Something horrible has happened to me, little darlings. Today I went to a meditation class. There were chakras and energies and colors and a diamond grid with a spirit guide. I’ve become the person who owns a relaxation fountain.
Figure 1: Putting this fucker together was the most unrelaxing thing I’ve ever done. I think the only person feeling relaxed is my cat and that’s only because she drinks out of it and the fountain has abated her stress that I am going to forget to give her water. I do that pretty frequently. My dog just farted in the bed next to me and I cursed him for it. I should not be a pet owner.
Earlier today I texted Hathor, “I can’t do four more weeks of this. I’m going nuts. I used to deal with my insecurities by drinking shiraz and vomiting in front of your house. Now what do I have? Nothing.”
But, I suppose that’s not really true. There is one important thing that I have – realistic expectations. I realize that this might not sound like much, but I think it may be the key to happiness.
I have a few friends from high school that I keep up with on Facebook. They are the tried-and true, crunchy Earth mother types. They smell like patchouli and diaper their babies in hemp and probably have breast milk that smells like granola. I wouldn’t know for sure about the last part, but it’s what I imagine. And let’s not discuss why I would be imagining such things.
Yesterday they were all discussing a post from some mommy bloggers called “Do you need a victory baby?” Another blogger discusses the concept of the victory baby thusly:
A victory baby, for those (like me) who are not in the know, is a follow-up child—a mulligan, do-over, or second chance to make right all the wrongs that came with your first kid. For the majority of women who commented, this can be a birth experience—natural childbirth instead of the emergency c-section—or a health condition, medical problem, or even trouble with PPD. For others, the reasons were much more frivolous—Keep trying for a girl/boy, and the like. (Frivolous to me, but I have heard that some women take this very seriously.)
The concept of a victory baby seems rooted in the notion that to achieve happiness, they must have another baby on the terms they dictate in order to achieve some sacred “victory.” This allows them to correct some prior disappointment or win out over Teh Man. Or something like that. This is the most ridiculous bundle of shenanigans I have ever heard in my life.
Indeed I say, “What the shark?”
These days, when I tuck myself in at night, I find myself simply saying, “Thank God I survived that.” The food in the hair, the toys crammed into assorted orifices all over my home, the exploding emergencies at work, the piles of laundry that have taken over the first floor of my house. There’s no victory in motherhood. There’s only, “Oh, for fuck’s sake please don’t let this kill me.” And the little vacations we get from our children when we walk around the car.
Video 1: Evidence begins at 01:00.
When you expect perfection, you set yourself up for failure.
This seems relevent because there have been talks around the interwebz about happiness, and the number of children women academics should have, and some PLoS study that says academics wish they had more children.
I wonder why the people in the PLoS study felt they couldn’t or shouldn’t have more children. Is it because they were worried that they would have to give up some “victory” in some sphere of their lives? I think it all depends on your expectations. I read a recent paper from the American Sociological Society meeting called “Even Supermoms Get the Blues: Employment, Gender Attitudes and Depression” (email firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy). The author of the study assessed young women’s expectations of work and family life before they had children. Then, when the women were 40, she evaluated them for depressive symptoms. She found that women who had lower or, dare I say “more realistic”, expectations were less likely to be experiencing depressive symptoms. The young women who had a “Supermom” attitude, expecting to be able to perfectly and seamlessly blend home and career, were more likely to experience major depression later in life. The women more willing to make trade-offs fared better.
Even more interesting, but irrelevant to the topic of this post, stay at home moms were the most likely to be depressed at age 40.
The moral of the story? Go to work, have your babies, drink shiraz, and be willing to sacrifice the non-essential. The greatest victory is that this shit doesn’t kill us.