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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What We Really Want For Mother’s Day: Batsmoke

I can’t speak for all mothers but I feel confident speaking for most stay at home or work at home (with children present) mothers on the subject of “Oh my god, I need a lifetime supply of Batsmoke.” Thank you Pregnant Chicken for giving it a clever, male friendly name.

http://www.pregnantchicken.com

My kids are pretty good kids. I mean, obviously, I think they’re awesome. Sharkboy put two triangle blocks together and called it a rhombus and I took about 20 pictures and sent them to various friends and family members. Little S has enough video footage to start his own YouTube channel. I dig my kids. I’m just saying, you know, behavior wise, they are pretty good. Little S likes to pull the cats’ tails and shriek a lot and pull all of the wipes out of the wipey box. Sharboy sometimes says, “I want milk,” followed quickly by, “No, I can’t want milk!” I sometimes feel like I’m taking part in a secret psychological exam. I’ve been blessed with unusual teenagers that are mostly compliant and that don’t sneak out of the house or steal things or if they do they are good enough at it not to get caught which sometimes is good enough, but even good teenagers can be exhausting. They “forget” important things. They procrastinate. Just, you know, stuff, that has to be dealt with.  I should probably mention at some point, we only have one vehicle. This is one of the choices we make to make our stay at home parent situation work. Maybe when this one is paid off we can afford insurance on a second one, but until then we prefer to spend any extra money on driving somewhere fun together instead of driving two seperate cars.  So, I spend all day with five little bitties and all evening with two little ones and two teens who generally disappear into their rooms and only come out to inform me they forgot something extremely important that needs dealt with immediately or to ask if we have any eggs because, “Oh yeah, my egg drop project is due at 6am tomorrow so can you drop me off at school around the same time you normally roll out of bed… and help me do my whole project?”

Sometimes my boyfriend comes home and I have an immediate need to buy… Chapstick, for the diaper bag. I like to have some everywhere, the moisturizing kind with SPF 15. Hand soap. We go through a lot. I need something, anything to get me out of the house. Toilet paper. Still trying to set the standard. So, I make my excuse, which I’m sure reeks of the very bullshit it is made of, but I don’t care and inevitably Sharkboy hears the word “go” and begins the hunt for the two year old holy grail, which is a matching pair of socks. There is no doubt in his mind that he is going because I am a sucker. He’s trapped in the same house with me, he needs out, too. This is a prime example of when a mother needs Batsmoke. I want to disappear into a cloud of smoke, no explanation, and come home tipsy and go to bed for a week, or for the evening at the very least.

Batsmoke would come in handy when I need a new bra, too. I can’t just look at the size and go buy a new one in this size. I don’t know if this problem is unique to me because I have a lot to work with, or if all women need to try on a dozen bras in a dozen sizes to find the right one, but either way, this is not a kid friendly activity. I would like to just get up in the morning, realize my need for a bra, and go purchase one. I have been a mother my entire adult life and I do not remember what it feels like to get up and do what I want without first making sure everyone else has what they need.  Teenagers need rides. So many rides. Infants and toddlers need supervision. Men have needs. Not those needs. There is ductwork to be done on the addition and paperwork at the bar and a hundred other things that are also not kid friendly. Sometimes just getting people to commit to a time frame makes me want a nap… that I can’t take because everyone else needs something first. This is when I want to disappear into a cloud of smoke, no explanation, and come home tipsy and go to bed for a week, or for the evening at the very least. In a new bra.

My Batsmoke wish has conditions, though. First of all, I want it all guilt free. No one, not even the bitsy baby, is ever allowed to give me any amount of grief for needing a break. Next, no reciprocation should be expected. Everyone else has Batsmoke already, its called, “a life outside the house.” Last, but definitely not least, I expect to return from my sabbatical to find the house and children in at least as decent of a condition as I left them in. Diapers changed, meals on time, dinner somewhere other than on the floors and counter, that kind of stuff.

I had intended to write a list of things women really want for Mother’s Day but I feel Batsmoke covers it. I’d like to take a shower whenever I want. I wash the towels, after all. Six people, one bathroom, you do the math. I used to look forward to the weekends because I had the idea that I would get to be the first person to take a shower on Saturday. I would get up early with Sharkboy, who was just a Sharkbaby then, (or more likely we would startle awake after a restless night on the couch when a demon hellcat pounced on us in search of his morning meal) and feed him and change him and get him ready for the day. I was generally covered in baby sweat and spit up because Sharkbaby had an upset tummy for the first year of his life. There is no greater feeling than a long hot shower after spending the evening insane. I’d hear my boyfriend coming up the stairs and get ready to hand Sharkbaby over, only to have him breeze past with a freshly washed towel over his shoulder and say, “I’m going to take a quick shower…”

I’m just saying, if the judge were a mother, I wouldn’t get jail time.

Then of course, teenagers have plans so they need showers and rides and there is paperwork at the bar and eventually I have to throw a tantrum to get in the damn shower. This is when I need Batsmoke. I want to disappear into a cloud of smoke, no explanation, and come home tipsy and go to bed for a week, or for the evening at the very least. Clean.

If you are thinking right now that you want or need something other than Batsmoke for Mother’s Day, might I suggest a nice gift basket from Bath And Body Works? That is, after all, what you get the woman who already has it all.

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.