Weekly Column: Babysitter Guilt

©Stephenie Freeman

I hate trying to find a babysitter.  It’s a part of my job that I am not very good at.

“Yes, hello, I’m looking for a babysitter.  My kids are driving me nuts, the house is a mess, and I need to get away from it all and feel like a real person for a few hours.  Would you be willing to give up your free time on a Saturday night and get paid next to nothing to watch my little heathens for me?”

And to think, my husband wonders why I have trouble finding a sitter.

I don’t like hiring babysitters is because the whole process leaves me feeling guilty.  The guilt comes from asking someone to do my job for me—a job that I’m supposed to love, supposed to be great at; a job that I’m desperate to get away from for just a few hours.  I am choosing to leave my post, allowing a temp to step in and cover my duties, and like any good employee, most of my time away is spent worrying about the job that I left behind.   

No one can do my job as well as I can.  From the moment that I found out that I was pregnant with my first child, I officially accepted the job of motherhood.  Peeing on the stick was like taking an oath of office.

“I, Stephenie, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the joys of motherhood, and will to the best of my ability, care for, protect, and look after the baby to which I have been bestowed.”

No one threw me a parade.  There were no balls to attend.  I had just accepted the hardest job in all the land, and all I got was a few stretch marks and an extra forty pounds.  The only perks that came with the job were the jeans with the elastic waistband and the excuse to eat as much chocolate ice cream as I wanted.

At first, like anything that’s new, the job was fun and exciting.  Picking out names, decorating the nursery, and eating for two was great.  Motherhood was going to be the best job I’d ever had.

Then the baby came, and ever since it’s been like climbing uphill, in the rain, blindfolded, with a thirty pound toddler on your back and a whining preschooler pulling on your leg twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

And then suddenly one day, when you feel like you’re never going to make it to the top of the hill, your husband comes home and says, “You deserve some time off for good behavior.  Find a sitter and let’s go out.”   

 But as you pick up the phone and start to dial, you are quickly saddened.  Along with the guilt that comes with leaving the house, there is the devastating reminder that your kids like the babysitter better than you.

“Boys, Heather is coming over tonight to watch you while Daddy and I go out.”

My boys whoop and holler like it’s the best news they’ve ever heard.  They go on and on about how much fun she is, how much she plays with them, and how she lets them do things that I never do.

I tend to stop them here before it escalates any further.  There’s nothing worse than hearing about someone who is better at your job than you are.  I now know how George Bush feels.

She’s not only better at it; she’s also younger, thinner, and has a lot more energy.  She’s everything that I used to be…and more.

And for ten dollars an hour she should be better than me, and I can count on my boys to make sure that she earns every penny.

Maybe I’d be as good as the babysitter if I was getting paid to do the job.  On the Website salary.com, there is something called the MOM Salary Wizard.  After plugging in my children’s ages and my zip code, I found that a stay-at-home mother in my community should be earning on average $125,250.

With that kind of salary, I could pay for a lot more babysitters.

Words of wisdom from my Starbucks cup

"The first person to walk on Mars could be alive today. If so, she's most likely two years old and living in China." ~Andrew Zolli, futurist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer

What Mr. Zolli doesn't know is that I am raising two energetic children who, on most days, I'd be more than happy to send to Mars. Those kids in China have nothing on my boys.

See, here's the Monkey practicing his anti-gravity maneuvers.

Happy Friday,

Somewhere along Highway 9 in Oklahoma

My mom and I spotted this sign at a small gas station off the highway in Oklahoma a few years back. We thought it was so damn funny, we had to stop and take a picture.

(The small print below the arrows reads, "Don't let him suck you in." So true, so true.)

    Grateful today for:
  1. a bad hair day on a rainy day (when everybody's having a bad hair day)

  2. the promise of a clean house

  3. the sudden desire to exercise

  4. a pre-planned date night

  5. a new president

Inaugural Poem

Era of Responsibility
by Stephenie Freeman

Today I feel a sense of responsibility.
To be a better person.
To make my planet a better place.
To serve my country.
To choose "hope over fear."

I have a responsibility.

I have a responsibility as a mother.
To play more.
To laugh longer.
To discipline.
To set a standard.
To smile even when I don't feel like it.
To live my life in joy and beauty so they will do the same.

I have a responsibility.

I have a responsibility as a role model.
To represent accountability.
To hold others up to reach their dreams.
To educate on the importance of giving back.
To teach history.
To focus on the future.
To show my pride as a citizen of my country.

I have a responsibility.

I have a responsibility as a wife.
To honor my husband.
To cheer louder.
To buy less.
To save more.
To love stronger.
To be the better half that makes the whole great.

I have a responsibility.

I have a responsibility as a citizen.
To vote in every election, big and small.
To make a positive impact.
To make a smaller footprint on the planet.
To serve my community through volunteerism.
To clean a park.
To gather donations.
To help a child.
I have a responsibility.

I have a responsibility as an American.
To trust my President.
To give him time.
To believe in the hope that he promises.
To do my part in helping to remake my country.
To continue saying, "Yes We Can."

I have a responsibility and it begins today.

Weekly Column: Moms for Peace

©Stephenie Freeman

I was all dressed up to go shopping—a cute T-shirt, my only clean pair of jeans, and a bra that hid my back fat.      

“Well, don’t you look all cute and sassy today,” the saleslady behind the counter at the Gap told me.

It amazes me how a kind word from a total strange can make your day.  Suddenly, I couldn’t have felt any more fabulous than if I had been walking the red carpet at the Golden Globes and Ryan Seacrest himself had complimented me.  Pleased with myself, I smoothed my T-shirt as if it were a Vera Wang designer original.

“So what kind of peace do you want?” she asked.

“I’m sorry…what?”  I quickly leapt from complimented to confused.

“Your T-shirt.  What kind of peace do moms want?”

I laughed.  I was wearing my “Moms for Peace” shirt that I bought because it seemed so “in”, so “now.”  But I hadn’t really thought about what the saying actually meant.

The first kind of peace that I thought of, and the obvious choice for any mother, was Peace of Mind.  I’m all about the whole anti-war, beauty contestant answer of wanting World Peace, but I’d simply settle for my own Peace of Mind.  And in this day and time, Peace of Mind comes at a high premium.

There are a lot of us that would be happy with a little Financial Peace right about now.  The stock market, the housing market, and the job market have been anything but peaceful.  There’s Democratic Peace which is a nice idea but virtually impossible, Peace and Quiet which is also impossible when living with small children, and the Peace Lily which is the only houseplant that I’ve never killed.

Yes, there are many types of peace.  Fortunately, unlike religion, it’s perfectly acceptable to believe in more than one.  In fact, it’s preferred.  The more peace, the better.

There’s no doubt that I’m a Mom for Peace.  I want my world to be a peaceful place—free of war, free of injustice, free of inequality, free of chaos, free of children begging and whining and causing general household unrest.  I want all of those kinds of peace and more.  I’m just not sure about how to go about getting it.

We hear so much about Peace and Love, Peace and Joy, Peace and Happiness, but we rarely ever see it.  True peace, the kind mom’s wish for in the midst of a trying day, often eludes us.  At times, True Peace seems so distant as if it only exists in an altered universe where rainbows and unicorns live.  But like any faithful believer, I still believe that true peace can be found. 

I felt it once.  It was in the middle of the night when I woke to get a drink of water.  No lights were on, no televisions or video games making noise, just…peace.  No rainbows, no unicorns, no altered universes, just…peace. 

I tried to recreate the moment the next morning after the boys had gone to school.  I turned everything in the house off and sat quietly, waiting for peace to make an appearance.  It never did.  The doorbell rang as the UPS man delivered my new window treatments. 

Peace had been replaced by Pottery Barn.       

In his song about peace, Cat Stevens’ sang, “Now I’ve been happy lately…thinking about the good things to come” which makes me think of the week ahead.    

Tomorrow is a day to honor an extraordinary man who was all about peace.  Dr. King not only believed in peace, he was doing something about it.  And thanks to him, we get a peaceful day off of work.

On Tuesday we will witness the historic inauguration of a new president.  As President-elect Obama officially takes office, we will all be hopeful of the peace that he will bring to our country.  I’m sure that World Peace and Financial Peace will be on the top of his list, but I’d appreciate it if he could bring a little peace into my home as well.

“Oh peace train take this country…come take me home again.” 

Perhaps that was what my T-shirt was really saying after all. 

Weighty Issues: Day 12

I've decided to strike the word 'diet' from my vocabulary.  It's negative.  It's all about depriving yourself and being miserable.  And it includes the word 'die' in it, which is never good.

I'm not in the midst of a diet--I'm in the midst of a lifestyle change.  I don't really like that phrase either (to me it sounds all snobby or something) but that's what it truly is.  My lifestyle wasn't bad before, it just needed a little tweeking.  Like Tom Hanks tells Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail, "I'm in the middle of a project that needs a little tweeking."  That's me.

I don't like to think of my pre-diet lifestyle as being bad.  It was just old.  It was fine when I was 10.  It was still working for me when I was 20.  But something happened when I turned 30.  All of those years of eating all of the sweetst that I wanted finally caught up with me--in my butt.

So here I am, 12 days later, still on my non-diet diet.  People, I've never done that before.  12 days might not sound like a lot, but for me it's a new record.  I'm not sure what "clicked" this time, what it was that finally made me want to change, but this time is really different.

Just the mere fact that I haven't had any sugar--none, nada, zip--for 12 days amazes me.  I'm actually quite proud of myself.  I even managed to bake and decorate the Monkey's birthday cake without so much as a taste!  I'm not saying it was the easiest thing that I've ever done, but I made it through.  It's been a bumpy ride, but I'm still on the wagon.

Here's the cake that I didn't eat...
Here's me with the birthday boy and the Golfer, not eating the cake...

Here's the birthday boy enjoying his cake...

Thank goodness someone did.

Speaking of which, I'm off to workout.  I have more body parts that need "tweeking."

Words of Wisdom from my Starbucks cup

"Success in life is that your kids want to spend time with you once they've grown up." ~Paul Orfalea (Founder of Kinko's)

Who knew that my morning cup of coffee could produce such profound, thought-provoking, wisdom to ponder at 8 o'clock in the morning. It almost makes the 4 bucks I spent worth it.

Here's hoping these two yahoos still want to spend time with their mama when they're older.

Ready for Game Day!!

I'm pretty sure that there are many other people out here where we live that see today as being significant. But here at our house we're fired up and ready to play! BOOMER SOONER!

Weighty Issues: Day 3

Update:  I'm not dead.  I just feel like I am.

Okay, I'm exaggerating.  I'm not as sore as I could be, but I'm sore all the same.  Day 1 was good.  It was really a day to test my strength and endurance.  I think I did okay.

She had me keep a food journal the week before our first meeting.  Not a good week to be keeping a food journal: we went to a UCLA basketball game (hot dog, chips), shopped at the mall (California Pizza Kitchen), went to the Rose Parade (dried cereal and peanut butter crackers), and my birthday (many, many cupcakes).

Impressive, no?

Well, even with the crazy food week, it was easy to see that I was eating sugar every day.  Every day.  After lunch.  After dinner.  For a snack.  And I wonder why I need to drop of few pounds.

But as Oprah has been know to say, sugar is "my drug of choice."  Sugar gives me that high that I need.  It makes me feel better.  And it tastes SOOOO good.  Duh.

I can't have sugar any more.  None.  Nada.  I'm like an alcoholic--I can't have just a taste, I have to have it all.  So, I have gone two days with no sugar and I've actually survived.  I'm not saying that I haven't wanted it.  Oh, I've wanted it all right.  Especially in the evenings, after the kids have gone to bed and something sweet would taste so good.  But I've refrained.  It's helped that I've gotten all of the sweets out of the house.  All that's left is the kids Halloween bags of candy.  I'd feel bad throwing out their treats.  So instead I'm letting them eat it by the hand full.  The quicker they eat it, the faster that it will be gone.

My boys think I rock right now.

Have you been watching Oprah's Best Life Week?  It's pretty good I must say.  Maybe it's because I can so relate to what Oprah is going through right now (yes, Oprah and I have SOOO much in common), but it's is worth recording on the DVR and watching multiple times.

Watch this and just pretend that it's me talking instead of Oprah. (Of course, I don't have a thyroid problem or have my own show, but you'll get the idea just the same.)

So yesterday, even though I was sore, my trainer (Kim) told me to walk for 20-30 minutes.  For the first time, I was actually fired up to exercise.  I didn't choose the easy route--flat, no hills--but instead challenged myself with some of the smaller hills in our neighborhood.  Two days of working out in a row and I was damn proud of myself.  So pitifully sad but true.

Today, I'll go for my second workout with Kim, which means tomorrow is going to suck.

Pray for me.

Weekly Column: What's the point of a New Year anyway?

Six days into the New Year and I don’t feel any different. 

Aren’t you supposed to?  Aren’t you supposed to wake up on January 1st filled with high expectations and grand hopes for the New Year?  Isn’t that what all of the partying is about?  Isn’t that what all of the celebrating and horn blowing is for?    

Well, that’s not what happened at my house.  I woke up feeling the same way I do every morning at 6 AM with a 3-year-old asking for a waffle and a dog trying his best not to pee on the carpet.  The only difference on New Year’s Day was that I also had a humongous headache from the glass of cheap champagne that I had at 10 o’clock the night before because really, who stays up until midnight anymore?

But that’s not what’s supposed to happen on January 1st.  The New Year is supposed to be about waking up to the thrill of a new day, waking up refreshed, renewed, and revived, believing that this year will be better than the last, the old year and it’s problems far behind us. 

Well, apparently 2008 didn’t get the memo because it packed up—baggage and all—and followed me right into 2009.

I think the whole New Year’s thing is a bunch of false advertising.  We sell ourselves on the hope that the New Year will be everything that that the Old Year wasn’t.  We promise ourselves that the New Year will be better, that we will be better. 

In reality, all the New Year’s holiday is really all about is buying a new calendar and having an excuse to wear a goofy looking paper hat.

Every holiday is about selling us something.  This one just happens to be about selling us hope for the future.  That’s really not such a bad thing until we start using the dreaded “R” word: resolution.  It amazes me how that one word really ruins the whole thing. 

Deep down, we all hate them but that doesn’t keep us from making them.  We resolve to eat less, exercise more, live healthier, listen better and worry less, and for a while we actually do it.  We start out strong by joining the gym, throwing out the cookies, and doing all of the things that we feel the New Year expects.  But within weeks, days really, those old habits—the laziness, the chocolate cravings, our couch-potato-television-watching-selves reappear—and we suddenly realize that just because the calendar changed didn’t mean that we suddenly did. 

Unlike Cinderella, when the clock struck midnight everything in our world didn’t suddenly change.

Those extra pounds?  Still there.  Credit card bills?  Still there.  Your concern for the future?  Still there.   All that’s new is a silly resolution to try and fix it all.  Who wants to start the New Year with a massive “To-Do” list?  Not me.  I’d rather do what I did in 2008 and just pretend that it doesn’t exist.     

“Why is there a New Year?” my 6-year-old asked.  It was a good question.  I knew that it had something to do with the Earth’s rotation around the sun or something like that. 

Instead, all I said was, “There just is.”

“But why?  Why do we need a New Year every year?  Why can’t we just keep the old one?”

Leave it to a small child to impart the wisest of wisdom.  Obviously my son was listening when I was teaching him the environmentally-friendly lessons of “make use of what you have” and “buy less stuff.”  What was wrong with the year we had?  Why not reduce, reuse, and recycle the old one instead of having to mess with a new one?

It made total sense to me, but instead I said, “We always need a New Year.”  He starred at me in silence, waiting for more, so I continued.

“A New Year brings new birthdays and lots of chocolates on Valentine’s Day.  There will be new eggs to hunt on Easter, and more people to pinch on St. Patrick’s Day.  There will be fun vacations to take during summer break and new friends to make at school in the fall.  And don’t forget, without a New Year there wouldn’t be a next Christmas and…”

He cut me off before I could finish.  “Okay, Mom.  I’m glad there’s a New Year then.”

And suddenly, so was I.


©2009, Stephenie B. Freeman 

Weighty Issues: Let the beatings begin!

I had a birthday the other day. I'm older. I'm not wiser, fitter, or smarter. Just older. That's it. Nothing more.

Lots of people made resolutions the other day. Because my birthday is on January 1st, resolutions make sense for me. It's truly the start of a new year for me--not just on the calendar, but in my life as well.

But I don't make resolutions. I'm one of those surly people that don't believe in them. It's kind of like making a budget to follow. You can write it down and vow to follow it, but if you don't believe in your heart, it just ain't gonna happen.

So I didn't make a resolution this year either. Instead, I made a promise. What's the difference you ask? Well, technically, probably nothing. I think breaking a promise just sounds a whole lot worse than breaking a resolution. Breaking a resolution makes you sound normal. Breaking a promise makes you sound like a jerk.

I made a promise to myself. I made a promise to myself that this year I will finally lose that weight the REAL WAY. What's the REAL WAY you ask? Well, it isn't dieting or taking some pill that makes you feel like your on Speed.

We all know that there's only one REAL WAY to lose weight: eat less and exercise more. And I'm not good at either of those things.

I like to eat. I'll admit it. I'll even admit that I have issues with food. I eat when I'm stressed, I eat when I'm bored, I eat because it's there...etc., etc. But mostly, my issue with food has nothing to do with food and has more to do with telling myself no. I'm not good at being told "no" to something--that only makes me what it more. Tell me that I can't have something and I'll work just that much harder to get it. So, tell me that I can't eat that bag of Halloween candy and I'm going to do everything in my power to eat the whole damn thing.

My other problem is that I HATE to exercise. I am just not an athletic person. And because I don't think that I'm an athletic person, I've convinced myself over the years that I'm not good at exercising. And again, because someone is telling me that I should be doing it just makes me fight against actually doing it.

Instead of a personal trainer, I probably need a shrink. A shrink would probably be cheaper.

But I do get that I need to lose some weight. I realize that I come from a line of overweight women on both sides of my family, and that if I'm not careful, I will find myself in their XL clothes in no time. I really do want to be healthy and fit--I just have never wanted to do what it takes to get there.

I've been down this road before. "I'm going to change!" I've declared. "This time is different!" I've told myself. And even though I believed in what I was saying, I didn't do anything or have any tools to really make it happen. I've joined gym after gym. I've bought expensive at-home equipment to use. I've bought weight loss pills from Singapore (or maybe it was only Canada.) Nothing has really worked.

Tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow things really are going to change. At least that's what I've been telling myself.

Tomorrow I start working with a personal trainer. She told me that she's helped lots of people lose weight--even one woman lose 100 pounds. I don't need to lose that much, but knowing that she's that good says a lot.

This year, things will be different. I'm promising myself, my kids, and my husband that I really will lose it this time. Oh, I know that they love me regardless, but sometimes I make it harder to love me when I'm in a constantly bitchy mood because my jeans are too tight.

Tomorrow starts 3 days a week with a trainer, 6 days a week of exercising. If I'm not dead by the end of the week, I'll let you know how it goes.