on having it all*

blaine_ben_music.jpg
Blaine and Ben playing music,Canon Digital Rebel XSi

We spent the weekend in Mendocino where our friends bought some land. It is incredibly beautiful there, just a cabin, acres of rolling hills, a pond, fruit trees and incredibly beautiful light. It was such a stark contrast to how we live our lives at home, going from task to task, creative work to housework, to caring for Ben to more work. There is a myth about working for yourself, that somehow your time is all your own and you can be found eating bon bons on your way to yoga class.

The truth is that your work life is much more flexible and the boundaries can be blurred. At best, this means that your work life and your personal life are so integrated that you can feel like you are never working. (You can actually catch me on occasion eating bon bons on the way to yoga class) At worst though, you can feel like you are always working… and that there are no breaks and no natural separations between you and all of your responsibilities. Most of the time, I am feeling grateful about the flexibility of my day and thrive on my work, but by personality I am pretty much always in doing mode.

And so it took me a while to wrap my head around the weekend. But what are we going to do there? I kept asking Matt. I don’t know, he said. Hang out, play music? I don’t know… I was only satisfied when I realized there was a beautiful redwood grove where we could hike. Turns out I don’t know how to just hang out and relax. πŸ™‚

ben_diptych_mendocino.jpg
Ben, Mendocino, CA,Canon Digital Rebel XSi

This past week we have been reeling from all sorts of change. Ben started preschool! which is incredibly exciting and also a huge adjustment for us. We have never had to get out of the house at a specific time with him and be organized about his meals and have his clothing labeled and all of that… (I am also noticing how self-conscious I am about what I put in his lunchbox and all of the odd things he eats. My wanting to be perceived as a good mother stuff is kicking in hard.)

I was wondering why I was having a little meltdown today until I talked to a friend who put it all in perspective. “Ben just started preschool, you let go of the nanny, he stopped sleeping through the night, he stopped napping, you put him in a toddler bed for the first time last night and you are wondering why you are having a meltdown?”

A few people asked me recently about balancing work life and motherhood. The truth is that I have to let go a lot. I have to let go of the house being in order, the dishes being done, dinner being made. I have to let go of doing anything perfectly and settle for good enough. I have to let go of making plans to allow for what shows up (inevitably) in the moment.

I have been living with the belief that I can probably have everything I want, just not everything at the same time. Right now, I am choosing my creative work with Mondo Beyondo and time with family over most anything else. This means that we eat a lot of macaroni, takeout thai food and drink a lot of coffee around here. Our house isn’t grand or exactly how we want it, but we live next door to a park and we spend a lot of time outside. In the end, I want to know that I didn’t miss this time with Ben. I also want a rich creative life, to do work I love, and to enjoy how things are right now.

I suppose that’s my version of having it all right now. Or maybe I need to add personal chef and house cleaner to my Mondo Beyondo list. πŸ™‚

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Hi, I’m Andrea

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59 Comments

  1. tonya

    that is fabulous. i went through that with my boys when they were small. sky was a tornado. before he came along i tried to keep our life looking perfect to the outside world. he brought with him two things, stubbornness and a look that made me always question myself when i tried to correct him. i knew i would have to either kill him or get over the mess. i realized that i liked him pretty good and wanted him around. so, i got over the mess and decided our house would be for those of us that live there and not for people i might try to impress on very seldom occasions. we’ve been a happy bunch since and deciding to keep sky was the best decision i ever made. please know i was kidding about the killing just in case the funny doesn’t translate in print.

  2. Sandybee

    I have just retired having taught for 37 years, most of them in Kindergarten. If you don’t load his snack pail up with cookies and candy, you will be far ahead of what most harried mothers put in their children’s snack pails and the teacher will thank you.
    Here is a link to Bentos for Kids. Mostly, it’s a fruit cup, a veg cup, a very small main something and a drink. This is probably way too much for a pre-schooler. But, just cut down on the amounts. The big deal is variety and lots of color. You will see that some Moms get very creative and artsy with it. They take it as a personal challenge to get their kids to eat healthy snacks. But, that’s not necessary. Keep it simple. You might enjoy it and to heck with what the other Moms think.
    http://www.flickr.com/groups/kideats/
    Sandybee

  3. Sandybee

    I have just retired having taught for 37 years, most of them in Kindergarten. If you don’t load his snack pail up with cookies and candy, you will be far ahead of what most harried mothers put in their children’s snack pails and the teacher will thank you.
    Here is a link to Bentos for Kids. Mostly, it’s a fruit cup, a veg cup, a very small main something and a drink. This is probably way too much for a pre-schooler. But, just cut down on the amounts. The big deal is variety and lots of color. You will see that some Moms get very creative and artsy with it. They take it as a personal challenge to get their kids to eat healthy snacks. But, that’s not necessary. Keep it simple. You might enjoy it and to heck with what the other Moms think.
    http://www.flickr.com/groups/kideats/
    Sandybee

  4. Faith

    Your words in this post resonate with me on a deep level, I feel the EXACT same way about my life right now…and my daughter’s first day of preschool was today. You are spot on about balancing family life and the work of being an artist…everything can never be perfect, the house not clean, sometimes dinner falls through the cracks…and I’m so glad my kids love Thai food. πŸ™‚ Thank you for talking about this, and saying it all so well! I am really looking forward to taking Mondo Beyondo, hopefully in the new year! Really looking forward to that! xo

  5. Cath

    I think we all need a “Little Andrea” to stick in our pockets and carry around with us all day long. You encourage the opening of just the right part of the mind.

  6. Ramona

    I don’t do such a great job of the juggling act myself. I am the mother of two 14 year olds and the laundry is NEVER – EVER done. Not ever. There are always dishes in the dishwasher – we do aim to eat together – though the pulls of the world and their friends was strong this summer.
    I am hoping to take the Mondo Beyondo course in the new year too.

  7. Ramona

    I don’t juggle all that well myself. I am the mother of two active 14 year olds. the laundry is NEVER-EVER done. There are always dishes in the dishwasher – either clean or dirty. My house is definitely not in order. Choices. I am looking forward to the Mondo Beyondo class in the new year.

  8. Amber

    I think you are spot on. I find myself get wrapped up in perfectionism and my dad recently reminded me not to strive for perfection but excellence. And after that sunk in an a-ha moment arrived because no one is or can be perfect but we can all work towards excellence.
    BTW I wouldn’t worry about Ben’s lunches…I too got caught up in that type of thing when my son started going to a Mother’s Day Out program. However after talking to friends who’ve worked in preschools they’ve seen it all (and probably don’t really care as long as it’s easy for the child to eat on his/her own).

  9. michelle

    “I have to let go of making plans to allow for what shows up (inevitably) in the moment.”
    I love this – it is perfect.

  10. Stephanie

    Dude. House keeper is the best thing I’ve ever given our family. List it, baby.

  11. Julie

    I really enjoyed reading your post today. I love following your blog. I could really relate to wanting to do something that you love. I do what I love but with boundaries I don’t want. I am wanting/needing to take your class in January..so looking forward to it.

  12. Megan

    Every time I see sweet pics of Ben, my heart gets all gummy. That kid is so *special*, and he clearly is here on this planet with some real purpose. But for the time being, he’s still a KID. And kids are amazing, stressful little creatures who suck our time and energy and emotions dry. We love them for it, but they still do it and it’s overwhelming. It just is, and anybody who won’t admit that is a liar.
    If you want to put something in Ben’s lunchbox that proves you’re a good mother, put pictures like these in there. You’re a phenomenal mother because you SEE him. Not for his picky eating habits, his temper tantrums and his messes, but for who he is right now, and who he’s becoming. In every photo you post of him, you capture the extraordinary childhood that you and Matt are continuously creating for him. You capture a little boy who loves music and nature and wonder and life, and that is so much more important than carrot sticks and “relaxing”!

  13. denise

    i came here hoping you posted these.
    love love them.
    andrea…i so needed to read this today.
    thank you.

  14. Fourth Breakfast

    Aaaah. I really enjoyed your post today. Like Denise said, exactly what I needed to hear about “good enough.”
    Been a fan since I saw you speak on the panel at BlogHer 06. So glad to see you doing so well.

  15. nova

    I loved this post! Thank you for sharing your stories and your insights!

  16. Cathy (Tinniegirl)

    Thanks for the reminder. You can have your cake and eat it too, just best to try not to eat it all in one sitting.

  17. mamie

    impeccable timing on this….i feel like i say that in some way or another every time i comment, but this really hit home.
    our boys started their first pre-school experience and it is all adjusting…dropping naps sporadically, freaking out about being left, tonight mason (who i thought was enjoying school) told us ‘mama daddy no leave’. ouch.
    and work and house and dreams and things all seem to blur and stretch me a bit to my limit. but this is such a good clear reminder to choose, just choose wisely.
    mondo beyondo II seems to be calling my name….i think i will heed the call for my self and some clarity. and keep ignoring the dishes and laundry a bit longer.

  18. Petra

    Thank you, Andrea –
    … very wise words!
    Your post tickles my heart … πŸ™‚
    Lots of love for you and your family,
    Petra

  19. Mel

    Blurring the edges… yep, here too, working for yourself has advantages, like now it’s almost 11am and we are not dressed yet, we are having a lazy day as Dharma calls it. But I have been answering work emails, had several phone calls, polished of a translation, worked a bit on becoming a full time photographer, made an enquiry with a pre-school, fixed snacks, thought about what to do her for lunch, arranged a playdate for the afternoon, put a load of washing on, did the washing up, fed the cats, arranged vet trip for one cat, opened mail, did some more phone calls… It’s not even 11am and this is a lazy day…
    No wonder I am tired, especially as I have an almost three year old who thinks getting up at 5 am is fun… and stopped sleeping through the night.
    At the same time it was my dream to stay home with my daughter and work. I am having my cake and eating it!

  20. Jany

    Andrea,
    the photo of Ben playing music is so gorgeous !
    I’ve been reading your journal for several years, not much commenting though. But your evolution, your thaughts always make me think, make me question myself, and evolve ( at least i do hope so).
    I’m looking forward to subscribe to the third Mondo Beyondo course…
    Thank you, Andrea

  21. Kristy

    Damn I needed to hear that one big time! Thank you as always for being so brave sharing your journey with all of us. You rock girl.
    Kristy
    By the way, it just popped in my head while I was reading. Ever hear about re evaluation counseling/co counseling? You would love it.

  22. marilee pittman

    Andrea;
    This is a lovely posting The photos are sublime. Your life is rich and full.You have your priorities in the right order. It’s when we start thinking “what others are thinking”,we lose our balance.
    marilee

  23. muck

    ROCK ON!!!
    letting go is the best thing in the world. why hold yourself back when there is a rich precious gift in front of you? too often we are caught up with that state of mind where we feel the need to do everything perfect. all it does it strains you right down to the very last cell you have left. and it makes you sick. as hell.
    freeing ourselves keeps us light and open and spontaneous.
    so, no expectations! πŸ™‚

  24. nicole

    Andrea, so spot on! I seem to echo things in your life with my life…minus the kid…which we are trying so hard for…but in that too…i need to let go. working from home, being flexible, being creative, having creative husbands and a life…it’s a lot and it’s beautiful…and the beauty of it all…is letting go. thanks so much for putting into words how i feel today.
    xo nicole

  25. Katie @ cakes, tea and dreams

    I love your honesty…and the fact that you don’t want to miss this. Soak it up…even the moments when you don’t quite know how to relax. πŸ™‚

  26. susan preston

    “I also want… to enjoy how things are right now.”
    Now that’s real wealth! Ahh, I keep working at letting go of what I should and shouldn’t be… your post is a refreshing and honest reminder of how to go about recognizing and doing it.
    peace ~ sjp

  27. Jennifer

    Gosh, I’ve always thought how difficult it must be to work at home and to have a small child at home too, but then, that’s just my own personal take on it. I think I’m the type of person that needs to have home life and work life separate even if those two lives are in the same space. You know, once I walk in to that workspace, whether I’ve showered and dressed or am still in my pajamas, that is for work….but I’m not a mom nor do I have home based work….

  28. jen

    great post andrea… i am in a similar place… here’s to livin in the now and being true to ourselves! cheers!

  29. The Other Laura

    This:
    “I also want a rich creative life, to do work I love, and to enjoy how things are right now. ”
    is my Mondo Beyondo list in a nutshell! I’m going to print it out in giant letters and put it over my desk!

  30. nina

    You truly are a superhero — a self-fulling prophecy. πŸ™‚
    And I’m with you on the lunchbox perfection. I do the same thing. Odd, because I’ve been a teacher and never worried what kids brought — as long as it wasn’t pure sugar and it was something they would eat. Really, no judgment.
    Love the pic of Ben with the harmonica. Thanks for sharing shots of him jammin’. They show his sweet spirit! xo

  31. Chana

    Yes, go ahead and ask for that personal chef and house cleaner if that’s what will free you up for more creative work. “You must ask for what you really want” -Rumi

  32. Sandra

    wow, I want to add to my mondo beyondo list a house that looks like that one.. (maybe a husband, too πŸ˜‰

  33. Braidwood

    I want THAT man AND that house.
    How did you get that fantasy out of my head and into a photograph?
    Oh, and you and Ben can come over and visit anytime.

  34. kim

    Andrea,
    I am a long time lurker, enjoy your blog, love your jewelery, and have never commented. I clean houses for a living. I work for myself and I have to tell you if you had someone come in to clean, even on a bi-weekly basis the time it would free up for you would be worth the price. Hire someone to do all the “yucky” stuff. Bathrooms scrubbed, kitchen scrubbed, dusting done, flours vacuumed and washed. Include on your list things like Bens fingerprints lol. Whatever! I only work for people that appreciate what I do for them. Its a win win situation. I feel like I’m doing *good* and *helping* give families free time and making their home less stressful.
    Kim

  35. richele

    the working for yourself is hard with the no boundries. I find myself working in shifts, morning, afternoon then the night shift because it’s there.
    working on finding a balance with that. I’m afraid to leave even to go to yoga class since I left in the morning to go to a chiro appt.
    I guilt myself into everything.

    the housecleaner…I split one with my roommate every three weeks it’s seriously the best money I spend every month.

  36. nicole kraft

    I’m so right with you on this one. We can “have it all” but just not all at once. Having kids definitely has made me face what my true priorities are. And…I’m learning the power of surrender over and over and over–just like you said–having to let go of a lot. You just don’t get this time back with the little ones. So we’re not as financially well off as I’d like. I’m not working or doing as much creative stuff as I’d like either, but it will all come in its own time–I’m sure of it. So I guess that’s the other thing that parenting is teaching me (slowly): Patience.
    xoxo

  37. Shelley Noble

    Andrea, you have such a wonderful way with honesty. You express true things that most of us just disregard in our experiences as our own personal failure. Instead you embrace and accept them, make sense of them, thus making them a shared victory.
    And the shot of Ben on the right is perfect magazine worthy. What a guy is inside there!

  38. Shelley Noble

    Andrea, you have such a wonderful way with honesty. You express true things that most of us just disregard in our experiences as our own personal failure. Instead you embrace and accept them, make sense of them, thus making them a shared victory.
    And the shot of Ben on the right is perfect magazine worthy. What a guy is inside there!

  39. Jennifer

    So much (maybe everything) you shared here reminds me of myself. The needing to know what you would be doing over the weekend & go go go πŸ™‚ And I remember preschool & not sleeping through the night, the toddler bed & worries about what I put in Jacob’s lunch (I admit it. I still worry about that at age 8). Ugh, and the labels on clothing. I totally feel you on the meltdown and am glad you can see why you had one πŸ™‚ So many changes happening right now.
    When I had flexibilty, and I think that is the perfect word for it, I also had a job that never ended. In fact, it was Expected that my job as a graduate student and instructor would never really end (expected by the university). I had to draw my own lines, make up my own schedules, and I often gave in and worked when it would have been better for me to stop. Then I began a more 9-5 kind of job and sometimes feel like I can’t breathe. So my ideal job has not yet been found – but in the process of it all I am learning a lot about what makes me happy and what makes me miserable. I’m sure you are learning too.
    I was struck with what Noelle Oxenhandler said on the Mondo Beyondo interview about savoring. As soon as I heard that I knew I wasn’t doing enough savoring. Things aren’t exactly as I think they would like to be, but like you, I am trying to appreciate the life I have and make the best choices with what I’ve got right now. It’s a life I pay attention to, and I guess that’s sort of my having it all – having a life I notice, adjusting, and also (so important) letting things go. I don’t know – I thought I was doing a lot of tough work in my 20’s, but everything has gotten so much more sharp & vivid in my 30’s. Probably a combination of life experience and lots of other things… I wonder what I’ll say about my ideal life when I’m 40 or 50.
    Thank you as always for putting yourself out there & for your honesty. I appreciate you!

  40. mary catherine

    Beautiful photos, and beautiful way to describe that “all-over-the-place” way that I’m definitely feeling too, as my mothering & work do battle for my attention. There is much coffee, macaroni, & thai delivery at our house as well! xoxo

  41. jen gray

    love these photos! and i love this entry.
    and l love you and matt and ben.
    and you put whatever works in his lunchbox ~ seriously, no one gives a hoot, they just want the kids to eat something! whatever it takes! you are doing just fine momma!
    i so relate to this post. in so many same and different ways…
    xo

  42. kim

    beautiful post andrea.
    crazysexylife daily email just sent me this fantastic
    video ‘girl on a wire’ … thought you might like it
    if you haven’t already seen it.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jA3A5RQB1Lk

  43. Jennifer

    Another voice saying that what good teachers most want to see in the parents of their students are people who KNOW their own children, who tend to them well, and who allow themselves to be the good parents they are without feeling they need to somehow step-it-up in front of the teacher. I work at a small, progressive school and my son (now 11) has been here since he was 4. The loving advice I’ll give you is that if you ever feel that there IS pressure coming from the teacher/school about the healthy, positive way you are parenting/feeding your child, then you have him in the wrong school. I’ll also say that it’s going to get harder; being a parent of a child in school and meeting with your child’s teacher brings back all the good and bad in your own past as a student and a child. It also naturally makes you feel as though teachers are judging you, and as though your skills as a parent are on display in an entirely new and very exposing, vulnerable way. The best schools are filled with people who embrace you and your child and constantly remind you of the partnership that marks the very best parent/teacher relationships.

  44. jill

    I just realized why I always love looking at pictures of Ben… He’s just so BRIGHT EYED. He looks to me like he’s just simply a joyful soul. Adorable.

  45. Rebecca in Switzerland

    Looks like Ben has hangin’ out mastered well enough for the two of you so no worries! I don’t know if he was around when his Dad said, “I don’t know. Hang out? Play music?” or if he just takes after him…? The photos look like they go perfectly with that quote.

  46. Rebecca in Switzerland

    I have housecleaner and part-time personal chef on my MB list. πŸ™‚

  47. jenny

    I so relate to all of this. I’m still spinning, trying to adjust to all the changes we’re in the midst of right now. It’s a big deal, and we have to let ourselves have our little break downs (and bon bons). I’ve enjoyed hearing about your Mondo Beyondo course (here and from others). I can’t wait to take it next time there’s an opening!

  48. emily ruth

    oh my goodness, the more i hear about mondo beyondo (here & on other blogs) the more i know i need to do it the next time around…hope i’ll make it…do i need to start a pre-mondo list that has that hope on it? πŸ™‚
    thanks for all of your great words…always inspiring, always real…

  49. Val

    I think EVERY mother struggles with the balance that you talk about in different ways. I hear similar feelings from moms of all walks of life. A big part of it I think is that there used to be a lot more tribal support for mothers, something we could all use!
    The laundry and sweeping can wait – coffee is wonderful – and there is no waiting for a little boy growing up too quickly! Sometimes the days go by slowly but boy do the years with little ones go by quickly…

  50. Jennifer T

    love that … “I can probably have everything I want, just not everything at the same time.” … that one phrase really helped me out so much, thank you for sharing!

  51. denise (chez danisse)

    Today someone asked me if I was in the Mondo Beyondo class, as if it was something everyone was in on, except me. So of course, I looked it up and here I am. You have an interesting blog. Motherhood is not part of the equation in my life, but I do still understand struggles with balance and understanding when some things should just be let go, at least temporarily. It seems balancing and setting priorities is a part of my life that I’ll always continue to review and revamp. Your trip to the cabin in Mendocino must have been wonderful. I hope you enjoyed it and spent at least a little time just hanging out and relaxing.

  52. traceyclark

    i was just thinking how much i would enjoy a cleaning service. it’s #1 on my mondo beyondo list. : )

  53. tanja

    love your blog – so inspiring – discovered it only a while ago…

  54. paula

    the picture of your friends’ house made me hungry to see more…hoping you can share a few more as i am hoarding images for my dream house in my mind.
    thank you andrea!

  55. Donavan Freberg

    The problem with wanting it all is that it’s impossible. It’s like ordering everything on the menu at one sitting. Even if you could swallow it all, it’s probably bound to make you sick. As you said, “I can probably have everything I want, just not everything at the same time.”. This reminds me of a story. Squirrels will often reach their hand inside a tree and grab a handful of nuts. Sometimes, they grab so many that they can’t get their hand back out. Instead of dropping a few nuts and just reaching back in for more later, the poor squirrel will sometimes become so frazzled as to chew off its own paw. So drop the nuts, enjoy a few at a time and keep your hand so you can use it to keep typing lovely words and taking beautiful pictures. The world needs you to breathe so you can sing.

  56. Yasmin

    I feel the same way – Ollie, my just one year old is still not sleeping and I sometimes feel like such a failure…however he is so happy in his waking time (ie: majority of the time!) that I can’t help and feel so blessed – even with only 3 hours of broken sleep. We need to just breathe….

  57. Yasmin

    I feel the same way – Ollie, my just one year old is still not sleeping and I sometimes feel like such a failure…however he is so happy in his waking time (ie: majority of the time!) that I can’t help and feel so blessed – even with only 3 hours of broken sleep. We need to just breathe….

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