BUSY IN BRISTOW: Cabin Fever, ‘Calgon … Take Me Away!’

| February 23, 2015 | 0 Comments | Busy in Bristow

busyinbristow-1In this column, I talk a lot about being a good role model for our children. Sometimes I give a nod to the complete exhaustion that such high performance, day after grueling day, causes. But never have I broached the fantasy of just cashing it all in for those carefree days before kids.

A few days ago, a friend of mine, in a snow-day induced fit of temporary madness, texted me this question: “Do you ever fantasize about just going off on your own? Leaving it all behind? Saying ‘no’ to all of this responsibility?”

I answered her honestly: “Yes! More than you know!”

I continued telling her that I would never actually do that because it’s what my mother (and father) did to me, albeit they were 17 ad 19, respectively.

We all develop a sense of what our ideal family will look like once we get married and have kids.

Maybe the image is based on our own experience, or maybe, like me – you came up with an image based on its opposite. But nowhere can you find documented evidence that your personal, parenting best will ever – live up to your ideal.

The human condition demands that we screw up … often.

Even if you are committed to the healthiest of lifestyles and you’re lucky enough to have been raised in a family that was more like Ozzy and Harriet’s and less like Al and Peg Bundy’s, you’re still “only human.”

Few of us feel like we consistently live up to our very high expectations. Those of us who do are living on borrowed time, lying to ourselves, or worse – judging everyone else.

Sure, if we had unlimited cash flow, perhaps my mom friend and I could set the kids up with a sitter (you know, to help out Dad), and we could fly off to Puerto Vallarta for an all-inclusive spa weekend.

Even then, I know that as the warm sun in Mexico started thawing out my frozen body, I’d feel that ever present beast, GUILT, whisper in my ear about the free-throw shot my son took in his basketball game (the first one this season, and I missed it!) and about how I sent a store-bought cake to the cake auction at the Blue and Gold so that, instead, I could stick my toes in the sand and read (more than one chapter!) in a book without being called to plunge the toilet or tend to the hurt feelings of one sibling at the hands of another.

No, although an exotic vacation would help temporarily, I’m looking for a way to live so that I can practice redemption and zen right here in the cold tundra of Northern Virginia. Prayer, strong friendships, self-awareness, exercise … all of those things help tremendously. Our jobs as parents are hard, and we’ve made them even harder by flinging ourselves far and wide across the country, denying ourselves the support of extended family (dysfunctional as some of them may be) that previous generations took for granted.

Rather than look to our friends for the emotional and practical support we need, most of the time, we go it alone, often over-relying on our spouses until we’re less like partners and more like paid help. And we outsource. Oh, do we outsource.

A neighbor told me he “works so that he doesn’t have to work.” Meaning that he works his job so he has the money to buy take out. In this way, he and his wife don’t have to cook every night.

I’ve been caught in this cycle before – working more hours than I’d like, coming home too tired to think about what to make for dinner, and ordering Chinese take-out, calling for pizza and making a harmless trek through the McDonald’s drive-thru. My paycheck covers it, of course, but I also have to wonder why I’m working so hard to support a lifestyle I don’t approve of or like.

I think it’s because life is hard work, and it’s hard to find balance. If living a meaningful life weren’t so hard, Oprah wouldn’t have been able to move her move her multi-billion operation to her OWN channel, and Tolstoy wouldn’t have had so much to cover in “War and Peace.”

So many of us are also addicts. Whether we’re addicted to the emotional comfort of food, or that 5 p.m. glass of wine, or our work and the prestige that comes with it, or to being the enviable PTO mom whose life – from the outside – looks picture perfect, or to our physical appearance, or to the exercise which helps us feel better when we’re down because of those wonderful endorphins and has the added benefit of making us skinny … we rely on whatever “it” is to define ourselves, and as we spend hours in these pursuits, our kids grow up and move out.

At least we’re all on this bus together.

Even those of you who think you’re on the other bus – the one full of successful, popular, cheerleader types – are really just riding on the Idiot Express with the rest of us clowns. I borrow the image from Elizabeth Lesser’s “Bozos on the Bus,” an essay worth reading and re-reading.

In fact, as I finish writing this week’s column, which in the midst of this past week’s cabin fever, is the first healthy thing I’ve done for myself since I binge watched the end of Season 4, Breaking Bad Thursday night, knowing there was no school the next day, (well, no – I did also exercise with good intent on Saturday, but the bathrooms I cleaned only to save face with Husband), I think I’ll print out a few (hundred) copies of “Bozos” and tape them in all of the predictable places where I go to judge myself, which – by the way – is the single least helpful thing I do in my own addictive pursuit of being an uber-parent.

© 2015, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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