Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Keep your bon bons, I've got something better.

I've worked three years, two months and 10 days at my current job and have yet to see a raise or day off. I've recently earned a promotion by adding another client, but I fear that also means the privileges of unsupervised bathroom breaks and solo showers are on the way out.

I once thought my current position - full time stay at home mom, part time employee for our business- would mean enjoying the best of both worlds. I'd still get a paycheck and have something for myself, while being able to contribute to our family life financially, emotionally and be the one to care for our children. I wouldn't have to leave my child with anyone else and drive myself nuts with worry or guilt. I imagined caring for the children, taking better care of myself than I had been and greeting my husband with a hot dinner, clean house and the smile of a woman fulfilled. I just knew I'd find the time to finally work on that novel in my head.

Innocence is a beautiful and scary thing.

In reality, I haven't had a full night's sleep without responsibility for (and usually the waking, feeding, settling, or thoughts about) another human being since the end of 2004 when I hit the third trimester of my pregnancy. When I have time to write, it is sporadic and scattered, much like my hormone-riddled, sleep deprived brain. Maybe children think their mothers are dumb because we are - thanks to sleep deprivation, stress and hormones. I'm told this brain fog is temporary. I see moms with older children who give me hope, so I'm hanging in there...waiting for my brain to return.

No particular thing I do is that difficult, that's probably why outsiders seem to think I have the cushiest job ever. Feeding, changing, comforting, playing and teaching my children are things I enjoy immensely. Time with my children is rewarding and even changing diapers isn't a big deal. Well, there was the time the baby had a blowout when I didn't have a spare outfit or enough wipes and I had to change him on the seat of the car on a cold, windy day. That sucked, but we survived and he rode home with a new diaper and an origami type receiving blanket arrangment.

The thing is, the job isn't the sum of its parts. If it were, this would be a cake walk. Some people have said a stay at home mom sits around eating bon bons all day. I'm not sure what those are, but I haven't seen one in the last three years and some days I'm lucky to eat at all. Fact is, if I'm sitting down I'm either changing a diaper, nursing or doing something frivolous such as balancing the checkbook. Sometimes I don't even sit to do those things. With a three year old and a five month old, the majority of my day is centered around their food and poop. If you give them one, they're going to give you the other. And lots of it.

The three year old is potty trained at least, but any parent can tell you there's nothing like a potty trained three year old and a list of errands to run that will make you fondly reminisce about the days of diapers. Unless, of course, you want to see the toilets of every establishment you visit. I learned quickly which stores and offices have the cleanest and most accessible toilets. You know you're a parent when bathroom proximity and availability are a factor in choosing with whom you'll do business.

Sometimes I feel a bit nostalgic for the world I left behind, where my accomplishments were measurable. There was a time I could see the results of my work on a piece of paper, in numbers instead of abstract ideas. At times, I'm frustrated knowing many consider what I'm doing unimportant, insignificant, easy and "just" staying at home. I know women who consider staying home a sell-out, a step backward instead of progress. I don't doubt what I'm doing is important -there is value for our family specifically, even if the world does not see it. Even when I worry that I won't know whether I've done a good job until it's too late, until they have children of their own and fully realize how many mistakes I've made.

Then my daughter says, "Mommy I love you. You're my best friend," and it changes everything. My son giggles and squeals at my silly faces. I am reminded that I get to see their firsts, teach them to talk and be the one to witness the everyday miracles that happen in between the meals, diaper changes, meltdowns and crayola mustaches. These days will not last. My children will be grown before I know it, and while I sometimes get frustrated I've always known I will never regret spending time with them. I am incredibly blessed to know I won't have to look back and think "I wish I could have done that." Their mere presence is a miracle in our lives, I'm lucky to have them and lucky to have this opportunity. Not a day goes by, not even the hardest ones, without me knowing that.

Staying at home is a choice I've made, a choice I remake every day I spend with my children. It isn't always easy - often it isn't...it's just the right thing for our family. Some days my husband comes home to a hot meal, a somewhat clean house and fairly happy family. Sometimes he's greeted with a trashed house, a three year old who didn't nap, a teething infant and the news dinner will be delivered some time in the next 45 minutes. On those days I wonder who is more worried - him worrying I might quit or me thinking I might be fired. Each day, I juggle home, work and child care responsibilities and no day sees everything getting done. When I fall into bed at night, I know I'll be awake within a couple of hours at most and my to-do list will be longer than it was when I woke the morning before.

It's not unusual for my day to start with a feeding somewhere between 2 and 4 am, when the previous day ended with the 3 year old's midnight nightmare. Most days are a blur - similar enough to recognize I'm doing the same tasks over and over again, but unpredictable enough that I can't always know how long (or if) either of them will nap, whether I'll get much accomplished or if I should order pizza now or wait until after I've managed to burn dinner.

There was a time when women stayed at home, their sole career consisting of the caretaking of home, husband and children. It was the only option considered acceptable and while it was a lot of work it was at least considered acceptable, valued work. Now women have more options. We can have a career, or family, or even both....but no matter what we choose it will be judged and sometimes by those closest to us.

I'm lucky to have a husband who acknowledges the work of my day and values it, who recognizes that this is the decision we made together and I need his help to make it work. He does more in terms of help with the house and the kids than many fathers I know, and his support lightens my load in more ways than one.

At the end of the day, it doesn't matter whether people think my job is easy or if they think I have nothing to do but sit around all day. They have clearly never stayed up all night to watch a sick child breathe, tried to keep one child occupied with playdough while the other nurses or tried to balance the baby on their hip while they stir spaghetti sauce and explain to a preschooler why it rains. Even though their boss will never (hopefully!) try to join them in the bathroom, demand 24/7 shifts, throw some of their best work down on the floor (or throw it up on their shirt), or smear vaseline/lotion/baby powder all over their work area, they can continue to think their job sucks compared to mine.

Because it does.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I lost a bet.

There. Happy?

And yes, I always laugh when you act stupid. So there.

Better be nice. Metrosexuals I've never met are miserable without me.

Gnomes in the backyard. OH yeah.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

My husband.


I tried to write something that would sum up the last five years, but you know me - I just kept making the keyboard soggy. On the day we married, I knew I was lucky to have you..you can see it in the pictures of that day. (Luckily you can't see I was so excited I woke up many hours earlier than I should have, and called Grandma to chat because she was enough time zones away that it wasn't too early for her)

Today, I understand even more how lucky I am. You are my strong shoulder, my firm grasp, my best friend and the one who makes me laugh until milk comes out of my nose. You're the knight who comes riding in with my bra on your head to make me laugh as you shower me with caffeine, roses, dinner you picked up on the way home and the promise of a roudy game of scrabble or monkey sex (my choice) after the kids go to sleep. The stinker who once asked me if I wanted to play fairy princess, then handed me a new toilet brush and said "here's your wand!" You told me I wasn't broken at a time when I felt that's all I was. Even now, when I feel cracked, you just hand me some super glue and remind me to call the counselor.

Nobody knows all the trouble I've seen, except for you, and you love me anyway. You spoil me whether I feel like I deserve it or not, and you tell me I do. You do crazy things like telling me we can go shopping for my birthday and don't complain when it takes hours and our daughter introduces you to every toilet in sight (and many you have to search to find). I didn't hear a single complaint about the shopping trip where you had to buy stool softeners, deluxe super ultra absorbant pads, tucks and zoloft after our son was born. Not saying I'd feel super sorry for you, given my condition at the time, but still...you didn't blink an eye, you just did it.

I know we're done having children, and we're so incredibly lucky to have the two we've got, but seeing you with them makes me understand why some people have several. When I watched you teach our nephew to ride his bike, many years ago when we had only been together about 6 months, I instantly pictured you with our own blonde kiddo. At that moment I knew our story would ultimately be one about a family, though I could not have pictured the details of when or how.

It's been a rough year, and we've been through so much since last anniversary and this one. I think it speaks to our strength that we've gotten through it, we're doing okay. You still cop a feel or hump my leg as you pass me in the kitchen and I still look at you and think....

Happy Anniversary. I look forward to so many more.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

THAT Neighbor.

There are some 12-13 year old boys that are all fairly new to my neighborhood. Recently I've seen them all playing together and generally being good, though perhaps a bit mischievious. Nothing too harmful, until I noticed them start playing on the roof of the house across the street. (Where one of them resides)

I debated about whether to say something, or more specifically how to say it to the parents. I just don't want to see any of them get hurt, and I'd want to know. I haven't actually been home when the parents of two of the boys are, and the third lives a few streets over...I'm not sure where.

I had been contemplating a note (though I wondered about it being intercepted) when I ran into two of the boys at the store yesterday. They were polite, respectful and came up to me to say hi. I realized after the fact that I missed an opportunity. (Darn it!)

So today I went out to my car and saw all three boys playing on the roof. I wanted it to stop right away and I couldn't tell their parent right away because they weren't home, but darn it I didn't want to hear a scream a bit later and find out someone had gotten hurt either.

I yelled over (in as much as I could yell, my voice is almost gone) for the boys to come here for a minute, I needed their help.

They all three got down and came over, which I think speaks to the fact they are generally good boys. When they came over I had a moment of panic because there was nothing that would require them to actually listen to me, and I even briefly wondered if my car was going to see some eggs in the future. No matter, I carried on.

"Gentlemen, I really need your help."

All eyes were on me. I could see the gears turning.

"I've seen you playing on the roof."

Cue the "oh shit" looks.

"It's not acceptable and you know it, that's why it needs to stop now. I'm not the only one keeping an eye out in the neighborhood, and the next person to see one of you up on the roof is going to tell ALL of your parents. Got it?"

Solemn nods all around.

"Are you going to stay off the roof?"


"I don't want anyone getting hurt because they fell off or because their parents found out there were up there in the first place, so keep your word."

Then I asked them to help take some cookies off my hands.

They'll either love me or hate me, but I'll keep my word as long as they keep theirs. If I see them up there again, I'll let all the parents know. As a mom, I 'd want to know the first time, but this seemed a way to warn them without getting anyone in trouble and hopefully get them to stop.

Maybe I'm just incredibly naive, but it seemed worth a shot.