Learn to be amused

Who knew that Julia Child, who revolutionized the idea of the home cook in America, spent a good chunk of her young years rudderless?

I took on the challenge to #LiveLikeJulia for a week and adopted Rule #3, Learn to be Amused, from Karen Karbo’s new book Julia Child Rules. I expected it to include lessons in laughing at unfunny situations; instead, the chapter suggests we might be happier if we bided our time enjoying ourselves instead of constantly seeking self-improvement.

Julia Child spent a bulk of her 20s living at home with her indifferent father, hanging out at the country club and not knowing what to do with her life. Yet her diary entries weren’t filled with laments about her directionless lifestyle. “All I want is to play golf, piano and simmer, and see people, and summer and live right here,” she wrote. She might not have found a career or a mate or a passion, but she enjoyed herself while she figured it all out.

I, on the other hand, have always been driven. During graduate school, I taught undergrad classes, taught GRE prep courses and freelanced while staying dedicated enough in my coursework to earn the Kappa Tau Alpha outstanding graduate student award come graduation. My planner was full of lists; my schedule was micromanaged. The little down time I had was overshadowed by unfinished tasks.

Needless to say, I was a little stressed.

Now, as a mother of an infant, my daily accomplishments look a little different. Today, I:

  • Fed Edie. A lot.
  • Cared for Edie. This included letting her nap on me (she tends to wake up within moments of my putting her down, even in a swing), shushing her when she cried, changing diapers, narrating our every move (“And now we put your other arm in the onesie!”) and enough bouncing to get my butt into pre-baby shape.
  • Wrote this blog post. I do most of my typing one-handed on an iPad while I hold Edith.
  • Ate lunch. Yes, this counts as an accomplishment in my world.

Sometimes I stress about all the pitches I’m not writing, the projects I’m not working on and, of course, the fact that our floor hasn’t been vacuumed in at least a month. But there’s much pleasure to be taken in the miraculous ordinariness of motherhood

Rule #3 of Julia Child Rules was a good reminder of that. After finishing the chapter (while holding a sleeping Edith), I closed my computer. I brushed my cheek on the fine down that only partially covers Edith’s head. I noticed the lace-like pattern of veins on her eyelids. I searched for traces of myself and Eric in her features. I marveled at how huge her hands and feet look, compared to their size eight weeks ago.

Our tiny caterpillar is expert at sneaking an arm out of her snuggly swaddler.
Our tiny caterpillar is expert at sneaking an arm out of her snuggly swaddler. (Please ignore the week-old newspaper and dog-chewed popsicle stick on the floor.)

I did my best to push aside my mental to-do list. I didn’t set Edith down to crank out a story idea or put away dishes. I held my baby girl and felt her breath rise and fall on my chest.

Now is not the time when I make strides in my career. I never had a home clean enough for HGTV before, and I certainly won’t now that nearly every surface is covered in burp cloths and baby gear litters our minimal square footage. And that’s ok.

In fact, it’s more than ok. This is an irreplaceable time of our lives together. I want nothing more than to “simmer” here. I think Julia Child would approve.

0 thoughts on “Learn to be amused

  • September 5, 2013 at 10:07 am

    Love this. And what a sweet photograph. The popsicle stick lends authenticity; don’t fret over it.

    • September 6, 2013 at 7:55 am

      Thank you Deb! I like that, “authenticity” — my life isn’t messy, it’s just authentic!

  • October 2, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    Love this post and the image of “simmering.” I have to admit, this idea has helped me enjoy whatever moment I’m in. Thank you Catherine!


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