I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Treadmill

Recently I had dinner with two girlfriends - people I've mentioned here but for the purposes of this post will keep anonymous. I brought up the topic of chaos, wanting to see if my in real life friends have this same sense of chaos that I do, or if it was my own special brand of crazy. Turns out we ALL suffer from chaos to varying degrees, but we've given it a new term: The Treadmill.

Thing about The Treadmill is, we're all on it, and we can't see any point at which it might stop. The Treadmill is work, the endless laundry, the homework and the house and the life which feels as though we will never, ever get ahead of what needs our attention. My friends have the same kinds of things on their treadmill - children, jobs, houses. We spoke at length about how women these days (parents or not) just never seem to stop... moving. One said she longed for another baby, JUST so she had a excuse to "check out" of her work for a year. Another said she wishes she never bought her house, just so that she didn't feel the desperation which comes with needing to come up with a mortgage payment every month. Without exception, we all feel as though we will never get ahead. At what point in our lives to we get to just ENJOY our lives?

I'm not saying I'm miserable. Compared to most I think I'm a pretty happy person living in a fairly happy life... but that's only because my personality meter is far more edged towards optimism. I have my days - more than I care to admit - where I just feel totally overwhelmed. I feel as though I will never, ever get off that infernal treadmill of people to see, things to do. Is life just like this? Where along the way did we as women stop enjoying life and start feeling as though it's just one endless To Do list?

We also commented that our parents - mothers in particular - never seemed to be as harried and flustered as we all are. Maybe they hid it better, maybe we just never noticed. Now it should be said that in all our cases, our parents had the means by which to call in resources - all of us grew up with cleaning ladies and lawn mower guys and that sort of thing. Thing is, ALL OF US have that too... and yet we still feel as if there is no getting ahead. Even with these resources, I feel as though I will never really get a handle on my life. I'll never have enough time to do what I need to do, and never have enough time to just sit and enjoy the fruits of my labours. Heck, I'll never have the time to just SIT.

In The Baker's Wife's comment on my chaos post, she says, "To me, you have a very normal life in that you seem to be saying you all manage meals together regularly, you have 3 juniors in bed at a reasonable time, you meet all your school/social commitments and earn money for the family to boot. " She's right in that I do manage to achieve all those things... but all those things, to me, are really only the basics. All she's really saying is that I manage to feed, clothe, feed and love my kids, hold down a job... but isn't there a whole lot more to life than that? Or if not, shouldn't there be?

Is this really because modern women feel they can - or should - have it all? Is it because society now has an expectation that women will work, and so we do even when we don't want to? Is it just the dearth of "time saving" devices like mobile phones and email - which eat up our "free" time? Time which we might otherwise spend enjoying a cup of tea, a game with our kids, a night our with our partners? Why do all of us feel as though we are SLOWLY DROWNING in our lives?

The sad thing is, in all our cases we noted that among all this chaos, something has got to give. For one, it's her marriage. For another, it's a lack of progress in a career which she has real talent in, but no money or time to pursue. For a third, it's a whole bunch of health issues which never seem to get resolved. All of us, without fail, were able to identify one or more things which are just...falling apart... as we endlessly walk that treadmill. The things which are falling apart are not a clean house, perfect make-up, and fancy cars. Instead the things suffering are the IMPORTANT ones. A happy marriage, good health, self-fulfilment. Things which, in my book, are non-negotiable.

One woman made the point that if we are ALL suffering, WHY DON'T WE CHANGE THINGS? Why don't we, as women, bond together to stop this madness? Why are we the ones who are our harshest critics, talking shit about the stay at home Mom, snickering at the stay at home Dad, snorting with derision about the Mom whose kids eat take-out every night. We point fingers, we laugh at one another, we gossip and we complain and we say, "Look what SHE is doing!" rather than trying to care for one another, support one another, offer resources and advice and good old fashoined help. The truth is I don't know why we don't try to change things. Maybe it's all too hard, maybe we don't have time to help a friend (too busy writing emails)... maybe it's going to take more than 3 women at dinner to change this craziness.

Opinions - if you have the time - all welcome.


M. Biddle said...

All I can say is...I would have loved to have been the fourth person at that dinner.

I feel this more and more everyday.


Robyn C said...

Hi Michelle, I just read "the treadmill" (I know, I'm way way behind!!). I used to feel like that (yes, even with "only" 1 child). I decided to give up all my "voluntary" commitments and devote my time to my family and work. I felt that I had given enough for long enough, and now it was time for the people that matter most to me. I did feel very guilty at first, but soon discovered that I was soooooooo relaxed! Now I do indeed have time to stop and smell the roses! It makes me a better person for my family as I am not so stressed and running around all the time, and it definitely made a huge difference to me as well. It may well be that I am quite a bit older than you, and have decided to be selfish, but I think it's time for me now, and the people I love the most. (Daisy loves me being home more!)