Why I Am a SAHM

Sometimes, I think I am damaging my children’s understanding of what women can do by being a SAHM. Are my boys going to look for wives who will only be homemakers? Will my daughter think her career options are limited? Am I reinforcing gender stereotypes?

Of course, I know intellectually that the whole thrust of feminism isn’t to force all women into the workplace and devalue motherhood and being a homemaker. The point of feminism is to give women and men equal rights and opportunities so that if I want to work, I can work. If I want to stay at home, I can stay at home. (Same goes for my husband.)

Hapa Papa often jokes that I pulled a Bait and Switch on him. I looked good on paper: graduating from UCLA, working in marketing then becoming a financial advisor. And then, BAM! I popped out Cookie Monster and decided I never wanted to work again. (No, this is not a discussion on whether or not caring for children is work. Yes, it is. But I am merely referring to “work” as in an occupation for which I am paid taxable dollars.)

I always assumed I would work after I had kids. My mother worked and my brother and I turned out fine (dare I say, AWESOME?). But I do know that as much as I appreciated the freedom of being a latch-key kid and the hours and hours of TV we’d watch after school, I envied my friends whose mothers were home. Part of me longed for someone to welcome me home when I got back from school, perhaps with snacks.

Please don’t misunderstand me. My mother never missed a concert or school event. She always knew the gist of what was going on at school. (This is especially impressive since she was an immigrant and this was all PRE-internet!) She knew who my friends were and was incredibly strict regarding who I was and wasn’t allowed to hang out with. I am incredibly grateful – especially now that I realize just how easily influenced I am! (I am no stalwart independent. I am quite the follower and easily misled!)

At any rate, as soon as I took one look at Cookie Monster, I knew I would never work again. I didn’t want to miss a single moment of his little life and the lives of his siblings. I wanted to shape my children, for better or for worse. When the kids eventually go to school, I want to be there at pick up and drop off. I want to know their teachers. I want to be involved in the PTA and their classrooms. (Ok, I take that back. I definitely do NOT want to be Room Mom. NOPE. Not for me.)

But mostly, I want our home to be a sanctuary. A hub. I want the kids to bring their friends over after school, play, hang out, do their homework, eat, and bask in the inanities of life. I want to be in the background or foreground (depending on what is needed). I want to be the constant heartbeat of their lives until they launch themselves into college and young adulthood. I want to be their security. Their home.

I want to provide my children with the stability I never felt when I was growing up. I want to be their rock.

Of course, many parents provide these things even while working. But to me, I want to be home full time. Even when all the kids are in school, what place of work would have me work from 10-2? No one in their right mind would hire me unless it were shift work. Plus, I am more than certain those precious child-free hours would be quickly eaten up by the millions of little things it takes to manage a family of several children.

I am just so grateful that Hapa Papa’s job makes enough money so that we can live comfortably on one income without hardship. I am grateful that Hapa Papa supports me being at home. I am grateful that I get to be present for almost every glorious, boring, mundane, infuriating moment with my children. It is an incredible honor.

Do I Really Want My Child to be Unique?

We all say we want our kids to be special and unique and to be themselves. But is this really true? What if their true selves are jerks? Or rude little punks? Should we let them be “themselves” then? If I am honest with myself, what I really mean (other than “civilizing” the primitive cave-man out of them) is, “Be yourself within these socially acceptable parameters.”

A few months ago, my MIL and I got into a rather heated argument on whether or not I would allow Cookie Monster to wear sparkly necklaces to school (the necklace symbolizing all “feminine” accoutrements such as dresses, heels, jewelry, etc.). My MIL was adamant that allowing Cookie Monster to wear a Mardi Gras necklace to school was cruel because I would be setting him up for teasing and mockery. That it was OK for him to be playing with these dress up items in the safety of our home, but that Cookie Monster doesn’t know any better and it was my job to make sure he knew what was and was not acceptable.

I think I nearly blew a gasket.

My MIL was shocked that I would let Cookie Monster go to school with the Mardi Gras necklace on. She said she would talk to Hapa Papa to make sure that didn’t happen. I was honestly surprised that the Mardi Gras necklace would be such a big deal. But to my MIL, it symbolized all the ways that children can be cruel and she couldn’t understand why I would knowingly allow my child to suffer. I was furious that my MIL would want me to suppress Cookie Monster’s natural inclinations in order to “fit in” and why she wanted to instill my son with fear about what others thought of him.

Both of us (well, I can’t speak for my MIL, but this is what I think was going on) were so riled up because of two main issues:

1) The cruelty of children (and by extension, society at large) towards anyone who is non-conforming – particularly in proscribed gender roles.
2) The desire to let our children grow up to be themselves without feeling shame about what they wish and who they are.

Now that I have had several months to cool off, the reality is not so cut and dried. After all, I may not mind Cookie Monster going to school with a harmless (to me, at least) Mardi Gras necklace, but would I be so nonchalant if he wanted to go to school in a hot pink tutu?

If I let him and he got made fun of, should I warn him? But then if he changes his mind because he doesn’t want to be teased, have I failed him and turned him into someone who cares overly about what other people think? Or is that just a glimpse of the Real World where there are always consequences (good or bad) to our actions?

If I didn’t let him, would I be crushing Cookie Monster’s pure little soul and forcing him to conform to what American society deems socially acceptable for males (a VERY narrow band, incidentally)? Would I be providing fodder for self-loathing and therapy in the years to come?

Where would I draw the line? If I did allow him and it was not allowed at the school, would I make a big stink about it so that my child would be free to be himself? What type of lesson would my kids learn if I did make a big deal? That they should fight for what they believe in? Or that rules were meant to be flouted if they made my kids feel bad or “oppressed”?

Hapa Papa says I’m a hypocrite because I am fine with Cookie Monster doing things that seem girly, but I seem far more ruthless about not letting Gamera do those things. Incidentally, that is full of crap because I let Gamera do PLENTY of “girly” things – I just don’t want her to play with Barbies for you know, reasons. Scientifically backed reasons, by the fucking way. Not that I think you’re a bad parent if you allow your kids to play with Barbies. I think the majority of little girls who play with Barbies grow up to be awesome, empowered women. It’s just my personal preference. Backed by SCIENCE. (This dig is aimed more at Hapa Papa, who reads my blog, more than any of my other readers.)

I don’t mind Gamera playing with her baby doll, but I don’t exactly go out of my way to encourage it, either. I supposed I don’t exactly encourage her to play with cars, planes, Legos, and blocks, etc. either, but I approve of it more so. What is so wrong with her playing with dolls? When I think about it, it’s super cute how Gamera puts her “baby” in time out, has her baby cry and need hugs and band aids, and breastfeeds her doll when it is hungry. She’s using her imagination to nurture and take care of her baby. That’s a wonderful thing!

Have I bought into the lie that anything to do with the home or traditional gender roles is bad?

I don’t think so. I am fine with her dressing up as a “Prin-us” (how she says, “Princess.”) with heels and sparkly everything. I am even fine with Cookie Monster doing so. (I bought some sparkly Hello Kitty shoes in HIS size because I knew he’d be so crushed if he couldn’t fit in them and would watch Gamera enviously when she wore them. That way, I also get more mileage out of them for Gamera, too.) I love it when she and Cookie Monster cook in their toy kitchen or push her cars in her toy stroller.

Sigh. Sorry, I think I rambled a bit there and I’m too tired to go back and edit this into a more coherent piece.

At any rate, how do I balance the two seemingly conflicting desires of wanting my children to be who they are yet not suffer from their peers? I suppose I have no control over how their peers or society react to and treat my children so I will just have to help my kids be as themselves as possible. I hope I have the wisdom to know when to intervene and when not to. Seems way more complicated than when I was growing up. Back then, our parents just threw us to the wolves.

Fighting Dirty

Hapa Papa and I fight the most in two types of situations: Traveling (be it by plane, train, or automobile) or when Hapa Papa works from home.

Traveling seems obvious. Even before we had kids, we would always fight (and not just mere disagreements – full on yelling) when we travelled – especially when we drove. Mostly because we actually had a conversation and discovered that Hapa Papa was surprisingly incorrect on SO MUCH of his thinking.

As for working from home, you’d think that would be awesome, right? No three hour round-trip commute. More time with the family. Some help around the house. Win/Win for every body involved. Especially the children. THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

Well. I was wrong. SO. WRONG.

Yes, it is handy that Hapa Papa is around all day (especially in the evening when the kids are tired and hungry and starting to melt down – and okay, in the mornings, too, so I can sleep in or laze about and the kids are downstairs with Hapa Papa busily NOT eating their breakfast). However, we get into SO MANY fights. Mostly, because poor Hapa Papa still has to work and I think it’s Saturday.

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Monday at the office.

He gets mad because every time he sits down at the couch with his laptop to do something, I ask him to get up and get a tissue/napkin/juice/water/small child/wipe a bottom/change a diaper/just do one more thing. (I can’t imagine why.) I get mad because he expects us to just IGNORE the giant lump of a man on the couch and pretend he isn’t there and not speak or talk to him, or have a conversation, or ask him to do one, tiny thing (though, honestly, it never ends at one). THAT’S WHY WE HAVE AN OFFICE/SPARE BEDROOM. 

I have told Hapa Papa time and time again that if he has to get any work done, he needs to disappear. I cannot think, for even a second, that he is home. Otherwise, I will harangue him ceaselessly because I am selfish and when I see a Hapa Papa with nothing child/home related on his hands, it signals to my brain that CLEARLY, Hapa Papa needs something to do. (Working to pay the mortgage is NOT ENOUGH. Far too abstract.)

He, of course, gets annoyed and sad that I’ve confined him to the office when Hapa Papa really wants to see the kids and play with them for a bit. No one likes to be lonely. But geez! How can he even imagine he’ll get anything done when he does that?

Anyhow, here are my tips for how to survive a spouse working from home when you have small children:

1) Have a set start and end time. Since Hapa Papa is working from home, it is very easy to have work and personal time bleed into each other. Since I am lazy and selfish, I assume Hapa Papa is working with the kids downstairs, but really, he’s not getting much done in between getting the kids breakfast and managing the morning chaos. It is helpful to me to know when I have to be downstairs to relieve him as well as when he will be officially done with work to relieve me!

2) Have a designated work area that is out of sight and has a lockable door. It’s true what they say. “Out of sight, out of mind.” As long as I don’t physically see Hapa Papa, I rarely holler at him to do something for me. I can be good all morning and not need his help with the kids but as soon as he comes down for a beverage or sustenance, all I see is an extra pair of hands that clearly is not being properly utilized.

The lock on the door is when Hapa Papa is on a conference call and actually needs to participate. There have been times when Cookie Monster or Gamera miss their Papa and come storming up the stairs, yelling out, “Papa!” and burst into the office, disturbing a call.

3) Have grace for each other. Obviously, grace is necessary in all situations, but just because it’s a generic thing doesn’t mean it’s not applicable! I have to remember that just because I don’t think Hapa Papa is doing anything, doesn’t mean he’s not. Plus, he’s actually very helpful and feels really torn between helping me and doing the work he’s paid to do (you know, to provide for our family). I have to remember to be grateful for his job, his work, and his presence.

Hapa Papa has to remember that I am selfish and if he doesn’t look like he’s doing anything, I will find something for him to do within half a second. He also has to forgive me ALL THE FRICKIN’ TIME.

That’s it. It’s a short list – but let’s face it. If you’re anything like me, you probably can’t remember to do more than three things at a time anyway. What do you think? Did I miss anything?

Wait, How Is This My Life?

When I was free and unencumbered with children, I would read articles by SAHMs about how they would have to do laundry every single day. I couldn’t fathom it. I only did laundry when I ran out of socks or underwear (my two limiting reagents). As a result, I had at LEAST a month’s worth of socks and underwear just so I only had to do laundry once a month. It’s not like I sweat a lot or was in any way physical so my clothes really didn’t get very dirty.

Fast forward to now and wouldn’t you know it? I do laundry almost every single day. Sometimes, multiple loads. I don’t even understand HOW? I mean, I wash the cloth diapers every day because right now, I have two kids in diapers and use a lot of them as burp cloths. Fine. That’s to be expected. But how do I have multiple loads? My kids have a reasonable amount of clothing. So do Hapa Papa and I. And yet, there it is. ME DOING MULTIPLE LOADS OF LAUNDRY EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

Yes, that was CAPSLOCK worthy. Because seriously? WHAT THE HELL AM I WASHING?

And it’s not just the laundry. I am constantly doing dishes. Now, part of that is because I only have so many bowls and plates and utensils that are kid friendly. The other part is that I’m home all day so we use dishes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Occasionally, I’ll use the dishwasher if we have a lot of people over or I’ve been lazy all day and just wait for the end of the day. But usually I hand wash because there’s a much faster turnaround and if I waited until the dishwasher was full, I’d wait forever.

Now that I think about it, I am doing more dishes now because I am finally forcing my kids to feed themselves so instead of a communal bowl from which I shovel food into my kids’ mouths (and mine), we now all behave like semi-civilized people and all have our own bowls, cups, and utensils. I may have to rethink this strategy since it causes me more work. I just have to decide whether it is more work to wash dishes or to feed my children (who have perfectly functioning hands) while holding a two month old. *sigh*

Don’t get me started on vacuuming! Thankfully, I have a handheld vacuum that I can use to hoover up the endless supply of crumbs (I cheat and vacuum the table) that find themselves over EVERYTHING. And it’s not just because of the kids. I seriously can’t tell whether Hapa Papa or one of my kids ate somewhere because they ALL leave crumbs. I get why my babies do. It’s Hapa Papa that I’m having trouble accepting. Of course, I’m spotless and crumbs never fall from my lips. I am a swarm of locusts and all food is efficiently consumed with no waste whatsoever.

I know I tell the kids to pick up their toys (I’ve gotten a little slack with this since it’s hard to enforce while nursing), but lately, Cookie Monster and Gamera think it’s hilarious to launch their cars and planes and trains into the air and smash and crash them into EVERYTHING so they’re all over the floor, in couch cushions, under the couch, under the table, etc. Then, they’re obsessed with “Eggy prizes” (basically, stuff in Easter eggs) so now I have a bunch of old Easter egg halves and teeny tiny toys all over my carpet. WHY DID I KEEP THESE STUPID EGGS? Oh yes, because I’m cheap and intend to use them for next Easter.

I would read articles of mothers eating their children’s leftovers as their only sustenance and think, “That’s insane! I LOVE food! This will never happen to me.” And yet, now, I have their leftovers for lunch because they rarely finish everything on their plates and it seems wasteful to throw it away but stupid to keep because it’s not really enough for another meal. When my kids spit something out or drop something on the floor, I don’t even think twice about shoving whatever it was into my mouth because it is faster and easier than getting up to throw it away in the garbage. (Ugh. I want to gag just thinking about this, but yet, it doesn’t bother me while it’s happening. Laziness trumps yickiness.)

I’m not really complaining (I don’t think). I don’t really mind doing these things because I prefer an ant-free house that is reasonably tidy and clean and non-sticky. I also like clean dishes, diapers and clothes and not stepping on a toy in the middle of walking across my home. I see doing these activities as a holy thing (when I really think about it, not while I’m in the middle of wiping up another mess) because it is a way to love and serve my family.

It’s just that when I stop and actually examine my daily activities, I’m a bit bewildered. I went to college for this?

Two years ago, I was reading Christianity Today’s Hermeneutics blog and one of the writers referenced a book called, The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and “Women’s Work,” by Kathleen Norris (note: Amazon affiliate link). It changed my life and perspective forever about what I and millions of other women (and let’s be fair, men, too) do on a daily basis.

Norris calls all the cooking and cleaning “Women’s Work” because that is historically what it is called. What she addresses is that because this type of work has been historically performed by women, it is thus looked upon with contempt and deemed worthless. Norris posits that our daily work of laundry, cooking, cleaning is actually worship and holy. That what we do to take care of ourselves and others can be both an act of indifference or an act of supreme love. That the work which is looked down upon in the eyes of society is actually a beautiful and vital thing.

Our society values the grand, big gestures. The sweeping acts of bravery and heroism. But there is a heroism in the small, every day acts, too. In fact, I would argue (as does Norris) that these small, daily acts of cooking and cleaning are in fact, more necessary than the big acts of history-making. After all, whether or not you are doing something epic or mundane, you need sustenance, clean clothes, and clean living spaces.

I cannot tell you how happy and joyful this book made me. After all, who wants 90% of what they do all day to be deemed as lowly or simple? Now, to be honest, I’m not cleaning a toilet and thinking to myself, “OH JOY!! What wonders this be!” However, I do feel as if I am contributing something of worth to our household even if I’m not the one making the big bucks. After all, I may use Hapa Papa’s paycheck every day, but he damn well uses the toilet every day, too.

Anyhow, the beauty of these small, daily activities is that it is not limited to just SAHM or parents. Most people (unless you are so rich you have a housekeeper, chef, and someone to wipe your ass) have to do some measure of tasks that can feel like drudgery. Be encouraged. You are doing something important and nurturing, if for no one other than yourself.

Wavering Between Choice and Life

Trigger Warning: Abortion, rape, incest

Comment Warning: My comment policy will be vigorously enforced. Any comment (on FB or otherwise) that smells even remotely of shaming, name-calling, abuse, general asshattery, (on either side of the discussion) will be swiftly and unapologetically deleted without regret. I am also completely uninterested in any type of propaganda for or against abortion. The comments that seem to be a giant cut and paste of the same, tired rhetoric on either side will be promptly removed.

I don’t care about your right to free speech if it means you taking a big, fat shit on my blog or FB (let alone insulting my friends and readers who run the gamut in terms of what they believe or do). This is your only warning. Be a grown up and act like one. Otherwise, I will be forced to treat you like a child and put you in time out. (I’m really, really good at that.)

Until I had children, I was mostly pro-choice. I say mostly because I didn’t think abortion was right, per se, but I didn’t think it was my business to tell a person she could or couldn’t have one. I considered it a lot like divorce – not ideal, but sometimes necessary. And better to err on the side of caution for a current life (in terms of safety and access to abortions) than to side predominantly with a possible life. This was a complicated knot that I tied up for myself since I also believed that life begins at conception. But it’s hard to think of a bunch of cells as a life so it was easier to think that abortion was just that – removing a mass of cells.

Then, I got pregnant and gave birth to a human.

Keep in mind, I was a science major. It’s not like I was unfamiliar with what occurred when a baby was forming. But every week, the book would tell me what size fruit my baby was, what was being knit together out of this mass of cells, that the baby was now capable of smiling, or burping, or kicking. I mean, holy fuck! I don’t care that they call it a fetus – it was a BABY. Growing INSIDE of me.

And then, when Cookie Monster was born and became the most perfect human I have ever loved or seen (until I laid eyes on my other two children), some invisible line was crossed and a switch was flipped inside of me. (Not that I realized it at the time.) I could no longer think that abortion was just removing a bunch of cells – like a tumor. Conception resulted in a perfect tiny PERSON.

Of course, when I actually thought about it, (I blame reading articles on abortion-related topics such as the Komen PR disaster, not funding Planned Parenthood, many legislative changes in the law, etc.) I became more and more aware of my changing opinion. Plus, I also knew more and more women who really WANTED to get pregnant but just couldn’t conceive, or couldn’t stay pregnant. That knowledge, coupled with my own bias towards the greatness of my own children, only deepened my conflict.

After all, just because someone CAN’T get/stay pregnant doesn’t mean someone ELSE has to stay pregnant. Just because I had highly desired pregnancies with zero health-related issues for both myself and my progeny which resulted in two awesome little boys and an awesome little girl, doesn’t mean that every one else is in that situation. I am in a very privileged position to have a baby; I am married, financially stable, living in a great area, have easy access to birth control and health services, and have the emotional and financial means to have and raise a child with a high probability of success. In fact, I can do so multiple times without great effect on my lifestyle or spending habits.

It is very easy for me to say that abortion is a horrible thing when I have never been poor, alone, on drugs, abandoned, raped, etc. It is all fine and well for me to tell a person, “Hey, you do know what makes babies, right? SEX. So if you have sex, you should be prepared to bring a life into the world. If you find yourself pregnant after having sex, you really shouldn’t be surprised. Deal with the consequences of your actions!”

But not everyone is in my position. And yes, just because a person isn’t in my privileged position, doesn’t mean that abortion is automatically acceptable and right, but it certainly makes it a decision that is fraught with more peril, with harder hitting consequences than it would if it were me.

I know several women who have had abortions. Once, when I was in my twenties and thought I perhaps might be pregnant, (although truly, I would have had a better chance of winning the lottery since I was on birth control and I didn’t actually have sex with the person – the mind can truly be boggling and lacking sense sometimes) I seriously considered abortion as well. I doubt that most of the women who do end up getting abortions do so nonchalantly. I am sure, to this day, it is a decision that has greatly affected them and the trajectory of their lives.

Here then, is the heart of my conflict. I really don’t like either side’s rhetoric or reasoning. Let’s start with the Pro-Lifers. (Sweeping generalizations are about to follow. I mean, SWEEPING. You have been duly warned.) Also, I totally know that I am oversimplifying the arguments. Please do not give me “lessons” in the comments.

If I had to generalize and stereotype a Pro-Life person, they would most likely be white, male, Christian/evangelical, Republican (because of course, all Christians are Republican – but that is another topic altogether), and believe in the “sanctity of life.” And because they are more likely to be Republican, they will likely also be against welfare, government assistance to the poor (eg: food stamps, free lunches, early intervention programs), pro-prisons, harsh sentences, pro-guns, and pro-death sentence. Also, they are likely to support abortion ONLY if the mother’s life is in danger, or in cases of rape or incest/abuse as a compromise and because geez, if they don’t support it in these cases, that’s just SQUICKY and cruel.

But here’s the thing. How dare a person tell another person that she should have a baby when they cut off any support that may be necessary in the first place for a woman to successfully raise a child? How dare a person say they believe in the sanctity of life when it only applies to an unborn child – but not the life and quality of life this child will have when they are born? (And how dare they assume that if it’s such a problem for the mother to raise the child, the best alternative is adoption?) How dare a person say they believe in the sanctity of life when they are for capital punishment? Or allow an abortion if the father of the unborn child is a rapist or abuser? How are these lives any less precious or alive?

Now, if I had to generalize and stereotype a Pro-Choice person, they would also most likely be white, female, Democrat, liberal, and support government assistance, etc. You know, the opposite of what I just sweepingly generalized about Pro-Lifers. They will likely say that it is a woman’s body and therefore her choice. That life doesn’t necessarily begin at conception and that late-term abortions may or may not be acceptable (depending on how palatable they want to make abortion).

But I have beef with that also. If life doesn’t begin at conception, when does it begin? At what week would be randomly deemed appropriate? Because if we want to be intellectually honest, if it doesn’t begin at conception, why do we bother saving babies that are born early? Like, really, really, really premature? Is the fetus only a baby and worth saving if it is WANTED by the mother? Otherwise, then it’s not alive? What if only the father wants the baby? Is it still a baby? Half a baby? But fathers don’t matter because it’s not their body – even though half their DNA is at stake.

I know. I’m being an ass and perhaps, purposely obtuse to both sides. But both sides really aggravate me. There are human lives (both grown and growing) at stake. Who do we value more? Who do we disenfranchise? What does that say about us as a people and culture? And what does it say about us when most conversations around this topic devolve into name-calling and meaningless propaganda?

I don’t have any answers. (I mean, really. If I did, don’t you think I would’ve made a bjillion dollars off of it by now?) Because this is a human, fallen situation, there really are no happy endings that tie up all the loose ends. We are only left with imperfect solutions and broken people on both sides – who all need compassion, understanding, and love.

Gah, I have now ventured into cliché and a Hallmark greeting card. I apologize.

I still have no idea what I think is right. I am just supremely grateful (and cowardly in this sense) that I don’t have to be in the position to make real life applications on this subject.

Make of that what you will.

The Best Advice Cosmo Ever Gave Me

Like many young women, I used to have a Cosmopolitan magazine subscription. Why, I’m no longer sure since it’s really just the same magazine every single month with a different half-naked woman on the cover. However, between the sex advice that was always the same and the make-up tips for white women (with an occasional bone thrown at black women), there was always one or two “hard-hitting” journalistic attempts. Granted, the article that changed my life was not one of those pieces, but whatever.

I don’t remember the name of the article and am too lazy to use my Google-Fu and find it. However, here’s the gist: When you find yourself being jealous over someone, stop and figure out why. If it is something that you, too, can achieve, then stop being jealous. Be happy for that person. And then GO AFTER WHAT YOU WANT. Perhaps even ask that person for help or advice. But don’t just dwell in your jealousy. DO SOMETHING.

The idea was transforming.

I must admit. I never thought I was a jealous person, but I realized that I actually was. I just disguised it by being petty or mean-spirited and tearing down people who went after the things they wanted.

In high school, I was jealous of cheerleaders and dancers and folks in student government. I belittled them to make myself feel better, but really, what good did that do? I still wanted to be them – but I was too scared to try for any of these things. I told myself that it was a waste of time and not practical, but honestly, I was just afraid of trying and then failing.

Would my life have been better if I had been a cheerleader or a dancer or a student leader? Who knows? But how sad that I wasted four years of my youth being bitter and snide, always yearning from the sidelines? How much better would it have been for me to take a beginner’s dance class? Or run for student government? I could have failed miserably, but at least I would’ve tried. After all, to quote a sales line, “If you don’t ask (in this case, try), the answer is always, ‘No.'”

At UCLA, I was jealous of those in the arts and wanted desperately to be in plays and musicals and what not but was ALWAYS too afraid to audition. That way, I could stay in my comfort zone. I always had a good excuse: being involved with InterVarsity (a campus Christian group) or “studying” or pursuing romantic relationships. Worthy pursuits, but again, so sad.

After reading that article from Cosmo, I realized what an idiot I had been. Not to mention, coward! (Although, that’s no surprise, right?)

So I stopped. It was much easier than I thought it would be.

Did I have a stab of envy every time I saw a particular person in their awesome clothes and accessories? Well, what was to stop me from having a better sense of personal style? NOTHING. (After all, wasn’t that what my subscription to Cosmo was for?)

If I saw someone succeed at writing – I no longer stewed in envy or came up with excuses as to why I wasn’t succeeding. If I wanted to write – then I should write. If writing wasn’t worth the sacrifice, then I should stop whining and not worry about it. (I stopped whining.)

If I read my friend’s wife’s blog and saw all their fun pictures, crafts, outings and trips around the Bay Area with their beautiful children, instead of being envious or making remarks such as, “Well, they’re rich so they can do these things!” or other such nonsense, I copied her ideas. Blatantly stole the suggestions. I mean, I live in the Bay Area! I can go visit the Sequoias, or go to Tilden Park and ride steam trains! Who is stopping me from taking my kids to Dolores Park in SF? Or the beach? Or doing silly crafts at home? ONLY ME! And plus, I am rich! Sounds crass to say so, BUT IT’S TRUE.

I tried to turn my potential jealousy into a springboard for action and to turn my life into the life I wanted – or at least, thought I wanted. If after finding out what it takes to “get” something, I didn’t think it was worth it, at least I looked into it and discarded the option vs. always pining after what seemed to be the “greener” grass.

It was incredibly freeing.

Also, I got a better wardrobe, shoes, and accessories.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes, the jealousies concerned a simple fix such as shopping. Other times, it required sacrifice such as choosing sleep over TV shows or reading because I was always yelling at my kids due to exhaustion. (If you only talk to little children all day, giving those things up IS a sacrifice!)

Of course, sometimes, it is a little bit more difficult than merely copying someone. Thus far, most of the things I covet are easily resolved. But even if you are jealous of someone who has great relationships or personal skills, that can be learned! (It may take awhile and a lot of behavioral changes, but it is totally possible.) Or if you want to go back to school but it costs a lot, start figuring out and planning how you can afford it. Doing something is usually better than doing nothing.

My point is, stop wasting time on jealousy. If a person has or does something you’re envious of, find out how they do it. Copy them! Who cares? If you end up liking it, great! You now have what you wanted. You are now an object of envy. If you find out you hate it or it isn’t worth it to you, also great! How stupid to covet something you don’t even want? And how amazing is it to live a life where you are happy with your lot?

In closing, I wish to quote the wise Selena Gomez. “If you want it, come and get it!”

Happy hunting!