deepak’s work. I also failed to appreciate that they and might not share my view about what is important. They might arrive expecting that mommy would manage everything. They might also believe that the most important things in my life should be how to help them be healthy, happy, and have clean laundry. While I love them I was not at all prepared for the amount of laundry that the three of them generate...

Since I have read so many of books of the “live your best life variety”, I can tell you that they are long on theory and short on practical advice. They start from the premise that somehow the mandatory yet mundane parts of your life take care of themselves.  I think that premise is flawed because the mandatory and mundane parts of life take a lot of time and can interfere with your zen.

To illustrate my point, I thought I'd share with you a glimpse of what my pre-motherhood life looked like. If you're really curious, read some per-2010 blog posts. They're here :-)

Five Characteristics of my Former Oprah Inspired Life:

  1. My life didn't include lots of laundry: In my old life I didn't do a whole lot of laundry because I didn't enjoy it. I simply bought extra underwear and really didn't wind up doing it a lot. I cannot fathom how my husband always seems to be out of underwear. I think he may be selling it in a parking lot for spare change or something...
  2. My house was fairly tidy: I also embraced picking up after myself quickly so that my house would be tidy and there wouldn't be the need waste a lot of time cleaning on the weekends. Now, I am sometimes nearly buried in a mountain of toys. 
  3. I explored my creative side writing poetry: I had time to think deep thoughts and document them. Rather than whine write about my struggles, I was able to write prose and reflect on things that have deeper meaning. The other day, I literally stepped in poop on the bathroom floor in my bare feet. Those events keep me deeply focused on my reality and offer me little time to reflect on how life should be.
  4. I was a good friend: I used to be that girl who never missed a birthday, convened impromptu events, and talked on the phone for hours. If you were dogged by your man, I was the person you wanted to talk to because I would actually listen. Now, my cell phone minutes are way down because cleaning up poop, ensuring my son doesn’t fall down the stairs and playing princesses interferes with me chatting as much as I’d like. I don’t love my friends any less, I just lack a lot of discretionary time.
  5. I worked out hard: I met my husband in a fitness boxing class and we fell in love training for a marathon. I was a lean mean work out machine and I really enjoyed it. Now, my workouts involve pushing my kids in the stroller and taking the steps whenever I can. It’s not that I don’t value fitness because I do. However, going to the gym is a luxury I cannot currently afford. It’s not even the money, it’s the time. Nearly all of my free time after work is with my kids and we all seem to like it that way!

You Can Live Your Best Life Even if You Don't Follow Oprah's Principles

In a word, my life is different now. In many ways my life is fuller, richer and better. Still it is very different. As a working mom. every waking moment, I am thinking about what needs to be done in order for my world to go 'round. I have very few free moments to ponder deep thoughts, write thoughtful notes or exhale deeply.

Two Second Rant: As I type this, I am in desperate need of a pedicure. I haven't even had time to do a really good one at home in months. For any working mom in the same boat, rub Vaseline on your heels. It hides a multitude of ills... I do an obscene amount of laundry. I haven't written a poem in probably three years. My house is very messy at the moment especially since we haven't completely moved in. I rarely call friends. I also haven't been to the gym in many years...

Despite the ranting, I am incredibly grateful. The life I lead is a hectic one.  There are incredible stressors, but also incredible rewards. I have learned to take it day-by-day. I have also learned that success is not measured by whose house is the neatest or who is manages their laundry the best. (THANK GOD!) Instead, it is measured by your own personal yardstick. As it relates to mine, I am measuring success in smiles and checkbook balances.

I am proud that my children are healthy and happy and I am not worried about how I am going to keep the lights on. The price I pay for that is doing things that I sometimes dislike, not being with my kids as often as I would like, and often having unfolded piles of laundry. Still somehow, nearly five years into working motherhood I have managed to "do it all" without losing my sanity. Most weeks, I even manage to take some time for myself even if it is only a lunch break--and I relax. That time may be as close to zen as I get until the next time my sister and I wind up going to the spa.

Stay tuned for the next post entitled: Five Tips for Moms Who Want to Do it all

(Note to Jeryn: It may be time to visit Chateau Elan!)
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