I have a question, and I would really love some feedback on this, my dear & sweet readers:
Is there such a thing as too much yoga?
In the last few weeks, I’ve been randomly asked how many hours I practice per day by numerous people. The answer, in case you’re curious, too, is: 3-4 (meditation and physical asanas). I want to meditate more, but right now it is between 20 and 40 minutes each day total (post-wake and pre-sleep sessions). I utilize the day care at the gym–my son enjoys his time there as much as I enjoy my 1.5-2 hours practicing. Then, I usually follow up at home for another hour to an hour and a half with certain poses I want to explore and track progress on while my child naps. In addition, I practice again when he is in bed for the night, often the shortest sessions of 30-45 minutes. Sprinkle in a few classes at local studios, and of course my ubiquitous beach yoga sessions, and I spend the majority of my free time doing yoga.
Is this too much? I still go about my other daily life activities. I don’t put off any essential responsibilities. The way I understand it is, I’m here in this new state with few friends, zero extended family, and a husband who often works long hours. If the option to hang out with people arises, I shorten or skip a session without a second thought. I don’t write as often, though. And I don’t run or play tennis. I haven’t been doing much css study, and I’ve permanently put my nano novel out of my mind.
So readers, I need some advice. Should I be reading more? Studying child rearing? Memorizing recipes? Cleaning the base boards more often? I don’t really know. I want to be a well-rounded person, and I’m either really excited or really afraid that I’m starting to identify as a yoga practitioner and structure my days around it.
I think I need to work on giving back to the world more. When I was working as a librarian, it was gratifying because I was working to further a societal institution. I’ve been volunteering in a library a couple of hours each week, but maybe that is not enough.
Related: I wonder if Betty Friedan would have done yoga if it was as accessible as it is today? I just finished reading this book, and it was fascinating!!
(I have been thinking about writing this post for quite a while.)
There are possibilities everywhere, and it is hard not to let the mind wander toward exciting uncharted territory. There are the possibilities we actively seek out, taking their shape in goals, cover letters, bruised wrists, and brazen moves out of state. Then there are the possibilities that we can only wish and pray into being. We all wished to win the lottery (it helps to buy a ticket though), we wish natural disasters don’t occur, we wish for lovely weather when our far away friends visit; and I wished that I said the right thing in the right conversation that would have landed an offer of employment.
The HR rep greeted me warmly, and reminded me to “just breathe,” which I brashly shrugged off.
I could have used another breath.
I sat down parched, then thankful to see paper cups of water in front of each place. As the deputy director was going over some initial details, I gratefully sipped my cup. It slowly dawned on me that, in fact, there was no paper cup of water for me. I had just touched my lips and tongue to the executive director’s cup. Burning with apologies, I tried to move on from my error as the interview trio politely shrugged it off. There was probably a way I could have recovered from that egregiousness, but whatever it could have been was beyond me. Those interview questions I should have practiced would have come in handy then.
I walked out of that interview more defeated than I’ve felt in a very long time. I wallowed for the evening, and the next day. I perked up here and there, convincing myself my errors really weren’t all that bad. But they were. Oh reader, they were heinous.
This was April 1. For many reasons that I hope to go into with another post, I joined an instagram yoga challenge. So when I finally got that email that said, “thanks, but no thanks,” I had something else to think about. It was a moment of unseen, though very deliberate, creation, and it has re-ignited my buried passion.
I’ve done more yoga in the last two months than I have in many years…maybe ever. It has helped me realize that job was not my dream job, it was just a job. Looking back, I see my hesitations.
Self-sabotage of the best sort.
How did that spark inside me that trained to be a yoga teacher five years ago get so obscured? It is a little strange for me to be on the cusp of the next decade of my life, and still not know precisely what my career will look like. But I’ve been opening to new possibilities that I never would have seen if I got this 9-5 job I lusted after. Teaching yoga. Getting a 2nd Masters. Going to the beach every beautiful day with my son. Volunteering with the troubled local school system. Going to France and to live in a little cottage by the sea. Meeting and celebrating my new niece this summer.
Anyways, I felt like I needed to document this episode of my life, and thank you for reading. It is reassuring to know there is no such thing as a dream job, for me, right now. That position for included zero discussion of creativity. And yoga, definitely no yoga in the job description. So I’m settling in for a summer of possibilities manifesting, and setting the stage for a happy next decade of my life.
Surely Hafiz can’t be wrong:
“This place where you are right now, God circled on a map for you.”
Earlier this week, I was chatting with a friend who has a 6 month old baby. She returned to work after her maternity leave just as I left my job to move away, and though our circumstances are very different right now, we have a lot of sympathy for each other, mainly because having a child is hard work no matter how you spend the day.
When I went back to work, leaving my infant made me sick to my stomach if I thought about it too much. However, I was unquestionably fulfilled, stimulated and excited by the activities I did at work. But in the lulls of the day, especially when I looked up and saw a parent with a child my son’s age heading into story time, I longed to be that parent. Now that I am that parent, I look longingly at the librarians working behind their desks, busily involved in something greater than themselves. This is a big flip from my mindset six months ago, and I’m having a bit of trouble forgiving myself for taking my job for granted. At the time, my job so often felt like a means to an end, it gave us financial security, health insurance, professional credence. But now that my job is staying home with my child, I’ve been longing for the intangibles that a career provides. I miss the random witty chats with my co-workers and patrons, the grown up routine I created (involving 6am gym sessions and 9pm bedtimes), the healthy balance of time with my family and time away, dedicated lunch breaks, quiet moments at my desk, adult conversation, professional growth.
There is a lot of angst from American women that our country has unfairly short maternity leave policies. I might get chastised for being anti-feminist, but if we women want to be treated fairly in the workplace, how can we ask for our job to be held for 6 months or a year off while we care for our new family members? I think instead of longer maternity leave, we should be pulling for the fathers to take paternity leave–6 months is a very reasonable age for a new person to be cared for by others (mom takes 3 months, dad takes 3 months). The world will keep going. If we choose to leave our jobs for a while, that is a perfectly respectable choice, but more than 3 months, I think, is asking too much. I’ve heard confessions from lots of new mothers about how they were ashamed by how excited they were to get back to work after their leave. And that is where I am right now. Not on maternity leave per se, but itching to get back into the world of big ideas and projects and meaning.
In a perfect world, of course, I’d job share with my friend in Silicon Valley. We’d each work 20 hours a week, and spend the other 20 hours with our little boys. Maybe we’d even share child care duties so we could avoid the inexorable costs of nannies and day care. I can’t imagine I am the only one who feels like I need to be contributing to the turning of the world’s gears to feel value. Yes, raising a child has its rewards, but it can feel stagnant on those days he wants to go down the slide 50 times in a row. People have bad days at their job, too, but at least you walk away at the end of the day to something else.
Related: What would Betty say?
I left my job about five weeks ago. When I was out on maternity leave this winter, I wrote a blog post about my impressions of visiting other libraries within our consortium. In my new city, I am still ultra observant of the libraries we visit each week. It is part wistful longing to be helping instead of needing, part hyper awareness of the rhythm and flow in case I decide to apply for a job in the system, and part settling into my new role as a patron instead of a librarian.
In any case, I can’t help but use my insider librarian knowledge to compare The Charleston County Public Libraries (CCPL) to the systems I learned in New England. CCPL operates through the county governance rather than network buy-in, which is apparently a common pattern in the South. Now that my boy is sleeping regular naps and 13 hours at night, I am actually checking out books, not frantically stopping by to feed or change a diaper. But, even if I had been checking out books in February, I would have been able to return the items to any member library location then, and it would get checked in and shipped back to home in a three to five day transit turnaround (indeed it would have gotten shipped back to its home no matter where in Massachusetts I returned the book, but not checked in until it reached its home in that case).
Now I still return my books to the most convenient location, but it stays at that branch until it gets checked out by another patron, and again returned anywhere. This develops a sense of a serendipitous collection, no? Technically, in Library World, it is called a Floating Collection, and though I’m sure staff intervenes and sends boxes among the different libraries for purposes of balance, shelf space, displays, patron holds, repairs, processing, story times, and who knows what else, I can only marvel at how it seems to be one of the only things in the South that functions efficiently.
- The plumber came by last Tuesday (nine days ago). He said he needed to run to Lowes to get a part, and the low water pressure problem in the sink would be fixed. Haven’t seen or heard from him since. He lives 3 minutes away.
- When we first moved here, we didn’t receive mail for approximately three and a half weeks. Turns out, it was here the whole time, but were given the wrong box number by our landlord. He lived here before we moved in. Who knows how he was collecting mail.
- Despite the water pressure issue in the sink, we’ve had no problems. We even have a built in filter spout at the sink. But the company’s information we were given to set up our own water account does not serve our neighborhood. Who has been paying the bill for the last 8 weeks since my husband moved in?
- Getting some decent news on the go in the car is like pulling a baby’s teeth–that is to say, impossible because there is none! The public radio station is a devastating disappointment after being spoiled by RadioBoston. Here there is little participation in the national broadcasts that host the familiar voices, and very little (any?) original content. Opera is on 90% of the time I tune into that station. I miss those hyperlocal human interest stories. Even Maine had more content, and the population of South Carolina to Maine is more than 3:1.
CCPL offers Freegal, really interesting programs, loads of story times, rooms filled with toys, vacant computers, ample classes in technology, drive thru book drops, job vacancies that are quickly filled, a one book one county effort, innovative ideas, and centralized management outside of the branches. My 11 month old son was allowed a card, whereas the consortium we left in Massachusetts only allowed children to have them on their fifth birthday (or once they could write their name). I can’t describe how happy I am that there is such a vibrant library community in my new city. I aspire to be a part of it someday in the future, but I have to admit: it is really nice to give my resume a break for a while. I’m enjoying stay-at-home-motherhood a thousand times more than I imagined, and I credit a lot of that to the fact that if I ever just need to get out of the house and be around adults for a while, we are always close to a branch of the CCPL. There are things that interest me and my son, and it is exactly the kind of cultural education we both need at this point in our lives.
Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique in 1963. I read it in college, not understanding a bit, but obediently spouting back the theory to my feminist professor. Now, I’ve read it more seriously, and I’m fascinated. This book is a gem. Even though it is said to have ushered in second wave feminism and we’re here riding the 44th wave, it is still so applicable. I think people would pay a lot less attention to disputes over how women should live their lives if everyone attempted to understand what Friedan was trying to say.
Its taken me over a month to read this deliciously dense book. So I thought I’d save you all some time, and offer a little overview of my main takeaways.
It is easy to see the concrete details that trap the suburban housewife, the continual demands on her time. But the chains that bind her in her trap are chains in her own mind and spirit. They are chains made up of mistaken ideas and misinterpreted facts, of incomplete truths and unreal choices. They are not easily seen and not easily shaken off (77).
In the 1960s, women were expected to be fulfilled by having babies, a family, and a well-kept house. Society told females that the greatest good was to nurture, and in the decades following the World Wars, this makes sense. People ached for the comforts of home; Women, as the sex to bear children, felt obligated to fulfill real or imagined ideals.
I do not study psychology, but I believe this desire to meet expectations was fueled by two fires: the need to be validated, and the biological urge to procreate. If instead women were encouraged to seek a career (and validated once this was achieved), perhaps we wouldn’t have an entire generation called Baby Boomers. Today, over four decades since Friedan exposed women’s great dissatisfaction with their role, I see that society still has not moved on from this obsession that women be nurturers.
I’m not complaining though, not now, not at age 28. Maybe when I’m 48, and past my child bearing years, I’ll feel differently. Friedan was 42 when she wrote The Feminine Mystique. When I first started telling people I was expecting, one menopausal woman tried to relate with me: “Don’t you just feel so special?” As usual, I did not get it at the time. I was in the throes of misery most days, too busy to feel anything but self-pity. But I understand now. With the entire world speculating about when Princess Catherine will produce an heir, how can we young women not feel a little bit of self-satisfaction that we share this same life? Today we no longer have a feminine mystique, but a pregnancy mystique.
One of the differences between 1963 and 2012, is that today I do not believe the only way to continue to find meaning in my life is to have more children. Now it is my choice what I want to do–I mean, it was a choice for women in 1963, but not a socially accepted one to choose career over motherhood, or ever career and motherhood. I’m happy we had a baby last year. Now the hormonal drive that used to clutter my thoughts is quieter. I can focus on my career, on my marriage, and fittingly–my family. I know I may want to have another baby someday, but the urgency isn’t there quite like it used to be. I unexpectedly got pregnant in early 2011, which ended in a miscarriage. Until then, the ability for my body to conceive was something I was vaguely aware of, but with ten years of preventing pregnancy under my belt, it took some time to change my mindset to the other direction.
Then there was this hope that came from knowing I was pregnant–a previously mysterious mystique that I was suddenly privy to. But after three weeks it unraveled into a despair from learning the fetus was not going to survive. This fostered in us a baby exigency. If I lived in 1963, after my body healed from the trauma of a miscarriage or childbirth, I probably would be left to focus on having more children. In 2012, the option to make one’s identity motherhood exists for many of us, but for complicated and various reasons, we may not accept this role.
According to this tool on Salary.com, should a stay-at-home mom actually earn cash, she’d get $112,962 per year. Curiously enough, if a mother works out of the home, her median salary is $66,979. Why is there such a huge gap between the two?
I do not like these infographics: one depicts how “stay-at-home moms juggle 94.7 hours of work” each week; the other, that “working moms juggle 57.9 additional hours of work at home.” They completely upend the important work Friedan established. And, I’m confused. What are “working moms” doing with those additional 36.8 hours each week? I can think of a zillion things I would like to be doing, but in reality, I’m working too. Thankfully, I enjoy my work a great deal, and I’m not here trying to add to the raging Mommy Wars going on in the media, but to draw our attention back to a wonderful woman who made an important point decades ago–that women, despite a biological destiny to produce children, have choices.
Looking back at the college professor who first introduced me to The Feminine Mystique, I’m not sure if I should be agitated that she expected me–a young, naive teenager–to understand this book, if I should feel embarrassed that I so obviously missed the point, or if I should be proud that she thought me capable of understanding (and perpetuating!) this fundamental role shift the female gender had so recently wrought.
An entry level attorney makes over $90k. A professor of accounting at Suffolk University makes about $119k. A nurse practitioner should make around $100k. A librarian? $63k. It seems disrespectful to say that a stay-at-home mother is more valuable than a woman working outside the home. I think Betty Friedan, who died in 2006, would be saddened that a woman’s worth is still valued higher when she is her own domestic worker.