I am a Household Management Project Leader


I've been blogging awhile.  Recent topics include vacations, family outings, Cub Scouts, holidays, and of course, my son and his antics.  Like so many people I know, I post about real life but with a utopian, slightly more idealistic, twist.

"Keeping up with the Joneses" is an expression I grew up with; it meant trying to keep up with the appearances, which is to say the money, prestige, house, yard, and life, of our neighbor/s.  Now-a-days "the Joneses" are not necessarily our neighbors.  They are the people we find on social media, too.  I am no longer just comparing myself to the woman down the street, I'm also comparing myself to the mother in Texas that's amazing at home decor, the woman in North Dakota that's a fabulous chef, or even some of my long lost friends and acquaintances on Facebook that seem to have the perfect family life; their kids are Olympic gymnasts, astrophysicists, and social entrepreneurs at the age of twelve.

The constant comparing has become draining and so has keeping up with my illusory posts.  The reality is that we do go on some amazing trips, and we do try to bring a taste of adventure into our otherwise ordinary, mundane lives.  But, my life isn't perfect.  To try and find adventure means to let other things go by the wayside.  My house is cluttered, my cooking is nill--relying on take out or pre-packaged meals, and on most days, when I have to wake up at five in the morning to plan and get ready for the day, I find myself on the couch by 8 p.m. in a vegetative state, which can only be compared to a coma, unless I'm full out sleeping (even when my son may not have had supper yet).

This is what my upstairs railing looks like on most days of the week...

My home office...just keepin' it real.
I recently ran into an article called "How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation" by Anne Helen Peterson.  Now, to be clear, I am not a Millenial.  At age 43, I am a "Generation Xer," but I'm only about five years older that the first of the Millennials.  The article resonated with me because I am, essentially, "burned-out."  I could go into all the details and all the "ah ha" moments Peterson provides because there are many of them, but I would be doing a disservice to the article itself, because it is, in my mind, a masterpiece, which fully illustrates how and why our lives, at this moment in time, have become so inexplicably complicated.  It's absolutely worth a read--a "task" to place on top of everyone's "to-do list."

As I read the article, two points stuck with me the most.  First, Peterson coins a term that has now become part of my everyday vocabulary called "errand paralysis."  She describes it as the inability to accomplish certain items on her to-do list because they "are seemingly high-effort, low reward tasks" that "paralyzed" her.  The items would keep on "rolling over [from] one week to the next" causing ultimately a feeling of anxiety and shame.  A light bulb went off.  (In fact, I shared this part of the article with a few of my coworkers, and they nodded in agreement, too.)  A big mental drain in my life stems from the feeling of unaccomplishment--a feeling of never being able to mark off all the items on my to-do list.  The same "less important" items keep being pushed off, and they collect and fester.  Instead of rewarding myself for what I did accomplish that week, month, year, I instead, zone in on what I didn't do, feeling ineffective and defeated.

Later in the article, Anne Helen Peterson, speaks about a cartoon called "You Should've Asked," created by a French, feminist comic known as Emma.  In the cartoon, Emma refers to mothers as "household management project leaders," and she goes on to show how labor burnout is just as much from being a homemaker as it is from working a full-time job.  (If you're managing both, then you have twice "the mental load.")  Peterson so eloquently and so profoundly describes the role of household management project leader as this:
They're ultimately responsible for the health of the family, the upkeep of the home and their own bodies, maintaining a sex life, cultivating an emotional bond with their children, overseeing aging  parents' care, making sure bills are paid and neighbors are greeted and someone's home for a service call and holiday cards get in the mail and vacations are planned six months in advance and airline miles aren't expiring and the dog's getting exercised (Peterson, 2019, para. 56) 
After I read this, I ended my personal shaming.  You see, it's difficult for me to admit to the fact that my house is a mess most of the time; it's difficult for me to admit that I don't cook/prepare meals; it's difficult for me to admit that on many days during the workweek, I come home in an unconscious state, simply unable to make conversation or process things on my to-do list, like help Lewie with homework, go through mail, or even work on getting prepared for the next day.  Sometime I nap first and get started on it around 8 or 9 p.m.  Other times, I promise myself I'll wake up early in the morning to try and get it all done.  Little Lewie has learned the routine by now:  Mommy is energetic, fun, and emotionally available in the mornings.  At night, well, you take what you can get.

 I'd like to change all this.  For years, I've told myself that this will change someday.  But, the reality is this:  As long as I work full-time and come home at 6, 7, or 8 p.m. at night, I will be tired and pretty much unavailable.   I've thought about changing careers, and once upon a time, I did stay home with Little Lewie,  Once upon a time, I also worked part-time instead of full-time.  The outcome, however, was almost the same.  It wasn't just the job work but what Emma calls "the mental load" that makes me exhausted.  Unless I chose not to be a Household Management Project Manager, I was still going to have this endless to-do list.  Maybe with more time available, more items would get checked off the list, but then again, maybe I'd still be adding on more items now to compensate for the money I wasn't bringing home.  After all, money is what allows us to plan our great trips, to sign up Lewie for computer camp and outdoor adventures, and to, quite honestly, pay our bills without constant worry and anxiety--the reason why I went back to work full-time in the first place. For me, working full-time at a college also means that when Lewie turns 18, he should be able to attend tuition free. So, if some of my burnout didn't come from work, then, surely, it would come from worrying about how we would get ahead of the bills, the student loans, and the credit card debt.  Either way, "the mental load" would remain.

"How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation" ended up being a savior to my self-esteem.  It made me realize that no matter how glamorous people's lives appear to be in blogs, Facebook, Instagram, and the like, it's really "make-believe."  None of us are perfect 100% of the time, and most of us suffer from some type of "errand paralysis."  We all have items on our to-do list that don't get checked off.  The real answer is to not let those items get in the way of living life.  At least for me, it's to not base my self-worth off of completing my next task.

The non-stop items will always be there (unless I choose to live off the grid in some remote place undisturbed by society).  So, the only thing that can change is my attitude.  Do I blame myself every time I don't accomplish a task, or do I reward myself every time I do complete one?  Do I go into resentment mode when I wake up to a messy house, or do I remind myself that the house is messy because we just had an eventful family weekend that took priority over our weekend errands.  In the end, it's okay.  Things will get done, and no one will ever remember what I accomplished.  What they'll remember is the time I spent with them.  Now, where's that to-do list?  Errand 1: Stop Beating Myself Up.

A Relaxing Winter Break


Our family ALWAYS looks forward to winter break.  I can't emphasize the word ALWAYS enough.  Little Lewie obviously looks forward to it because it's a week off from school.  I look forward to it because it's a week off from work--a week to relax, a week to reconnect with family and loved ones, a week for enjoyment, and if I'm lucky, a week to begin organizing my house for the New Year.

In the past, hubby and I would use this time to go on couple trips to places like Las Vegas, San Francisco, New Orleans, and San Diego.  (Those were our pre-Lewie days; in fact, some of those trips were pre-wedding days, too.)  Now, for the past ten years, our priorities have shifted.  We mostly spend time at home, unless we try to squeak in a one or two day trip. 

This year was no exception to our "new norm."  Aunty Kiki, our beloved family member that is battling Ovarian Cancer, stayed with us for almost a full week as she recovered from surgery.  Then, Aunty ReRe from Delaware came up to stay with us, too.  After celebrating Christmas, we had a few more days of fun--a day for art, a play date with hiking and ice cream, a day at our local aquarium, and a night with friends to welcome in 2019.

Here is a glimpse of our break through pictures:

Cousin Sarah painting ceramics at the Clay Date

My lovely vase...

Cousin Brooklyn's Dragon

Cousin Lily's kitty cat...

Our winter hike at White Memorial Conservation Center

Hikes are better with family and a best friend.

A day at the Maritime Aquarium

The end of a fun day...

It's hard to name one single favorite moment as our break was full of them.  Still, I did have a favorite activity and that was going to see the IMAX movie Backyard Wilderness, which was part of our trip to the aquarium.  The movie, having received rave reviews, explains how the cycle of nature/life occurs all around us when we're too busy indoors watching TV, playing video games, or going to school or work.  It shows how plant and animal life changes during all four seasons with a particular emphasis on spring and the birth of newborn baby animals, like frogs, salamanders, ducks, raccoons, deer, coyotes, and other wild animals.  The movie resonated with our ten year-old Lewie who often turns down outside activities to stay on his computer, and it made both my husband and me cry as we're reminded about the beauty, splendor, delicacy, and sanctity of life.  (I had no idea I should have armed myself with a package of tissues before beginning the movie.)

Our winter break this year, in short, was a reminder to us of what's important.  By spending time with family, friends, and nature (or observing nature), we had a chance to focus on the areas of our life that should be held in the highest regard but often gets pushed aside because of school and work.  My challenge this year will be to schedule more time like this each month, so we don't have to wait until summer and winter break to find balance.

New Year's Resolutions 2019


New Year's Day is my FAVORITE holiday.  For me, there's something therapeutic about starting a brand new year.  Just like I welcome each morning as a blank slate, I welcome January 1st as the ultimate blank slate--a time to release past pain and regrets and to begin a  new adventure.  It's a time for reflection.  What did I learn in 2018?  Can I take any of this wisdom and apply it to the New Year?

I actually learned a lot in 2018.  My resolution was to make more "me time," and I was successful in some areas and unsuccessful in others.  

I did ensure we continued our National Park tradition as we spent an amazing week in Yosemite National Park and its surroundings.  I also checked off another item on my bucket list.  In September, hubby and I had a chance to go on an actual spiritual retreat at the Omega Institute.  It was a dream come true--one I harbored for six years when I first learned about the place.  Both trips gave me an opportunity to feel my essence as I found pure, unadulterated joy in communing with nature and listening to my true consciousness.  

Around the same time of the retreat, a family doctor recommended the audio book, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.  Our doctor told us the book would be transformational, and indeed, it has become my "go to" book whenever I need to reconnect with the present.  As someone that prides myself on my "to-do" list, I now realize I spend most of my life living in the future with the tunnel vision of checking off goals.  The book awakened me to see how the present is really the only time we have and how our thoughts often lead us down paths that take us away from our inner light.  Whenever I find myself feeling stressed, self-pity, anger, resentment, or jealousy, I turn on Eckhart Tolle's audio book to regroup.  

Another success this year was making more time with friends.  (The time was still not enough, but I've come to learn that sometimes it's more about quality than quantity.)  Hubby, Little Lewie, and I finally drove down to New Jersey to visit my best friend and see her "new home" that was purchased three years ago.  It was fun to experience a day in the life of my best friend, getting to know her children, her community, and her activities and travels.  We reminisced about our old college days and then laughed about the hustle and bustle of our current lives with kids.  Then in November, another best friend and I made last minute plans to go to a holistic health expo in Massachusetts.  We ditched the husbands and kids, and actually made a whole day for ourselves to sample healthful products like protein powders, teas, shakes, lotions, and tinctures.  We even had a mini acupuncture and cupping therapy session.  That day, we learned more about each other than we had during our many years of friendship.  I discovered the best recipe for wellness wasn't found in any of those products; it was found in the laughing and enjoyment of sharing time with a true friend.

Yes, how do I take the wisdom from this year and bring it to 2019?  Well, I've learned that sometimes momentous events happen because we plan for them, and other times they happen spontaneously on their own.  With a very full life, I find that the planning, however, usually works better than the spontaneity.  This year, when I didn't specifically schedule in "fun" time with hubby, Lewie, my mom, or myself, I found that weeks and even months would go by as if I was reliving the same day over and over again.  Wake up, get ready for work, get Lewie ready for school, drive to work, go to my meetings, come home, have dinner, go to bed, repeat.

This year, my one resolution is to get more organized.  That means first to clear away the extra clutter, which I know for certain drags me down.  I can feel the "stuff" zapping my energy as I enter certain rooms of the house.  The second is to organize my months and weeks better.  On a grand scale, I will write in activities, vacations, trips, etc. for the year, focusing on three month intervals at a time, but then each week, I'll zone in on the particulars.  When will I find time for exercise, reading, walking, spending time with hubby, Little Lewie, or my mom?  Weeks go by when I just "do" but don't accomplish any of these.  This year, I'm looking at each of these 52 weeks as they begin, and I'm writing in each activity, making sure I am allowing enough time for each of them.  With practice, my goal is to live with more intention and meaning. 

I do know the pitfalls--schedules can lead to unrealistic expectations and disappointment.  After all, life is not always kind to schedules.  All it takes is a family illness, accident, storm, or other disruptive event to erase even the best of plans.  Still, I don't think this is a reason not to have them.  The other pitfall is living by a "to-do" list--the very "to-do" list that keeps me thinking about the future and not focusing on the present.  For that, I say, I'm going to allow myself to think future when it comes to planning, but once my day begins (with a framework in mind), my goal is to live as consciously as possible--making each activity, whether it be walking, doing homework with Lewie, or spending time with my husband, focused and intentional.    

Today is actually "the first blank page of a 365 page book."  As with every new year, I am determined to write "a good one."  All the New Years resolutions in the world can't predict the future, but as long as I have some free will throughout the journey, I'm going to do my best to make it a meaningful year--not perfect--but meaningful.