Motherhood is often a thankless job, but we didn't get into it to be thanked. We got into it for wet baby kisses, macaroni necklaces, and surprisingly philosophical conversations with teenagers who amaze (and frustrate) us daily. On the bad days - the terrible, not-so-good, eat-the-last-brownie-crying-while-hiding-in-the-laundry-room days - I fantasize about what my own retirement will look like.
RBC has a great video on how you can custom design your retirement. It's realistic, funny, and informative - just like parenting! Have a look:
I'm in my early 40s and I know that I'm still young by many measures (please agree), and I know we never truly "retire" from motherhood, but thinking forward about the way our lives - at least in some measure - become our own again, makes being an age starting with a "6," something to look forward to. I want to design my retirement with the same vigour and enthusiasm I use to design a full scale 11th birthday Harry Potter Hogwarts cake.
Think about how you spend your time now, and contrast it with ways you may spend it in the future during your retirement years. I work as a freelance writer and editor and while I love my job and wouldn't trade it for almost anything, I do have other interests. I love many things outside of work and parenthood - things that don't involve deadlines, performance goals, spreadsheets, and... well, I imagine after 30 or so years of working full-time and parenting two kids, I'll want to spend my time pursuing things that don't involve sippy cups and granola bars in my purse.
As much as I value and cherish time with my kids now, let's be realistic: it's "trenches" time in our 30s and 40s and into our 50s. There's a lot of mothering work that I won't be too sorry to see in the rearview mirror, and although one never retires from motherhood, there are some good times yet to come - a lot of good times. Let's fantasize together about motherhood life vs retirement life, shall we?
You entertain the idea of attending said event until you remember the time you went out without the baby and wound up having to hand express breast milk into a sink.
Spend a leisurely day with your spouse shopping for new outfits. Enjoy lunch on a patio at that new bistro John and Siobhan told you about. Attend event and party like it's your 18th birthday and this is Debbie's basement (but without fears of getting pregnant).
Build a flow chart and corresponding Venn diagram outlining childcare options. Remember to include back-to-back dental appointments and a 5:45 am hockey practice. Pre-pack four school lunches, inform school of alternate pick-up and emergency contact. Board plane to Cuba, enjoy one piña colada, collapse in bed and sleep until one hour before return flight.
Pack an overnight bag, grab passports. Enjoy three days on a sunny beach sipping icy beverages before you even remember you have kids. Consider mailing them a postcard. Maybe.
You did go to a drop-in Zumba class at the leisure centre that one time, until the childcare room called you over the P.A. system because your toddler bit another child.
Hot yoga, squash, running club, hike Bruce Trail, research biking Pan American highway, buy a craft Okanagan winery, start a goat cheese farm, move to Fiji six-months a year to become senior surf champion, and create an animal rescue. Then, on Tuesday...
Keep your cranky baby awake through car ride home to ensure nap in crib. Feed, change, and rock irritable and overtired baby. Sing 10 lullabies, use white noise machine, aromatherapy oils, pray to every deity you've ever heard of, and burn sacrificial herbs until baby falls asleep. Leave room. Promptly step on the one creaky floorboard in house. Repeat for two hours or until you crack under stress, whichever comes first.
Lay down. Nap. Awake refreshed.
Throw all the household clutter into the bathtub and say a silent prayer so guests don't open the shower curtain. Use the garden rake on family room carpet to gather stray goldfish crackers and Lego, put into plastic bag and place in garage. Then spend an hour getting wiggly kids into car seats in -15 degree weather. Pull kids through liquor store wine section with your sunglasses on because your 7-year-old keeps saying "But how will you choose? YOU LOVE ALL OF THESE!" Leave in shame with a bottle of "Generic Red Table Wine." Pray guests leave before bedtime meltdown hour begins.
Hire a day cleaning service. Spend the day at a craft brewery sampling the beer maker's finest new bottling, enjoy an hour selecting brews your guests will enjoy. Make a stop at a boutique grocery store for artisanal cheese pairings. Welcome friends for a relaxing night of revelry and good food.
Co-ordinate your schedule and your spouse's schedule to see who can miss work to care for baby. Arrange to do a late pick-up at the after-school program for your 5th grader. Spend six hours preparing a "quick" crock pot meal so dinner will be ready upon your return. Gather important paperwork. Wake up on the morning of that "extremely important appointment that cannot be missed" to a child screaming with a 102 degree fever.
Note date of appointment in day planner. Rebook your previous plans of a girls' lunch and afternoon at the botanical gardens for the following day.
Print out the list above to keep you going on those days when you can't see the light anymore. It's coming, I promise! We just need to hang in there and remember that while we should enjoy the good as it comes now, there is also a lot of good yet to come - and it's ours for the designing. When I think about how fast the last 20 years has passed and apply that formula to the next 20, it's going to be here before we know it. Retirement isn't really that far off. Do you know how you want to spend it?
I can't sleep.
It's after 1 am and I'm lying in bed, wide awake again. Tonight I wake up thinking about a townhouse complex tennis court I often drive past. The linked buildings that partner the court were built in the early 1980's and they're covered in brown siding that looks like frozen chocolate. The homes have frozen also; no one has weeded the large planting beds separating the units from the sidewalk where modernity passes by on skateboards and electric scooters, and the one-car driveways are filled edge-to-edge with square late-model cars, 15 years past the showroom regardless of the calendar. These are cars for large families with small budgets. These are sensible cars.
The tennis court sits to the left of the central square. The fence surrounding it is very high,12 feet or more. It's meant to keep tennis balls from bouncing into the street but there is no need. No one plays tennis here. No one ever has. People who drive sensible, late-model cars to factory jobs don't have much use for tennis. Two rusty and torn hockey nets of different sizes are pushed against one end of the court. The game has been abandoned, probably owing to the cracked asphalt surface inside the fence. The Ontario winter has taken this unused court in her hands and crumbled it like a cracker.
Behind the tennis court is a concrete pool. You can't see it from the street but I know its there. When I was very young I swam there with a friend whose name I've long forgotten. We went to the pool by ourselves with towels around our shoulders and cans of warm pop in a plastic grocery bag. I can remember the delicious smell of pool chlorine and hot concrete and I loved how that smell would dry in my hair so I could take it home for later. Pools don't smell like that now. That summer smell makes me long for the childhood freedoms we didn't recognize or appreciate until now, when we no longer have the time for such indulgences.
But tonight, here in my bed alone with my insomnia, what seems worse than the loss of time itself is knowing we can't press the full weight of our memories into our children. A parent's story can only sit on the surface of a child's mind, because children minds need room so they may be inscribed with their own histories. Our memories are ours alone and they will fade and disappear when we do. This is what keeps my eyes open tonight long past the time they should have closed.
I'll have some tea.
I start to cry when I open the cupboard. It's the cumin. Cumin is heavy and falls to the bottom of a dish, but it doesn't hide. I made my babies a soup spiced with cumin for many meals when they were small. I fed it to them with a spoon and they would bite at it, eager for the taste. I made that soup so often the pot became stained from black beans and spice. I made that soup often because they loved it, and I loved feeding it to them, even when they were capable of using spoons themselves. But I'm glad I did, because they don't eat it any more. "It's too heavy," they say. They "don't like cumin anymore."
I don't know why I still keep the glass spice jar full. I haven't used that spice in a long time. Maybe if I throw the jar away then I will forget how they once loved cumin, how they were once babies who bit at a spoon and made beautiful messes and that I once stained a pot making soup.
I put the jar back on the shelf. I wipe my eyes with the back of my hand and close the door.
This post was previously published on the highly irritable blog.
Zoolander 2 is here! The first full-length, non "teaser" trailer has been released by Paramount well ahead of the film's February 12 debut date, and it shows a lot of promise. Unlike many comedy sequels, it's of no importance if you saw the first Zoolander or not, because cut the bullshit; we all know you did. You were making "Blue Steel" and "Le Tigre" faces in the staff room all over 2001 and you know it.
YOU'RE DOING IT NOW.
The original Zoolander was campy and cheesy, but it was pure fun, and it also happened to be released on September 28, 2001.
For many of us, it was the first time we felt secure enough to go back out into public spaces, or okay to laugh out loud, in public. It felt good; the movie required little to no cerebral activity and it was exactly what a tired, scared, angry audience needed.
So here's where we're at, 14 years past Derek Zoolander's prime: It's been a decade and a half since he and his beautiful sidekick Hansel competed in a walk-off, had an amazing patchouli-scented orgy, saved the world, and eradicated illiteracy. It's now 2015, but the world is still divided into two distinct groups: the really, really good looking, and the rest of us, the plebes with errant eyebrow hairs and a throbbing in our shins we just know is a varicose vein.
Derek and Hansel are still "famous," albeit now for being has-beens. They are "old" and "lame." The criticism is understandable - they're in their 40s for crying out loud and we all know it's game over after the first candle on your cake is shaped like a "4." They're relics in the industry...but wait. This is a comedy, so to have the pair die balding and destitute in a dumptser behind a downtown Noodle Hut would just be depressing.
So when the world's beautiful people begin mysteriously dying - albeit not before posting dying-breath selfies on social media sporting Zoolander's trademark "smelled a fart" face, he is brought out of near-obscurity to solve the crimes, bringing Hansel along for the brain power hahaha no seriously; that's what he does.
It looks like Penelope Cruz, arguably one of the most conventionally beautiful women alive today, and therefore completely trustworthy, is the one to help the duo find out what's causing our beauty icons to bite the dust. Mugato is behind it no doubt, and we know from the trailer that Mugato is still a latte loving dickhead. Will Ferrell returns to his role, alongside a frozen-faced Kirsten Wiig who portrays a caricature of what happens when high fashion has a three-way with money and a plastic surgeon.
I haven't seen the movie's ending - I have to wait until February with the rest of you unwashed masses, but I can tell you this: I will be in line, waiting for advance tickets, because I want to see if Derek Zoolander found out if there really was more to life than being "really, really, ridiculously good looking," and also because my birthday is on Valentine's Day and tickets to this movie (plus nachos and a large slushie) is gonna get someone I know laid.