Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A SAHM's Harshest Critic

Last night my husband made a joke about how much promise I had shown once upon a time, the insinuation being that I never really “panned out.” I know he was joking, and I know what he means – I was valedictorian of my high school class and I have two degrees from excellent schools. And I quit working at 29 to stay at home with our son. When I quit, it wasn’t as if I was a high powered career woman, either. I was a pretty average high school social studies teacher.

Here’s the thing about SAHMs (that’s what we, in the biz, call Stay at Home Moms) and that joke – we don’t need it. Thanks, but no thanks. Don’t mind if we don’t. I can't tell you the number of times per week I get that "look" from someone when I tell him or her I don't work, or the number of comments such as "it must be so nice to have all that time at home," when what the person is really saying is "what the hell do you really do, anyways?" Mostly I get it from people from my past when I reconnect on Facebook or go home or whatever and they find out I don't work - the look on their faces asks very clearly: "What happened to her?"
It’s not that I can’t take criticism or a healthy reminder that other women work. It’s that no one is more acutely aware on a daily basis of what I might have been than I am, as I wade through piles of wet diapers, vomit covered clothing, and Thomas trains.

I’m not one of those women that expects you to kneel down and pray at the altar of maternity. Just don’t believe that women who stay home to raise their children aren’t making sacrifices in some ways, too.

I don’t need you to show me what I could have done, because daily I bombard myself with my own list of might-have-beens. Don’t think I don’t look in the mirror and see the abs I might have kept, or the grays I might have avoided. I’m about to post this on a blog I haven’t updated since I announced I was pregnant with our daughter – don’t think I don’t see the minutes, even, of time to myself I might have had if we didn’t have kids, or if I worked outside the home. I scroll through my contacts and see the friend I might have been, the Saturday nights I might have had, the fun I might not have missed.

You really don’t need to remind me. Trust me. Sometimes I look at my husband and think of the wife I might have been if I had no one else to love but him. Don’t think I don’t know other couples are out there, having their conversations in quiet homes absent of screaming children and impossible messes. We had our son 9 months after we were married. I know what we skipped.

Don’t assume I never had dreams, or that I’ve given up on them. Don’t assume that staying home with my babies is my most perfect scenario. Once upon a time I wanted to be a writer. Not a blogger or a Facebook note writer, but a real writer. 100 times a day, a thought crosses my mind that I wish I could write down, but I’m holding the baby or I’m playing trains, or the baby will only be sleeping for 10 more minutes, or I’m too damn tired and what’s the point anymore, anyways? When I lay down at night I know full well I didn’t fulfill my intellectual potential during that day, and a lot of times it makes me sad. Sometimes it brings me to tears, even. I mourn the artist I might have been, the person I might have been if my laptop wasn’t a graveyard of half-finished work and ideas of things I’ll probably never write. The person I might have been if I could only find the time to pan out.

Because what do I do instead? I feed my daughter 5 times a day and get her down for at least 4 naps. I fix my son 3 meals and teach him to play with his baby sister. I keep them both safe and clean and show them both I love them. I try to make them both smile, and if they cry I try to fix it. They are children, so I play with them. I won’t pretend I don’t have moments when I wish I wasn’t meeting my full potential in another way, but for now, being the best mom I can be to 2 beautiful little children is all I can do. Right now it’s the biggest job I can think of – I have primary responsibility for all things developmental in an infant and a 3 year old. If I screw up, the repercussions are enormous.

Trust me, I know that there are a lot of other things I might have done or been. I also know that there are lots of women who wish they could stay home with their kids. The grass really always is greener, I guess. It’s not all magical and restful and peaceful in SAHM land, though. Next time you want to ask yourself, or even worse, someone else, “What happened to her?” please pause first. Chances are, she loves her kids fiercely, like I do. Even so, she probably still struggles with those glaring might-have-beens confronting her in the faces of her friends, family, and most prominently, the mirror.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Letter to My (Conveniently) Not Pregnant Husband

Dear Husband,

Let me just preface this by saying I know you ate my secret freezer stash of Girl Scout cookies. I’m not going to point out the despicability of stealing food from a pregnant lady, though. Just know I don’t forget that kind of thing. Neither does Jesus.

Anyways, I just wanted to go ahead and get a few things out on the table now that we have to go through this pregnancy thing again. I learned a few lessons the first go around, and I’m going to be proactive about addressing the major sources of tension between us in the last pregnancy. I know I told you (every single day for 9 months, sometimes more than once) how much being pregnant sucks, but I’m not sure you really got it.

I know you’re thinking I’m nuts, because you’re the most compassionate man on Earth. I’m going to go ahead and assert the most compassionate man on Earth doesn’t guzzle beers by the dozen while volunteering me as the Designated Driver. Go ahead: keep eating that pizza/dip/cake/pantry. I’m fine. I’ll just sit back and try not to gain five pounds in a week from eating fruit. By the way, I hope it goes straight to your ass.

Yes, my boobs are enormous. So is everything else on my body. Shooting from a B cup to a DD in three months isn’t nearly as much fun as you think it is. So, I’m going to need you to stop touching me when I don’t want to be touched. By the way – there is no way for you to know when that is. And when I do want you to touch me, you better do it if you don’t want to shatter my fragile feelings into a million pieces. Sorry, but there is also no way for you to know when that is.

I also wanted to take a little moment and address that thing you do when you’re in a bad mood and tired – you know, the furrowed brow and the grumpy pants? I’ll see your fatigue and raise you a shot of sciatica and a dose of hip spread. Still feeling bad? Be thankful you can pop an Ibuprofen if you’re in pain. I’ll be over here trying to figure out what the fuck to do with a Netti pot. Maybe after that, I’ll pretend like there’s actually a useful and active ingredient in Tylenol.

Now might be a good time to address the situation in the bathroom, as well. Considering the overpowering nausea I’m suffering, I’d really appreciate it if you’d try to contain some of the noxious fumes originating from the toilet. Don’t try to deny it. We both know it wasn’t me – I haven’t shit in weeks.

After all, this isn’t Sparta, and I never claimed to be the toughest chick in the world. It’s ok for me to be a little wimpy while I grow a human. Last time around I learned not to expect foot massages or late night food runs, but hovering over me with a kettle bell and reminding me I can still run is where I draw the line.

We’ll get through this one, just like we got through the last one. Just focus less on my expanding waist line and more on the contents of my soon to be enormous belly. Remember there’s another life in there – another kid who’s going to see you as the greatest dad in the world, just like our son.

So, when you’re watching me consume a pound of crab dip, or heaving me out of bed in the morning, or listening to me belch like a frat boy, just keep telling yourself the same thing I repeat to myself daily: You did this to me. You did this to me. You did this to me.

I love you, even if you are an Alpha Male with zero sympathy for how much it sucks to be pregnant. I’ll put up with the crappy parts to carry a piece of you around with me for the next 6 months and give you another baby come November 2. I’m just not going to pretend like I don’t hope it’s a girl this time.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Kids and Dogs

"A kid should have a dog," says my husband. It's an integral part of a childhood. Honestly, is there anything sweeter than a little boy growing up with his puppy? Actually, don't answer that. Because I'm pretty sure raising a kid who doesn't get ringworm from your pets, never tracks shit in the house, and who you're not worried about provoking the dog into biting him in the face is sweeter than the feces covered fungal dog bites that come along with kids and canines cohabitating.

We have two dogs in my house. Before my son was born, I was one of those assholes who thought my dogs were my babies. Then, I had a real baby and it all became clear: they're actually not babies. They're not even human.

They can't talk, they don't need to sleep on my bed, and they're perfectly fine eating dog food.

Yeah, the straits were dire for the pups after my son's birth. My boxer mix, who refused to leave my side for my entire pregnancy, was so pissed that I brought a kid home she wouldn't let me pet her for 6 months. Not that it mattered much. I don't even know if I remembered their names for several weeks after bringing the baby home.
Adding a kid into the mix meant the dogs were forced to fend for themselves... 

Don't get me wrong. I love my dogs. I really do. But I love them as pets, and I love them with the love that a mother of a toddler has to offer: approximately 2% of my total capacity for attention. That's total - not each.

Mostly, the dogs have just become entertainment for my 2 1/2 year old. The other day, the words "Please don't ride the dog" came out of my mouth. And I was being serious. If I had to sum up the 10 most laugh (or cringe) worthy moments that involved my son and the dogs, they would be:

10. Walking out onto the patio, at which point my son turns around to look at me. "What's in your mouth?" I ask. "I share it with Brixie," he answers. And hands me a piece of soggy rawhide.
9. The boy using the dog for a stepping stool from which to land on the couch. He prefers to step on the meaty part of the dog's stomach.
8. "I shoot you, dog!" he says, as he points one of his several pow pows in the dog's face. This is interchangeable with, "I'll cut you" - and the weapon of choice is a plastic knife.
7. The other day, the dogs knocked over the water bowl. I turned around as my son shook his finger at them and yelled, "Stupid dogs! You did this on purpose!"
6. I once had my shower cut short because I heard crying - not the whiny kind, but the something seriously just happened kind. I ran out of the bathroom, dripping, to find my son screaming and clutching his face. "Brixie bite me!" he said. I flipped out, punched the dog, and grabbed the kid. "Where?" I asked frantically. "Here," he said, pointing to his head. Then to his arm. Then to his leg. No bite marks. "Why?" I asked. He didn't answer, but I believe it may have had something to do with the cowboy boot laying by itself where the dog had been. "Did you hit her with the boot?" I asked. "Yes," he said. Hmpf.
5. "I want to hit her." This is an at least daily statement from my son about the dog.
4. "I never ever step in poop," he says, walking in the backyard.
3. "Daddy, Gavin be bad boy," he says, after Gavin does just about anything.
2. My son has a Tonka bull dozer (with sparks and rumble). He likes to chase the dogs with it until they are backed into a corner. At that point, he goes for ramming speed and sweeps the legs.
1. "Brixie take big poop, Mama!" This is said at a delighted and high pitched squeal, with face pressed against the sliding glass door, taking in every detail of the dog's defecation process.

I do have to keep a close watch on the boy and the dogs, but it does make for some good entertainment. After all, a kid should have a dog.
We're visiting friends who have a German Shepherd puppy. The two have been inseparable.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Brain Like A Sponge

Sometimes, I am truly astounded by the things that come out of my son’s mouth. Not that he really says anything inappropriate; I just don’t know where he picks some of this stuff up. I have him with me all day every day. Sure, we spend a good deal of time at the mall, story times at Barnes & Noble, the library, and the park, where he interacts with any number of other children and sometimes adults. I just would like to think I’d notice if someone (other than me) had enough influence over him to infiltrate his speech.
The other night, my husband and I were in the kitchen when our son came strutting in. He threw both hands in the air and began purposely shivering all over his body. My husband asked, “What are you doing?” and my son replied, “I’m shaking like a leaf!” I have no idea where he heard that. Neither of us uses that phrase.

This morning, my son grabbed one of his stuffed animals, hugged it and exclaimed, “Oh! I missed you so much, Ruff Ruff!” I know I’ve said that to him before, so it’s not that weird that he picked it up, but it was still funny to hear him repeat something he so obviously heard from one of us.
A few weeks ago, he told me he was thirsty and asked for some juice. I wanted him to drink some milk or water – he’d had enough juice that day. So, I suggested, “How about some milk?” He shot back with a disdainful smirk and without a moment’s hesitation, “How about some juice?”
I was sitting at my computer this afternoon when I heard, “I’ll cut you,” from behind me. I turned around, wondering when our office became Cell Block E. There stood my offspring, holding his plastic dive knife. He poked it at me menacingly and repeated his threat. “I’ll cut you!”

I tried, but I couldn’t help laughing. I texted my husband immediately and asked if he had imparted the phrase on our son. Absolutely not, he claimed. There are two possible explanations: either he has a innate propensity towards violence (certainly possible) or he is WAY more receptive than I assumed. We have officially reached the point where EVERYTHING must be child appropriate from now on!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

White Lies

I didn’t know what a good liar being a mom would make me. Last night, I was encouraging my son to eat his “chicken” (it was pot roast) and “French fries” (roasted potatoes), when it occurred to me that the falsehoods flow at our house like water. For one, every kind of protein presented to my son is “chicken.” For whatever reason, the only way he’ll eat it is if he believes that’s what it is. I once got him to eat an entire crab cake and a piece of tilapia this way. Pork chops? As long as they’re dubbed chicken. Steak? Chicken. Turkey? Chicken.

Ironically, the only time he doesn’t mind it’s not chicken is when it’s a hotdog. What he doesn’t know, however, is that I only feed him turkey dogs, and so he’s still being lied to about what his food is.
I bet if you’re a parent, you tell lies all the time, too.

“I don’t know what got into him. He never kicks/bites/hits/screeches like a banshee/shits his pants.” Face it, no parent wants to be singled out at the play area in the mall as the one with that kid. When the disastrous behavior strikes, therefore, we emphatically claim that it’s not our child’s normal behavior and he must not be feeling well. Meanwhile, the busybody in the corner with the 3 year old who cries when another kid even looks at him is telling another mom about how she saw you here last week saying the exact same thing.
“I don’t know where your blankie is.” Translation: “I’m drowning your blankie in disinfectant in the wash right now and praying it makes it through the dryer before you have a complete meltdown.” If your kid has a blankie, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

“If you eat your whole lunch we’ll stop for some lemonade on the way home.” C’mon, get real. You’re stopping whether he’s an angel while you run your errands or the devil himself. The kid doesn’t even like lemonade that much. You do. Kids are convenient scapegoats for stuff like that.

“I would love to read that creepy book about the talking animals to you again.” What you’re really thinking is, “How the hell did you find it? I thought I hid it good. Guess it’s going in the trash next time!”
Or how about this one: “Mama is so proud of you for going poop on your little potty!” Really, kid? Can’t you just sit on the toilet like everyone else? I’m getting damn sick of cleaning feces out of a bowl with you chanting, “Clean my poop!” in the background.

“Mmmm… these vegetables are so good!” I have the hardest time with this one. I hate most vegetables, so faking it for his sake and choking a few down is a challenge.
I’m not telling malicious lies, obviously, but I find it interesting that parenting has improved my ability to fib. I almost felt a little guilty at Christmas this year, especially using Elvis, our Elf on the Shelf, as a blackmail tool to keep my kid in bed. “Elvis is going to sit right here on your lamp, and when he leaves tonight he’s going to tell Santa whether or not you went to bed like a good boy.” Almost. The motto in our house is “Get in where you fit in.” We do whatever it takes to survive the day. And we’re not above lying.

Monday, February 25, 2013

25 Reasons Why My 2 1/2 Year Old Needs to Get Out of Bed After Being Tucked In

No one makes me smile like my son does, even when he's driving me nuts. This isn't completely original - I read a blog post recently that catalogues "46 Reasons Why My Three Year Old Might Be Freaking Out," and it was hysterical. Tonight's bedtime ritual inspired me to make my own list. I write this as I hear the springs in my son's mattress creaking - any second he'll be out here to add to the myriad reasons why he needs to get out of bed after being tucked in.
1.       His arm itches.

2.       He needs to hug and kiss me.

3.       He hurt his head.

4.       He hurt his toe.

5.       He hurt his finger.

6.       He hurt his leg.

7.       He needs a sip of water.

8.       He needs to go poop.

9.       He wants the blanket on.

10.   Not that blanket – the other one.

11.   His pajamas came off.

12.   He heard a sound making noise.

13.   He wants his Ruff Ruff.

14.   Not that Ruff Ruff – the other one.

15.   There’s a monster coming.

16.   He didn’t want to be rocked before bed, but now he does.

17.   He didn’t want me to sing him a song when I tucked him in, but now he does.

18.   He needs to hug and kiss his daddy.

19.   His foot itches.

20.   He needs to hug and kiss the dogs.

21.   He misses his grandparents.

22.   He wants to sleep in our bed.

23.   He wants to watch a little T.V.

24.   He wants to throw up in a bowl (he’s not actually sick – he just believes this is a valid excuse to be out of bed).

25.   He does not want me, ever, to relax.