Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Best friend has child. Her: exhausted, busy, no time for self, no time for me, etc. Me (no kids): Wow. Sorry. What’d you do today? Her: Park, play group . . .
Okay. I’ve done Internet searches, I’ve talked to parents. I don’t get it. What do stay-at-home moms do all day? Please no lists of library, grocery store, dry cleaners . . . I do all those things, too, and I don’t do them EVERY DAY. I guess what I’m asking is: What is a typical day and why don’t moms have time for a call or e-mail? I work and am away from home nine hours a day (plus a few late work events) and I manage to get it all done. I’m feeling like the kid is an excuse to relax and enjoy — not a bad thing at all — but if so, why won’t my friend tell me the truth? Is this a peeing contest (“My life is so much harder than yours”)? What’s the deal? I’ve got friends with and without kids and all us child-free folks get the same story and have the same questions.
Relax and enjoy. You’re funny.
Or you’re lying about having friends with kids. Or you’re taking them at their word that they actually have kids, because you haven’t personally been in the same room with them. I keep wavering between giving you a straight answer and giving my forehead some keyboard. To claim you want to understand, while in the same breath implying that the only logical conclusions are that your mom-friends are either lying or competing with you, is disingenuous indeed.
So, since it’s validation you seem to want, the real answer is what you get. In list form. When you have young kids, your typical day is: constant attention, from getting them out of bed, fed, clean, dressed; to keeping them out of harm’s way; to answering their coos, cries, questions; to having two arms and carrying one kid, one set of car keys, and supplies for even the quickest trips, including the latest-to-be-declared-essential piece of molded plastic gear; to keeping them from unshelving books at the library; to enforcing rest times; to staying one step ahead of them lest they get too hungry, tired or bored, any one of which produces the kind of checkout-line screaming that gets the checkout line shaking its head.
It’s needing 45 minutes to do what takes others 15.
It’s constant vigilance, constant touch, constant use of your voice, constant relegation of your needs to the second tier.
It’s constant scrutiny and second-guessing from family and friends, well-meaning and otherwise. It’s resisting constant temptation to seek short-term relief at everyone’s long-term expense.
It’s doing all this while concurrently teaching virtually everything — language, manners, safety, resourcefulness, discipline, curiosity, creativity. Empathy. Everything.
It’s also a choice, yes. And a joy. But if you spent all day, every day, with this brand of joy, and then, when you got your first 10 minutes to yourself, wanted to be alone with your thoughts instead of calling a good friend, a good friend wouldn’t judge you, complain about you to mutual friends, or marvel how much more productively she uses her time. Either make a sincere effort to understand or keep your snit to yourself.
OK, I’m with Carolyn on this one. I don’t have kids, but you only have to spend an afternoon around some to know they’re tough! Even the best behaved kids are a lot to handle. I’ve looked after my brother’s kids – 3 of ’em – and even today at 13, 12 and 10, I need to go down for a nap after hanging out with them. It blows my mind to imagine if it were my responsibility to keep another human being alive, healthy and ensure they don’t grow up to be an asshole.
Several of my friends are working mothers (some work full-time, some part-time) and I constantly marvel and wonder how they are able to do it. Take my friend Kara (www.hamperchronicles.com). She went from zero to 2 kids in 38 weeks. She went from literally spending a few hours a day at the gym to being lucky to spend a few hours a night sleeping. I’d see her at work every day and mutter obscenities at her under my breath because she was always on time (early even), always matchy matchy and always had makeup on. Meanwhile there were days I had to pick the crust out of my eyes before I could apply a bit of mascara at my desk. Sometimes we’d compare our mornings. She was up at 5:30, got her daughters up and dressed, fed them, entertained them for a bit, put them and all their stuff in the car, brought them to daycare and finally came to work. I got up a good couple of hours later, sprinted to the bathroom, through my shower, did my hair (kind of), got dressed and sped to work. And her children – awesome. They’re smart, they’re sociable and they’re funny. How Kara? How? She’d always say that something changes when you have kids and you somehow just manage. I friggen hope so.
I also have friends who are stay at home moms and they don’t have it easy either. My cousin Sandra has three bosses – four year old twins and a seven year old. You think that’s a walk in the park? No way. Imagine if your boss insisted you take him to the bathroom every time he needs to go? They need constant attention, entertainment and supervision. Her husband works unbelievably long hours so it’s often all on her to make sure everyone (including her husband) gets fed, played with, read to and scrubbed up. But you know what? Whenever I see her, she’s happy and literally bubbling over with energy. How? How? I mean, my dog threw up three times this morning and I was out of sorts all day. Totally ruined my workout. ; )
So, moms, parents, stay at home or working, my hat goes off to you. IMHO, there’s no job on the planet that’s harder or more important than what you do all day, everyday.