Last night, I closed the book I’d been reading and tossed it onto my nightstand in a disappointed huff. I thought, when I picked it up at a flea market, that it had so much potential; it looked like a fun summer read, set in my home state of Maine, filled with intriguing characters. I was wrong about everything but the setting. I made it a third of the way through the book before I couldn’t take any more of the boring plot or unlikeable characters. It was time to move on.
As a busy mom of three young children, my reading time is limited, and there are so many good books to read. In my pre-motherhood days, before I knew better, I squandered time trudging through to the ends of books I didn’t really love out of some bizarre obligation to be fair to an author, to have an opinion on a current bestseller, or just to finish what I’d started.
Now that I have all these kids, with their accompanying demands flying at me from every direction, I’ve discovered lots of things that I may have tolerated in my younger days that I just won’t put up with anymore:
1. Badly written books. You’ve only got so many pages to razzle-dazzle me, so don’t waste them describing the contents of someone’s beach bag. For no reason.
2. Bad coffee. I realize that the goodness of coffee is completely subjective, so by “bad coffee,” I really mean “coffee that I don’t like.” When I was younger, I drank whatever was cheap and convenient. But now I need several cups to get me through the day, and I have standards. Weak? Gross. Bitter? Get out of here. Robust but smooth? Yes please.
3. Snobbery. I don’t care how big your house is, whose name is stamped inside your shoes, or if you know how to pronounce “Mallorca.” If you are kind and open-minded, come sit by me.
4. Jeans that aren’t stretchy. Regular, stiff jeans with 0% spandex are THE WORST. I need my clothes to help me out, like cheerful, flattering girlfriends, not crush my spirit (and my muffin top) like cruel and unforgiving Mean Girls.
5. Cheap underwear. Knock-off Spanx and $15 bras just don’t cut it anymore. I carried twins and one more baby in this body. I need the high-quality, super-supportive stuff, and I’m willing to sacrifice in other areas (I’m looking at you, closet full of Target t-shirts) to pay for it.
6. Fake butter, cheese, or sugar. I want real food, full of real calories and real deliciousness. All of the fake stuff will probably kill you anyway. (Unless you have allergies. You take care of you.)
7. Cleaning all the things that no one will ever notice. My grandmother was big on ironing. My mom knows her way around an ironing board, too. But me? I don’t even know where my iron is. Isn’t that what the dryer is for? I also refuse to clean behind the fridge, under the stove, or inside the junk drawer. I have more than enough regular, everyday cleaning to do, and I refuse to spend my life crouching and scrubbing when I could be dancing with my kids, or working on some writing, or reading a good book.
8. My own body image issues. One completely unexpected benefit of having three kids in two years is that I just don’t care too much about the size and shape of my lumps and bumps anymore. I wasted so much time and energy comparing my body to those of other girls and women when I was younger. I never, ever felt completely happy with my body, and I’m not sure I ever will, but now I refuse to let it get me down. It’s just a body, with lots of important jobs to do, but it has nothing to do with my worth or identity. It’s liberating to finally believe that, and now that I have three little girls watching and learning from everything I do and say, it’s more important than ever.
9. Feeling guilty when I can’t make everyone happy. It was surprisingly easy to let this one go because it’s rare that everyone in my family is happy at the same time. I’ve come to realize that it’s impossible and ridiculous for me to feel responsible for the happiness of others, especially since I have so little time to take care of myself.
10. Uncomfortable shoes. I love cute shoes. Peep toes and wedges and stilettos and espadrilles and knee-high boots … I never used to give much thought to comfort when shoe-shopping. It was all about finding the hottest pair for the best price. Now, though, Mama’s got shit to do, and it’s not going to get done if I can’t feel my toes.
While motherhood often shakes me up and sometimes beats me down, it has also allowed me to define boundaries for myself in ways I never did before. I may put up with Dora music blasting through my car speakers and sick kids taking up all the space in my bed, but at least I’ve clearly decided what I won’t put up with, and that feels pretty good.