Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I couldn't have said it better myself.

My sister-in-law sent me the most amazing e-mail today, and I felt so exhilarated by it that I had to post it here. The excerpt she sent me was a scanned piece from The Washington Post, called "Tell Me About It." And I liked it so much I've RETYPED it here. If I knew what date it was circulated, I would include that, but I have no clue -- I'll cite it the best I can. This piece is written by Carolyn Hax of The Washington Post. You can reach her at tellme@washpost.com.

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. 


screamy mimi said...


Thank you.

I have to tell myself that the people that matter KNOW why I have practically no time. But sometimes it's easy to hear those "what do you do all day?" remarks and get frustrated or discouraged. Sometiems at the end of a day I look back and think, what DID I do today?

...And then I look at her, and she does something she's never done before, or not--she just exists peacefully because of me, her needs met, sleeping silently, fully trusting in my care.

It is a full time job, and I'm so grateful to have the ability to be here for it full time.

I'm so grateful to know there are other people that feel the same way.

Mike said...

And we still love you too.

(And definitely look forward to reading more of these writings, even if they aren't daily.)

And have WAY too much catching up to do than can be done in a comment box at ... oof, 3:21 AM (ouch).

And you definitely need to see twitter (http://twitter.com) - great overview at http://www.commoncraft.com/Twitter (2 min 30 sec video) - might fit well into your day. Just sayin'.


Laura said...

"giving my forehead some keyboard" -- hee!

Thanks for the shout out, after a day with a Brownie meeting where one kid got lost and then the other melted down and didn't want to acknowledge that I couldn't abandon the other 10 2nd-graders to take her home, preceded by preschool pickup, recapture of an escaping yard decoration, and 3 errands, and followed by homework enforcement and the feeling that DH wondered why the dishes were still in the sink. And that was just 2-6 PM...

Yet, I wouldn't want to miss it! The little one decided tonight that he can read (3-letter words, so far) -- I'm very excited!