jen groeber: mama art

4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.

Motherhood, Sisyphus and the Fitbit

I am Sisyphus. At least that’s what I tell myself most days as I walk through the house matching shoes and placing them in rows, hanging jackets on hooks, replacing pillows on the couch, putting toilet paper rolls back on toilet paper dispensers, collecting Legos to put into the Lego bin, all while amassing an ever-growing pile of dirty towels and socks and pajamas that I lug up the stairs to the laundry room.


August 2014

And for that one brief moment standing in place with the clothes dropped into the washer I breathe the scent of laundry detergent and think, “I did it! I climbed the mountain, woot, woo-…” and then CRASH the Lego bin is overturned and I run to the banister to peer down at… wait for it, apocalyptic Lego mayhem.


Welcome to Lego mayhem.
November 2013

And so I trudge back down the stairs gathering the shoes, amassing the dirty towels, pocketing the Monopoly money, and I begin again. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Really, it’s actually almost amazing. I mean, a whirling tornado of garbage travels behind me, a Tazmanian Devil stalking my every effort at order, spinning pillows off of couches and books off shelves, and Legos into every nook and cranny.

And at the end of the day when collections of words like, “Put your shoes in your cubby”, “Don’t hit your sister” and “PickuptheLegos, pickuptheLegos, pickuptheLegos” drift near the ceiling like helium balloons from last week’s party, then my husband comes home and he kisses me. And to show me he cares about my well-being he averts his eyes from the pillows on the floor peppered by Legos and the piles of dirty dishes (What did we even use all these dishes for? Is that Play-doh in that pie pan? Is that an earthworm in a bowl?!) and he lovingly asks, “So, um, what did you do today??”


“I am Sisyphus,” I want to say. “I feel like I did everything but apparently I’m right back where I started. Now move so I can (huff, puff) roll this scritch-scratching stone up this (huff, puff) mountain… Again.”

Enter Fitbit.

We are both competitive, my husband and I. And we need to be go, go, go people. Right before a vacation to Nova Scotia, early in our marriage, we received cheap pocket pedometers as a party favor. Seriously. And we were so inspired to clock steps that we walked blisters into our heals on Nova Scotia’s gorgeous, foggy landscape. Blisters.

Fast forward ten years and my husband heard about these cool updated computer savvy pedometers. Brilliant! We went all in. Two Fitbits delivered to our doorstep, a quick lesson from my husband on all the days’ fun facts readily available at our individual  accounts, and we were off.

Now, while I occasionally have found myself doing jumping jacks in front of my computer in my pajamas at 11:56 trying desperately to reach my day’s “goal” before the clock strikes midnight, and while perhaps my husband and I did do a manic dance party on New Year’s Eve after downing a glass of champagne in order to see who could make their arm buzz before the new year (I did, but I may be remembering wrongly because the champagne really went right to my head with all that dancing…), well, I have to say that Fitbit, in the aggregate, makes me feel better.

I haven’t written the next great novel or helped give medical care to desperate addicts, or worked to achieve legal reform in order to protect unions, or protected the right of same sex couples to marry, or written a script for CSI, like all the people who lived on my floor senior year of college. (Over-achievers…) and sometimes this breaks my heart. A tiny piece of me is disappointed in me, hungering for their seemingly greener grass just on the other side of their heroic Facebook updates. How have I failed to do anything of import?! Anything!

But my Fitbit can tell you: my feet have weight, these footsteps exist. At the end of a positively productless day, when I haven’t created anything or gone anywhere of import or talked to a Supreme Court justice, when my husband asks what I’ve done on this day, I can tap my arm and watch the five lights dance. At least 15,000 steps, often 20,000, and occasionally beyond. I have no idea where those steps happened, which child caused the greatest contribution to my forced march. Was it the berry-picking, the learning to ride a two-wheeler, the building of the dam along the edge of the sandbar on the beach at sunset, the dance party, the laundry or dishes or damn Legos? Could be anything. Likely it’s everything.


A sand dam at sunset equals 2,000 steps.
August 2014

Last night, after a few days spent with one of those truly amazing college roommates of mine, my husband asked if I was jealous of what she did. “Jealous? Um, no…” I replied. “Do you wish you were out there too?” he wondered. “That’s not quite it either.” Because I love that I can live this life with my children. I’m not sure I can even imagine doing this any other way. But there is something. In gaining this beautiful life with these amazing kids, I gave something else up, something I can’t put into words most days. And it’s okay.

Then my husband told me he was proud of me. He said he was grateful.

Someday they may look back and say that they felt like I contributed to helping them grow into happy, healthy adults. Someday they may marvel and wonder how I did it all. (Probably neither, actually. They’re pretty full of themselves and I probably yell too much.)  Maybe someday I’ll actually do something remarkable in its own right again. But for now this is enough. I did some stuff. I’m not sure what, but I did some big, big stuff.

I’m here, rolling my stone up the motherhood mountain. Again. And Fitbit is along for the ride.


High Intensity Intervals in the driveway, yo.
And yes, the kids usually join us.
August 2014

18 comments on “Motherhood, Sisyphus and the Fitbit

  1. meridith
    August 8, 2014

    I love my fitbit. It sounds silly to say, but it completely changed the way I moved through life. Isn’t it amazing the things you think of to get those extra few steps in to reach 15000, 20000? Love.

    • jgroeber
      August 8, 2014

      Oh, thank you for getting it. I’m amazed at how springy and happy I get sorting the piles and piles of laundry into smaller piles by room for folding and putting away. It’s a full body workout, bending to pick stuff up and then throw it into all these piles. And when I’m thinking about my Fitbit I’m moving like a jumping bean so I get more steps. If someone ever filmed me they’d say I was full on cuckoo bird.

  2. adrianapridemore
    August 8, 2014

    These words could have come straight from my head. I feel the exact same way with the kids, the friends, and the motherhood mountain. My birthday is next week so I’ve been thinking, “what have I done with my soon to be 39 years?” Then I get depressed in comparison to friends but then I lol at my kids and home and husband and think,”Oh yeah.”

    • jgroeber
      August 8, 2014

      I think that’s one of the nicest thing I could read, “these words could have come straight from my head…” because part of it is realizing we’re not alone. We don’t stop being relevant just because we start being Sisyphus (and the Lego-quicker-picker-upper.) And in the end, it’s those moments of pure joy and lol that make it all worth it.
      And 39 years?! So young! Enjoy your collagen. That’s all I have to say about that. Ha!

      • adrianapridemore
        August 9, 2014

        Haha young? Well with all of us parents it’s not the years it’s the mileage!

  3. Margie S
    August 9, 2014

    As I sit here reading your blog post, waiting for the potatoes to finish cooking for tomorrows gluten/dairy free nephew- friendly, sleepover breakfast, (after consuming a couple of yummy, blood orange margaritas earlier today), I have to wonder what my Fitbit would be saying! Perhaps it would be blinking as a result of too many useless calories and not enough steps. Maybe I will give that one a try. I am happy to read that your husband shows pride and gratitude for all that you do for your family. You deserve it! Remember, success is measured in so many different ways!! Yes, I can identify with the Groundhog day existence. Play, rewind and play, again. But that can be good sometimes, especially when you are raising children.

  4. Jenn Berney
    August 10, 2014

    Oh, the Legos. Most days I forget how absolutely ridiculous they are, but you are right. It is absolutely sisyphean to keep up with them. My older son spreads them all over his floor, I spend days badgering him to pick them up, he finally does, and then: my younger son breaks into his room and dumps them all over the floor.

    • jgroeber
      August 14, 2014

      Legos should all come with a small metal implant in them and then for $50 we could buy a HUGE magnet that would pull any Legos from within 20 ft. right up into the Lego bin. ZAP! (But I do have to say… it’s hard not to love a toy that has helped occupy so many kids happily and healthfully for so many years. Even if they are overpriced and hard on the feet.)

  5. Kelly L McKenzie
    August 11, 2014

    And have you stepped on one of those charming lego bits with bare feet? Absolutely nothing like it. I am delighted to report (sorry) that we donated all three jumbo containers of lego a few years ago to a horrified friend. She now gets to step on them and endlessly tidy them up and yes, I am sure she is sticking pins into a photo of me as I type this …
    As for Fitbit well you are the second person to rave on about them to me. I know I must get one. If only to tap my arm and watch the five lights dance.
    Great, great post. So well written.

    • jgroeber
      August 14, 2014

      Ah, thank you for visiting! And as much as I can’t stand cleaning them up, I would have LOVED that bin of Legos. Because they are SO expensive, and also, because they occupy my kids FOREVER. I mean, they will play with them for hours. They just never clean them up!
      Fitbit is my friend. Although it keeps breaking. Maybe from overuse? Ha!

  6. donofalltrades
    August 14, 2014

    I don’t know about fitbits, but creating the sand damn with the kids is better than talking to any Supreme Court Justice any day of the week. You sounds like a pretty spunky, amazing woman. Your husband has good reason to be proud of you and you of him, for making it so you can do what you do. Or something like that.

    • jgroeber
      August 14, 2014

      Fitbit reminds you to keep moving. Unless you become obsessed by it, then it becomes something reminding you that you haven’t moved enough. Unless you have a job where you walk thankless miles each day. Then it’s a nice little pat on the back.
      And thank you for the compliment. Sand dams are amazing. (And so is my husband and the opportunity I get to bug my crazy kids 24 hours a day. 😉 )

  7. fromanothrmothr
    August 16, 2014

    I gotta get a Fitbit if it can make me “see,” even a little bit, that my life at home even exists. I’m still stuck with the broken heart on the wrong side of the over achievers’ Facebook posts. And my kids are about to leave home so I really do have to face the facts of “the choice” and find a way forward. Enjoyed your post and knowing my feelings and fears are other mothers’ too.

    • jgroeber
      August 24, 2014

      You are not alone. That’s for sure. My grandfather sent my mother a Family Circle cartoon with a scene of the house and everyone is still, but the mother is in motion. There’s a dotted red line that loops and circles throughout the whole house. So even in 1980 my mother needed a Fitbit! If a GPS tracker ever made a picture of the path of our carpool driving, errands and crazy walking in circles around the house, it would be like a Jackson Pollock painting.

  8. gregmercer601
    August 29, 2014

    So many little things we do for others in our lives. For me, one child (smaller version of your catastrophe of four), one wife, a cat, an endless stream of relatives, patients and strangers. What does it all add up to in the end? Hard to say, more likely quite impossible. Ripples extend forever in time and space, don’t they? We each do what we can, and that’s the best we can do. P.S: happy with that Fit Bit?

    • jgroeber
      September 1, 2014

      Ripples extending forever in time and space… Yes, exactly. And doing what we can is the name of the game: in German they say it Als ich kann, and it’s something of a mantra for me. And as for that Fitbit, it stopped working! And it’s my second one in less than a year. So I’m waiting for the kids to go back to school so I can sit on the phone to customer service for infinite hours to try and get it replaced. 😉 Als ich kann, right?

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This entry was posted on August 7, 2014 by in Surviving Motherhood, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , .

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