Well, it has officially been over six months since I last posted on my dear Having Enough blog. The blog I started nearly four years ago to spark conversations and share my musings about redefining success in our “have-it-all” culture, and to question what is “enough” for myself and others. I still think about this issue constantly – it is part of who I am to question why we do what we do, buy what we buy, think what we think – and yet I’m not blogging about it anymore.
Perhaps it is because I have a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old now, and life is pretty darn busy. Perhaps it is because I have been working on other exciting projects, such as editing books for yoga teacher Naomi Call and parenting coach Vicki Hoefle, and writing a column on conscious living for AOL’s Patch.
Perhaps it is because this blog has served its purpose for me – transitioning from my job as full-time university career counselor and former doctoral candidate to stay-home mom and freelance writer-editor, jump-starting my writing again after the birth of my first baby, helping me re-focus my own values and life direction. Perhaps my thoughts have become more complicated and personal for me over these four years, and more difficult to blog about in a comfortable way (I am journaling more these days…).
So many other people seem to be blogging now on the same kind of issues than were when I started this blog in 2007. That’s exciting for me to see. Like eating organic food, questioning our “too much” culture has become more mainstream, for the American middle class at least.
The economic crash perhaps spurred this particular trend – but that is kind of the point, isn’t it? We, as a culture, got too greedy, pushed too far, lost perspective, and now we are being forced to re-examine our values and our actions, to tighten our purse strings and get real with ourselves.
Did Having Enough (in a Have-It-All World) contribute anything notable to this new cultural conversation? Perhaps a little. In checking out my Dashboard today, I learned that my blog home page has had 10,768 views, and my most popular post by a landslide (which still gets over 250 views a month) is No-Gift Birthday Parties, with 5,503 views to date. This tells me something important, and validates some ideas I have for what might be next for me in this realm.
Within another year or so, I foresee myself having more time to write and work again. Will I come back to this blog? I won’t rule out that possibility. Will I start another? That might be it, too. Will I put that time and energy into a different kind of personal writing project? Right now, I am not totally sure.
But I do know I feel compelled to post something here explaining the status of this blog, for those 150 or so people a month who may still click on this page. And I do know I feel really good about the four years of writing archived here on Having Enough. I am proud of the films, books, quotes, organizations and ideas I highlighted here. I am touched by many of the comments and conversations. I am eternally grateful for the friends and connections I made through this dear Having Enough blog, and for the class I took with Christina Katz that started it all four years ago.
This blog has been a labor of love, and a boost in consciousness for me. It has been a joy. Perhaps it is time to transition away from blogging here. Time will tell, after I post this official farewell, whether I long to have it back.
At this moment, though, I think it is enough. What is here — in all of its completeness and incompleteness, in its fumblings and articulations, in its moments of wisdom and those of naïveté — is all that I have to say here for now. I am grateful enough, content enough, exhausted enough, to say that, as far as this blog goes: enough.
Thank you, truly, for visiting and sharing this journey with me.
My friend and fellow writer-mom, Melissa, asked me to write a guest blog for her, given she just gave birth at home to a big and beautiful baby boy (woohoo!). Here’s my guest post from her blog, Making Things Up…
Adrienne Rich wrote, “The moment of change is the only poem.”
Change is just so ripe. Ripe with the excitement of possibility. Ripe with the apprehension of the unknown. Change, of course, is our only true constancy in life.
And adding a new member to a family is one of the biggest changes there is.
My first job out of college, in the mid-1990’s, was as a consultant at a small firm in Washington, D.C. that worked exclusively for the federal government. I was brought in as a communication specialist to serve on the “change management” team for the EPA. We basically went in and trained employees how to best manage change in their midst (that is, until furloughs shut down both the government and our contract, and I went off to find a new job…).
Anyway, one tidbit I’ve never forgotten from my crash course in change management is that when one new member is added to a team, it becomes an entirely new team and is best treated as such.
In other words, research found that when a workplace team added a new member, but tried to keep things running exactly as before, just inserting that new member into the status quo, there was usually tension, a lack of productivity, or other negative factors. But, when the team saw itself as entirely new, expectations shifted toward change, and people tended to be more open, comfortable and productive.
I wonder if this concept translates to families? Is it not just a new family member, but an entirely new family, that is born when a baby arrives? Would siblings (and parents) handle the change better if they were introduced to the idea that they get to be new, too, when they get a new brother or sister (or child)? That the baby opens up a whole new set of possibilities for every family member to embrace, and a whole new dynamic to play in?
Would, then, the shift in schedules (because there’s now a thrice-napper in the midst), the quieter voices, the louder wails, the higher laundry pile, the sleepier Mom, seem any easier to glide with, if everyone saw their part as a new role on a new team? I invite Melissa to try it, and let me know.
Or, at least, I invite Melissa and her lovely family to savor the poem of change upon them, to dance its new dance, learn the notes of its new song. To remember, amidst the minor upheaval, the ripeness of this moment in which their new family of seven was born.
Feeling inspired — and a tad guilty for recent purchasing — by this New York Times article. Basically, it validates the point that buying stuff will not make us happy in the long-term. And simplifying might. Buying experiences gives more extended satisfaction than buying things. But good relationships — well, they are the magic key to happiness in this life. Of course they are. Now, back to working on this in real life…
Recently, the fabulous author Miriam Peskowitz (whom I’ve had the great joy to work with for a few years now) asked me if I’d be willing to let her interview me, for a column she pens for SheWrites, about my successful freelance editing and writing business. Besides being honored by Miriam’s request, I was genuinely surprised. Sometimes I forget I have an actual business. And I’m not sure who would call my business “successful.” Let’s just say my income is not what it once was, and most of my business these days has to do with spreading jam on bread and changing poopy diapers.
And, yet, somehow — by some divine good fortune — I realize that what Miriam sees is correct: my business is successful. Somehow, I have been able to do enough freelance work during these past four years of motherhood to keep my “real business” afloat. That is, I’ve worked on enough editing and writing projects that I look like I’m working more than I am. Really, I’ve worked on just a handful of projects, but each one has been a great one, several with wide visibility and impact. Is this strategic? Yes, in a way it is. In a way, though, I also feel that I made one pivotal choice and the rest is out of my hands.
What choice did I make? Basically, I decided, when the all-consuming nature of mothering my particular young children became apparent, that I would only work on projects that lifted me up. Projects that spoke to my spirit, excited me, didn’t feel like work, fit with my schedule, paid me enough to have integrity about them, and made a positive impact on the world. I gracefully extracted myself from on-going (some well-paying) projects that didn’t fit these criteria, polished up my web site that showcased my experience, took an online class for writers that helped me start this blog, and wrote at midnight when the muse struck me. I did not market my services in any real way (besides blog and web site), but I kept talking to professional people who interested me and I was clear on what kind of work I wanted to do.
I simply held this intention, popped out a couple of babies (ha!), wiped snotty noses, kept my toe in the professional pond, and waited to see what would happen.
Now, I realize the immense privilege I have to be able to proceed this way in my career, without pounding the pavement or taking grunt work to pay the rent. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not loaded, my husband is a public school teacher. But, still, we are privileged, privileged enough to allow me to undertake this experiment with my freelance business for a few pivotal years of young children underfoot. I know that, and thank my lucky stars daily for it. (Well, lucky stars and the fact that “the harder I work, the luckier I get” — and I worked hard for a good dozen years before I had children.)
And, yet, what has happened to me by making this one critical choice causes me to wonder what would happen to the world if everyone chose similarly for themselves. Because, you see, I made the choice to only let in what really matters — and what really matters has appeared. Each month, and each project that comes in, it gets even clearer to me. What to choose to do, and what to turn away. How to convey my intention. How to hold space for work that lifts my spirit. And the work comes. Work I choose.
As usual, all life revelations are connected. As I parent my children each day, I am struck by the power of choice for them as well. My seventeen-month-old breaks out in a huge smile when I hold out two pairs of his pajamas for him to choose from every night. (And he always has an opinion.) My four-year-old holds her head high as she marches to the pantry and picks out her own snack. At our “appreciations” time during our weekly family meeting on Sunday, she said to me and my husband, “I appreciate that you’ve been helping me, but you haven’t been doing things for me.” The power, and pride, of choice. Success all around.
When we are able to choose what we do and how we do it, we feel capable, we feel encouraged, energized, valuable, free. Choice is at the heart of our democratic society. It is at the heart of our personal psychology. As I learned from Vicki Hoefle (and Alfred Adler), we are always, in every moment and every situation, “at choice.” We are at choice. When we embrace this concept, the world shifts.
Miriam has not called to interview me yet. But, when she does, I know what I will say about my freelance business. I will say that I feel successful because I get to choose what work I do. Perhaps my tax return would not paint my business as successful in the eyes of some. But I choose to see it differently. I choose to savor this moment in my life and career when I can choose what projects to take and decline, and not have to live off of my sole income. And I believe — as I tread further down this path of enlightening revelation — that this will not actually be just a stage, but will continue to evolve, as I take the kinds of projects I want, do an excellent job on them (and love doing it), and build my business, slowly and intentionally, as I also work presently as a mother. Then, perhaps, I will make a livable income on just those projects I choose. What more, success?
When we embrace choice consciously, we experience true success. That success that makes us smile to ourselves, and sleep well at night, and be excited to tell our old friends and relatives about what we are doing these days. That same success that has people marching in the streets for choice (birth choice, marriage choice…), and has children either power struggling with their parents for lack of choice or sighing with relief when they feel some power in their lives.
Success, it turns out, may just be a choice after all.
My husband and I have always agreed on our vision of success as parents: children who are kind. Really, bottom line. We would feel we have done the world well if we raise kids who are generous and thoughtful, who help others and think beyond themselves. We don’t need ivy league grads or sports stars, just nice people, who preferably are generally happy in their lives as well.
Now that we actually are parents, we are learning that, for us, sometimes it feels harder to raise the kind, happy kid than the one on the dean’s list. Recovering overachievers we are, we know the road to higher education well. The road to higher consciousness, well, that is the part we are constantly working on! And, with young children, who are figuring out the boundaries of the world and their place in it — ohhhh, sometimes they are NOT so nice! What to do with that??
Well-known parent educator Betsy Brown Braun tackles just this issue in her new book, You’re Not the Boss of Me: Brat-Proofing Your 4- to 12-year-old Child. So, when Mom Central asked for reviewers for the book, I jumped on it. Brown Braun hit paydirt with her last book, Just Tell Me What To Say, which offers parents much-desired scripts (“what to say”) to kids and tips for dealing with everything from nose-picking to divorce.
This new book is similar in that it includes a lot of bulleted lists (tips) and scripts — both what to say, and what not to say in various situations — but this time focused specifically on antidotes to what many would consider “bratty” behavior. Rather than sitting down with this book for one long read, Brown Braun suggests reading the intro and the first chapter about “how to talk to your kids” (general tips for respectful communication with children), then selecting chapters in whatever order appeals or whenever needed.
Each chapter focuses on one “brat-proofing” skill and how parents can develop that skill in their kids: empathy, indpendence, responsibility, respect, honesty, self-reliance, gratitude, having enough (my words — she calls it eliminating the “gimmees”), and humor. The appendix includes an example of an “ethical will,” as well as “52 Cures for AFFLUENZA.”
I was a little uncomfortable with the whole “brat” terminology before I began reading this book, but I felt better when I read her main argument in the intro: “Essentially, what every parent needs to know is that the brat is a child who doesn’t feel significant, who doesn’t feel as if he plays a meaningful role, and who needs to feel that he has a purpose in the life of the family.” Touche! This is the crux of what my husband and I learned in our parenting program (Parenting on Track), based on work of psychologists Adler and Dreikurs, and the key idea I am now running into everywhere I look (which tends to be a good sign for me that I’m on the right track).
Brown Braun echoes this concept: Kids act out (or act “bratty”) when they are discouraged, and the quickest way to encourage them is to give them something meaningful to do so they can feel capable and significant.
She goes on to explain that brattiness has become more common in modern times because kids have less meaningful work to do — no longer are most kids today responsible for helping the family farm survive, nor do they have elders living with them to care for. In times past, she writes, “it was real life, not a lecture or wagging index finger, that taught the lesson. When a responsibility wasn’t met, the system broke down, and everyone suffered. … Meaningful consequences followed irresponsible behavior.”
Drawing on her professional experiences as a “teacher, a preschool director, and now a child development and behavior specialist,” Brown Braun has concluded that for children to grow up without that annoyingly common sense of entitlement we see nowadays, certain character traits need to be encouraged, namely the ones I mentioned above, which she focuses on in each chapter. She also knows that even though many people blame the media culture for this widespread entitlement (“affluenza”), it is us parents who make the most difference in our kids’ values. She encourages parents to start early — the younger the better — in modeling “anti-brat” values and encouraging children to be “active agents in their own lives,” though she says “children as old as eleven can still be turned around.”
Reading through all of her scripts and tips, I felt mostly relieved, as most were was familiar to me and things I am already working on and doing. I got a few new ideas, some gems, and a only a few of her tips did not resonate with me, but generally I found her advice helpful validation, and I like that she is specific in how she would word certain phrases to encourage the values intended. (For example, from the gratitude chapter, in the tip on being specific: “Thank you for cleaning up the family room. I am really tired today, and you saved me from having to do one more thing.”)
I agree with Brown Braun, this isn’t a book to just sit down and read, it gets overwhelming with all of the lists and tips. But it’s a nice go-to or refresher guide if you, as we do, have the goal of raising children who grow up to be kind, to think of others, to appreciate what they have, and to act as if they have something meaningful to contribute to the family and the world.
** Full Disclosure: I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of HarperCollins and received a copy of You’re Not the Boss of Me to facilitate my review. Mom Central also sent me a gift certificate to thank me for taking the time to participate.
It’s tomorrow (April 30)! Please consider taking part.
Did you know you are four times more likely to get into a car accident if you are talking on a cell phone, even hands-free? That is the same as being legally drunk! And, if you are texting while driving, you are EIGHT times more likely to crash.
Just today I watched a neighbor texting while driving her SUV through our townhouse development, barely looking up at all. On the streets my kids will theoretically be riding their bikes on one day. Not cool.
We are intelligent people. Let’s stop making the honest-to-goodness stupid decision to use cell phones while driving.
I know it’s hard to break the habit, trust me, I know! And I’m bummed to promote this when I have loved ones who I get to talk to while they are on their commutes (and I adore talking with them when they call). But, bottom line, I love my loved ones, and I want them to be safe. So does everybody else.
So, OK, enough with the cell phones and texting while driving. Enough.
Maya Frost, who wrote The New Global Student, has launched a new Bold Parent website, all about “another way” of raising kids — to be happy, capable, confident, self-possessed, adventurous, and conscious. We can, she says, help our kids keep and build their innate love of learning and their desire to embrace different kinds of people and explore new places.
How do we do this? Firstly, notice when we are making choices based on “fego” (fear and ego) and stop it! And a whole lot of other uber-conscious and totally loving ways that Maya articulates way better than I am right now, writing with two kids underfoot.
Check out her Bold Parent Credo for yourself, and see what you think! I, for one, am going to post in on my fridge. Thanks, Maya!