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?

Twice in the past two weeks I have been at playgrounds and encountered stay-at-home dads with their kids.  In both cases I have immediately developed serious friend-crushes.  I want to be friends with these guys really badly.

Why? You might ask.  Well, a couple of reasons. 1) I just think it is really cool when a guy is willing to put social pressures aside and be a stay-at-home dad.  I think it shows confidence and openness. 2) They usually seem to be pretty adventurous- up for fun trips with the kids to new places or events.  But most importantly, 3) I just miss hanging out with guys!!!

Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful that I have the mom friends (and non-mom women friends) that I have- they are incredibly wonderful, strong, smart, exciting, bad-ass women.  But there are times when I really miss testosterone.  I miss open competitiveness.  I miss stupid, dirty jokes.  I miss eating like a guy and not talking about calories or food-guilt.

So I’ve decided that I have to get over my befriending people at the park fear and take the bull by the horns.  I am going to befriend a stay-at-home dad even if it kills (or humiliates) me!

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).

I met up with two friends and their kids today for lunch and it was incredibly reassuring to know that I am not the only one who, in the last 24-48 hours, has wanted to leave my kid out on the front porch.  Hearing everyone expressing the same frustrations made me realize how much more susceptible one’s mood is to weather when there are kids involved.

I love rain. Love it.  I love rainy days curled up on the couch reading. I love sleeping in all cosy under the comforter.  I love watching Pride and Prejudice for the sixty-eighth (the BBC 5-hour version, of course).  I even love being caught in the rain and coming home drenched.  But none of that is fun with an almost toddler, especially one who lives for being outside.  

So at least now I know I’m not alone.  And the next time the rain is like this I will just have to come up with some brilliant crafts activity or baking project… or at least I’ll have to have a bottle of wine to crack open at 3pm.

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.