I recently threw out the white plastic Pampers wipe box that I’ve had for the 4 ½ years I’ve been a mother. I had my last laugh about that stupid thing. See, when I was pregnant and getting Helena’s nursery together, I searched far and wide for the least visibly offensive wipe box. After all, the changing station – atop a midcentury birch Heywood-Wakefield dresser – was visible from our apartment’s front door. It was important that the view upon entering was stylish.
Today? I could give a shit.
That dresser is in the same spot, and as I type it is covered with a mess of once-worn and mismatched pajamas, that weird turtle nightlight that casts stars on the ceiling, Baby Vicks VapoRub and an array of sippy cups half-full of stale water. Letting go of the notion of a décor-correct home has made the difference between neurosis and sanity. This is just one item on a growing list of things that makes me so much happier now that I no longer care about them.
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Here is my list of seven things I no longer give a shit about since becoming a single mom:
- What my husband does for a living. I used to love bragging about my now ex’s job. It was a really, really cool job, and he was really, really good at it. But he doesn’t have that job any more. And he isn’t my husband any more. Plus, I have a pretty cool job myself.
- Where I vacationed. Before I had kids–and even after my daughter was born–I used to travel all over, all the time. Europe, Cuba, Brazil, Laos – not to mention sundry domestic locales. Now, I feel fortunate that I can fly to see my family in Illinois a couple of times a year, and that a friend and I rented a lake house a couple hours away last summer.
- How my kids are dressed (This is true only most of the time. Let’s get real. The holidays are school pictures are coming up!). Good mothers pick their battles. Even though the dress code at preschool is rather strict – standard-issue plaid jumper and white blouse, black tights and shoes – Helena and her strong fashion opinions often go to class wearing a getup like the above. Which I think is awesome.
- Planning every detail of my future. Until my life unraveled a few years ago, I loved to plan and scheme. I think it gave me some sense of control to map out my life. Plus, it’s just fun to brainstorm where we might live, the kind of house we would buy (and decorate!), the career feats I could accomplish. Today I find more meaning in working hard, enjoying everyday things as they come, and being open to surprises.
- That people don’t get what I do. When I first started telling people that I was a freelance writer, friends and strangers would often say rude things like, “Oh! It must be so HARD to make a living!” And I would get defensive and think of nasty things to say while I stewed. Then I stopped giving a shit. And you know what happened? At the exact same time I let that go, people stopped saying snotty things on the subject. Life lesson learned. That you like my shoes. Or my haircut, or my couch. Because really (and I’m talking to women only here – you know how we are with complimenting each other!), if the only opener you can muster is about my belt or my eyeliner, we have nothing in common. Say all the nice things you want, but I really don’t give a shit about you.
- What people think. Now, if you tell me you don’t care what anyone thinks, I’d say you’re a sociopath. There are a handful of people whose opinion I hold highly – and if they call me out on stuff, I listen. But the rest of the time I don’t give a shit what you think. Really, I don’t. Because I’m old and wise enough to believe that I’m really doing my best to be a decent person. Maybe you should stop giving a shit, too.
- Feeding my kids perfect food. When Helena was a baby, I nursed her until she was 16 months and made all her baby food from scratch in a little food processor — including an assortment of millet, and barley and other grains I don't normally eat. Everything was organic (duh), and there was hardly any sugar. Now? Not a day goes by that my kids don't wolf down some syrupy, chocolatey item, and you will occasionally find a pizza and store-brand fish sticks in my freezer.
- Squeezing my ass into a size 4. Now I'm totally content being a size 6. OK, OK. For a while there I was rocking an occasional 8. But I'm back down to a 6. And sometimes a 4. That dress I bought a couple of weeks ago was an XS, though. Really – do you want me to send pictures? I'm a freaking 6, OK? (But sometimes a 4.)
- When people are snippy and bitchy and say things that hurt my feelings. I used to think you needed to talk about stuff. You don't. Unless a relationship is in peril, give people the benefit of the doubt. Just let it go.
- That your husband irritates you. Now, everyone has their challenges. My marital status doesn't make mine worse than anyone else's. In fact, lending an ear to my friends struggling with difficult marriages is just part of being a good friend, and I'm happy to oblige. When married, I used to gripe about my husband's many annoying habits. But being on the other side of divorce, you learn that petty irritations must be let go (see #10). And if that is all you have to contribute to our conversation, you are boring and small and a crappy wife and I don't give a shit about you.
- The details of my body. Like most women, I used to have little hang-ups about what went where. My boobs were kinda small, my nipples a weird shape. Boo hoo. Then I nursed two babies who would become the fleshiest, healthiest pumpkins you ever saw. Helena's bulbous cheeks looked like they could have launched off her face, and for a while were so big they crippled her tiny smile. Have you ever seen a baby walrus? With all its folds? That was Lucas. And suddenly my little breasts became the most amazing organs I'd ever met.
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.