Balancing (or at least trying to balance) my inner and outer selves
As a mom, it’s difficult to pay equal attention to both my inner and outer selves, the emotional and physical aspects of who I am. Neglecting one or the other seems like it comes with being a mom. Time flies and sometimes the day passes so quickly I don’t have time to put on that cute outfit or even sneak a moment for myself. My emotional and physical well-being are equally important, but which one takes priority? It’s complicated.
I don’t want to look or feel like motherhood has gotten the best of me. I’m not “perfect mommy” but neither am I “disheveled mommy” or “vodka mommy” or “stark raving mad mommy” (although I think these blogs are funny!). I’d rather be a Sane Mom, the mom who is gliding through her life somewhere in the well-balanced middle. Why? Because the opposite of Sane Mom is Insane Mom.
Being a balanced, physically and emotionally healthy mom takes work. I’ve learned it’s not going to happen without a fairly major effort on my part. I vacillate between spending time on my physical self and my emotional self. What I do for one part of me reinforces and strengthens the other (or at least I like to think so.)
I’m 46 and aging gracefully has just been added to my list. When I neglect my appearance, I know it’s going to affect how I feel about myself. I live in Los Angeles where “mom jeans” are a big no-no and huge, lumpy cheekbone implants are all the rage. I’m too self-conscious to be a frump-a-dump, going about life without caring how I look. So, I play tennis, I get occasional facials, manicures every two weeks and I wear clothes I hope are flattering. When I don’t do those things, I feel like I’m letting myself go.
My emotional self-care is more complicated. I have good days and bad days. Ups and downs. Ultimately, taking care of myself emotionally involves being kind to myself. When I’m too hard on myself about the small stuff, I know I’ve neglected my emotional self. This self-kindness isn’t always easy. In fact, it’s my biggest challenge. I can find a million things wrong with myself. And, if I’m lucky, I’ll find one thing each day that I like or embrace.
Then there’s parenting. It will test even the most secure, steely-nerved moms. Pressure comes at us moms from everywhere, fast and furious. Actually, it starts when we’re pregnant. Strangers question what we’re eating, pat our stomach, tell us that we’re getting heavy and ask if we’re expecting twins when we’re not. Then, once we have the baby, this same stuff happens with more intensity. Are you feeding your child the healthiest food on planet earth? Is he/she doing enough academically? Baby sign language? Cloth diapers? And on and on. Blah, blah, blah. It can be exhausting. I wish I had done a better job of tuning out the competitive chatter when my kids were very young. Now I know it doesn’t matter whether kids can multiply or read chapter books in preschool!
I respect—and secretly envy—those moms who ignore these pressures. This requires a healthy does of self-esteem and skepticism. It also requires a willingness to tell someone (or at least think privately), “I don’t want your unsolicited advice!” In extreme cases, “screw you” works too.
Maybe living in the “now” is the answer. Mom Heather Havrilesky, writing in O Magazine (March 2011), in an article called “Chaos Theory” says that before she picks up her daughter from preschool she wants to be relaxed and present, not harried and distracted.” Instead, she concludes, “all you can hope for is to accept your flaws and get a reasonable hold on your circumstances.” With complete clarity, she has summarized my ultimate goals.
My continuing quest for self-balance is a work in progress. I’m seeking that priceless moment when my inner and outer selves will be in harmony, when each will have exactly what it needs. In the meantime, a bottle of Xanax and late night online shopping sprees will ensure my inner and outer selves each get their fixes.
Christina Simon is the co-author of “Beyond The Brochure: An Insider’s Guide To Private Elementary Schools In Los Angeles.” She also writes the blog, www.beyondthebrochure.blogspot.com about applying to private elementary schools in Los Angeles and life as a private school mom. Christina is a former vice president at Fleishman-Hillard, a global public relations firm. She has a 7-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter. Christina lives in Hancock Park, Los Angeles with her husband and children. She has a B.A. from UC Berkeley and an M.A. from UCLA.