Thursday, July 30, 2009


Here are things I can do fairly easily: corral documents and family and apply for (and receive) a sizable home equity line of credit; determine when wood screws or drywall anchors are required to attach a table to a wall; stick to my guns when a contractor suddenly changes the payment arrangement for a renovation; pick out age- and size-appropriate clothes for children; pack for a week away at a cottage, including frozen food and chilled wine as well as dishtowels.

I can change my cellphone provider and plan. Hire staff and supervise them. Patch holes in the wall. Till and reseed a lawn. Talk a kid down from a tantrum. Use power tools. Negotiate government rebate forms. Get a good deal on a rental car. Determine in-season produce and eat accordingly. Understand drug side effects, and discuss interactions with pharmacists.

I can also do yoga, pretty well. Discuss my girl's behavioural issues with daycare providers, balancing my maternal protectiveness with developmental goals. Get poop stains out of sheets. Decipher the gas bill. Understand what length pants should be hemmed to. Know what looks good on me. Make soup stock from scratch.

In my 30s, I have suddenly become competent. I mean, really competent. At a number of things I had no idea about in my twenties. It feels like growing up. I'm overviewing the list I've just typed out and it seems a lot of what I know is about money and home maintenance and housekeeping and parenting--having neither money, nor house, nor kids in my twenties, not surprising that this stuff didn't come up before. But when it did, and I was totally unprepared, it was a little disorienting. How could I, for example, be someone's mom when I routinely bought the wrong size onesies at Bonnie Togs and had to return them? How could I own a home when I didn't know who to call to make sure the heat would come on when we moved in?

I have complained and complained and complained about the minutiae, the trivia, the sheer errand-ness of my grownup life since I began to live it in earnest five years agot (career! engagement! marriage! home ownership! pregnancy! baby! all in the first 18 months of that time). It has all, however, added up to competence, and suddenly, I feel stronger: I march through my life with purpose and goals and the ability to make things happen in a way I simply wasn't able to before.

I don't have any fewer things to do now, I'm just much more able to do them without a major cognitive burden in addition to the general drudgery of it all. Car making weird noises when we turn? S'okay. It's the brakes--nothing functional, remember I had that looked into? Ooh, that's a big gouge in the trim, let me get the wood filler for that, the Polyfilla is not the right stuff to use. I'll sand it down in a bit. New shoes for the fall? Well, I think a 9 1/2 will fit until Christmas, without being so big in September that they fall off.

Done and done.

Never underestimate the power of the multitasking mom. She's learning stuff, you know. Almost ready to take over the world. Or, will be once the ringing in my ears stops from this morning's killer tantrum ... now let's go confab with some other parents to strategize how to deal with the next one ...



Beck said...

It's funny - there's this huge difference between what we THINK will make us happy in life and the oddly banal things that actually do end up making us happier. Competency - the adult ability to handle things - is one of the biggest balwarks of happiness that I know.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I feel less competent, more fearful and more insecure. I feel like almost every day I run up against something else I ought to know about/know how to do but don't, or feel in danger of losing something dear to me. Like a parent or a house... It was in my early 20s, when I moved overseas and miraculously didn't die, that I felt most competent.

I envy your self-confidence!

slouchy said...

I love this.

I don't think practical competencies should be underestimated.

Relatedly, being "street smart" is as important an intelligence as any of the proposed intelligences...

Bea said...

Wait, you mean those gouges in the trim can be FIXED?

Mandy said...

Someone told me that your thirties are amazing, but the forties, hold on. World domination can happen in that decade.

I hope that's true as I run full tilt to that decade.

alejna said...

Go you! That is an impressive set of abilities.

Maybe it's just the day (and this old that's fogged up my head), but I feel like the most I can manage is to come up with excuses for why I'm not getting stuff done.

It would probably helped my mood to work on a list of figuring what competencies I have actually developed. (It would also keep me from doing my work...)

Cheryl said...

I think that it's awesome that you actually hem pants, that kind of thing throws me over the edge.

I do feel competent on most days-until the three of mine team up and try to overthrow me!

Very nice post, it's inspiring!

Jessica said...

Great post - you inspire me in moments like this.