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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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Dads Really Want For Father’s Day – A Mom’s Point Of View

What We Really Want For Mother’s Day: Batsmoke was quite popular on Facebook with the moms but not so much with the dads, it seems. (Some dads, other dads were actually the ones sharing it! Thank you.) Yes, I stalk my Facebook shares and read their comments. It’s like an addiction, don’t judge me. I know I should wait and post this in June but the time I spend indoors, near a computer, is dwindling daily. I am a stay at home mother and childcare provider. Sunshine and a big back yard are my two best friends. I have something like a farmer’s tan already, except I call it a provider’s tan. I have lines from flip flops, board shorts and modest neckline tank-tops. That’s a lie. I apologize. On one hand, I want to be honest, but I also want you to think I’m the most awesome caregiver ever. I wear skimpy tank tops when I take the kids out so I won’t have terrible tan lines. They say the truth will set you free but I feel about the same. Anyway… See, the sun is already affecting my writing. I’m all scrambled. June. I won’t be blogging much. So, this one is for the dads to pass around on their special day. Bear with me and my social generalizations, please. I know there are a lot of stay at home dads and moms who work outside the home, too, but it’s much easier to write from one perspective- my own.

You can only buy so many dragon figurines, neck ties, grill accessories, witty t-shirts and such before even you get sick of them. Dads are difficult to buy for. Most men just buy the things they want and need. In their defense, and falling off the feminist bandwagon once again,  this is often because they have a much shorter list. You can’t go wrong with a quality steak, a night out doing something he enjoys or a massage from a professional, but I think there is something higher on his list.

I think that Dad would like to come home and not be in trouble for something, or if he is in trouble I think he would like very much to flash one of these puppies and have it end abruptly. I go to great lengths to not be a nag. By “great lengths” I mean I attempt to count, take deep breaths and meditate away my nagging feelings, but I have to admit sometimes, “I slipped in the cat puke you didn’t clean up and fell face first in your dirty laundry,” just slips out before I can strike a yoga pose.

I’m not a control freak. If I were, I would not have time to blog. That being said, I do have a routine, a system, a way of doing things to keep everything running smoothly in the house that chaos built. I communicate these routines and their minor changes often. I have no idea why. Instead of a lengthy and unnecessary diatribe I will just say that the dad in our house, like dads in most houses, needs reminded of the routine more frequently than I am currently keeping up with. I’m certain he knows this, I tell him often. Yet I am also just as certain he would like to duct tape his “get out jail free” card to my mouth sometimes.

Then there’s the broken stuff. For us, it’s half the house, literally. I would like the addition finished. I would like to take all this junk and spread it out across the finished house. I’d like the dryer to stop squeaking. Ya know, I might just pass him a card on that one, I bet I can figure it out. I’d like our screen doors to make sense and not create a maze on the front porch. Just little things, well, and that half of a house. I’m sure he’s tired of hearing it, even when I dial down, count backwards from ten and say it in a calm voice.

I think dads would like to come home to Batsmoke almost as often as we’d like to use it. I think we should propose some sort of trade. Dad takes the kids at least one night a week while Mom disappears in a puff of smoke. She returns slightly tipsy to a mostly clean house with safe, happy, sleeping children who may or may not have followed their usual routines, but she does not comment on or question Dad’s methods. Dad, meanwhile, enjoys a beer without a single word of nagging about anything, even the laundry.

Do you think it will work? Me neither. Get him one fo these instead.

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.