the mediocrity maintenance plan

by Janelle Hanchett

At the risk of sounding a little conceited, I have to admit that everyday, I think I get a little closer to reaching the absolute pinnacle of perfect, unparalleled mediocrity. I have a true talent for this. We’re not talking about half-assed mediocrity. We’re talking the real freaking deal. Pure, unhindered, unadulterated average. The gray area is my domain, people. I rule the middle of the road. If my life were junior high classes, I’d be pulling C’s every period.

I know. It’s impressive.

Perfecting this art may seem complicated, especially since most people excel at something simply by default. But really, it isn’t that hard. And, since I tend to place others above myself (not unlike Mother Theresa and Ghandi), I’m willing to share with you the following guidelines in case you’d like to perfect the general mediocrity in your life. By following these simple steps, you’ll find that you absolutely cannot excel in any area of your existence. You will do exactly what you have to do each day simply to survive – nothing more, nothing less – and one day you will wake up, realizing joyfully that you have achieved real, true mediocrity.

  1. Have children. Preferably more than two.
  2. Make sure one of those children is under the age of one and wakes up at least three times a night, ensuring inadequate sleep patterns and unceasing general exhaustion.
  3. Do not stay home with those children, but go to work.
  4. But don’t work full time. Work part time. Working full time may result in actual focus on work, which could produce above-average performance. What we’re going for here is a sort of “one foot in – one foot out” scenario – so you’re not a working mom and you’re not a stay-at-home one either.
  5. On your days home, frantically attempt to make up for the time you were at work and do nothing else. This will ensure that you do not have time for any stellar stay-at-home mom tasks such as engaging with older children, sewing, cooking, communicating without yelling, gardening and/or doing crafts.
  6. Add many, many other activities to these two realms, as a safeguard against potential achievement in either the work or home arena (examples include, but are not limited to, sports and other activities for the children, having friends, staying married, reading, eating, writing a blog, pursing a graduate education, getting your hair done, losing weight, breastfeeding, keeping a pet alive, visiting family, bathing, etc.).

While it may seem too simple, I guarantee that with these steps will lead you to mediocre functioning no matter what. There is no way around it. You will be spread so thin that there will be no room for anything else. You will have friends you really care about but only call occasionally. You will miss appointments with them and not return calls. You will be too tired at work to do anything beyond the minimum, even though you want to, and when you are home, you will be so behind on housework and household tasks (from the days that you were at work) that excellence in mothering or wifedom will be out of the question. With very little effort on your part, you will become a staggering idiot at work – a frantic nut-job at home – treading water in the deep end, every day, pumping your little legs frantically just to keep your mouth a 1/2  inch above the water. You will move furiously and with wild abandon to keep from drowning. Under these conditions, mediocrity invariably reigns.

If you find yourself excelling in an area, no worries. Just add more activities to your list. Or, and this one never fails to produce immediate results: have another baby.

Then repeat steps 1-6. Forever. And call me. We’ll remind each other of the merits of mediocrity, in between spells of weeping and general malaise.

 

Georgia’s home birth story

by renegademama

I’ve been meaning to finish this.

On August 4, 2010 I was four days past my due date and not digging it. I seemed to go into labor and then stop, every day for about two years. Or maybe that was weeks. I was done in a way only a 40+ week pregnant woman can be “done.” I met with my midwife and explained that my daily visualization techniques and heart-to-heart talks with my uterus were oddly ineffective and she was going to have to do something. She suggested castor oil, told me it would only work if my body is fully ready (so I shouldn’t get excited), and gave me a milkshake recipe I can’t wholeheartedly recommend.

It took me about 37 seconds to get the ingredients, send the kids to my mom’s, and drink the milkshake (actually it was 6pm). By 9pm I was feeling contractions but tried to ignore them since they had faded out so many times before. By midnight they were still coming and I was having to walk around through them and breathe to manage the pain. I figured if I woke Mac up I’d jinx the whole deal, so I let him sleep until about 2am, when they were becoming pretty difficult to manage. He woke up and started filling the birthing tub and setting up various other things (heating receiving blankets, putting things out for the midwives, calling grandmothers, etc.). He was nervous and kept suggesting we call the midwives. I kept telling him “no” because I was still in denial that our baby was coming. My mom arrived around 4am. I got in the tub about 5am because the pain was really intense. About 3 minutes later I declared that the midwives could come, and they showed up about 5:45am. I labored in the tub and around the house, moaning and sighing through contractions, leaning on Mac, wondering in lucid moments why the hell I ever signed up for this again. At around 7:30am the contractions slowed way down (a sign I was moving to the pushing stage) and I started feeling the urge to push at the peak of each contraction.

This is when things really began to suck.

Now you must understand that with Ava and Rocket I pushed for about 15 minutes each. It was quick and easy (if such an ordeal could ever be “easy”). With this baby, though, I was pushing with all my might and nothing was happening. Just excruciating pain. Really, nothing was happening and I knew it. I kept trying but my attempts seemed ineffective and all the strength I could muster seemed wimpy in the face of what I was trying to do. I was genuinely terrified. This was not in the cards. I’m a super birthing machine. I really felt that I couldn’t do it and I shared this information with the midwife. She calmly informed me that I was the only one who could do it. I wanted to hit her in the face. The other midwife started mumbling something about breathing in light and love to my baby and I considered drowning her.

There are absolutely no words to describe the feeling of the two hours I spent trying to push that baby out. I just couldn’t do it. And yet I had to and I was trying so hard but it wasn’t enough but it had to be enough. But if the needed strength just isn’t there, what is one supposed to do? I can’t just make it materialize out of nowhere. The pain was so great I just wanted it to end but I could not make it end. I begged for relief. There was none.

Let’s take a little break so you can fully appreciate the humor in this little ordeal. You may have noticed that little word “home” in the title…yes, this was a planned home birth.  I had my other two kids in a hospital, with midwives, without drugs. My son was a water birth (I’ll tell that story some other time). I’ve had no traumatic hospital experiences…so why would I choose such a thing? Well, there are a lot of reasons, but mine are simple: I like to give birth without pain medication and without  intervention (if possible), and the easiest simplest way to do this is at home. But oh lord did I have some plans involving this birth. I had a vision. I’d been reading a lot of Ina May Gaskin (Spiritual Midwifery) and other hippie natural birth books – and Rocket’s birth was exactly like what they were talking about: calm, serene, painful but not excruciating, textbook progression – culminating in the quick birth of an 8 1/2 pound perfect, pink baby boy with an Apgar of 10. I figured that since I was at home, this birth would be even better, more intuitive, more beautiful and glorious. I saw myself cruising around with some angelic smile on my face, swaying softly to the music in my mind, the ancient rhythm of a thousand birthing women, my body whispering what to do and me like a graceful swan, dancing my baby out, as my older kids and husband watched peacefully, glancing at each other with little grins of happy, fascinated anticipation. It was all going to be very spiritual.

And it was, if growling and screaming the word “fuck” repeatedly and acting like a hyena on crack is spiritual.

Okay so anyway there I was, pushing and acting like a psycho with NO SUCCESS and I’m absolutely freaking out. Fits of yelling, fits of tears. Terror in my eyes. Veins popping out. I’m unhappy. My kids were absolutely horrified. Not my first priority. After two hours of this hell, I hit a wall. I realized that the only way out of this horrid situation was to do the one thing I was the most scared of. The one thing I couldn’t do. The midwife was right. I had to do it. So with the next contraction I got angry. I simply got insane. I roared and screamed and pushed with all the strength I had and all the strength I’ve never had and will never have. And I didn’t stop. I thought my body was tearing in half. But the midwife said she could see dark hair, then the forehead, ears, the head…and I became encouraged and kept working, really hard. A few moments later I felt the greatest relief of my life and I heard the midwives tell Mac “pick up your baby.” He had to find her in the cloudy water. A second later he lifted up the most beautiful little baby I’d ever seen. I was overcome with joy. My tears were of ecstasy. The cord was around her neck twice and she was blue, so they quickly rolled her over a couple times and we watched the miracle of her body flooding pink — from her chest out to her tiny fingers and toes. It was 9:28 in the morning .

Somebody asked me if it was a girl or boy — I looked and said with a smile “a girl, of course” (since I always new she was a girl, even without an ultrasound). I spent so many months trying to imagine her face, and I couldn’t see it, but the moment I laid eyes on her, I knew her perfectly. “Oh right, there you are.” I was in heaven. Elated.

everybody examining the baby - notice the swollen head...that's cause she came out all FUNKY

Turns out the baby was in a position that makes a natural delivery extremely difficult – essentially the wrong part of her head was presenting. The midwives explained that most women with a baby in that position end up with a Cesarean delivery, and that doctors would have told me it was “impossible” to vaginally deliver a baby in that position. Useful information AFTER THE FACT, huh? Plus she was ten pounds. Whoa. The midwives seemed genuinely impressed and I must admit I felt like something of a bad-ass. I suppose the battle of it ultimately made it the most “spiritual” of all my births – realizing that my body was failing me, being forced to pull from deep inside my soul, deeper than I had ever gone, to find a power I never knew I had. Doesn’t get much more spiritual than that. (well, in my opinion).

9 lbs, 14 ounces, 21 inches long

So our baby girl was born and she was lovely and we all crawled into our bed and cuddled. And I had my perfect home birth. They examined and weighed her right in my room.  We sang happy birthday to her,  dressed her after a few hours, spent hours examining and kissing her perfect little self. In fact we’ve been doing just that ever since.

happy birthday little one

Sweet baby Georgia, welcome.

29 Comments | Posted in Sometimes, I'm all deep and shit..... | February 13, 2011

dude, Sylvia Plath put her head in the oven over this shit

by renegademama

I usually only feel sorry for myself on Sundays, but today is clearly an exception. I have no reason to feel sorry for myself. In fact, my life is so good that if anything actually bad happened to me, I’d probably combust spontaneously due to shock and confusion. Today is just one of those days when I fail to find meaning in motherhood and the whole exercise just feels long and monotonous and silly and boring and I don’t find it deep or joyous or wonderful or even fun and what I want is for my life to be about me again. Just me.

I’m aware that what’s in it for me? is not an effective mothering principle, but I wasn’t kidding when I said I’m too selfish for motherhood. Sometimes (like right now) my selfishness catches up with me and I find myself seriously wondering if anybody would notice if I just ducked the hell out – moved to the Caribbean and started over, when nobody was looking.

Do you ever feel like a mouse running on a wheel?

I do. But more like a mouse with amnesia. Or an idiot mouse. A mouse who looks up at the wheel ahead of him, fixates on one spot and says “as soon as I get there, things are going to be different,” forgetting that he’s already been there, that it’s all the damn same and no matter how promising it looks, once he gets to that spot, he’ll look around and realize not a goddamn thing has changed. New day. Same wheel. And he’s still a mouse. And this is still his wheel. Things won’t be different, not tomorrow. Or in a year.

I’m not fulfilled. There’s so much undone and incomplete and this isn’t all of me. It just isn’t. It’s not enough. There was going to be more. It wasn’t long ago when I was sure there was going to be more.

The other day I was talking to Ava about working hard and focusing and not fucking up your life and I realized I was giving her the “don’t make the same mistakes I’ve made” speech. How is it that my mistakes have been made? I want to go back to my early twenties, when I was still actively making my mistakes rather than reflecting on them morbidly. When did I reach the other side, where my parents and old people live?

When did my dreams fade into helping my kids realize theirs?

When did my life become so damn defined?

When the hell did I grow up?

And why am I not where or who or what I envisioned when I was a little girl and my mother told me not to make the mistakes she made. And I looked at her with pity, a hint of disgust and the ever-present there’s-my-mama adoration, 100% fully convinced that it would never be me because I’m learning from her and how is it that people ever just screw up their lives anyway? I mean shit, it’s all so simple when you’re nine or twelve or sixteen or twenty-three. And you’re young and beautiful and FREE and you’ll never be too old to change things, redirect, make a new plan.

I’m not even old. I’ll be 32 next month.

But I’m old enough to know that life crashes forward in wild hideous abandon, whether or not I’m paying attention. And damnit sometimes I just feel STUCK– watching the world roll by and me, on my wheel, trying desperately to get to some spot that doesn’t exist, where my dreams are realized and I’m the person I always wanted to be. But there are kids to raise and babies to nurse and mortgage to pay and weight to lose and there’s fear and I’m so tired and I should just be happy serving these children. But I’m not. Not always.

Today I got to work and my colleague for some reason told me about the day the chaplains came to her house to tell her that her son had been killed. As if she knew I was feeling sorry for myself, even though I was doing so silently, in my characteristically immature self-centered way.

And I feel like a shithead for complaining.

At the same time I hear Langhorne Slim singing to me, his words like a banner across my mind: “I’ve had it better than some and i know that i shouldn’t complain – though my grandfather told me once that all pain hurts the same.”

Ah, fuck it. I’m going to bed. It will be better tomorrow.

11 Comments | Posted in I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING HERE. | February 9, 2011

top 10 most irritating parenting expressions

by renegademama

This has been a long time coming…my list (and analysis) of the top ten most annoying things people say in regards to child-rearing, not in order. While it bothers me to hear other people saying these things, it’s vastly more disturbing when they exit my own mouth.

1. “Natural parenting” – I’m not sure what “unnatural parenting” is, but I’m pretty sure I’m doing it.

2. “Sleep training” – You can train a dog to sit. You can train a person to drive tanks and shoot people. You can even train a voice. But you can’t train sleep. Sleep comes or it doesn’t. You can encourage it or deter it, perhaps, or even lure it…but you can’t just “train” it.

3. “Eco-attachment parenting” – This expression is so pretentious only a complete asshole would utter it. I have a picture of her in my mind. She’s the parent who’s so detached from reality she doesn’t realize her own privilege, as she drives her Prius to her apartment in the Marina District after shopping at Whole Foods (while breastfeeding in the Ergo) and picking up her older kid (who incidentally wears only organic bamboo clothing) from the local Waldorf, where she meets her husband, who makes at least $900,000/year, allowing her to stay home, where she makes gluten-free whole wheat muffins with goat milk and judges the hell out of the imbeciles who feed Costco food to misbehaving, Old-Navy clad hoodlums attending public schools, playing with toys made in China and gallivanting around town in a hand-me-down, gas-guzzling non-hybrid mini-van.

4. “Baby schedule” – I believe this term was created with the sole purpose of making mothers feel inadequate. I have yet to meet a baby who adheres to any schedule, whether it’s logged in an Excel spreadsheet or not. Put this shit OUT of your head, mothers, I tell you! Screw baby schedules and the bastard who thinks they’re possible!

5. “High-needs child” – Is there a low-needs one? If so, I’m putting mine back and demanding that model.

6. “Orgasmic birth” – Perhaps you are unfamiliar with this little number. The hippie natural birth people came up with a video called “Orgasmic Birth,” featuring a woman who appears to be having an extremely enjoyable birth experience in a tub in her backyard. As a woman who’s had three unmedicated births, one of which was at home, with a midwife, in a tub, I hereby declare that the orgasmic birth lady is a fucking liar.

7. “Informed parenting” – This means you read a lot of books, listen to a lot of ‘experts,’ research all theories and philosophies until you’ve read so much and heard so much that it all begins to contradict itself, but you persevere because one must be informed! so you decide on and deploy a tactic, finally convinced you’ve chosen the right approach, at which time a new study comes out blowing it right out of the water (explaining that it actually causes autism, attention deficit disorder, AND diabetes). You continue like this for one year, or until you realize that ‘informed parenting’ is a fleeting, silly myth created by people who’ve never had children. Then you give up, and, like the rest of us, resort to trusting your gut and hoping for the best.

8. “Developmental toys” – Quick. Let me run out and buy the latest educational age-appropriate $45.00 Lamaze toy so my baby will “develop” properly, even though everybody knows the best baby toys haven’t changed for generations and they are as follows: the tag on a blanket, a spatula, a cardboard box, dirty car keys, and whatever choke-inducing item she just discovered on the carpet.

9. “Tummy time” – Another conspiracy. Total lose-lose. Either the baby flatly refuses his “30 minutes of daily tummy time,” resulting in a guilt-ridden mama sure her son will never evolve, or alternatively, the baby tolerates tummy time happily, causing the even more horrific event of early crawling.

10. “Play date” – I don’t know why this one annoys me. I say it all the time. Some things are just too damn cute I guess.

uh-huh.

playdate in my trailer

by renegademama

I don’t live in a trailer. Or even a trailer park. I just like the idea of a playdate in a trailer. The image pretty much sums up my experience of motherhood. Just a little off, all the time.

The first time I picked up “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” I knew I was fucked.

Allow me to elaborate:

When I found out I was pregnant with my first child I wanted to kill myself and the man who got me knocked up (who I had known for 3 months and is, incidentally, still my husband). I kept the baby because he threatened to leave me if I didn’t and I loved him, and in my gut it seemed like the right thing to do. I looked at having a baby as a sort of event, a passing occurrence, like going to Mexico or getting your teeth cleaned. When the permanence of it hit me- when my belly started growing – I was furious. My body became somebody else’s. My sexiness faded like the jeans I used to fit. I felt robbed. Conned. Tied down. It was a sort of death I cannot explain. My youth passed in an instant, my freedom expired, my free-wheeling, hot & young days ended – abruptly, at 21, many years before I was ready. I swung between moments of compliance with my new identity and vengeful, furious rejection of it.

This is how I entered motherhood. And the manual I encountered was “What to Expect.” Where was the chapter on “suicidal tendencies upon viewing positive pregnancy test?” Or: “how to remain 21 and hot while mothering.”

Lord have mercy.

Sadly I didn’t become June Cleaver the moment I laid eyes on my precious baby girl. Instead, I spent a few years making huge, tragic parenting errors, which is another story and another blog. In short, I’ve been “that mother.” I’ve been drunk, absent, uninterested, impatient, narcissistically self-centered and obscenely immature. I’ve wished I’d never become a mother. I’ve pretended I could just ignore my kids and they’d go away. In fact, I tried that once (didn’t work). I’ve done all these things and now I’m finally on my way home, but I still wonder: “Where do the bad mothers go?”

What about those of us who love our children as much as the well-adjusted knowledgeable stable enlightened types but just can’t seem to get it right? What about those of us who just aren’t cut out for this shit but are doing it anyway?

I am proof that not every woman enters motherhood in some gentle, planned, ribbon-and-ruffles way. Not every woman likes this crap. Not every woman fits neatly into the mold created and reinforced by mainstream books like “What to Expect.” Not everybody is a good mother, all the time, even when we try.

I usually look around the child-rearing world and see a bunch of crap I don’t need, hear a bunch of advice I can’t use – encounter a bunch of people I only partially understand. I go home and I see a thrashed house with kids everywhere and overgrown lawns, dirty cloth diapers and books I want to read but don’t and toys and dishes and sometimes I demand that my kids just sit down be quiet and watch Netflix because I can’t stand one more moment of noise or movement. And if one more person says “Mama” I am going to take a bat to the windows.

A few hours later I walk into her room after she’s gone to sleep and I see my firstborn baby, nine years old. I stroke her frizzy unkempt hair and listen to her soft snores. I touch her cheek and my eyes burn in palpable adoration. I feel it surge up my body from my toes into my fingers – thick, fierce infinite expanding mama love. And I beg the universe in that moment to give her everything she will ever need and please God keep her safe and how is it that I am so lucky to have this child, right here. The one who robbed me of my great ass and flat belly and turned me into the mother I wasn’t ready to become.

I lie down exhausted and think of all the ways I could be a better mom. Of the days I’ve missed through my own selfishness. Of the years racing by, teasing me with the illusion that this will never end, that they’ll always be little. And I wish I didn’t yell so much.

And so it goes on like this. Back and forth. All the time. Here’s to the trip.

Someday I shall write my own version entitled: “What to Expect When You’re [a jackass and] Expecting.” Until then, I’ll write this blog.

25 Comments | Posted in Sometimes, I'm all deep and shit..... | January 26, 2011