Never Work A Day In Your Life

When Goldy and Beauty were just bitsy little girls, bursting with imagination and melodrama, I was lucky enough to stay home with them and witness all the fun. I loved it then and I love it now. There isn’t anything else I’d rather do. Of course, I had kids before I had any sort of career, so I don’t have a lot to compare it to. I’ve had jobs, sometimes two at a time, but the only career I’ve ever had was teaching preschool. I think it is safe to say I’m doing what I am meant to be doing.

The unfortunate thing about loving your job is that it leads to the misunderstanding that you must not be working, especially by those that are less than happy with their own careers. I was blissfully ignorant to this fact when the girls were little. My (ex)husband would come home on lunch break from his office supply delivery job if he was in the neighborhood and ask how the morning was. “Great, we played outside.” What are you doing now? “Folding laundry, watching One Life To Live. We’re probably going to use sidewalk chalk in the afternoon.”  Then he’d come home and the house would still be torn up from Beauty and her own personal civil unrest.  She was a one baby crusade against order. Dinner might be cooking but it wasn’t anything fancy. Not only was I exhausted but we were not wealthy. I was a stay at home mom, he delivered paper. Do the math. Sometimes dinner wasn’t cooking. Sometimes my ass was planted on the couch watching Friends. In fact, just assume that was every Thursday for the run of the show. (I always fed the kids, I’m not against  macaroni for dinner every so often.)

This inevitably lead to discussions about my responsibilities and priorities. The house should be clean. Dinner should be made and edible. I should probably get dressed. Some people are so particular. I made myself a sandwich and he knew his way to the kitchen. And seriously, pants are overrated.

All the stay at home moms are nodding right now and all the working parents are raising their eyebrows. Am I right?

It took me a long time to understand the real source of our issue. My friend once told him if he wanted a housewife he probably shouldn’t have married someone who lists “sparkly” as her favorite color, but that was not the real problem. If you want to get specific, the real problem was respect, but we won’t go there today. Today we’ll explore the misunderstanding of the work that is done as a stay at home parent. He thought I was playing outside, watching my stories and doing crafts, so he couldn’t comprehend why there was no time or energy to clean. And the sad truth is, I didn’t understand, either, not when the girls were young. I did clean, but I always felt like it should be easier, like taking care of the house should be a snap for a stay at home mom, so between my own ideas and his words, I felt like a failure.

Today, sitting in the sunshine, enjoying my children and my job, I remembered that feeling all too clearly and see the error of my ways. If you asked me about my day I would tell you we played outside all morning, we ate a delicious lunch and then while the kids napped I took some time for myself to write a blog. Later we will do some crafts. Then I will make dinner, watch TV and go to bed. If you have never done my job this probably sounds like a cakewalk to you. You probably wonder why making dinner is such an ordeal if all I did was play outside and color all day. You worked all day, right? I get why you are tired. Your job is called work. It probably sounds dreadful to me. Unless you are an event coordinator or a road manager for a cool band or something. I can completely understand why you are exhausted and would rather order pizza.

The problem is in the communication, a problem I never expected I would have. When someone asks me about my day I rarely think to say, “Little S  took off his diaper and pooped all over his bed during the morning nap he had to take because he was biting me and literally crying over spilled milk. While I was downstairs cleaning it up he and his friend took everything out of the “no no drawer” and spread it all over the living room.” When I talk about our lovely time outside in the sunshine I don’t bother to mention the main reason my presence is required is to keep four kids hellbent on breaking at least one bone from accomplishing their goal. Not one grain of sand gets eaten on my watch. Okay, that’s a lie, but not much.

I rarely mention how hard it is to cook lunch while keeping those same hellbent bone breakers from jumping off the table and wrestling. The two smallest boys are all teeth and nails, lately. They’re just playing but it’s still dangerous and has to be dealt with, not ignored. On a good day Little S just shakes the gate and cries until I put him in his chair. I don’t talk about cleaning squash out of the carpet or scraping dishes while kids tumble around the toys we seriously just cleaned up. I don’t explain the level of patience it takes to do crafts with toddlers or the amount of cleaning to be done afterwards while those toddlers are once again attempting to maim themselves.

http://mommyofamonster.com/2010/08/baby-jail.html

Baby Jail from “Mommy Of A Monster”

All my Ex  ever saw of my job was naptime. Sometimes I would fold laundry or load the dishwasher but the rest of our messes from the day had to be cleaned as we went or it would be total chaos. More often than not I was watching TV or reading, a well deserved break. On the weekend I still handled most of the parenting but it is simpler with a partner and we didn’t usually complicate it with crafts and activities. Of course he did occasionally stay home alone with the kids, as well, but he never attempted to make a job of it. He didn’t do crafts or, if we’re being honest, bother to clean up after lunch.

“If you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life.” I have seen that attributed to Confucius but I’m giving my Ex all the credit for it.  I loved what I did so he assumed I never worked a day in my life. I’m not claiming I worked harder than him or trying to say, “poor me, being a stay at home mom is hard.” I’m simply explaining, I work, too.  Just because I like what I do doesn’t mean it doesn’t take energy and patience and skills beyond those of a trained monkey. Not everyone can do it. Not everyone should do it. If you think it’s easy or that I’m sitting on my ass all day this is not the job for you. It’s still a job.

The kids are stirring. I have crafts to do.

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Throwing Stones

I really wanted to spend this nap time either drinking, reading, or both, but I made the stupid mistake of reading Facebook first. So. Much. Judgement. And ya know what? That’s normal. That’s cool. We are all making judgments all of the time. Sometimes they pass idly through our heads as we witness or read about an event, other times they strike us passionately and we feel compelled to react. Many people reach a certain age or point in life when we realize that our judgments, while valid, may be based on limited information. We can only judge a situation based on our own experiences and that doesn’t make us right to anyone but ourselves. In other words, sometimes we don’t know what the hell we’re talking about.

For example: The Barkeep works late, often past 2am, leaving me at home with Sharkboy and Little S.  One night both boys were sick and not sleeping well. I gave LS some Tylenol and carried him over to the couch to give SB a dose, as well. LS leaned over and threw up all over my hand and the full medicine bottle. I dug through the medicine cabinet and found less than a dose of ibuprofen. My options were fairly limited. Sharkboy was miserable and needed something to help his fever immediately but it would be hours before The Barkeep was home and then we would have to wake him up to give him medicine. So, there we were, past 11pm on a week night at my least favorite store. We were in and out quickly. I gave SB his medicine in the car and they were both sound asleep when we got home. I smelled like puke so I took one of my famous middle of the night showers and then of course I couldn’t sleep so I jumped online. Facebook informed me that one of my friends had commented on a status and my jaw plopped on the computer desk when I read,

“What kind of idiot takes her kids to Wal Mart at ANY time, get a babysitter for that.”

Indeed. I could not agree more. I would actually rather set my hair on fire during a root canal than go to Walmart, let alone take my kids, but I live in the real world. Target closes early and I do not have an au paire. I do not know what sort of “free and always available babysitter fantasyland” she has been hanging out in but I don’t even get to visit that place.

The status she was responding to said,

“just saw some dumb bitch at wally world at midnight with a baby and a kid who could barely keep his eyes open. they were all in their pajamas and smelled bad. i swear you should need a lisence[sic] to have kids.”

Ah yes, the old “needing a ‘lisence’ to have a baby” insult. All I need to get pregnant is a dirty look from across the room, so I’d like to see them make that license thing work.  I could only assume since I had just been at Walmart in my pajamas, reeking of vomit, with a baby and a sleepy boy, that I was the dumb bitch.

If I had started this blog with that Facebook quote, I believe many of you would have been nodding your head in agreement, thinking yes, I too have seen that dumb bitch at my Walmart. You would have similar stories to share. But because I started the story with an explanation for why I was there, instead many of you were nodding your head thinking, yes, I have been in a similar bind.

This isn’t an isolated incident. For almost every rude thing you can say about another person I, or someone else, can offer a reasonable explanation. Think about every time someone has passed judgement on you. You probably had an explanation for why they were wrong. (Most of the time. Sometimes we legitimately fuck up. We’re human. I’m not going to judge you for that, at least not out loud. I won’t make you feel bad about it. I might call H-Bomb and tell her.)

Why, for the love of all things pink and sparkly, is it so hard to stop and think, “Hey, this looks really dumb to me, but I may not know the whole story. Kind of like that time I did a dumb thing and everyone was mean to me for it but I actually had an intelligent explanation if they would have listened.” In short, why not just mind your own business? You can actually judge your own business because you presumably know the full story, and if not, you sure as hell have no place sticking your nose in anyone else’s business.

I wasn’t bothered, by the way, by this description of my midnight outing. I never even told my friend that I was the negligent parent. The only standards I worry about living up to are my own. I don’t need to justify myself to some random woman who also happened to be shopping at Walmart at midnight. If I were to say anything to her it would just be that I judge her right back for being the kind of person who is absolute in her certainty in the wrongness of others even though she knows nothing more than a tiny sliver of one evening of their lives.

We do not learn from self righteous thinking. If you never open your mind to the possibilities you may always believe you are right but your mind will begin to stagnate and eventually you will be the only one who believes you are right.

Have fun with that.

You Have Already Won The Mommy Wars

You may not like me for saying this.

In my 17+ years of parenting I have had the privilege of experiencing almost every parenting situation possible except being a father. Though, I have been a single mother so I did sort of have to fill that role, as well. I’ve worked outside the home. I was a student. I was married. I was divorced. I was dating. I’ve been a stay at home mom and that is my role of choice but I do love what I’m doing now. I am a work at home mother.

It’s the hardest role I have taken on  and I used to work in a nursing home so I hope you appreciate how hard that is. It also has the best perks, which is saying a lot because I used to do online promotions for a live music venue that paid me half in cash and half in free drinks. Being at home with my kids and watching them grow is amazing and I would not trade it for anything.

Generally when people start the SAHM v. Working Mom debate it starts out defensive. “This is why what I’m doing is right, don’t judge me.”  Then it becomes offensive. “This is why your way is wrong. I’m judging you.” Then it snowballs into insults and personal attacks. “You think your car is more important than your kids,” and, “You sit on your butt all day and watch YouTube videos.” Somewhere in the midst of the cat fight the whining starts. “I have to work all day and then come home and cook and clean,” and, “I never get a sick day. I never get vacations.”

Here’s the thing, you’re all wrong. Well, okay, not all of you. Some parents really do choose a fancy car over being at home with their kids but it is a very small percentage of a minority of assholes. Some moms really are sitting on the couch with a bag of M&Ms and a laptop, watching 16 and Pregnant on TV and surfing Facebook on the computer. Again, a small sampling of the laziest of lazies. (When I was a SAHM these images and ideas annoyed the hell out of me because I worked with my kids all day, very much the same way I did as a preschool teacher and as I do now as a childcare provider, and the notion that SAHMs are not working can be blamed entirely on these candy popping fatties that I am so jealous of some days.)

The rest of you, though, are wrong. When you weighed the options between staying at home and going to work in the end you made the decision that was best for your family. It may have been a hard decision. You may have had a lot of reasons to make another choice but you had to do what worked for you as a family, not just for you. Almost every single parent you encounter, online and in the real world, faced that same dilemma and had to make a very hard choice.  Are you so naive or egotistical as to think that you were the only one who wrestled with the pros and cons of your choices? Do you not realize that the person across the table or across the country that you are insulting and complaining to also wrestled with those very same choices and came to the conclusion that was best for her family? Nothing you can say is new to this parent.

While you are reflecting on this I want you to consider one other important question. Why do you care? Why do you care if I stay home with my children or work my way to the glass ceiling in the corporate world? What effect does it have on you? (That is not merely a rhetorical question, feel free to answer in a comment.)

The two most common, yet unspoken, effects on each of us are also the driving force behind this battle of The Mommy Wars. They may even be the catalyst of all Mommy Wars. Guilt and envy. When you hear or read statements from another parent about their choice your own emotions bubble up inside of you. Maybe you wanted to stay home and it wasn’t feasible with your current situation or maybe you left a career you loved and realize now you miss it. Maybe the sacrifices you make to stay at home start to wear you down or the time you miss with your children while you are at work is eating away at you. Maybe you wonder what if you worked and had more money for your family or what if you stayed at home and had more time.

That is when you need to step back from the play group  or computer and remember- you made this decision. You examined the rewards  and benefits of each choice and in the end you did what was best for your family. There is no need to tear another parent down for making a different choice. It won’t change the reality of what is best for your family. You don’t have to defend yourself. You don’t have to explain your family situation. It is likely the other parent feels very much the same. Just step back , lay down your gun and choose not to fight this battle anymore. By doing what is best for your family you have already won.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Defense Of The Old Lady

I give “old ladies” a hard time because they give me a hard time. There is always some white haired grandma telling me to put socks on my baby (in July!) or that using a carrier will suffocate him. I’ve had a grandpa or two share words of wisdom, as well, but not as often as the female mitten police. Men prefer to tell me what not to do. “Oh, boys will be boys, you have to let them rough house.” I do let them rough house, I don’t let them rough house with forks in their hands. I’m over sensitive to stab wounds. Old ladies, though, they like to tell me what I’m doing wrong, and it is always something archaic or unimportant. It was a little chilly in the store the day that grandma told me my newborn needed socks but it was so hot and humid outside it was like walking through stew, I wasn’t going to bother digging socks that won’t stay on out of storage for 5 minutes in the store to grab bread. To me that is common sense, my favorite way to parent.

I was eavesdropping the other day at the mall play area. I never think to schedule a play date for these visits because they are often impromptu and generally when I have time to stop and play other moms are busy. Our schedule is hectic, to say the least. So, I eavesdrop and inject myself into other conversations to meet moms. If they think this is creepy they have never let on. Snarky McSnarkbritches and Dr. Google were talking to No Time On The Internet Mom about her many and various mistakes as a parent, from  juice to car seats to sleeping arrangements. I self consciously patted my hair, feeling for the few coarse gray hairs that have been popping in since Little S was born and bit my tongue to refrain from sounding like someone’s grandmother.

Having a 16 year age gap between children I have seen first hand the phenomenon my mother described to me when Goldilocks was a Golden Baby, still being put to sleep on her tummy as “current research” suggested. My mom pointed out how much “current research” had changed and cycled back to the same things over and over again just in the time since we were babies. Having a 16 year age gap between my oldest and youngest child I have now seen that research flux first hand and feel somewhat justified laughing at it.

Image

Shortly before Golden Baby was born it was still widely accepted to put juice in baby bottles. Can you imagine the scandal if you tried it today?

Other moms of young children that I talk to now about things I did in the past sometimes cluck their tongue and chalk my poor parenting choices up to being so young when the girls were little, but I was there and I can tell you, I was doing pretty damn good thanks to my awesome pediatrician and a healthy dose of common sense. I didn’t have the internet on my cell phone, I didn’t even have a cell phone. Goldy was born in 1994, when the internet was brand new, and parent shaming on a grand and global level was still on the horizon. I had to gather facts the old fashioned way. I read every parenting book I could get my hands on, listened to our doctors and then did what I thought was right.  I remember thinking the things my mother’s generation did were crazy and I’m sure Sharkboy’s generation will look back at us now and think how naive and uninformed we were. And we are. For everything we know there is so much we don’t know and may never know, which is why it would serve us well to sit down and shut up about the things we think we know.

This video clip was recorded a year before Goldilocks was born.

After you read this conduct your own experiment. This works best on Facebook or another social media site.  Ask your friends when a child should see the dentist for the first time. Don’t bother charting it out but find a rough percentage of how many people say they absolutely must go by the age of one. Then calculate about what percentage say that is completely and ridiculously unnecessary because their doctor said they could wait until their child was three. Add those two numbers together on a post it note and shred it in the garbage disposal. Only listen to and hang out with the remainder of the people that quietly told you their opinion without trying to impress upon you that it was the only right answer. Smile politely at everyone else.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends visiting at the sign of their first tooth or by their first birthday.  Beauty and Goldy both went at age three as recommended at the time and they have nearly perfect teeth still today. Sharkboy went at 16 months, exactly one year from the date he got his first tooth and had a full set of teeth, all in great shape. Little S has 6 teeth and will probably go soon after turning one. My point isn’t that you’re doing it wrong. My point is that “current research” and “expert opinions” don’t even always agree, so it is unlikely that we will all make the same choices with our children, even if we all choose to follow the path of research and experts. And, if like me, you have seen all of that change and change back again, you might be inclined to smile politely or  laugh out loud at people who think they have it all figured out.

Which brings me to the old ladies and their constant advice.  Granny was probably chilly in the air conditioning. She saw bare toes and thought, “That baby needs socks.” And it’s very likely she chuckled at me when I told her, “He’s fine, thanks.” Because we both thought we had it all figured out. Even common sense can take us down varying paths.

A Disclaimer For Morons

*giant sigh*

*even bigger eyeroll*

I shouldn’t have to write this, but here I am, writing it.

I work with other people’s children Monday through Friday. I don’t really drink while they are napping. They don’t even all nap. Monster Princess is 4 so she reads stories or watches a movie while the little ones sleep. Sometimes she sleeps, but I do not take that opportunity to get “shitfaced drunk while watching babies.”

I do sometimes drink while caring for my own children and I don’t really care what anyone else thinks about that. I will say, if you don’t know the difference between “drinking” and “getting shitfaced” then perhaps you are the one with a drinking problem.

*in case you didn't notice the carbonation or color, that's POP

Me. Eight months pregnant with Sharkbaby.*

I can, in fact, go a whole day without drinking. I went 9 months without drinking. FOUR TIMES. That is 3 years of not drinking, in case your math is as ridiculous as your grammar. I’m a social drinker, usually, but sometimes when The Barkeep and I are sitting in the sun or just watching a movie together I choose to call that a social activity and I have a drink or two. I can do that because I am the mother and I decide who drinks what around my kids.

My secret is out. I’m not throwing keg parties in the addition while the kids nap. I’m cleaning the kitchen or sitting on my ass writing a blog, wishing I had a drink, not because of the kids so much as all the morons.

Naptime IS for drinking, but who has time for that? If you have kids you drink when you can or not at all and either one is cool with me. Just keep your cup sniffing snout out of my business. Thankyouverymuch.

* In case you did not notice the color or carbonation, it’s Diet Pepsi, not wine.

Macaroni For Dinner

I always say I don’t like to cook but that’s a lie. I enjoy cooking and I absoluely love it when I create something that my kids like eating. It’s cooking dinner on time either before or after a 45 minute commute with two young children hanging on the baby gate sobbing for food and attention and two teenagers needing papers signed and tape for a project and permission to log on to Facebook that makes me want to order Dominos every single day. And night. And do they have breakfast pizza?

Worse than cooking in a house full of kids, though, is cleaning up the mess made from cooking. So many dishes. Pots and pans and spatulas and serving spoons and plates and seriously, can’t you just eat with your fingers? We’re out of forks. At the end of the day you could eat off of my floor, not because it’s so clean but because there is enough food down there to create a meal. Don’t worry, I’ll clean it up… eventually.

So, it’s easier just to say I don’t like cooking. It’s even easier to heat up some chicken nuggets, steam a bag of broccoli and cut up a banana and call it done. It takes less than 10 minutes to make and less than 10 minutes to clean up if you don’t count banana goo removal from the baby’s hair.

I’m at peace with this. When The Barkeep is home he really does enjoy cooking and I’m here to entertain the kids and field any questions about where to find paper or watching Mighty Machines. They’re getting a variety of different foods and I always cover all the food groups. Sure, better meals are being served somewhere but next door to them a parent is serving McDonald’s. I don’t consider myself above the McDonald’s mom, though, she probably has immaculate floors.

Some time after dinner is served and the teenagers are forced to load the dishwasher and I find the broom, I like to get back online and search the internet for advice on potty training and smart mouth teenagers. The internet is full of amazing advice and information and useful tips. You could spend days reading about just one topic, like potty training or healthy meal ideas. I like to pin these things to Pinterest so the next time I come home tipsy and don’t feel like sleeping yet I have something to read. The internet is also full of other moms looking for information and tips. We sometimes like to gather in communities, like message boards or Facebook groups.

A weird thing happens when people gather online. If you put a mostly polite and sensible group of mothers together in a real life situation there will be mostly polite and sensible conversation. There may be some passive aggressive cattiness or raised eyebrows, but it generally stays civil. Put that same group of women on an internet message board and suddenly you have the world’s most renowned expert on potty training and breast feeding, her sister Dr. Google and their BFF Snarky McSnarkbritches. If you have kids over 6 months old and you’ve spent any time online you have met them, sometimes entire groups of them.

I’m sure by now they have told you you are poisoning your precious child with Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. That’s why I’m here, to set the record straight. My parents occaisionally served me macaroni and cheese throughout my childhood and I am still here to tell you about it. It was delicious and I survived. I also drank kool-aid and ate potato chips and *gasp* hot dogs. There are worse things you can feed your kids. My baby eats carpet fuzz and he’s made it all the way to 10 months old.

I plan to blog about a lot of different stuff, not just parenting and kids, but I wanted to start with a theme that is on my mind a lot. Mom shaming? The Mommy Wars? Call it what you want, I call it a bunch of insecure women trying to make other women just as insecure in some pointless attempt to bolster their own self esteem. You know what actually bolsters your self esteem? Helping. Try it.

Nap is over. I’m going to give the kids a special treat. Cake! Not only cake, but yesterday it was a boob cake. Mmm boobies. And that is as close as I’m ever going to get to talking about the breastfeeding debate.