A few weeks ago, I swung by the clearance sale at my local Canadian Target (in case you missed it, they went out of business here).
The cupboard was pretty bare. That said, I picked up a water paint set for my youngest, a minion T-shirt for my eldest, and the Britney Jean CD for me (it was that or yoga videos left in that section). All at something like 60% off.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Ms Spears.
I had it playing in the car when I picked my 5 and 2-year-old up from daycare shortly after purchasing it and my 5-year-old asked what we were listening to.
“Britney Spears” I said. “I bought the CD when I got your minion shirt.”
“Can I see the case?”
I deftly pass it back to my 5-year-old while simultaneously picking up my 2-year-old’s bunny and navigating a lane change. Anyone who thinks cell phones are a main distraction for drivers, obviously does not have young children.
My 5-year-old considers the case for a few minutes.
“Is she for real, Mommy? Like a real-life person? Not like Tinkerbell or Elsa?”
These are almost the moments you wait for in parenting girls, right?
I smiled at the fact that she didn’t think album cover Britney looked any more real than Elsa or a Disney Fairy.
And I know it is these moments where you can start to have conversations about what it means to be female, the crazy-high standards required to meet main stream beauty ideals, and how pop culture images set you up for failure as far as those are concerned – and so you need to separate that fiction from reality.
So I love the idea that Britney in that photo is no more real to my daughter than Tinkerbell.
“Yes honey, she’s real. But she’s wearing a lot of make-up there, and it’s some womens’ jobs to look like that. Most people don’t.”
After she mulled that over for a bit, I was hit with a barrage of Britney questions beyond my level of fandom.
“Is she a princess?”
“She’s a pop star. Sometimes we treat our pop stars like princesses.”
“Does she have kids?”
“Yes! Two boys.”
“I don’t know. A bit older than you, I think. We’d have to check the Internet.”
“Does she live in Ottawa?”
“No. I think she lives in Los Angeles. That’s a city in California, in the United States.”
“Is that where Barbie lives?”
“Barbie is just pretend. And I think she lives in Malibu.”
It went on from there. And since that day, almost every time we are in the car she asks to listen to Britney, see the case, and talk about her.
Given my recent all work not too much fun frame of mind I bought the CD because I remembered this song:
Any questions on what it takes to be a successful woman? Well here’s Brit to spell it out (in sexy underwear)!
You wanna hot body
You wanna Bvlgari
You wanna Maserati
You better work bitch.
You wanna Lamborghini
Look hot in a bikini
You better work bitch.
You wanna live fancy
Live in a big mansion
Party in France
You better work bitch [4x]
The pace matches the never-ending to do list that runs through my head.
Funny thing? Well, aside from the fact that I had to look up what Bvlgari was (fancy jewelry) and that, when I swim with sharks, I generally don’t do it in formal wear reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe?
Aside from the bikini bit, I don’t really want any of that stuff.
I want a happy family; well-adjusted kids who know how to succeed in the world; a rewarding job where I know my role and feel valued; a home I can afford in a neighbourhood I like (maybe with a garage and my own office or personal space); time with my husband when we aren’t in “managing family mode”; and time outside all of the above to nurture personal interests, maybe exercise, sleep, or – like Greta Garbo famously opined, TO. SIMPLY. BE. ALONE.
I never doubted, like Brit sings, that to get all that I’d have to work (bitch).
And while some weeks – and months – are great – and we have a good life, there are times, like now, where there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done that I need to do for everyone else, let alone have any time for myself.
Two months ago, I joined the 1000 Speak for Compassion Blogging Movement.
The idea is simple. Bloggers uniting on the 20th of each month to flood the Internet with GOOD.
This month, we are talking about nurturing. You can visit all the others linking up here.
Given my current frame of mind, I thought I’d write about self-nurturing.
How to make my life WORK. For me. Because sometimes it just doesn’t.
Two working parents raising kids is hard.
My husband does a lot of parenting. But he works shift work, and there are weeks where I find myself teleworking while cooking dinner and coordinating the grandparents to take the girls to swim lessons because I have to finish work that won’t get done in an 8:00-4:00 or 7:00-5:00 time-frame. And then there are the days I set the alarm for 5:15am to get an hour in before the kids wake up.
There are days I pick the girls up from daycare and it takes every ounce of my self-control not to completely lose my shit when they start their endless list of demands for stuff and my attention (on the latter – rightfully so: they haven’t seen me all day). But I’ve already had a full day of endless demands to manage so by the time I pick them up? Even a demand for bubble gum, if it ain’t on the schedule and easily achievable, might just push me over the edge.
So what’s to be done?
I could cut back on work. But I worked hard to get where I am. And I’m the primary breadwinner. It simply isn’t currently feasible.
So the answer then becomes that I could set firmer boundaries in all aspects of my life.
But knowing what to do doesn’t make it easy.
Example? I showered today and locked the door.
My 5-year-old visited twice to pound and scream at the door because first a) Her Crocs are TOO SMALL and so we had to go shopping RIGHT NOW (like “mommy wrapped in a towel” right now!) and then b) her younger sister had pressed the WRONG BUTTON on the TV remote and their show had stopped working.
She screamed, begged, implored, threatened to CRY UNTIL SHE DIED if I didn’t immediately fix her problems. I decided, given the severity of both situations, to take a few more minutes and cut my toenails behind locked door.
And while I know both these situations, like much of the other “urgencies” thrown at me daily, will probably get figured out eventually without my urgent intervention, it’s still hard to ignore that screaming … need for ME.
While at times suffocating and completely overwhelming, it’s nice to be needed.
It’s hard to not help in those situations, even though I know that’s actually the better choice. For both of us.
She learns to figure stuff out on her own, and I learn to set boundaries, hold my ground and get time for myself.
But that’s not to say I’m becoming all laissez-faire about life.
You can’t ignore the problems around you and assume others will just fix things.
You need to continually be an active participant in your life – or you risk others choosing your life for you.
In short? You need to work bitch.
But in a conscious and strategic way, rather than simply spinning to make it through the day.
Which brings me back to Britney and why I find her continually worthy of my attention.
Because that bitch works.
And there are times where – as she sings – she runs her world and is clearly in control.
And then there are times when she was clearly going through stuff.
Getting through all that showed a level of … survival skills and professionalism I admired. I can’t pretend to understand her life, but I can admire how she’s at times handled it. I love that she’s human and showed it. I find her relatable despite our obvious differences. I hope she continues to grow with her audience and sing about her life in ways that continue to connect with her fans.
If she needs inspiration, I’ll leave her with my 2-year-old in her car seat screaming along to her hit on my drive home last week:
Work work work work work work work work (Work!)
Work work (Work!)
Work work (Work!)
Work work (Work!)
What about you? How do you make your life “work” while nurturing yourself?