Journal

Aesop’s Fables, Revisited

I was reading to my son from a book of Aesop’s fables and came upon the one about the fox and the grapes. To make a short story even shorter (spoilers, haha!), the fox belittles the grapes because they are out of his reach. Those grapes are probably sour anyway, he thinks bitterly. I’m not sure what message my son got out of the story. He was too busy slapping his drool-coated hands all over the book.

Then I realized something as I tried to pull the page out of his slippery hand so I could turn to the next story. I’m an awful lot like that fox. If somebody has a nice house, I always think, Who the hell would want to pay for that huge house, to heat it and cool it and clean it? I’m glad I don’t live there. Or people who are always going on trips. I wonder if Dave Ramsey is right… did they most likely go into debt to pay for that vacation? Haha, suckers! Internally, I’m envious of these people’s nice things.

I try to pass my envy off as gratitude for what I have, but it’s really just bitterness. One of the hardest things for me to do is to be happy about another person’s success. Their gain literally takes nothing from me, but it still affects me, as if I’ve fallen down a notch on a ranking list that exists only in my head.

Count your blessings! they say, and for me, that involves going home and being happy with my family and forgetting all about the outside world, once again proving the point that others’ success and material possessions have nothing to do with me at all. It is all so easily forgotten.

So with that said, my new goal for the next couple weeks is to purposely try to be genuinely happy for others, rather than belittle them. And be more grateful for the good things that I have, which are many.

Journal

Career vs. Family: Reprise

Back in 2012, I wrote a post about career versus family and the balancing act that must be done when one is trying to “raise” both. So now I can provide insight to my past self because I am in the position of having a career and a family.

But if we’re being realistic, I don’t think I have much more insight than I did then, except I realize that I could never be a stay-at-home mom. I always thought I could because after all, my mother did it. So why couldn’t I? I was so wrong. The three months of maternity leave I did take were hell on earth, and I couldn’t wait to get back to work so I could feel like I was actually doing something.

But you ARE doing something! You’re raising a baby! people tried to tell me. It didn’t erase the fact that without work and no routine to speak of, with sleep deprivation and zero energy, I was starting to get severely depressed. I was honestly thinking of dropping the baby off at the fire station and checking myself into a mental health institution. It was that bad.

Then I went back to work and the world brightened instantly. I went back to normal. The fog lifted. Everything was better. My hat is off to the stay-at-home mothers of the world. I don’t know how you do it. I admire you deeply.

Even so, all this is not to say that I would choose career over family. A career should serve the family, not the other way around. The family does not exist to serve one’s career, and if it does, you’re doing it wrong… or you’re a politician.

My three months of maternity hell leave made me question my own motives. Do I love my job at the expense of my family? I don’t think so. I try my best to keep my time within the standard eight hours a day and not take on unnecessary extra work. I keep it in my head that a job is a job, and a job cannot love me in the way that my family can. If I lost my job, it would be devastating but ultimately replaceable, but if I lost my family, it would be devastating and irreplaceable.

Perhaps if circumstances were different, and my family was in a situation where I did not have to work to keep us afloat, I would have enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom. Perhaps it was just postpartum hormones, and not simply being out of work, that made me so miserable. Perhaps if I had started my family before starting my career, I would have wanted to stay home with the child(ren), but alas, today’s economy really doesn’t allow that. Gone are the days when one can get married straight out of high school or college and expect to live on one person’s income while supporting children.

As my son gets older, perhaps things will change, and I’ll be better able to balance career and family. Now I feel like one or the other always gets the short end of the stick. “They” say things like Do what’s best for you and your family, not what everyone else thinks is best, and that’s what I try to do. But man, those comments from the peanut gallery can really get you down. (And that’s a post for another time.)

Journal

If It Brings Joy

In general, I don’t like “stuff.” Clothes shopping is a rare occasion for me. I can’t remember the last time I bought jewelry, knickknacks, or something that was a want and not a need.

So you’d think I’d be an adherent to Marie Kondo’s philosophy of getting rid of things that don’t bring joy. In an ideal world in which I live in my own neat little bubble, I would be, but it’s hard when I have a husband who is a pack rat and a baby who will naturally accumulate tons of clothes, bottles, books, toys, and other accessories. (I’m dreading the days when I have to avoid stepping on Legos and K’nex!)

Books are probably the physical object I love the most, if I had to pick something. Not only are they useful, they are decorative. Little is more aesthetically pleasing to me than an organized bookshelf. Notebooks and journals are also difficult to part with, even if they’ve never been written in. They are essentially books and have that same pleasing aesthetic quality.

But the sad fact remains that books take up space, which is a precious and rare commodity in our apartment. So I pared my book collection down to only 30. To be honest, it wasn’t all that difficult. Every reader has books in his collection that are destined to be sitting on the shelf for years, never read and never touched. Probably 90% of my books fell into that category.

Every reader also has books that, for whatever reason, he will never part with and would probably be buried with, if given the opportunity. Those were the 30 books I kept. Only two were fiction (both by William Faulkner). The others were writing related and other nonfiction. Religious books didn’t count because my husband wanted to keep most of them; I think if I had included religious books in my 30, it would have been a lot harder to choose only 30. I did cheat a little by keeping two “keepsake” books and another written by a friend, but all three are pretty small and won’t take up much room. 🙂

Is it easy or hard for you to part with physical things?