I am very lucky. I live in a country that provides me with the opportunity, upon giving birth to a child, to stay home for a whole year raising that child with protection for my job when I return to work and getting payment to do so (however minimal it may be).
The birth of my second son, just a month ago, forced me to think about what I wanted to accomplish during this time “off”. You’re probably hearing the traditionally labeled overachiever there – wanting to accomplish something other than keeping an infant alive when there are going to be days when I barely manage to get out of bed. But it’s true. I don’t want to look back on this year this time next year and think to myself “what the hell did I do with a year of my life?”
When I started to boil down exactly why I felt I needed to do something other than raise two happy little boys, something dawned on me. It came to me quite obviously. I needed to do something because I wasn’t happy. Not happy in terms of traditional definition – I’m not depressed, I have a great marriage, healthy kids, a good paying job, friends and family I can rely on – but I am not satisfied with what I as a person am doing with my life.
I’m sick and tired of always making excuses for why I can’t do things like “I’m so tired from work…” and even more frustrated with myself that for a somewhat accomplished professional woman in my thirties with two children that I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. Feeling confident is something that being satisfied with my life will bring for me, and something that I need. And the route to being confident for me starts at home. It starts with knowing what I’m doing and expected to do, setting out the requirements to get there and getting it done. When I’m making those I love the most in the world – my husband and kids – happy, I’m happy. When I’m happy, I’m satisfied with where I am and what I’m doing in the world. And when I’m satisfied, I’m confident in my life’s decisions. See where I’m going with this?
So this year, I’m going to focus on three things, in this particular order.
First priority is and will remain my little boys. Be it shuttling the older one to his classes or just taking a minute to cuddle with the younger one, I am going to be their mom first and foremost this year. I want this to be a foundation for how I am going forward with them – I want to encourage patience for their little hands trying to hold a pencil for the first time, attempts to help me cook dinner that really make it eight times harder or learning the letters of the alphabet. I want to show them how to have fun running through a sprinkler, running around a city park or building a fort out of my couch cushions. I want to feed them healthy dinners and grow them into strong, healthy, polite and respectful little people. My most important job is to be their mom.
My second priority this year is to my husband. I’ve been his wife for a long time already, and he’s put up with me for far longer than I thought he might. He’s a neat freak who takes huge pride in the appearance of our home that lives with a self-proclaimed slob who would be happy if the clothes never made it out of the dryer. We have a great relationship in every way other than the arguments we have over how little energy or effort I put into our home or how I am lazy when it comes to chores, to-do lists or things that don’t appeal to me. So this year, I’m going to just get my shit together and do things like planning dinners, cleaning floors and weeding the lawn. Not because I think they’re crucial (or that I couldn’t pay someone to do them) but because they’re important to him, and he’s important to me. And more things that need to get better? Having showers, putting on clothes and makeup even when I’m not leaving the house. Painting my toenails rather than letting the polish peel off. This is not me normally, don’t worry – having a newborn infant is tough! But it’s no excuse. Call me old-fashioned, but he’s working hard to support us while my income has taken a huge hit, so it’s only fair that I put in a little effort to meet his needs. I can guarantee you I will hate cleaning bathrooms (and that I will find a cleaning lady again when I go back to work) but I can also guarantee that – in a maybe twisted way – my relationship will be better because of it.
And my third priority? Effie Media. I started What Would Kate Do on a whim on my last maternity leave and I have loved every minute of being a blogger that it has brought. I want to take this time to focus on where we as a blog and in turn media company want to be, where we’re going and trust me – even with kids and a husband, there is still downtime where I can still be me and do what it is I love to do, which ironically is to write and run blogs.
So if I forget somedays where my priorities lie, don’t feel bad about reminding me. I’m not saying it will be easy, always fun and always intellectually stimulating… But I think that focusing on these three things will be the best things I can do for my family and most importantly, for me. For my happiness, my sanity, my joie de vivre and my confidence. Because really, I can’t be valuable to my family without being valuable to myself first and foremost.