Margot Merrill on modern parenthood and the writing life

4Jun/141

Stuff and stuff

It's easy to be overwhelmed when you're surrounded, as I am at home, by stuff. Small stuff. Big stuff. All mixed in.

Take any container of any size, and fill it with random toy-bits. Put that somewhere. A kind friend gives you more toys. Give 'em to the kids. They explode into a billion plastic pieces. Put those pieces somewhere, like into a bowl from the kitchen. Later, put the bowl into a box of more stuff.

We're generally clean. There's just too much stuff.

An organizer's mind

I look at a box of stuff, and feel a need to reunite one shitty plastic palm tree with all the other shitty plastic pieces of the beach set we bought at an airport one time. I can't scan all of this stuff from a distance. I see each and every single thing. Worse, I want each thing to be with other things like it.

I want to organize. But there's no time to organize our family's stuff. That wears on me: the shame of having stuff, and wasting it.  The desire to do something good with the stuff, to share it–and yet how? To whom should it go, and how can I make it easy for them? Should I really spend the next 3 weekends sorting through stuff? What about, like, playing with my kids instead?

It's not just me

I'm not alone in feeling nutty about stuff. There's this article, which says UCLA researchers found:

"The study found that our need to reward ourselves materially may actually increase our stress—at least for moms. In their video tours, mothers use words like 'mess,' 'not fun' and 'very chaotic' to describe their homes."

And a friend of mine, Meg, just shared this article on Facebook: Let's Cut the Crap and Kiss the Goody Bags Goodbye.

Making it better

Yes, I am down with rejecting the goody bags! Forget the damn plastic junk. Forget giving it and forget taking it. Let's just stop turning our hard-earned dollars into plastic landfill.

Oh, and I hired a home organizer. Things are already improving. More to come!

- Margot

Share
22Aug/130

Summertime

I've always loved summertime. It's especially precious now that we have kids. Rafael and I share the desire to give them that languid feeling of everlasting vacation that we got to experience. Little did we know what our parents were doing as we watched TV and stayed up late and slept in! Probably just doing adult stuff like working and cleaning and crap like that.

But it's a magical moment we're at right now - Alejandro is almost 6, and moving into Kindergarden on Monday. Story is almost 3, and going to preschool for the first time in a few weeks. Here's what they're like:

Alejandro: Kind-hearted thinker. Impatient planner. Video game nut. Lover of weapons. Lover of home. Hater of sleep. Occasional participant in dance-fighting to the pop song Call Me Maybe. Good hugger.

Story: 2.5. Dynamo. Skateboarder. Fairyland-lover. Baller. Smarty pants. Annoying-runner-away-from-me-when-I-try-to-put-on-PJs. Bright spark.

In the last few months Julia our au pair has taken them on adventures together, and Rafael has invested a lot of time playing Minecraft with Ale. It will all change in the next few weeks, as we move into fall. (Early fall is always so beautiful, and warm here in the Bay Area. But it makes me wistful, because I know summer's behind us and we've got winter ahead.)

Back to the kids: I'm so happy to know that both their schools are going to be AMAZING for them. They are ready. They will be well-cared for while I'm at work, and that's the most precious thing to any parent.

How's your summer winding down?

- Margot

Share
Tagged as: No Comments
26Feb/131

This is 40

Big day, folks. Four decades on this planet! That's me. Forty.

Thank God I got most of my identity crisis shit done in my late thirties! I am delighted now. I'm the youngest of all of my friends in their forties. (Sorry, guys.) I'm the wise elder of Those Who Have Not Yet Turned Forty. And I'm cute and humble, too.

It's not like things are perfect now–it's life after all. But I hope my forties are about enjoying what I have.

Yes, I'm aware of my blessings! They were singing to me the last few days. Now my job is to quiet my brain. Shut up and enjoy it, Margot! You hear me??

Okay, I may be losing it in my old age. As proof, here is the cheesiest image I have ever posted, and will ever post, on this website:

Your thoughts?

Interested,

Margot

Share
23Feb/130

Catching Up

The longer one puts off a task, the bigger it becomes. Especially with writing. How can I tell you what's transpired in the last five months? Of course, I've thought about writing. Late at night, when I don't feel right, I craft paragraphs in my head. The language in my head-writing, and here on this site, is not for work, but for me. Most of the time these paragraphs just tumble around, wishing for release through expression. But let's face it here, people. I have two kids and a full time job. There's little time for elaboration.

So here's what happened:

  1. I went back to work five days a week. It's like, game on. I'm trying to figure out how to balance it all again. How can I let work go when I walk in the door of our home, when it's consumed me for more than forty hours a week? I want to do it well, but have it be gone when home, so I can concentrate on my people.
  2. I recovered a little more from that big old dip last year. What did they call it? Oh, depression? Tra-la-la. I'm over you, bitch! (Hold on - I'm supposed to be speaking positively to myself, and letting the darker sides of my emotions "just be." Riiight...Back to therapy. I'm just beginning to get it. I hope.)
  3. We got a new au pair. Another transition. Another story worthy of a post. But not for now.
  4. Raf had a super busy December for travel, but has since been home rocking the house. Hallelujah!
  5. I turned 40 last Sunday.

Out with the old! Wait. I am old. And I'm beginning to like it. Here's a new post about that.

Margot

Share
23May/120

A Break. It does…

...I'm not going to finish that headline. But I will tell you I've recently had three trips away. And I'm diggity-dogged happy to be home.

My sis and I visited our mom up in Sebastopol for her 70th bday. We buried ourselves in cedar, and did as we pleased. I got a nice family-full.

Then I flew to Austin to represent the Fernandez-ez at a good friend's wedding. There I was surrounded by people who've loved us long time. I thought of the early days of R and I, and got my friend-full.

Then, the "break" of a modern parent's dreams: a 3-day conference in one city followed by a day-long client workshop in another! Yeah. Dreamy. But I had my own hotel room. A chance to see my dad and stepmom. (Pack it in, baby.) But most importantly: a few days to think big, meet people, and pass out in neutral-town when done.

Then, best of all, home! And my guy and babies! Blessed be. That's what I'm talking about. Gorgeous moments when I'm just holding them, and I'm so happy I could cry. They missed me, and I can't get enough of them.

So I'm home, and happy, and ready to hang for the summer and beyond. You know what they say about breaks.

XOXO,

Margot

Share
24Apr/120

Hard to say

It's hard to say you need help. You haven't got it figured out. Your shit don't make no sense.

That sounds very dramatic, right? One reason I'd never say any such thing.

But it has been a long time since I've written you. I've been thinking and fretting and falling apart a bit. Happens sometimes. You know, when you've got too much going on? And you want to know the answer, and where it's all heading, but you don't? Yeah. That's where I've been. Feeling sucky.

Before my suck-fest, Rafael was home for a gloriously long time–5 months including the holidays. Everything was rolling. And then...

1) Rafael got a big project in LA. Followed by another one.

Yea! Work! It pays for everything! Sweeeeet.

But with the exception of two nights, he was gone for four weeks. And here, we had Sickness. Alejandro had a fever for fours days so I couldn't work, Story woke up one night with croup (terrifying to be alone holding her, wondering how I'd take Ali to the emergency room.) It all just got to me. It was rough. And when I say rough, mean hard-as-shit hard. I wish I was tougher. I wish I could do it all.

And I pretty much did, for those four weeks.

2) Then I crashed and burned.

You could call it a "depressive episode" or just a "big deep crash" after an extended period of stress. But it got dark there in my head for a bit.

Today I feel better. But I'm still looking at the Modern Parent's Puzzle. How to balance competing needs:

  • to hang out with family at home
  • to pay for that home
  • to give the tots the best caregivers and education; the best start
  • to pay for all that TLC
  • to do laundry and buy food and clean up again and again
  • to have down time
  • to talk, even once in a while, with friends
  • to sleep
  • to laugh with the kids and listen to their stories and take them to the park and read books and eat popcorn with them

Is this list ambitious, or just a given? I clearly haven't figured out the solution.

I just have to feed Alejandro, wash my face, and go off to San Francisco now.

More later. Thanks for being here,

Margot

Share
Filed under: OMG I'm a Mom No Comments
7Mar/124

Yay, vulnerability. Yay.

I'm low. So clear the current situation w/Raf traveling does not work, for me at least. With the exception of two nights he was recently gone for four weeks. For those of you without children, I'd just like to say FOUR...WEEKS! Four! Weeks! I'd like to continue to rise to the occasion, but I can't. Bro-ken.

Then, as he always does, Rafael came home. He looked like a zombie, but the sun shone on our family again. His project was complete, the impossible done. He was no longer working 16-hour days himself. He roughhoused. He changed diapers. He drove to and from preschool. And, blessedly, I was not alone working and not-sleeping and trying so hard and not-managing it all.

But by the time the good man returned from his earning expedition, I'd drunk the last dredges of my Survival Juice. I was looking at him like, "WTF are you DOING here? You haven't BEEN HERE. We (the kids and I) have a SYSTEM!" It's always like this. We need time together to relax, to work together again. But I'd been a madwoman trying to accomplish more than possible. Ali and Story needing more than I can give. And the big ole bills from our superhero nannies...It wasn't pretty.

So I'm defeated today, and without a plan for what we'll do to be happy together forever. You know, because that's like obtainable?

A plan! A plan! How my brain wants to go to a happier future. Late at night it noodles away, adjusting a series of imaginary levers which never seem to balance. People might say: "Just don't work!" And then I have to say, What if I dialed down work? But then we'd be further behind. I can do the math. It's like this:

Mortgage + Preschool + Sharecare + Household Expenses = Wha? Huh? Wha? Huh? <suicidal thoughts, thoughts of running away, etc.>

so...many...levers

So we're looking at refinancing and into daycares and au pairs. It's hella fun shit, let me tell you.

If we moved to a random somewhere that we could afford if I didn't work, and I found myself more alone as Rafael worked his ass off elsewhere, I'd seriously lose my mind.

Should we move to LA, where he shoots most of the time? Perhaps. I could go SoCal. But do we have to? We loves the Oaktown. And our nearby friends and family. And I really do love my job.

If only I could give up on taming the Modern Parenthood Beast. Meanwhile I'm just sucking its fumes.

You probably know exactly what I should do. "Margot!" You'd say to me, just as I'd say if I were trying to convince you to see the light. "You should just..."

I want to know the answer–but part of me can't hear it. I'm overwhelmed with information right now. I'm resistent, too, I have to admit. Why? Because any one of the solutions will require change. And associated, usually overblown but you never know, risk.

Change and risk. Easy to recommend, hard to implement.

So if you read this, and see me, don't bother trying to tell me the solution. Just give me a hug.

Yay. Vulnerability.

I hate it.

Margot

Share
3Jan/125

You know you’re a parent when…

  1. "a night out" means dinner out
  2. you too eat buttered pasta several times a week
  3. six hours is a dreamy stretch of sleep
  4. your time is...forget it. you have no time.
  5. the statement "it's a whole new universe" sums it up
Share
Tagged as: , 5 Comments
30Dec/112

the Holiday bawl

I bawled on Christmas Eve day. It was a hearty, completely-losing-it weepfest. It felt pretty good to cry as I fought to finish the handmade cherry pie. As my daughter didn't take her afternoon nap. As a half-hour's drive away my husband, 4-year old son, and in-laws awaited me, and the baby girl, and dessert. I'd worked till 11:00 the night before. Oh yes, woe!

I was wallowing in woes. Most of my own making.

Earlier in the day I'd had good friends visit–Jen and Karissa. We drank coffee and sat outside in the sunlight as I tried to rapidly decompress. I kept looking for my holiday spirit. I welcomed it, but hadn't given myself any time. Jen, one of my oldest friends, juggled baby Story and cleaned up our kitchen. Karissa rolled out my rock-hard crumbly pie dough. She's like that. You can hand Karissa a tortured lump of "pate brisee" or a crying newborn baby, or ask her to hang a picture in your house, and she's got it. We talked about the hard knocks of 2011. I tried to tell them how much I appreciated seeing them.

I got messy after they left. I cried because year-old Story Jane wouldn't sleep, and I needed her to. (Sleep is my parental Achilles heel.) I was crying because I felt alone. And because I was remembering past holidays–Christmases of my childhood–and got swept away in the hope and disappointment. (Santa. Right. Happiness forever. Right.)  I kept crying and looking at my daughter watching me cry from her high chair. I hated that I wasn't together. And that despite Jen and Karissa's help, the pie wasn't together, much less baked.

So why didn't I just go buy a goddamn pie? Or arrive without dessert?

Humbled by this question, I have to admit I needed a good breakdown. I bawled for more than two hours, and then I felt better. I was still snuffling, but calm as at last I drove, with the pie and the baby intact, to Rafael's family's house. I was to arrive with puffy eyes and a fresh cherry pie with a small heart cut in the center of the top crust. The cherry goo had sloshed in transit and the pie looked just like I felt: an achy bleeding heart.

No matter–I walked in and it was the holidays. Raf's mom offered me a glass of wine and I sat down with Story and got a thousand hugs from a very happy Alejandro. I'd arrived. Not on time, not perfect, but present.

I'm learning that's the most I should expect and strive for. To be present. I'm still squirreling my way around it, but it feels so good when I'm there.

And note to self: it's probably best to avoid such drama in the future. Next year I'll take a couple of days off before Christmas. And maybe just buy a damn dessert.

Hold me to it.

Love you,

Margot

Share
2Dec/110

Four and One

I crawl  into the last month of 2011. My back's out. I'm all tweaked. Many things are going beautifully and just as they should. But I'm uneasy. Perhaps it's the month that's dragging me down. F'ing December. Always a time for introspection. And holiday madness. But it's not just that.  It's trying to understand and support the small people living in our house. And I try too hard.

FOUR

Alejandro Marcellus is four going on fourteen. He's kind. Articulate. Extremely logical. Persuasive. His interests include: Fighting. Star Wars. Things that get blown up. "Walking skeletons." Lego video games on the Playstation. His scooter and new bike. Playing with action figures, particularly those with guns, light sabers, knives, swords, scythes, axes, cannons, or other weapons. (You know. Right? Ahem.) He gets shy when he walks into a room full of people. Alejandro's also very into us, his family. He gives great hugs and kisses to mommy and daddy. He high-fives most everyone else.

But I worry that I don't understand him enough. Because, seriously, I've never been into pretending to shoot people. I remember a lot of talking stuffed animals in my childhood games.

And our wills can collide. Alejandro doesn't give up. He will ask and ask and ask and reposition his request and ask again. It drives me crazy. I don't know where he gets it.

All of this adds up to the fact that I'm in awe of the boy. I try to keep calm, and yes I'm in therapy, but he just seems so shockingly bright I'm confounded. I just love him so much, I hope I can give him what he needs.

ONE

Story Jane Fernandez. A girl named Story. Oh yes we did. She's now a year old. A beautiful girl–the name fits her perfectly. She's rather magical. Good natured and outgoing. Her first "sign" was dog (panting) and her first word was "hi." "Hi" is a constant. She says it waving to strangers: "Hiiiii!" It's delightful.

She started walking at 11 months, and since then she is EVERYWHERE. Holy heck! She's bashing into everything. Falling down. Into everything.  It's like scattergories in our house and in my brain. Hard to keep up. And of course she doesn't sleep through the night that often. She has the same dumb parents as Alejandro. While we've done much better on the sleep training front, it's still so hard to let her cry. Why does listening to a baby cry for twenty minutes seem much harder than "just" getting out of bed to return a pacifier? I don't know. Sleep-addled habits don't die.

So that, my friends, is why I'm crawling into December. I'm trying to keep up with a two-foot tall wobbler and a three-foot tall teenager.

And it's winter. Shouldn't we all be hibernating?

Please?

Share