Areas of lowered expectations

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There are areas of my life I’ve had to just tell myself I’ll excel at later in life—if at all—that I had previously assumed would be a part of my adult woman life. Saying “I’ll work harder on that later” instead of “I should do this” feels both smart and dumb, like I’m simultaneously working on my mental health while being a quitter. Here are the main spots:

1.) Cooking for family (and by extension, cooking)

My mom made dinner for us, made it, probably five nights a week and I simply expected to do the same for my family, even though she didn’t have a job outside the home and I did. I had to adjust early because my husband is pickier than my actual children, but even after I had both kids, and had an hourlong commute both ways, I kept trying to get a proper family dinner on the table, doing things like grocery shopping on my lunch hour. I think I cook proper family dinner (#PFD) 2-3 nights a week and it’s almost always served in a bowl because it’s usually something on rice or on noodles or with tortilla chips crumbled on top. But I had to stop listening to Big PFD, where the cultural implication is that if you don’t cook dinner and sit down with your whole household every night and force your children to tell you many details about their day, at least one member of your family is going to prison for sure. Anyway last night for dinner the kids had scrambled eggs, half a piece of toast, one quarter of a leftover Jimmy Johns sandwich and some grapes and animals crackers, and then my husband and I ordered in Indian after the boys went to bed. #PFD

2.) Work salary

$100K is the gold standard, in the circles I run, for freelance writers who have really made it. I’m not saying I agree with this number, but it’s the figure freelancers get interviewed about when they start pulling in that salary. If I didn’t have kids I would be chasing this number so hard and I think I could get it. But I don’t have it in me to put in extra hours right now. I fought very hard to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night and I am not yet willing to sacrifice that. And also I know holiday break is coming and I’d rather pull in less money than try to work per usual while the kids are off school. I’ve also gotten into a lot of fights with my husband because sometimes I get resentful about lowering my own work expectations for the sake of the larger unit and I want some sort of reassurance or recognition, although that often depends on the time of the month and how much wine I’ve been drinking too. But the truth is that I’d just rather be less stressed than go for that work-related brass ring right right now.

3.) Hosting

My mother serves individual servings of butter to guests in tiny ramekins and has tiny heavy silver bud vases that she picked up at an antiques fair in England. The funny thing is that she never made it look fun—the stress it took to throw a beautiful holiday or book club meeting or cocktail party was never hidden. But I also got tricked by getting married, and the process of setting up a registry. It makes you think that hosting beautifully and creatively is a fun and relaxing thing to take pride in. Some people are like this! I have friends who sincerely are really good at this stuff and like it and I like them despite that. But it is too much for me. My favorite thing to cook when friends come over is cocktails and LaCroix and ordered-in pizza and salad and storebought cookies. We have fun. Nobody ever seems to mind if I serve the Oreos right from the package instead of on a seasonal Nora Fleming tray with a charming porcelain leaf or some shit on it. Anyway this year I put my husband in charge of table decorations at Thanksgiving, and had no doubts he’d do a good job. After all he made this film so I know he’s good at tiny little fussy things looking just right. I showed him what decorations we already had and then he took himself to Michael’s. And he nailed it!

So I am worse at several things that I thought as a mom, but at least I am a lot better at delegating.

~ Claire

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