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Off the Hook

Posted in La Segunda Chica

I am really glad that I’m not justachik1.  There is a certain amount of pressure associated with writing the first blog of the year.  I’m sure she did it beautifully or hilariously or probably both.  That said, I have spent a lot of time letting this blog marinate.  There is something about the approach of a new year that makes me want to write something particularly brilliant, something that will inspire change in the lives of the millions of readers this blog will reach.

Alas, this morning as I was having my coffee I read Seth Godin’s blog.  Even the title made me pause.  Is it too little butter, or too much bread? And then his last line, “It turns out that doing a great job with what we’ve got is the single best way to get a chance to do an even better job with more, next time.”  As I often do when reading his blog, I thought, “Asshole.  How do you write like that every day?”  It’s not even his REAL millionaire job.

I’ve never been a new year’s resolution maker.  About ten years ago I adopted a mantra instead: you don’t have to be perfect, just be better.  A couple blogs ago I shared an essay that reminds me to consider problem or inconvenience?  Now I’ve added too little butter, or too much bread?  These catch phrases have, and will continue, to come in handy when my internal monologue is stuck on “you suck.”  You suck at being a mom.  You suck at being a wife.  You suck at being a daughter.  You suck at working with teachers.

But in writing this, I am also able to put words to the idea that what I really want—for me, for my daughter and her friends, for my friends, for my mother and aunts and cousins, for the writers of this blog, for the readers of this blog—is to let ourselves off the fucking hook sometimes. Funny Facebook memes and jokes about handling the pain of childbirth aside, on this next trip around the sun, when my internal monologue starts telling me that I suck, I’m going to take it as a reminder to stop, close my eyes, and figure out how deeply the hook is lodged.

Much of my internal monologue comes from what I have internalized from the labels others created. Expectations about the way we operate as mothers, sisters, daughters, and in our work are not a bad thing, but they aren’t a panacea. Too often I buy into these norms, and when I find myself frustrated or insecure, I just assume that I am the one in the wrong.

When my daughter was in elementary school, I saw the posts and pics from her friends’ moms going into the classroom to volunteer, organize parties, be the room mom.  The fact that I had absolutely no desire to do so led to many internal debates (there were two voices in my head on this one) discussing how bad a mother I was.  This year when her middle school choir teacher sent an email asking for volunteers to chaperone a weekend trip to Disneyland, I asked my daughter if she wanted me to volunteer, and when she rolled her eyes and said, “Please no!” I did a little happy dance, and promptly wondered what nurturing gene I was missing.

And then I let myself off the hook.  I was a classroom teacher in junior high and high school for twenty-four years.  I did my time on school buses with sleep deprived teenagers on junk food highs.  It’s not that I was a bad mom, but I had been there, done that, and it was someone else’s turn.  It wasn’t an issue of too much bread, inconvenience, or being better.  The mantras didn’t help me here.  I just didn’t want to, and on this occasion, that was perfectly okay.

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