- Not expect the house to look a certain way (like "clean" or "presentable") until five years from now. Not in the sense that it's going to take me five years to clean the house (I'll grant that it's a pit at the moment, but it's a small pit), but in the sense that it will be five years before both children stop attending the daycare that adds three hours of commuting to my day, and before they are both old enough to either play unsupervised for long stretches of time or "help" without making every task take twice as long. I am away from home nearly twelve hours every day due to a full-time job and the aforementioned commute. And even if we could afford a house cleaner while having two kids in full-time daycare, I am 100% the type of person who would clean in preparation for the house cleaner out of shame, so it would be a stupid waste of money.
So I'm trying to tell myself that I've got five years before I'm a Bad Person if my house isn't spotless, and in the meantime I should just be grateful for the dishwasher and for the many improvements Berowne makes around the place. We have a fenced-in yard now! We can entertain without trying to cram guests into a tiny house that looks like a dusty children's museum exploded in it! Or we could if our neighbors weren't engaged in an enormous construction project for, like, the fourth summer in a row. Perdita naps in Berowne's professional-quality sound-blocking earmuffs, and that is not a joke. I hate summer.
- Stop comparing my weight gain and physical appearance to that of other women's pregnancies.
HA HA HA! In all our fucking dreams. The hot new thing on the internet - and I swear I come across this everywhere, I am not looking for it - is professional fitness models / trainers showing off how tiny they remain throughout pregnancy. Now, logically I know that if my paycheck was potentially going to stop the minute my pregnancy was visible, and not resume until I looked exactly as I had done pre-pregnancy, I would find a way to work out and restrict my eating throughout the nausea and the cravings and the exhaustion. I would have to. These women are my worst nightmare while they are being held up as examples for admiration, but they are also human beings who probably (I want to think) are sitting there with calculators working out how long they can make their savings last once they start showing, and who have nights where they would trade all the likes on their Instagram photos (is that how Instagram works? I don't even know) for the ability to eat a hot dog or four.
Anyway, I can usually talk myself out of comparing myself to women whose careers revolve around how they look. Not when I'm feeling especially pregnancy-brain-stupid and therefore equally insecure about my own job security, but what can you do. The main problems with comparison are around women I actually know, friends and co-workers, who either stayed tiny during their pregnancies (one co-worker, to whom I am normally comparable in height and weight, didn't show until around month seven and was the size I am now two days before she delivered) or totally got the glow and the glorious hair and looked like damn earth goddesses. I am just, well, huge, and clumsy, and sort of visibly and piteously uncomfortable in my flesh.
All bodies are different. All pregnancies are different. I need to remember that in July and August I'd be retaining gallons of water weight under the least pregnant of circumstances, and though my ankles wouldn't be quite the loaves of bread they are now by the end of the day, they would be somewhat muffinly. So of course I feel fatter now than I did in January 2014, equally pregnant with Perdita. And normally I wouldn't be weighing myself in the summer, either (or much at all).
I'm trying to trust my body, even though in addition to all the belly weight gain it is quite sure that to grow a baby one requires love handles the size of two juvenile walruses, with an equal walrus-equivalent strapped to each thigh. And when that doesn't work, go back to what my therapist pointed out: that pregnancy is like puberty in so many ways. Your body changes drastically, complete with metabolism changes and weight gain that feel literally, nightmarishly uncontrollable if you were a skinny pre-adolescent like I was; everyone is suddenly paying attention to your body in a sexualized way with which you are not comfortable, and frequently commenting upon it, when you are already self-conscious to the nth degree; and there is massive societal pressure to perform your female existence to impossibly perfect standards of the kind set by movie teenagers played by 25-year-old models / carefully-edited-for-social-media versions of rich white sanctimommies. And when I think of that little Beatrice going through all this during puberty, and how no one could have been harder on her than she was herself, I want to wrap her up in a judgment-proof force field and tell her, over and over, You are so much more than perfect.
I can't do that for her/us then. I can do it for us now. And I am going to try to keep that in mind when I fall back into the self-judgment patterns.
Well, this got away from me a bit, which my whining tends to do. I actually do have some books to document, which I will do quickly:
The Brontes: Wild Genius on the Moors: The Story of a Literary Family, by Juliet Barker. Huge and comprehensive and quite excellent, even if the conclusion was that you would not have wanted to be friends with Charlotte or Emily. (We already knew that.)
The Dream Lover, by Elizabeth Berg. A novel about George Sand that was, well, bad.
Sea of Poppies, by Amitav Ghosh. Oh man, this was good! Amazingly-written historical novel that I would recommend to anyone. My one quibble is that the dialect in which some characters speak gets a tiny bit old, but it's not Safran Foer levels, or even close.
Shylock is My Name, by Howard Jacobson. So, the way publishers put out a series of myths retold a while back, Hogarth Publishing is putting out a series of modern retellings of Shakespeare plays. I read two this month, and both suffered enormously (I thought) from having the play in question exist in the book's universe, to the extent that characters quote from it, and yet they never remark on the similarities of the play's plot to the events of their lives (or even on having all the people they know have the exact same names as Shakespeare's characters). I just do not understand that decision. And this one, while quite clever in its modern twists on the original characters, was a deeply unpleasant experience for the same reason that watching "The Merchant of Venice" over and over for as long as it would take you to read a book would be: every character is more or less horrible. I skimmed, not going to lie.
Slow Kill, by Michael McGarrity. A pretty bad procedural. The murderer is exactly who everyone thinks it is from the beginning, and she's never given a motive beyond "trophy wives are inherently evil to the point of acting completely against their own interests", and I wasn't at all invested.
They All Love Jack: Busting the Ripper, by Bruce Robinson. Robinson is a lot angrier about what he perceives as false theories about who Jack the Ripper was than I really think the occasion warrants. Also he's super-homophobic. I finished this because the level of research impressed me, but I think my time could have been better spent.
The Gap of Time, by Jeanette Winterson. The other Hogarth Shakespeare, this one a retelling of "The Winter's Tale" (with characters quoting from the play but never drawing connections between it and things like an adopted daughter named Perdita, for heaven's sake). It was as well written as we can expect Winterson to be, but the beginning was a very rough slog, especially since Leo/Leontes' musings on his wife's supposed infidelity were literal porn. I suppose it makes sense for them to be, in the modern day, but those were not the best couple of chapters I have ever read, and the book never really quite recovered for me after setting that tone.
May the weather be cooler where you are, and may we all find a way to do a current kindness to our former selves.