Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Llife of Leisure?

My manager at work has accused me of having a life of leisure. I know what you’re thinking (at least what my fellow moms are thinking); HOW DARE SHE!

Before I go on, I should explain that she is a wonderful woman whom I genuinely adore. And I’m not just saying this because we became Facebook friends just as instantly as we became actual friends and so she will probably be reading this. She’s otherwise awesome, really.

But she mistakes my lack of desire (refusal)to work more than two days a week with laziness, like I’ve grown too accustom to my “life of leisure”. I let her get away with this slander only once. The second time she made this accusation, I gently spoke up:

“Listen bitch, (I really did call her a bitch, but only because she really is my friend, really), I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about with this whole life of leisure bullshit! I have three kids at home! What in the name of God do think could possibly be leisurely about that!”

She’s a mom too; A single mom, with a daughter who is 2. So while I know she has her struggles with spending many hours working and away from her child, she is not capable of completely grasping full time mommy-hood with THREE children. . She doesn’t understand that I go to my part time job both to pay some bills, and to take a break from my full time job which doesn’t pay well.

She can’t really know that meeting the demands of my three children, as well as trying to maintain some order in our household, is actually a lot like her job of managing a restaurant and its feisty staff, who respects her but still loves to torment her, and it’s often impossible to please, demanding customers. Take her job, and multiply it by a couple of hundred, and we have the exact same job. She just makes more money than I do, and probably doesn’t love her job as much I love mine.

She may also consider me a “kept woman” and a little spoiled, not spoiled acting but just very well cared for. I am. I can’t argue with that. But I work very hard for my family and it is important to me that my loved ones feel as fortunate to have me as I do to have them. And THAT is why they come first. That is why I can’t work until 11 p.m. or later, four nights a week, just to spend the remaining three days and nights exhausted and cranky and unable to be the wonderful patient mother I strive (and sometimes struggle) to be.

I just sat outside all alone and dipped my feet in the pool for about ten minutes. I’ve done the dishes, did some laundry, cleaned the kitchen, played with children, fed children (twice), got children to sleep at the same time, picked up the broom, put down the broom, and went outside for a moment of SILENCE:

“Screw this broom! It’s my only quiet time of the day (naptime) and I am going to squeeze in one moment of NOTHING! I don’t think the world will end if I don’t sweep the floors right now so that they can be dog hair free for the next hour.”
It was blissful. Ten minutes of doing nothing, saying nothing and hearing no one! Blissful. And while I was out there, I had to chuckle at my “life of leisure”. She thinks I lay around, floating in my pool all day, and here I am wasting two precious minutes of my ten minute break thinking “I really should get up and sweep the pool…again.”

Friday, August 27, 2010

Laptop Lesson Learned

Ok, I think I’m finally ready to talk about it. It’s been at least three months and while I can’t exactly look back at it and laugh yet, I can, at least, tell the tale without getting the blood boiling shakes and wanting to re-ground my daughter all over again.

It was one of those early, beautiful summer like days when spending time outside is still a novelty after hibernating all winter. So I couldn’t really blame her for wanting to lug MY laptop outside to play with at her brand new playground, complete with the perfect little table to set up post. What was not yet complete, was the roof that was supposed to be over that little table. It might have made all the difference, but we’ll never know.

I’m chatting with my sister-in-law while our little ones are enjoying the new playground when I see my six year old round the corner carrying MY laptop. I stop mid-sentence and give her my very best oh-no-you-didn’t stare, to which she responds, with her oh-yes-I-did smirk, “what? I’ll be careful.” Famous last words. It’s at least 4 p.m. by now which means I simply do not have the energy left for this battle, and she knows it (Ha ha, Mommy’s weak now).

The next day:

Madeline: Mommy, did it rain last night?

Me: I’m not sure honey. Why?

Madeline: Well, remember yesterday when I brought your computer outside?

Me: What???????????????

Madeline: Well, you were the last one in.

ME: EXCUSE ME!!!!!!!!!! GO GET MY COMPUTER!!!!!! AND YOU BETTER HOPE IT DIDN’T RAIN LAST NIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Please note here, that the all capital letters and multiple exclamation point rage did not kick in until AFTER she has passed the buck to ME!)

As she scurries outside (now well aware that she has said too much), I turn to look out my window to see if it did rain last night. Of course it did. And suddenly I recall waking up in the middle of the night to the soothing sound of rain on the rooftop, and thinking “how nice, we haven’t had rain in a long time.”

“What happened? Did she leave her DS outside?” I can’t even speak. How do I tell Darren, the man who has been telling me for months not to let our six year old have such free reign on MY laptop, the laptop that HE bought me out of the kindness of his heart, that…I still can’t find the words.

She returns and hands the computer over to her father (round one of punishment) who stands there holding it, waiting for ALL the water to POUR out of it. He is calmly angry at Madeline, and entirely unsympathetic to poor me. He told me so, told me so, told me so, but never reminds me of this. He doesn't have to. I can hear the words echoing from his subconscious and they will continue to taunt me for days.

All that’s left now is to decide on the punishment. And in doing so, all I can hear is that unapologetic voice telling me “well you were the last one in.”

No television, no computer (obviously) and no DS for two weeks! While I know this is a life altering punishment for her, she takes it like a champ. She is guilty, and genuinely sorry and unable to look either of her parents in the face for the rest of the day. But even in the moment, I am still aware that everything happens for a reason. Even while I am now computer-less and cut off from my stay-at-home-mom-sanity-saving-lifeline to the outside world, and still attempting to plug it in and turn it on hoping for some sign of life, some last breath that allows me to once again see the hours and hours of writing/pouring my heart out into this now lifeless machine. Even knowing that I don’t have a chance in hell of my overly generous boyfriend buying me another laptop (after all, I didn’t listen, and I too, can take my punishment like a champ), I am still grateful for two week of watching my daughter do ANYTHING other than watch TV, play her DS or sit at MY computer. I often find myself feeling guilty about not having the time or energy to dole out enough one-on-one time to each of my kids. It’s amazing how much easier it becomes with less background noise and distraction.

Madeline and I both learned a valuable lesson about guilt. She would go to school and tell her classmates and teachers what she had done and what her punishment was, and I would later hear some critique from parents and teachers that the consensus among the students was that we were way too hard on her as it was “just an accident”. But I knew that she had conveniently left out how she “accidentally” blurted out that last punishment changing accusation which sealed her fate. “well, you were the last one in.” I mean, I knew that I had some responsibility in this too, and you would NEVER hear me suggest that it might not have been so bad if Darren had just finished building that roof (wait, did I already mention that?)

I’m a lucky girl. I’ve been given a second chance with a new laptop (which I never would have expected but he is as forgiving as he is generous). And in turn, I have offered Madeline a second chance to show that she can use it responsibly. And I remind her, occasionally, just to be safe:

Me: "Madeline can you clean your room?"

Madeline: "No".

Me: "Remember when you destroyed my computer."

Madeline: "Ok."

Me: "Madeline can you get me a diaper for your brother?"

Madeline: "No".

Me: Remember when you destroyed my computer?


You get the idea; leverage.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Baby #4-The Road Less Traveled

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

...Robert Frost

I came across this quote just a day or two after finding out that I was pregnant with baby #4. It offered great perspective, and a sigh of relief. I was always the handful, the problem child marching to the beat of a different drummer, blah, blah, blah. I was lost and my parents spent many sleepless nights praying for me to find my way. Little did I know that I was on the right path the entire time. Admittedly, it was a bumpy road and I stumbled a lot. But a smoother, shorter, easier path could never have prepared me for what fate had in store for me: FULL TIME MOTHERHOOD.

Years ago, pre-children, I always said “I want to have five kids, all boys.” It sounded like so much fun. Sure, boys are reckless and I would probably be mothering with my eyes closed, hands clenched and heart in my throat most of the time while they are racing motorized whatever they can get their hands on, jumping of the highest anything into the hopefully deep enough something, picking up the nearest anything and everything that may or may not resemble a weapon to use on the nearest whomever, etc., etc.. But at least they wouldn’t be so damn snotty, constantly challenge my every request, keep me up all night worrying because she’s too stubborn to pick up a phone, refuse to accept that the world just IS more dangerous for young girls, always demand the last infuriating word, etc., etc.! I hate to be so gender biased, but this was my experience with kids. Sorry Mom and Dad.

My first born was a little girl. It’s only fair. I had it coming. And she is exactly like me. I had that coming too. My mom spent my teenage years wishing it on me so it was inevitable. She’s six now, and has already begun paying me back on my late mother’s behalf (whom I often hear giggling from the great beyond). I’m hoping she’s getting it all out of her system before her teen years set in and I’m forced to pound it out of her (figuratively speaking, I hope). She’s still young enough to be honest about her antics; “I’ll try to be better Mommy, but I can’t pinky promise because it’s REALLY hard sometimes.” I find her honesty refreshing and I dread those teen years, again, when I will have to decipher every lie to find a clue to a morsel of the truth. I’m starting to sweat at the thought of it all. Maybe her three brothers (wishful thinking re: baby #4) can form some sort of road block when she starts taking wrong turns. My poor only brother wasn’t able to deter me all on his own.

So I am about to be a mother of four, a STAY AT HOME mother of four! Few people would choose this path. In fact, the news of my continued journey into motherhood leaves most speechless. But now, I understand that I could never decide on a career because my path, my purpose was already determined. This is my destiny. My success as a stay at home mom would be measured by my steadfast patience, my sanity, my SURVIVAL, the character of my children and happiness and values of my family, not my income. And as an overwhelmed, overworked, exhausted, underappreciated, underpaid, undervalued, jack of all trades, master of none, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy I could not be happier. It continues to be the bumpier, far more challenging and less traveled path, but it makes all the difference now that I know exactly where I am going and that I am paving the way for my four little passengers.