So -- this one's for my sister-in-law, and for screamy mimi. And for shorty, and dooce. It's for my girlfriend Laura who reads this blog and has two amazing kids herself. It's for N, also a mother of two, and C, whose baby is just four months younger than my own boy. It's for my incredible girlfriend K who is a mom to an adorable one-year-old, and who has battled cancer and numerous health issues herself since her son's birth (she just finished chemo and radiation, and her spirit inspires me every day). It's for all the moms in my mom's group. It's for any mom anywhere who's ever felt frustrated with the fact that her to-do list never seems to get completely checked off on any given day.
There's a good reason for that. Multiple reasons, in fact. As you'll see.
Dear Carolyn: Best friend has child. Her: exhausted, busy, no time for self, no time for me, etc. Me (no kids): What'd you do today? Her: Park, play group ...OK. 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. 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); I manage to get it all done. I'm feeling like the kid is an excuse to relax and enjoy, but if so, why won't my friend tell me the truth? Is this a 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 have the same questions. -- Tacoma, Washington.Dear Tacoma: 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, because it's validation you seem to want, the real answer is what you get. When you have young kids, your typical day is: constant attention, from getting them out of bed, fed, cleaned, dressed; to keeping them out of harm's way; to answering their coos, cries and 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 checkout-line screaming.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. 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 or marvel how much more productively she uses her time. Either make a sincere effort to understand, or keep your snit to yourself.
Can you hear me clapping?
Now, let me clarify -- I am blessed with friends who have never openly wondered whether I've developed bedsores from lazing around in my new lifestyle. I can't say that I have a "Tacoma, Washington" among my loved ones. So this isn't so much a redirect of this rant to the people in my life as it is me flying high the banner of the stay-at-home mom -- and of her understanding circle of dear friends. Because I know I've fallen off the radar of a lot of people who are important to me -- I was never the world's best correspondent, and now it may be months between calls or notes or Facebook Wall postings. And they may think they've fallen off of MY radar, but that's not true. For what it's worth, I think of them -- of YOU -- all the time. I remember birthdays, wonder how someone's mother is doing, wish I could be there for him, plan to call her. I miss people I taught with, worked with, danced with, laughed with. And if those people are YOU, I want you to know -- you are still important to me.
Don't give up on me. I'm still here. My hands are full and every hour is a balancing act, but I AM here. With everything I've got, thank you for being understanding and patient and flexible.