Defining My Brand

I’ll bet I’m not the only Mom whose family is hard-pressed to figure out what to get her each year for holidays and birthdays. I mean, think about it—Moms are usually pretty good at picking up on all sorts of clues and being the “gatherers”, getting gifts for everyone else, sometimes even stockpiling them in a special closet or drawer throughout the year– but leaving few clues about themselves. And let’s face it, since husbands and kids aren’t always very astute gatherers, they need really obvious clues.  Like a wish list.  But some years I can’t think of much to put on a list.  And sometimes, don’t you wish they could just figure it out on their own?


I realized recently that I don’t make that an easy task.  Since Mom is always serving others, self too often gets left behind.  For example, do my kids really have any idea what kind of music I like? When they’re in my car, I let them listen to their favorite radio stations.  But when they’re in my husband’s car, does he? Rarely.  Instead, they listen to sports talk radio, and CDs like The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, U2…


What about favorite treats? Do they know I love coffee-flavored Jelly Bellies? Or almond tea? Or fruit smoothies from Smoothie King? Or all 31 flavors at Baskin Robbins?  Probably not.  Mom is always buying their favorite treats, or taking them to their favorite places.  But if they had to get a gift certificate to Dad’s favorite restaurant, there would be no debate—Chipotle, where he heads whenever he’s in charge of dinner.  They also know he likes anything hot and spicy, as he makes his own salsa and eats it every day when he comes home from work. As well as jalapeno-laced Monterey Jack cheese.


Yep, an advertising executive would probably say that Andy “defines his brand” pretty well.


What about hobbies/free time? My family knows I scrapbook once in awhile, and go to an exercise class once in awhile, and read the newspaper when I can…but spending “free time” is something they rarely see me doing…Most of the time, they see me driving, or cooking, or working at the computer, or helping Emmie with her piano practicing, or walking the dog…on weekends, I’m usually grocery shopping, cleaning, or taking them to activities.  While my husband uses weekends to get a lot done around the house as well, like yard work and car repairs, he usually manages to carve out time for fun and relaxation, like an hour of Rollerblading around town and sometimes a 90-minute circuit training workout at the Y.  The girls and I know not to ask him to do anything on Sunday afternoon, when life “stops down” for him for three hours when the Dallas Cowboys are on TV…I’ve often wondered, what would happen if Mom carved out three hours for herself every Sunday afternoon? Or Saturday?  My immediate first thought is, “How selfish!!” Then I think about the practical aspects. I know from experience that when my weekend has included a “Saturday morning coffee” or long trips to the mall (neither of which I consider “relaxing”), things get very behind around here.  (When the pantry is bare on Monday morning, it’s not a good way to start off the week!) 


But when I really think about it, am I role modeling the kind of person I want my daughters to be? I have become like my own mother in certain ways, and I’m not sure I like that.  It really was always easier to think of gifts to give my dad because his interests were easy to see—he adored golfing, he loved to fish and hunt, and he liked tinkering at his work bench.  He liked University of Iowa football, chocolate-covered cherries and TV shows like Mannix, Kojak, The Streets of San Francisco and The Rockford Files… But what about Mom? How did she spend her time? Always in the service of others, with club meetings and an occasional bridge game thrown in.  We’d get her gifts like stationery and kitchen gadgets…


It was harder for Moms to think outside the box back in the 50’s and 60’s… more husbands (my dad included) really would have come unglued if their wives had carved out a unique “identity” for themselves. But good grief, it’s almost 2010.  I think my family needs to know more about who I am, what I like to do.  There needs to be more John Legend and Roseanne Cash playing in my car, and maybe life needs to “stop down” once in awhile for what I want to do for fun. 
If I could just figure out what that is…


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