Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Why Everyone Should Have Kids

Immersion therapy. You become immune to poop and vomit and blood. So if you ever have to take a job as a fish gutter or a janitor at an amusement park, you’re all set.

Not really crazy, see? You can talk to yourself all you want and people just think you’re talking to your kids.

Bobby is sick. You never have to stay the full time at a boring party ever again. One of your kids is almost always sick anyway, and you don’t even have to blame the fake illness on your spouse!

The dog is off the hook. You’ve got someone new to blame your farts on.

Lice, nature's gift. Know someone who doesn't respect your personal space? Watch how fast they back away when you utter the L-word. Also works when friends want to come over but you're feeling too lazy to clean your house or put on a bra.

You can have a legacy. Share all those fart jokes you learned in grade school – with an audience that actually finds them funny.

There's also a bunch of crap about deep and abiding love and junk, but really, the resurrection of your fart jokes is all the reason you need.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The "New" Me

My oldest daughter turns ten today. It occurred to me that, while this is a milestone for her, it’s one for me, too, and thus an appropriate time for some reflection.

I’m one of those moms who really focuses on her kids and I make no apology for it. I buy second-hand everything and skip vacations and restaurants and comforts so I can stay home. I breastfed for more than eight years. I play. I let my kids make crazy messes then make them clean it up, so they practice both creativity and responsibility. I drive for every field trip, go to every school party. I hang art done in crayon on my walls.

The funny thing is, none of that is what I intended to be.

I was a workaholic. My goal was to be an award-winning educator and to rack up multiple advanced degrees. When trying to get pregnant, I decided I needed a little less stress and work in my life, so I took a different full-time job, got a part-time job, and started grad school. When pregnant, I thought breastfeeding sounded nice, and hoped I’d be successful, but I knew there was no way I could commit to more than a year – I wanted my body back. I remember throwing the baby book across the room in frustration at the idea of being a stay-at-home mom. It sounded great, but we couldn’t afford it. Perhaps most telling of all, I once begged my husband to promise that he would never love any children we had more than he loved me.

And then she was born. Perfect. Beautiful. She had deep brown eyes with a blue ring around the iris and those eyes told me she was ageless and wise and mine. She had monkey fur on her shoulders and ears and dark hair and dark skin and she was a she and she cried and it was the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard.

The nurses took her from me to clean her and suction her and assign her an Apgar, while other nurses attended to me and the part of birth no one cares about. And I said to my husband, “Go with her!” He went, and so did my heart. Nothing has been the same since, and I am so glad.

I love you, Eleanor.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

No More Stifled Sneezes

When I was in college, I had this very old professor who was charged with teaching philosophy to a bunch of freshmen. I wish I’d gotten more out of the class. The old professor certainly had lots to teach us. Like many eighteen year olds, though, it was hard to separate the meat of deep thought from endless Venn diagrams. The most enduring lesson I learned in the class came when a student tried to stifle a sneeze. The professor told her, and us, that sneezes weren’t meant to be stifled. They’re good for you and everyone sneezes, so just let it out, he said. You’ll feel better.

I remember feeling sort of embarrassed for the professor. After all, he was forgetting his audience. We were eighteen, and image was everything. None of us were about to let out a sneeze and admit we were less than the perfect image we’d worked so hard to sculpt.

The other day, a friend admitted on her Facebook status that she was losing her job and her husband wasn’t being quite supportive enough. I was struck by her honesty. There isn’t a lot of that, at least in my Facebook world. It’s filled with posts that read like one of those never-ending Christmas brag letters some families send out: home renovations, fancy vacations, hip restaurants, perfect children, pictures of the lovely food we cook. We paint the edges of our personal picture with references to politics, tv shows, and music videos.

We (and I’m including myself here) paint a rosy picture. It is lovely. It just isn’t real. You won’t find job loss, divorce, foreclosure, illness, scraping to pay the bills, or depression anywhere. I know that unpleasant events exist for so many of us, though. Someday cultural historians will probably examine old Facebook posts and marvel at the disconnect between the life we’ve portrayed and the life we actually lived during one of the hardest times in American history.

I wonder why we do it.

Are we really so close in emotional development to those image-conscious eighteen year olds in my philosophy class? Can we still not admit to being human enough to let the bad stuff touch us? Are we mired in notions that we shouldn’t share our pain or failures because it isn’t polite? Do we refrain from sharing the negative because people will judge us as “no fun” or not positive enough?

I worry every time I post a negative status. I know I have friends who think that admitting to negative thoughts or worries is a weakness, and that people should be able to reframe anything in a positive light. I worry that they’ll think that just admitting to the negative somehow means I’m not trying to be positive, or that I won’t get there eventually, or that they’ll somehow “catch” the bad ju-ju I’m giving off.

Bad news isn’t contagious. It doesn’t need to be shunned and hidden. And it definitely doesn’t mean the person who is experiencing a bad day or week or month isn’t worthy of compassion and acceptance. Admitting the negative gives us a chance to be really honest, and in turn, to practice compassion when people share what’s really going on in their lives. I can’t help but think more compassion and honesty are good for all of us.

So from now on, I’m going to work on taking my old professor’s advice to heart. When I’m feeling the need to share something negative, I’ll let it out and feel better.

Monday, April 18, 2011

In defense of the ignorant. Kinda.

The other day, things were going terribly. I had dental pain, a migraine, the kids were being lousy. Not only that, but my husband was working both his jobs, which translates to “mommy is the only game in town, kids, so ask her for everything you need, and ask often.”

After my husband got off work, we met him for dinner at a wonderful upscale restaurant (okay, it was Ci-Ci’s Pizza) for some relaxation. Not surprisingly, the meal didn’t improve the day; the kids were loud and overactive, and we ended up leaving after my youngest child licked the parmesan cheese shaker. Oh, yes, she did.

When we left, my husband gallantly offered to let me drive his car for a break from the kids. I was desperate enough to accept – and this is something astounding, since his car is a/c-less, heat-less, and smells like a garbage dump.

I got in, turned the car on and got pelted by his too-loud radio. The station was the local NPR affiliate, and a reporter was explaining how polar bears are being adversely affected by melting ice caps as a result of global warming.

I turned it off.

Not just down. Off.

Let me just say that being well-informed is a big deal to me. The first thing I do every morning when I wake is scan the headlines at cnn.com and nytimes.com . I read current events voraciously, and I’m passionate about the importance of knowing as much as I can about everything. Actually, in this regard, I’m probably pretty annoying.

And I turned the radio off.

I didn’t care about polar bears, or melting ice caps, or even global warming. I cared that finally, finally, I was alone with no one to touch me or talk to me or demand one more second of my brain power. I didn’t have any left to give, frankly.

I sat there for a while, and when I finally started to drive away from Ci-Ci’s it hit me: No wonder ignorance is rampant! There are lots and lots of people for whom what I had isn’t a “bad day”, it’s an every day. When your brain is so full of the hard work of scraping by, making ends meet, getting the children fed and clothed and homework finished and happy all on your own, worrying about the broken washer or car or stove that you don’t have money to fix, and you can’t afford a necessary trip to the dentist – there isn’t room for worrying about polar bears, or ice caps, or global warming, or wars in distant lands, or some new bill being passed in Congress that probably won’t even affect you anyway.

The truth is that in the times we live in, when so many people are struggling, knowledge and passion about that knowledge are luxuries.

On that ride home, I promised myself two things: That I wouldn’t be so quick to judge (ex., what do you mean, I posted an article on Facebook about the union protests in Wisconsin and instead of replying, you guys are posting about tv shows and what you ate for dinner?), and I’d be more grateful for the luxuries I enjoy, even on the “bad days”.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Stay at Home Parent Wanted:

Qualifications: Love, Patience, Integrity, Commitment

Expectations: You will provide constant care for all children in the home who are too young to attend elementary school. This job entails meal preparation for the children, as well as providing for their entertainment, education, hygiene, socialization, dressing, and life skills.

Pay and Benefits: None. To be clear, you will not be paid. Sick leave and vacation time are not provided. Should you become ill, you will not be relieved of your duties. There are no health, dental, or vision benefits.

Information of note:

There are no “breaks”. Lunch and bathroom times will be observed in the presence and care of the children. This is not a guarantee that you will receive lunch or bathroom times.

Appointments for personal doctor visits, haircuts, etc, should you choose to continue to make them, will be conducted while the children are present.

Your children will not nap. This establishment understands that some other children do nap. Yours do not.

You do not have money to hire a babysitter, mother’s helper, or go to those really cool kid-friendly places other caregivers do. This information is subject to change based on the economy and the work-outside-the-home secondary caregiver’s career advancement/blind luck.

Your working hours are unlikely to be a time to do “housework” or other activities that do not directly involve care of the child. You will have some flexibility, but generally, these chores are to be done on your own time.

You will do more for your school-age children’s school than caregivers who do not Stay Home. Caregivers who work outside the home tend to believe (and say out loud) that you are not as “busy” as them, and can therefore do more for the school. You will accept that their views come from ignorance, not an intent to hurt, and forgive them with grace. After all, your children are always watching and listening, in order to learn by your example.

On occasion, this establishment will require that you take odd jobs in order to cover the bills the establishment incurs. These jobs will either be done in the evening or on weekends, or during the day if you are able to find a job that will allow you to work while caring for the children at the same time.

Thank you for considering this position. This will be the only thanks you receive.

Getting Started

The title of this blog post is unoriginal, but sometimes "obvious" works.

I'm writing because there's always a lot on my mind that's too potent to articulate in polite company, too much to lay on my husband (at least, as often as I've been doing it), and too long to post on Facebook. Now the polite company can read if they're inclined. Facebookers will be spared. My husband, well, he's still on the hook, but at least he can read it on his own schedule instead of hearing it full blast the first second I see him each day.

There isn't, at least in my mind, a recurring theme to what you'll find here. I can offer a few guarantees: no recipes, cleaning or decorating tips, or ways to do something perfectly. I am an unabashed failure at any of those things. There will be lots of talk about parenthood, politics, family life, and random ideas that strike my fancy. I regularly fail at all this stuff, too, but it's a lot more interesting!

Mostly, what I want to present is an honest look at how I'm affected by life - what's happening globally and locally and right in my own living room.