Thursday, April 29, 2010

Formspring Q&A

More Q&A, brought to you by my formspring site.  I answered these a couple of weeks apart and it's funny how my focus is slightly different so it sounds like I'm contradicting myself:  I don't have any time to myself, or I do have enough time for myself.  I stand by both answers, though.  There was a different context to the questions and where I went with the answers.  

Remember, you can ask me anything!  I haven't skipped any questions so far, but I still have a backlog, so if you're still waiting for an answer, hang in there.

Are you eating paleo?

Nope. I don't agree with the fundamental premises of paleo eating. I do like meat, though, and my personal dietary needs require me to eat a much higher proportion of protein-to-carbs than is recommended in the standard American diet. (I'm hypoglycemic.) So I end up with a very similar diet. If I'm going to look for a recipe online, I almost always search for a paleo one. I'm coming around a bit towards the idea of eating "whole foods," but even then, I don't think the potential value of eating this way outweighs the value of convenience food, special treats, or low-cost food. I just think there is a lot of room for "error" in what human beings eat. And I think that the range of dietary needs amongst individuals is enormous, although I'm convinced that everyone could stand to eat a lot less sugar. Massive quantities of sugar don't seem to do anyone any good.

A bit off topic: Kelly Elmore has an excellent post about how paleo eating relates to extended breastfeeding and attachment parenting. She endorses them all while I don't, but I appreciate the connections she makes, probably since I made the same connections myself when I decided I didn't agree with any of them. Anyway, it's worth reading if you are interested in paleo at all.

What is the toughest thing about being a stay-at-home mother?

That's difficult to answer. I suppose the most challenging thing is the need to be constantly "on." To be a good parent, you are teaching almost all of the time. You've got to be on the lookout for those teachable moments, and you have to control your temper, and you have to be aware of the behavior you are modeling for your child. Deciding on how to handle all kinds of different situations takes a constant effort. And the child keeps changing, so you've got to keep learning and growing too! It's a relentless process.

But that is all challenging in a good way, really. The thing that is more negative to me is that my time is not my own anymore. I mean, I chose to have a child and I'd make that choice again in a heartbeat. It's the best thing that I ever did. But still, once you've done it, you have a tiny human being who is dependent on you, 24/7. If I want time for anything else, I have to manufacture it. And I do manufacture it, but the effort is unending. There is never a time when I unexpectedly find myself alone, with no demands on me, without having scheduled it or arranged it in some way. Right now, I am able to write this response because it is naptime, which I've worked very hard to maintain, and which I had to put extra effort into today because of 2 unusual events. And there are always unusual events that make every day a challenge.

I still don't have a reliable way to find time to shower every day, and my daughter is 3.5! I suppose that is the toughest thing, in a nutshell.

What would you be doing if you were working?

Making a whole lot more money, that's for sure. But really, I assume you mean "working outside the home." I must say, I'm working harder now than I ever have before in my life.

As for working outside the home, I have absolutely no idea what I would be doing. I was in the middle of a career change when I became a full time parent. I was a software developer then I went back to school and got a degree in some weird mix of engineering and business that could have led to a number of careers. 

How do you like being a stay-at-home mom?

I love/hate it. I love the mom part, and I love the "stay at home" part, but I hate the tedium. After putting in a 12 hour day of cleaning poop and doing dishes and controlling my temper and playing 150 games of hide and seek, I don't have that sense of, "Wow, I did a great job today and I feel really proud of myself." Maybe I should, but I don't. I just feel tired. I have to do other things to get that feeling of productiveness and accomplishment.

However, there is nothing in the world more enjoyable than spending time with my daughter, and I feel like the luckiest person alive to get to do it as my job. I laugh and smile and get the warm fuzzies more than I ever have in my life, and the thought of working full-time is revolting. Why would I be anywhere but with her?

Now that Sam is 3, I have enough time for the kind of things that give me the sense of accomplishment that I need, so it's pretty ideal. I think that it will be important for me to slowly transition back to those other productive endeavors as she grows older, but I don't think I'll have any problem with that.

What is your central purpose?

I don't have a clearly defined central purpose. I used to feel really guilty about that. Now I don't. I'm the kind of person who, if left to my own instincts, will not act at all until my goals are 100% defined. (Meaning, I would never do anything at all.) I only started making progress in life when I let go of that and started going wherever my interests led me.

Now that I have a better sense of who I am and what my values are, I have done some work on trying to define my central purpose, but it's all still quite rationalistic for me.

I think some people can define their central purpose early in life (and good for them!), but the rest of us should realize that, however desirable it is to have a life-long central purpose, that it is something that we have to work towards by means of focusing on lesser goals. The Little Things are important!

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