Michele Minehart

words & yoga

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The empty motherhood feedback form

In my working world I was that girl who demanded the feedback on how to do my job better. I would celebrate my victories but even more, I wanted to learn what it took to take my work to the next level.  I would spend probably more than appropriate time at my colleagues’ desks asking them questions, recalling situations or having them talk me off the ledge. Daily I would do this. At lunch time, we could converse in the cafe or after the kabillion meetings and group calls we were required to attend. I had instant messaging windows open constantly for chatter about this, that or the other. While worked “independently without much direction” I did so in a “team environment.”

Image via CC by Steven Depolo.

Image via CC by Steven Depolo.

SAHMs often have a team – it’s typically a spouse, and all prayers to the heavens for those who fly solo – but the feedback isn’t immediate. I might text an unlucky friend about the day’s woes or even a few highlights, but the lack of sharing physical space changes things. Presence matters. I don’t want to have to schedule a coffee date 3 Tuesdays from now to rant about the crayon on my wall – I want to march 20 feet away and find willing ears and resume my day with weight lifted, feeling validated.

The desolate loneliness of staying home with children isn’t only about missing adult interaction but also the lack of timely and appropriate feedback  on our work. For instance, I once spent the first quarter of nap time in a loud discussion with the 5-year-old about how mommy’s job isn’t just to give him what he wants, but to help everyone get what they need – in this instance, rest. I was shouted at, name called and eye rolled. The feedback was neither helpful nor thoughtful.

When I think about the ways my kids do offer feedback, I live in extremes. I hear “I love you” no less than 63 times a day. Within the same breath, they might scream at me that “I’m being mean” when I ask them to put shoes on as the mercury dips below 60. Often, I go completely ignored. Repeatedly.

For a person whose love language is primarily words of affirmation, these conditions make it especially tough terrain.

Of course, I do have people tell me “you’re doing a good job” but I sometimes resist, and not out of false humility. They see me at my best, with an audience. What about when I loose my shit before breakfast, ranting like a lunatic because of the 400th apple core left on the coffee table? My boss wouldn’t stand for my behavior. Where are the voices in my life with that reminder?

Right now my life’s work is raising these little humans. I’ve invested my working hours and energy into this gig and I want to give it all I’ve got – as much for my own sake as the children’s. What I want to know is not if I should be doing more crafts (because I won’t) or if I yell too much (because I do): I need the side-by-side learning offered in most work environments. I need co-workers who dealt with similar clients who were never satisfied. I need a meeting where someone brings donuts because she knows we’re working hard but still have miles to go.

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Wheels

When my cousin Tim enjoyed his own roaring 20s, living the DINK* life, he bought a brand new black Camaro. A sensible purchase? Probably not. But at what other time, other than late into retirement, can one enjoy such treats? Somehow Tim knew to grasp onto the momentary lack of full responsibility.

The Camaro. That is not Tim in the background with the surfboard, no matter what he might say. Photo courtesy CC - Wikipedia

The Camaro. That is not Tim in the background with the surfboard, no matter what he might say. Photo courtesy CC – Wikipedia

My 16-year-old self took full advantage of his situation. He made the drive home one Saturday in May to drop off the newly washed and waxed set of wheels. He parked in the barn and showed me how to work the 6-disc changer (which resided in the trunk. Hellloooo again, 1990s!) which I later forgot and listened to Collective Soul on repeat. Then he gave me the mandatory and expected Lecture. The car goes fast, he told me. Be careful. Then he said something unexpected: At the end of the day, it’s just a hunk of metal.

You are more important than a car.

Of course, this goes without saying within the context of being careful and avoiding accidents. Yet hidden underneath, and now that I’m a tad older and wiser myself, I see the beauty in wanting good things for the people we care about.

I can’t imagine the trust he put into my 16-year-old self, let alone my 17-year-old date, whom he never met. His actions told me that believed in the goodness of people and the worthiness of his little cousin, enough to hand over the keys.

This weekend a friend found herself in unfortunate circumstances without a car. We were laying low so we drove JJ’s vehicle down so she could get to an engagement. Even when you fully trust someone, in the back of your mind you always do the “what would happen if” dance, and we were no different. Yet like my cousin, I believed a person to be more valuable. His words echoed in my ears: At the end of the day, it’s just a hunk of metal.

I’m not sure I would’ve had the guts to follow through had the same trust been placed in me. It would be easy to come up with a reason why we couldn’t extend the offer. Family or not, I want to live like I believe that people are always most important. But it’s hard to live your values.

One of the only things that speaks louder than fear is love, and I was fortunate to be loved with a set of keys early in life, which made it possible for me to love in the same way.

 

*Dual Income, No Kids

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Ways and Means

I cannot tell you how many times in the past 5 years I realized everything in my life is more a result of where I come from and the safety nets associated with my upbringing, as opposed to the results of my own good works.

Sure, I’m bright enough to do well in school, but it didn’t earn me enough to pay for my schooling – my father did that.

I’m a hard worker – I like to get things done. But honestly, I’m scared of ladders. Even corporate ones.

We take chances on investments but that’s because we have access to means to make the gamble.

We already had one foot in the race when we started this thing called life. Generations that passed us the baton ran hard, getting far enough ahead in a race we had no idea we were running, starting from birth.

I believe 2 kinds of words to be detrimentally dangerous to humankind: Always/Never language and Us/Them differentiation. It’s not They, Those people. Because so often, they are just like us. More so than we would like to admit. They simply might not have the same roots holding them up when things get hard.

 

 

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