Wednesday, September 15, 2010

So There

A couple days ago I was talking to a friend. She has a two-year-old named Riley, and usually when we get together we spend most of our time pulling toys out of the collective death grip each of our kids has on them amidst shouts of "Mine!" and "No no no!" But, on this day, thanks to an ill-timed trip to Whole Foods and the fact that neither of our kids had napped, they both fell asleep in the car on the way home and continued to sleep through dinnertime once we brought them back to my apartment, so we were actually able to have a conversation for a change.

They're adorable, yes?

Do you have one of those friends that just always looks cute, and when you know you're going to see her, you put a little more effort into picking clothes that won't make you feel fat and dumpy and just generally awful about yourself when you see her in stylish clothes three sizes smaller than yours? Well, Jess is mine.

She is decidedly thin, sort of exotic looking with her dark, almond-shaped eyes and thick, black hair, and is always dressed in a way that seems hip and effortless at the same time. I, on the other hand, am...thicker, and most of my clothes are hand-me-downs from friends who were clearing out their closets to make room for bigger and better things. Well, not bigger. But, better.

So, when the conversation turned to fashion and clothing, I was astonished to learn that Jess covets other people's clothing just as much as I do. She, too changes her outfit twenty times and drives the man in HER life crazy with questions about what does and does not make her look fat. She also struggles with the constant push/pull of trying to move beyond the material and focus on the more important matters of life, but OMG, I need that belt!

Now, in the past, upon hearing that this waif of a girl ever worried about looking fat, I would have been annoyed. I would have taken it as an affront. Well, if she thinks SHE'S fat, what does she think about me? But, this time it hit me: it isn't about me. It's not about her, either. It's all of us. We all have our body issues, self-esteem issues, doubts, etc.

And it isn't limited to the aesthetics. One of the things I love about the internet community I've found is that we can all express our doubts and insecurities about the kind of job we're doing raising our kids. It's harder to get to that soft, squishy place in some of the moms we meet in real life because we're so much more guarded. We worry about how we're being perceived. One of my favorite bloggy buddies, Kathleen, recently wrote this post about protecting our kids vs. letting them make mistakes, and she admits that while her instincts tell her not to hover and to let her daughter fall (literally and figuratively), she has caught herself rushing to her daughter's aid more than she feels is necessary just to deflect the wayward glances the more protective mothers give her at the playground.

Part of the problem is that no matter how sure we are in one moment that our parenting style is right and good and totally the way to go, all it takes is to see another parent doing it differently, and all of a sudden we're not sure of anything anymore, and we are compensating for this uncertainty by very ostentatiously offering our kids their ORGANIC raisins or asking them to count to ten for no apparent reason.

It's just so damn hard and maybe even impossible to not compare ourselves to everything and everyone. To the other mothers we encounter, to the beautiful and fashionable people we see on the street, to the better paid and superiorly-titled co-workers, and so on. I realize this is not a new revelation, and my resolve to try and opt out is not one that hasn't been made and then forgotten by millions of people, but... still.

I have to try. I have to try to focus on being the best parent I can. And, yes, that includes continuing the dialogue with people, both in the real world and on the web. I think exposing yourself to the various parenting styles with as open a mind as you can is great. The trick is to take what you like, leave what you don't, make your choices with pride, and remain confident even when faced with the myriad voices of dissent. It's hard. But, it helps to know that almost everyone else is fighting the same fight.

I have to try and love my body, flab and all. I feed it good food. I try and take it for a spin around the block or on the treadmill when I can. My husband loves it. I have to focus on being healthy and not thin. Because, if I don't change the way I think, I could lose twenty pounds and still think I'm fat.

I have to try and write more. I want to be a writer, and yet, I veto so many ideas in my head without even giving them a chance to live on the page, because I'm worried about what people will like to read, what they will find tiresome, what they have heard a million times before. I have been afraid to write fiction because it's unfamiliar territory for me, and I worry it won't be good enough. Good enough for whom? Me? yes. But also... people. Everyone else. And writing some bad stuff is better than never writing anything for fear of rejection and ridicule.

I guess what it comes down to is that I have to try to be happy. Food makes me happy. Wine makes me happy. Exercise will keep me healthy, and that makes me happy (If only the exercise itself made me as happy!). Writing makes me happy. My family makes me happy, and I won't feel guilty anymore for spending time with them when I *should* be doing something else. The kitchen can stay messy. My stomach can stay flabby. My clothes can stay shabby. But, I'm going to be happy, damnit.

So there.


  1. Megan, I just have to say . . . You are that friend for me, lol. I wish that I was as stylish and hip as YOU!!! The grass is always greener eh? You are so 100% right. You have inspired me (and made me a little teary eyed, but I blame the PMS a little too).

  2. Yay you! I totally hear you on this. Also I hear a million kids' books in the last three lines (except for the damnit)

    Also if you never write the bad stuff, you never get better. It's like..skimming a pot of soup. If you never take the top layer off, the next layer can't rise and if the next layer can't rise, you can't skim it either and
    you get the idea I hope.

    ps: those children are beautiful!

  3. Love everything about this post! I've been sitting here, reading and nodding, already agreeing with you and then this: "The trick is to take what you like, leave what you don't, make your choices with pride, and remain confident even when faced with the myriad voices of dissent." AMEN! I desperately want to be able to do that.

    The last two paragraphs are totally me, especially about the confidence to write and share it with others. I am terrified of the rejection and ridicule that could come when I put myself out there. But terrified is probably better than bored or disappointed for not trying.

    Great job realizing and admitting what you need to be happy and going for it. Who needs clothes or clean kitchens anyway?

  4. And that fact that you know how to use "myriad" properly makes ME happy! Strong work, Hernandez...

  5. @Kristal- What? No way!

    It's funny, isn't it? We spend so much time thinking about all the things we want and people we want to be like, we don't ever think of OURSELVES that way. So, yes to the grass always being greener.

    You're the best.

  6. @Clara- I can only take credit for one of the kids, obviously, but I have to agree with you. They are both just lovely.

    And, I agree completely about the writing, soup metaphor and all. I know I've written some nonsense in the past (especially in college), but I never regretted writing it. I just learned form it and moved on. I need to get back to that place.

  7. @Cheryl- I'm already going back on my resolve to stop fretting about the dirty kitchen but I'm working on it!

    I'm so glad so many people seem to be able to relate to this. It's always great to know you're not alone.

    "But terrified is probably better than bored or disappointed for not trying."

    Hell yeah, it is! :)

  8. @Mom- Thanks. I learned from the master. ;)

  9. I love this post! You're just so spot on about it all--the need to stop comparing ourselves to others aesthetically, as parents, as people. The need to do what makes us happy, even if it's at the expense of some of what we think is "required" of us. The need to push ourselves even if we're scared.
    I'm good at ONE of those things (let's just say, I never worry about a messy kitchen, to my husband's never-ending chagrin), but this post is a good reminder to work on the rest!