Splurge or Investment?

July 22, 2009

When is a purchase an investment and when is it a needless splurge?  I have been struggling with that question A LOT over the past few months.  It has been a struggle in terms of a number of potential purchases: clothes that actually fit, shoes that don’t make my feet hurt, a jogging stroller.  I have been wracked with guilt about spending money on these things that I see as selfish, especially since I haven’t been bringing in much money.  It has sort of felt like I don’t deserve them.

The thing that has made it especially tough is that while my husband thinks that I am being silly and that I should get things I need, the truth is that we are paying much closer attention to our bank account now that we are pretty much living off of one salary.

This anxiety all came to a head this past weekend, though, in terms of the jogging stroller.  I had been thinking about getting one for over six months.  While I love my umbrella stroller, my daily (and sometimes twice a day) walks were definitely slowed down by it.  And this got pretty frustrating, especially since I use exercise as an emotional outlet.  So I had been looking on craigslist, scoping out yard sales, the whole deal, but I just couldn’t get myself to actually buy one- it just felt too extravagant to have two strollers.

And then my mom came into town for a long weekend.  She saw how crazy this whole search was making me and also how important a jogging stroller was.  So, after a day, she told me that before she left she wanted to make sure that I had a jogging stroller.  We searched on craigslist, on ebay, on overstock, etc.  And then, on Sunday, we headed out to Babies R Us.  Initially the plan was to just try the different strollers out so that I could decide which one I really wanted to hold out for on craigslist.  But, of course, we ended up coming home with a brand-new jogging stroller and not only that, we came home with a nicer, brand-new jogging stroller.  Not a $300 one, but expensive enough.

I was wracked with guilt.  Did I really need to spend this money? Was I going to put it to good use? Was I just being a consumerist yuppie?  And then went for a walk.  A walk I would never have been able to do before with my umbrella stroller.  And it was great.  Since then I have gone for a number of walks and am really happy with the stroller.

Do I still feel guilty?  Yeah, a bit.  Do I think it will help me stay sane?  Definitely.  Did I come down on the right side of the Investment or Splurge continuum? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…

Over the weekend I made what, to me, was a BIG purchase.  I bought a jogging stroller.  I had been thinking about buying one for seven months and had been looking around on craigslist but kept getting cold feet and avoiding actually buying one.   I just felt like it was an extravagant purchase, something I didn’t really need.  What is perhaps even more important is that since my big contract hasn’t come through, yet, I felt like it wasn’t responsible to be spending money like that.

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So, today, in my quest to befriend a stay-at-home dad I introduced myself to a dad at the playground with his one-year-old daughter.  I am pretty confident that he is a stay-at-home dad because I have seen him there before and overheard him making plans with other stay-at-home dads (potential jackpot!).  But all did not go as planned…

It started out really well.  He complimented my son on his Grateful Dead onesie.  I then said hello to his daughter.  We then exchanged the normal, requisite (dare I say tedious) pleasantries: age of kids, names of kids. And that is when it got awkward.  I introduced myself, “I’m J, by the way.”  He introduced himself.  And then, silence.  I didn’t know what to say. I suddenly felt totally constrained by lame-ass insecurities.  I didn’t want to seem too eager and I definitely I didn’t want it to seem like I was hitting on him.  So I just went quiet.

After a couple of minutes I asked if he lived nearby (another normal playground question).  He answered.  We each said one sentence about how great the playground was.  And, done.  Then he wandered off, and I wandered off.  And we avoided one another for the rest of the hour or so we were both at the playground.  Lame and awkward.

I did have a nice conversation with another mom, though.  Same questions to start, but then it just happened.  Was it because there weren’t the same stereotypical gender dynamics to worry about?  Was it because we just clicked better? Was it because I was more relaxed?

I still want this to happen and I will try again.  But somehow I feel like I need to adjust my approach so that it doesn’t seem like I am desperate- don’t want them to smell blood in the water… Suggestions? Words of advice? Tales of your own humiliations?

Beach Bound…

June 15, 2009

We leave first thing tomorrow morning for our second beach vacay of the season!  This will be the first time that I am doing the stay-at-home mom thing of going off with another mom and having our husbands meet us for the weekend.  I am super excited for the trip but am feeling a bit like, “wait? how did this become my life?”  But I am determined to embrace the trip for all of its relaxing potential- bring on the sun, the drinks, and the sandy fun!

I’ll be back in about a week…

Friday!

June 12, 2009

I don’t think I have ever been so relieved that it is Friday.  Poor M has been teething like CRAZY this week- fevers, whining, crying, temper tantrums, the works.  On top of that, we are definitely entering a new phase of development which we haven’t figured out yet.  He is desperate to communicate a whole lot more to us but doesn’t yet have the words which leads to amazing amounts of frustration for him.  You can practically hear him yelling, “why don’t you understand me?!?!?!?!?!”  It has felt like living in a vortex of baby angst.

My mom always tells me that just when you think you are about to kill them, they do something amazing that makes it all ok again.  Well, this morning I felt like M was going to need to bust out in complete, Dickensian-style sentences for me to be happy again.

So I am incredibly grateful that it is Friday and that tomorrow I get to leave M with F and go have lunch with wonderful women friends who don’t have kids (read: no kid talk).

A Room of One’s Own

May 19, 2009

I was recently listening to an interview with Ayelet Waldman on Fresh Air and she said something that got me thinking.  She was talking about being a stay-at-home mom and how important it is to have something that is all your own, something that has nothing to do with your kids.  At first I thought, what a great concept! And then I realized… she ripped it off from Virginia Woolf!

Virginia Woolf wrote a whole book about how important it is for each individual woman to carve out a space for herself that is just hers.  While she was not  a stay-at-home mom, she was living during a time when women were expected to sacrifice everything for their families (some might argue that very little has changed, I guess). She wrote about the importance of that space, as both personal and political statements.  Waldman wasn’t even being as bad ass as Woolf, she had no political implication in her comments, she just meant that for your own sanity it is important to have something that is all your own.

One of the dangers, I think, of not having an accessible historical summary of the women’s movement (and if I am wrong and there is one out there, someone please share it with me!) is that in our struggles to define ourselves as feminists, as mothers, as activists, as professionals, we lose sight of the essential experiences and amazing lessons of bad-ass women who have come before us.  And once we forget (or don’t know) the lessons of the past, we run the risk of wasting time and energy reinventing the feminist wheel.

Glimmers of hope?

May 5, 2009

Between the rain and the swine flu panic, my life has been seriously homebound.   It has been making me seriously grumpy and I am not alone… Over the past three rainy days M had taken to pointing towards the door and saying “ditty,” which we think means I want.  Heartbreaking.  But the rain did stop this morning.  And we did get outside for a walk.  And I have been able to set up his little jungle gym in the backyard so that we can, hopefully, play there later.  So there are glimmers of hope (and freedom) on the horizon.

I have to say, though, this whole swine flu panic needs to end.  The anxiety and all of the “what ifs” have paralyzed me and my ability to rise above the helicopter parenting pressure.  Of course I don’t want my kid to get sick, of course I want to protect him from the flu, but sometimes I feel like yelling at everyone, “IT IS JUST A FLU!!!”  But then the “what ifs” take hold and I know that I would feel excruciatingly guilty if something were to happen, and so I stay homebound in the baby bubble, betraying my post-modern parenting ethics.

So until the panic dies down I guess I will be trying to hold onto the little things- like a walk after three days of rain…  Is it dinner time yet? I am ready for a drink.

Advice, Schmadvice

March 27, 2009

Maybe I have become overly sensitive in my pent-up, stay-at-home state, but I have started noticing these absolutely obnoxious “news” stories that show up a couple times a week on the log out page of my Yahoo account.  They are relationship advice stories like “Ten signs you are emotionally cheating” or “The real reasons men cheat” or “How to know if he is the one” or “How to keep the man you love.” 

There are a number of things that really bother me about them.  It drives me crazy that they are almost exclusively geared towards women who, in case you missed the memo, are desperate for love and incapable of keeping it if they have found it.  It also irks me to no end that they seemed to be playing on these antiquated and gendered notions of relationships- that it is up to the woman to keep her man happy, shit like that.  And finally, the advice could not be stupider.  Just in case you were wondering, one sign that you have probably crossed the line into an emotional affair with your guy friend is when you “touch your male friend in “legal” ways, like picking lint off his blazer.”

And then I realized something even more upsetting: these articles are there because people like them and read them.  People are eating this crap up.  Why is that?  Why do we think that we are going to find the answer to all of our problems in an article on a generalist website or within the pages of Cosmo or Jane or Men’s Health?  Is it because it is easy and requires no effort to seek it out?  Is it because they are approachable?  Or is it because they are playing on our unrealized fears and creating problems where they likely isn’t one?  I don’t know.  But in the meantime, I am going to feel perfectly fine picking lint off of my guy friends’ shirts and I may even give them a *gasp* hug.