Thursday, July 29, 2010

Crisis of a Chronicler

Let me preface this post by saying the following…Ruanita, I am not depressed. I am not unhappy. I do not need to see a therapist (therapy is a therapist’s answer to everything). This post has nothing to do with my relationship with you or my complete and undying devotion to our children and the life we’ve built together. Rather, it is about me contemplating my future…charting the direction I want to take with my life. You are now and will forever be my co-pilot on this crazy ride, wherever it ends up taking us. That being said…

I think I am in the midst of a mid-life crisis.

Yes, I realize I may bit a bit young for that yet, but what can I say? I was an early walker, an early talker, an early reader. It would make sense that I would overachieve on this front, as well. I have been reading a lot of blogs lately. Mostly blogs by other lesbian parents…some straight parenting blogs…some political blogs…some news blogs. I have been reading about women doing extraordinary things. I have been reading about women changing this world for the better….for themselves and for their children. Women who are writing books, founding non-profit organizations, running PTA’s, running for office, starting their own businesses…making real changes. I read recently about a woman here in Minnesota….a suburban working mom….who stumbled upon a grave need for diapers for lower income families when she tried to find a place to donate the diapers her child had outgrown. In today’s economy, families are struggling. I am sure this comes as a surprise to no one. Diapers are an often overlooked necessity that are not covered by food stamps or WIC federal funding. This mom spoke with people who told her about children coming into doctor’s offices wearing plastic Wal-mart sacks for diapers because their parents could not afford clean diapers. She heard about babies developing staph infections from sitting too long in soiled diapers. She was told about women being denied access to the childcare they need in order to work because they could not afford to provide the diapers required by the daycare centers. Rather than saying, “Oh, that’s so sad” as I have a million times when hearing about inequities like this, she sprang into action. Never having been an activist in her life, she founded a non-profit called The Diaper Drive (check out their website at Today, her non-profit has drop-off locations across the Twin Cities and delivers diapers to organizations in the area to distribute to parents in desperate need. All because one woman…a suburban mom who had never considered herself a “hero” or an “activist”…saw a need and refused to ignore it. That’s how the world changes, right? One person at a time filling one need at a time.

So that brings me back to my own psychological angst. My own mid-life crisis. So what does a 37-year-old lesbian mom’s crisis of self look like? Don’t be alarmed. There will be no motorcycles or shiny new sports cars parked in front of my house….though Ruanita would probably be thrilled to see a motorcycle parked there. I have no desire to leave my partner of almost thirteen years for a blonde, dread-locked, tattooed, 20-year-old. God, I wouldn’t even know what to do with her! I do not feel an overwhelming need to relive my youth. I’ve been there, done that. I am a proud veteran of that war and have no desire to return to the trenches. So my crisis is not about moving backwards. I love my partner and my children and my life. I would not change a single thing in my past that brought me to this point today. However, I feel like I need to move forward. I am feeling stalled…out of gas. I need something to jump-start my engine and get me moving again. I need to evolve. What am I doing to make the world a better place for my children? What am I doing to help other people?

I feel as though I do not do anything. You know how it goes…you meet someone new and one of the first things you are asked is “What do you do?” Many people are lucky enough to have a one-sentence response to this question. I am a doctor. I am a lawyer. I am a teacher. I am a social worker. I am a therapist. I am a writer. As for me, I am a……? Generic office worker? Jane of all trades, master of none? Any high school sophomore with a modicum of literacy and the dexterity to point and click a mouse could do my job. As a matter of fact, the largest part of my day today was spent stuffing and sealing envelopes…a task my seven-year-old son could have handled with limited instruction. Tomorrow, I am looking forward to a rousing day of filing work orders. Yes, I realize that I sound like a petulant child. I realize that I have much to be grateful for in this economy. First and foremost, I have a job. It pays me well, all things considered. It allows me to be home with my children every afternoon by 1:00 and avoid the financial burden of child care. Yes….I realize that I really do have it good. However, is it wrong to yearn for a career instead of simply a job? Is it wrong to want your life’s work to mean something…to someone…?

I have been seriously considering going back to school. I have a $60,000 bachelor’s degree in Psychology ($100,000 at today’s tuition rates) from a small, private, liberal arts college. Yea…about as useful as a screen door on a submarine. I did manage to acquire a fairly decent vocabulary and some kick-ass Scrabble skills for my $60,000, but I still feel a bit jipped. For years now, I have toyed with the thought of going to nursing school. As a matter of fact, I have considered going all the way and becoming a nurse practitioner….a nurse midwife, more specifically. I would love to work with pregnant women. I would love to be somehow involved in bringing children into this world under the healthiest conditions possible. I would love to be a advocate for women. However, the thought of going back to school is extremely daunting, to say the least. I know people go back to school in their thirties all of the time. However, I just feel old. I feel like I should already have the career of my dreams at 37….or a career at all, for that matter. I realize my professional lifespan is far…oh so very, very far…from over. I realize that there is time. But why do I feel so damn old? And how will I afford to go back to school? My expensive liberal arts education was paid off a couple of years ago when we made a healthy profit selling our home. Though I loved paying them off, I admit to feeling as though I’ve lost a bit of my intellectual cred by not having a boatload of student loans attached to my name. Perhaps it is time to incur some more educational debt. But then there is the largest hurdle of all….the time constraint. When do I think I am going to find the time to attend classes? With three small children? With a schedule that makes my partner and I de facto single parents Monday through Friday? When will I find the time to perform clinicals? Study?!? Just the mere thought of it alone is enough to make me need to lie down from sheer exhaustion.
Kids...get momma a pillow!

Perhaps all mothers of young children feel this way? Perhaps it is not just me? My day to day life is about poop and pee and princesses and homework and cartoons and video games and snacks and wading pools and zoos. I feel like my life is no longer about me. Again…petulant child…I know.

I recently came across this…


I guess that says it all. If I am unhappy with my current conditions, but do nothing to change them, then I have no basis to whine about it. In other words, get off your ass or shut the hell up! Unfortunately, I am, historically, not very adept at making changes. I am not a risk-taker. I am a chronicler, not a doer. If I were a doer, my blog would be called The Scintillating Adventures of a Clueless Mom (the clueless part certainly wouldn’t change!). As it stands, I chronicle. Left to my own devices, I would like nothing better than spending the day writing about life rather than living it. But that’s not a life, right?

So….where does that leave me? What will become of my mid-life crisis? Do I have it within me to become a doer?

Stay tuned…..


Vikki said...

I have a BA in Psychology from a small, private liberal arts college. I have an MA in counseling. I am a social worker for Hennepin County and am unhappy too. I know how you feel - really. I've been having a crisis for awhile and have thought many of the things that you are thinking. Heck - I'll probably think them later today. I wish had some answers for you but all I've got is sympathy.

Jessica said...

I think all I can say is that you aren't alone. It is really hard to remember that all this "mom stuff" is one of the hardest jobs in the world. And there is no instant gratification, no one telling you you're going a good job, not even a pay check to validate your work. But in eighteen years or so you finally get to discover if you did a good job or not. Yikes!

I completely understand your desire to change and move forward, as well as the yoke of parenthood seeming to hold you back. But you never know, you might figure it out. Maybe when the kids are all in school you could go back? Or maybe you need to think about being a writer--then it would all be about chronicling...

Best of luck.

hwibbs said...

I had my first midlife crisis at 30, and went into massage. My second one is probably 3-5 years out. I feel the same way when people ask what I do. "I'm a massage therapist." What a great use of all my education. I'm sure people from hs and college think - "Wow - she's a loser. She was so smart and now she's a masseuse - I'm doing better than her!"

I love it, but it's kinda like your job - it's hard to feel good about when I'm around people in more important jobs.

Take a couple of classes, that's how I ended up finding massage. And it's OK to have a life without a great deal of meaning, as long as you fill the others around you with love and at the very least laughter. :-)

Shannon Ralph said...

Heather—I don’t look down on you at all for being a massage therapist. You found something you love to do and started your own business. I find that incredibly brave and commendable! Plus, you still read the right books, right? You’re kind of my hero! ;)

Laura Taylor Smith said...

Shannon, I went back to school at 37. It seemed daunting at first, but now that it's almost over I'm really glad I did! I agree with Heather, take some classes. It's just good to get out of the house and think about something totally new.

Bethany Jarboe said...

Hey Shannon. I went back to school at age 35. It is a little different for me because I didn't have kiddos I had to worry about. But, if you ever want to discuss the joys (and not-so-joys) of nursing school, let me know. I work at Children's Hospital in Cincinnati now and, while I'm still fresh and shiny and new and clueless, I do love it.

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