Off Duty Mom

Thoughts from an exhausted mom who is NEVER really "off duty"

Archive for the month “June, 2012”

Announcing the BIG 200 GIVEAWAY!

Today, I reached 99 total followers.  I couldn’t be happier!  

When I started blogging, I didn’t know if anyone at all would ever read a single word I wrote.  But, now I am on the brink of reaching 100 followers.  I’m humbled.

I have decided that when I reach 200 followers, I am going to enter all of the followers into a drawing for a giveaway of artisan jewelry.  As the numbers get closer to 200, I will post information about the pieces you can win.

Thank you to all of the blog and Twitter followers out there.  Please be sure to tell your friends that they can be entered to win, too, if they join our list.  And, check us out on Facebook, too.  More information is available there as well.

THANKS!

Life in the Middle

I realized recently that I’d been living — for a long time — in the middle.

Perhaps the opposites of both “happy” and “sad” are, in both cases, numb, lifeless, middlehood.

I have had a job that is okay for about 4 years now.  It’s not good.  It’s not bad.  It’s somewhere in the middle.

My days, otherwise, are not active.  They’re not entirely sedentary.  They’re somewhere in the middle.

My clothes, shoes, handbags and other girly things are not extravagant.  They’re not meager.  They’re somewhere in the middle.

I am not too fat.  I am not too skinny.  I am somewhere in the middle

I don’t get to read a whole lot.  Yet, I am not living totally booklessly.  I am somewhere in the middle.

My diet is not healthy.  It is not indulgent.  It is somewhere in the middle.

My weekends aren’t typically spent doing adventurous things.  They’re not spent entirely in front of the TV, either.  It’s somewhere in the middle.

My daily work is not terribly engaging.  It’s also not completely boring all of the time.  It’s somewhere in the middle.

My home is neither large nor small.  It is somewhere in the middle.

I’ve not fully lived up to my intellectual potential.  I am also not exactly sitting around as an aimless high-school dropout.  I am somewhere in the middle.

I don’t get to spend most of my time with my children.  I don’t see them infrequently, either.  It’s somewhere in the middle.

I’m not a bad cook.  I’m not a great cook, either.  I am somewhere in the middle.

I am sure I am not always the best example for my kids.  I am certain that I am far from the worst.  I am somewhere in the middle.

I don’t wake up each day excited for the possibilities it will bring.  I also don’t wake up and find it terrifying or exhausting to think about getting out of bed.  I am somewhere in the middle.

All of this has left me wondering whether I am really living my life well.  And, if I am not, when do I intend to start doing so?

Perhaps too many of us are afraid to take real risks because with the chance of experiencing very high “highs,” we have to risk experiencing very low “lows,” too.  My old job was like that.  There were tons of hills and valleys.  No — mountains and abysses.  Or, meteoric peaks and vortexes of darkness.

Yet here I am now living a life that is… tepid.

So, I am trying to dig in to my “bucket” list.  It is time to cross some things off, face some fears and start living life as a better me.

None of us gets a second chance, right?  There is but one lifetime for each of us.

I’d like to know what each of you has done lately that demonstrates that you’re living the best life you can live.  I know I am not alone it this middle ground.  Let us all gather strength to conquer a better existence together.

I’ll start:  last month, I faced one of my biggest fears.  I have spent my life absolutely embarrassingly terrified of boats.  I can swim.  I am not afraid of water.  But, I am afraid of getting sucked under an enormous body of water Titanic-style.  And, I am scared of being helpless and stranded away from land and civilization with no control over my whereabouts.  But, I got on a fishing boat in the Gulf of Mexico in May and set out 5 miles away from shore to lay my godmother to rest in the beautiful waters off of Clearwater, Florida.  Never in a gazillion years would I have imagined that I could do that without becoming hysterical or needing prescription sedatives.  But, I did it.  I didn’t even cry once.  Or rely on pharmaceuticals for an easier go of it.  Now, I am not jumping up excitedly trying to clamor onto another boat anytime soon.  I am not miraculously cured of my baseless fear.  But, I faced it.

How have you made yourself proud lately?  Let us know.  Your comments are always welcome.

Tell us how you’re getting or staying out of the middle.

If only there were a LOVE button…



I am sure there is a dirty joke in that blog title somewhere.

Plenty of you out there might have some chuckles about “love buttons.”

But, in this particular case, I just want to announce that Off Duty Mom is now on FACEBOOK!

Stop by and “like” us.

We know you’d “love” us if you could!

Should I Move to Australia?

Work sucks.

We all know it.

It turns out it sucks worst here in the United States, especially for women, and most especially for women with families, it seems.

“Did you know that 138 nations mandate vacation time by law? But, one of them isn’t the ‘Republic of here,'” said Bill Maher on the June 15, 2012 episode of Real Time with Bill Maher.

He went on to note that “in England, you get 28 paid vacation days a year. In Switzerland, you get 20. In Sweden, you get 25.”  Currently, I have “earned” 10 vacation days for the next year (July 1, 2012-June 30, 2013).  I have so few because I have had vacation days deducted from those “earnings” since I opted to take a maternity leave within the past work cycle.

But, it seems as though I was even lucky to have been afforded the privilege of taking unpaid maternity leave and being charged with sick, vacation and personal days in the process.  Many other new mothers don’t even get that.  And, I appear to be enormously fortunate and in the vast minority in the fact that I even get those 10 vacation days at all.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, “The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a law that requires most companies to allow their employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave time after the birth of their child. The FMLA applies to both men and women and is also available for those that adopt a child.  If the parents work for the same company, the 12 weeks is then divided between the two of them and is an accumulation of both of their time (i.e.,. each could take 6 weeks off; one could take 4 weeks while the other takes 8 weeks).  There are exceptions to the FMLA which release a business from the obligation of allowing unpaid time off. These exceptions include the size of the company (less than 50 employees), the time of employment (at least 12 months), and level of wages (top 10%). Employees with incomes that account for the top 10% of wages for the business may not have access to the unpaid benefit if the company can show with evidence that your absence creates significant financial harm to the organization.”

This has me wondering whether this is a convenient way for companies to legally discriminate in their practices.  Certainly, it cannot be a matter of official record, but if a company employs 55 people and feels as though it cannot “afford” to allow women time off to undergo a major medical experience, would it not be better served by hiring only men?

One might argue that times are tough and women can always refuse to accept a position with any company whose policies do not meld well with their personal beliefs, medical needs, or family interests.  In other words, we can just say to women, “If you don’t like it, go work somewhere else.”  Interestingly, men don’t have any equivalent I can see where they might be told something similar.

Here’s where it gets worse.  According to a report on Forbes.com in 2009, “more than half of U.S. companies employ fewer than 50 people.”  So, just going and finding somewhere else that jives better with your family needs doesn’t seem that possible all of the time, then.

How is the United States, a country that takes such pride in its focus on equity, social justice and civil rights, among the few who still treat women as second-class citizens who must choose between their personal and professional lives?  The following may be surprising.  Here are a few countries with longer maternity leave options for their workers:  Belarus, Cambodia, Chad, China, Congo, Egypt, Iran, Thailand and Zimbabwe.

CHINA?!  Don’t they have some of the worst human rights policies on the planet?  And, yet, they mandate more maternity leave for women.

Recently, The New York Times reported:  “Canada and the United States may share a border, a language and much cultural affinity, but if women face broadly similar situations in terms of education and economic opportunity in the two countries, they are far apart in the area of gender equality, the experts said.”

It also reported that “last month a report by Save the Children suggested that America is one of the worst places to be a mother among rich countries, pointing to what it said were one of the highest maternal mortality rates and worst breastfeeding environments among developed countries.”

Craptacular.  So, if we survive (which we are less likely to do here than in a host of other industrialized nations), we are still subject to a lifetime of over-work and low pay.  In fact, the Government Accountability Office concluded that men statistically receive earning boosts after having children while women receive significant losses at the same lifepoints.  They also concluded that still after 20+ years of this pervading statistic, women still earn a mere 80% of men’s average salaries — 80 cents to every man’s dollar.

This all leaves the US as one of the worst places to be a working woman and mother who believes in equity and fairness and who values family time.

In 2011, Marie Claire reported that “a 2005 report by the World Economic Forum found [Sweden] to be the world’s ‘most advanced country’ for women, with greater levels of equality, power, health, and well-being among women than anywhere else. (The survey ranked the U.S. an abysmal 17th place — one above Costa Rica.)”  The article went on to note that “Sweden, which has a population of 9 million — around the same as the state of New Jersey — has a long history of female-friendly policies. The government gave women equal rights to inherit property way back in 1845; in 1901, it introduced the world’s first formalized maternity-leave program. In 1958, the Swedish Lutheran church changed its doctrine to permit women to become priests. And today, female politicians make up around half of the Swedish parliament.”  In the US, women make up just 17% of the Senate and just shy of 17% of the seats in the House of Representatives.

Again, though, it doesn’t all just suck for women, though it sucks for us the worst.  But, it seems as though everyone in this country is getting shafted.  The Denver Post says, “Blue-collar workers get five days of paid leave after one year of service, and 23 percent of Americans get no paid vacation whatsoever, the 2006 statistics showed.”  NO. VACATION. WHATSOEVER.  Wha?

“Experts said the lack of vacation stems in part from an American obsession with work as a form of defining one’s identity,” The Denver Post article continued, “whereas European and Asian cultures enjoy longer vacations and define themselves by familial or national affiliations.”

So, again, I see a trend.  Americans must choose between family and work.  People just about everywhere else do not. Because they out-earn their female counterparts statistically by 20%, men often do not face such decisions in this country where women still do.

And, of the work we all do, Americans are working harder for their money, to boot.  An article on 20somethingfinance.com said in 2010:  “At least 134 countries have laws setting the maximum length of the work week; the U.S. does not.”

So, let me see if I have this straight:  women in the US work longer hours, for less money, less vacation time, less maternity leave time and fewer cultural perks than workers just about everywhere else on the globe?

Is it time to do something about this?  I’d love to hear what you think.

Things That Don’t Suck

I love countdowns, top 10 lists, music charts, awards shows and all manner of things that intend to compare things to other things and figure out which among them is “best.”

In its heyday, I had never missed an episode of “I Love the 70’s,” “I Love the 80’s,” “I Love the 90’s,” “I Love the New Millennium,” or any of the spinoffs that resulted.  I also would likely stop channel surfing immediately if I were ever to find one of VH1’s other nuggets of fabulousness such as “Best Week Ever,” “50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs…Ever,” or “100 Greatest One-hit Wonders.”

I loves me a good list.

And, at Off Duty Mom, we’ve compiled our own lists that were pretty awesomesauce.  Sometimes I admitted to having lists of popular culture moments I’ve enjoyed even though I know they’re all pretty lame.  And, I have had a list of things I realized I was too damn old to properly comprehend.  I now would like to share with you…

DRUM ROLL, PLEASE…

1.  Skee-Lo’s “I Wish” — Arguably one of the most fun songs written, um, ever.  I say “arguably” as some may argue this point.  They’d be wrong.  I might listen to discussions that would consider Paperboy’s “Ditty,” House of Pain’s “Jump Around,” or Digital Underground’s “Humpty Dance” as being on-par.  I enjoy all of these songs, but have really given this a whole lot of thought, people.  Don’t question my all-knowing pop-culture awesomeness.

2.  The Diaper Genie — There has been so much debate regarding whether or not this item is necessary for parents.  I just want to say that this product has made my life far more convenient than it might otherwise be.  For the true environmentalist (which I am not, though I do recycle and stuff — I am not a Neanderthal, after all), I can see why there might be some concern about how necessary it is to use so much more plastic than is absolutely necessary.  But, I have to admit that I don’t really give a crap about that too much.  Or, rather, the crap that I do give to the world is preferably wrapped in stink-reducing magic bags that form blue poop sausages I can create with the use of just one hand.  Sexy.

…and it shall be called “The Diaper Genie” and ye all shall rejoice…

3.  Diet Coke — Full of chemicals and stuffed with too much sodium to actually reduce my thirst and replenish my body’s needs, Diet Coke is still one of my first loves.  It has no redeeming qualities.  But, neither did that guy from New York that one time and a lack of redeeming qualities didn’t stop me then and (as I am a woman of principles, after all), it won’t stop me now.

That heart on the can is probably how they tricked me…

4.  My Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo — The company claims that I ought to be getting 17 MPG in the city, but I think my husband would throw a damn party if that ever happened.  It’s usually more in the ballpark of 12, he claims.  But, that 8-cylinder engine makes it really easy to get you quickly out of my way.  Since, in an earlier post, I established that I hate people, a powerful vehicle is just what I need to get away from you all.  And, enjoy your Prius, sucker, when you’re stuck in a mud puddle.

Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t NEED roads…

5.  President Obama — Yup.  I was sucked in by the flowery, inspiring speeches and charisma.  And, I still love this guy.  I have nothing else I can say.  I still love President Clinton, too.  I’d buy just about anything those two guys were selling.  Charm, magnetism, pizzazz.  Yes, please.  I will never vote for anyone who says “misunderestimate,” spells “potato” with an “e,” cannot name a single major US newspaper, or blows off a life-long proclivity for hate-mongering by claiming to having been a mere prep-school prankster.

I am not sure what all of this says about me.  But, I decided long ago that I was really good with “me” as-is, so I am thinking that I probably don’t actually care what this all says about me.

Instead, allow me to open up the polls here and welcome you to join in the discussion of other things that don’t suck.  Comment here, if you’d like, about other things you enjoy regardless of whether others share your enjoyment.  I’ll be interested to hear differing viewpoints.  Join in.

 

 

Justifiable Alcoholism

It occurred to me recently that I talk about drinking wine pretty often.  I admitted to crying when I ran out of the stuff once.

I started to wonder whether admitting openly to loving wine (and actually also loving beer, margaritas, cosmopolitans, whisky sours and anything with Chambord just as much), was…inappropriate for a mom.  I guess I had flashbacks of that scene from “Desperate Houswives” when Bree is “caught” tossing out a bag full of empty wine bottles and her friends chatter about whether this was indicative of a problem.

I have officially decided that no, it is NOT a problem.

Yup-Yup.

I decided that a little imbibement (imbibing? imbibitude? imbibishousness?) is good for the soul.  Or at least the sanity.

And, I realized that I wasn’t alone in this thinking.

Where have you been all my life?

It seems as though I am not actually the first mother to be overwhelmed by life.  While I understand that alcohol isn’t “the answer” — I mean all of those afterschool specials of the 80’s weren’t wasted on me, people — I do think that it is nice to revel in the things still left in my life that aren’t directly connected to diapers, Diego, dirty fingernails and Disney Channel.  For me (and for moms, everywhere, I imagine), a glass of wine symbolizes something acutely adult.  And, it is something typically only to be enjoyed when children are not around.  So for that reason alone, it is an escape from the exhausting duties of the day.

I was sad for a long time because I figured that I was the only one out there who felt like she was failing at motherhood.  I never seemed to have my crap together.  Every time I saw a mom with her baby in the grocery store and noticed that both she and the baby looked lovely and well-rested, the baby never screamed and the mom had impeccable make-up, I died a little inside as my kid had a tantrum and I realized I’d not showered in two days.

Blogging about stuff like this, I hope to let others out there know that you’re not failing at motherhood unless you are neglecting, abandoning or harming your children.  If they are getting love, support, attention and all of Maslow’s cacophony of “needs,” I think we’re all square.  Nobody gives a shit if your hair has been brushed recently.  In fact, you’d probably make all the other moms out there feel a little less awful about themselves if you just went ahead and went out with your hair looking like that.

Look — my go-to hairstyle of 2010 actually made it to the runway, y’all.

But, back to that wine.  Let us not forget what has brought me to my blog today in the first place.

Wine is awesome.  Really, as I mentioned before, grown-up drinks are all good in my book as they help us remember the parts of our lives that belong to US, not the vast majority of our days that belong to someone else (children, work, etc.).

I have learned that there are plenty of moms out there who believe in the benefits of having adult beverages.  Facebook even has groups like “OMG! I so need a glass of wine or I’m gonna sell my kids” that has been trademarked.  There is also a site called Moms Who Need Wine  that offers humor, recipes, support and nuggets of happiness for like-minded women.

Of course, there are always a bunch of jerks who want to ruin my buzz by insisting that marketing wines to mothers is irresponsible or that buying into the “culture” of drinking among mothers is dangerous.  To those of you who are against the idea of a legal adult enjoying a cocktail every now and again, I say:  “don’t do it, then.”  In all things I am generally against telling others what to do, think, say or drink, so I will happily agree to stay the hell out of your business if you stay the hell out of mine.  Of course, all things must be done in moderation, but suggesting that a responsible adult ought not to have a bottle of wine with dinner with her (or his — wine does not discriminate) partner after a long day and the kids are in bed is ludicrous.

I suggest you all take a look at Moms Who Wine when you have a moment.   Here is a blogger who really gets it.  And, by “it,” I mean “drunk.”  But, in a good way.  Really.

A Happy Day

Things that are sad:

-Puppy dogs frowning while Sarah McLachlan music plays and she begs you to give money to the frowny puppies so that they won’t live with people who make them so frowny.

-Me immediately signing up to give money to the frowny puppies because I am that impressionable.

-Lindsay Lohan wrecking her car.  Again.  Honey, get a chauffeur, already.  Poor little rich girl.

-Running out of wine.  (like here).

-War.  Famine.  Wildfires.  Mean people.

Things that are happy:

-Winning another Liebster Award!

-Rainbows, smiley puppy dogs, and the way my son feels in my arms after a bath, all wrapped up in a towel smelling of  lavender.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s go ahead and focus on that LIEBSTER AWARD!

Thanks so much to Kathy V. from Don’t Forget to Feed the Baby.  I am again honored to be recognized for my writing.  This made my day.  I am at work at a job I don’t really love and today is my baby’s 1st birthday.  So, I’d obviously rather not be here.  Seeing that I have won a prize, though, makes me a little more pleased to have logged on to a computer today.

Here are some other blogs you should check out.  I have, in turn (and according to the rules [because I ALWAYS follow rules]), nominated some other fabulous writers:

Tragic Sandwich

Momma Be Thy Name

An Idealist Thinker

-Charly Walker

Mega Momma Musings

Many thanks to all of my readers for your support.  I appreciate every single visit you make to this site.  And, I am truly honored when one of you selects me to recognize for one of the blogging awards out there.  When I began blogging, I didn’t imagine this many people would find their way to me and enjoy reading the ridiculousness spewed from my brain.

And, incidentally, if you’re interested in learning more about the frowny puppies (or, more seriously, about how you can help provide comfort and relief for pets who have been abused and abandoned), please visit the ASPCA official website:  http://www.aspca.org/.

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