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Overwhelmed

August 5, 2009

Too much work.

Too many responsibilities.

Too many people wanting stuff from me.

Too few hours in a day.

Too many things I love getting pushed off to the side.

Too many fears, fears that discourage me from making any changes.

Too much guilt over the fact that I simply can’t do it all.

That said, WAHD was AWESOME this afternoon and took Blur to the park so I could finish up some projects. Now I’m going to make dinner, drink a glass of wine, and pop in a Netflix movie.

Secrets

August 4, 2009

I’m going to spill a secret, something I’ve admitted to few people (especially other moms). In fact, if I had a little more time and more creativity, I’d achieve catharsis in a more anonymous way by scrawling this on a postcard and sending it to the Postsecret website

Here is what my postcard would say:

I make my husband put my son back to bed almost every time Blur wakes up in the middle of the night – and I have for the past two years. 

Keep in mind that Blur has never been a great sleeper. He wakes up a lot.

The truth is, I’m a beast when dragged from slumber anytime between the hours of midnight and six a.m.* I bump into walls, stub my fingers and toes, mutter to myself, and get really really frustrated really really fast. I’ll do anything else with little to no complaint: I will readily wash dishes, sweep floors, vacuum rugs, scrub windows, make dinner, do laundry, clean up poop and puke, dust the blinds, feed Blur, play with Blur, change Blur’s diaper… but somehow, like some sort of stereotypical 1950s sitcom dad, I struggle with middle-of-the-night wake ups. It’s my Achilles heel, my kryptonite. Heck, Oprah could shake me awake to tell me I’ve won a trip around the world and I’d still get pissed off. Maybe it’s a physiological thing. Maybe I have some sort of unnamed disorder. 

Luckily, WAHD saves the day (the night) every time. He’s a master at getting Blur to go back to bed. WAHD doesn’t particularly enjoy this duty, but unlike me, he does it without melting down. He says (with some resignation) that it’s easier on everyone to leave me be. Technically, since WAHD and I both work from home and neither of us has to get ready to leave the house each morning, I suppose it doesn’t matter. Someone needs to do it; he’s the better parent for that job. I still feel guilty. Being able to soothe your kid back to sleep seems like a touchstone of good mothering. Instead, I’m sprawled out under my sheets with my ears plugged.

So that’s my secret, and why I will never, ever be in the running for a Mother of the Year award.

*I would like to add, though, that when Blur threw up at 4 a.m. yesterday, I somehow managed to bounce out of bed, clean the carpet again, and get Blur to fall asleep for another hour. So that’s progress. By the time he’s ready for Kindergarten, I should be just about there.

Sickie

August 3, 2009

Blur got sick yesterday. It was one of those out-of-the-blue things: one second he was blazing his usual path of destruction, and the next, his lunch was all over his bedroom floor. Even Blur looked surprised. WAHD dunked him in the bath while I did hazmat duty, cleaned the carpet, and started a hot load of laundry.

Luckily, that was his only bout of puking (thank GOD… A few months ago, he came down with a stomach bug that made me feel like I was in a remake of The Exorcist). He ran a mild fever last night and woke up this morning in a subdued state, even going so far as to sit on the couch and watch a full hour of Thomas the Train. By evening, though, he was back to his old tricks, racing back and forth between the front door and the back door and tossing balloons into the air.

I hope WAHD and I can avoid catching whatever it is he had. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s gastrointestinal issues. I went 13 years without puking, and then I had Blur. I am no match for hardy, vile kid germs.

Quitter

August 1, 2009

This morning, after my kid ran into my room, jumped on my bed, and ripped me away from my dreams (he did snuggle with me for a while to make up for it), I yawned, dragged my laptop over, and did a little work.

Right now, I’m working seven days a week. It’s not all day every day – sometimes it’s just an hour or two – but the nature of my job dictates that I log in on a regular basis. It’s kind of a pain and I don’t always like it. Sometimes I threaten to up and quit and make WAHD bring in all the dough. However, the fact that I’ve stuck with this gig for three years now is, I suppose, a testament to the fact that I ultimately enjoy what I do, even if I won’t admit it.

Three years is a record for me. I have a strong work ethic when I want to, but I am also a notorious quitter. Look into my past and you’ll see the deflated remnants of a whole string of jobs that I started and couldn’t stick with. Among them:

*Administrative assistant. Actually, this was the best job I ever had, working for the best boss I ever had in the summers after my senior year of high school and freshman year of college. I took calls, wrote letters, and entered data. I got to wear nice clothes and eat lunch in the full-service company cafeteria (I even had my own tab). My boss never said a negative word to me, ever. But I was 19, thought I was too brilliant for that kind of work, and moved on to “bigger and better things.” 

*Starbucks barista. At first, this gig was fun. I joined up at the start of the holiday season and enjoyed a two-month honeymoon period during which I was constantly high on peppermint mochas and cranberry blondie bars. Inevitably, though, the buzz wore off, and the decaf-triple-venti-nonfat-sugar free vanilla-with caramel latte divas started to get to me (not to mention the arrogant bastards who would advise me to go out and get a college degree so I could “make something” of my life – frustrating because at that point I had a graduate degree).

*Animal shelter cat room assistant. Cats. Lots of them. Fleas. Lots of them. Pee. Lots of it. During this brief stint of altruism, I sneezed constantly and smelled like an ammonia factory. The worst part was that whenever one cat got sick, all of them would, and then they’d be euthanized en masse. I lasted two months before calling it quits.

*Journalist. For one manic summer, I was the only reporter for a tiny weekly paper in rural Montana (not far from where the Uni-Bomber had his hideout). My job was to cover three towns spread out over 77 miles of highway. I wrote about car accidents, small-town courtroom dramas, logging disputes, forest fire prevention, school plays, the county fair, and lumberjack contests. I also took all the pictures. They paid me $9 an hour. That’s the same summer I ran up a mountain of credit card debt.

*Bookstore employee. There was nothing difficult about it. I was assigned to unpack the books and put them on the shelves. Embarrassingly, I lasted one day and never went back. I literally didn’t show up for my next scheduled shift. It was an Office Space moment for me: ” I don’t like my job, and, uh, I don’t think I’m gonna go anymore.”

All About Blur

July 31, 2009

“Blur,” as I shall call him here (in reality, he has a pretty standard name), is my two-year-old son. Because I expect that Blur will feature heavily in this day-in-the-life-of-a-bedraggled-mommy blog, I thought I should write up a little profile of our wall-coloring, toy-throwing, apple juice-spilling beast angel.

Here’s what you need to know about Blur:

*When he was born, he was on the small end of the spectrum. He’s been a little guy ever since. He consistently comes in at the 10th percentile or less for weight and something like the 90th percentile for height. Blur makes up for his string-bean physique by being a force of nature. Unless he is sick, sleeping, or pooping, there’s rarely a minute that he’s not running, climbing, laughing hysterically, crying hysterically, screaming, jamming pencils into the printer, yanking safety plugs out of the wall sockets, jumping on/off his bed, throwing himself against solid objects, sneaking into the refrigerator, taking socks out of the bottom drawer of our dresser, or hiding in the cabinets. Most toddlers are like this, I know, but Blur can do this all day, every day, without stopping.

Blur makes WAHMy and WAHD very tired. (I compared pictures of how we looked right before he was born and how we look now, and I swear we’ve both aged at least five years. Sorry, WAHD, it’s true.)

*Blur likes animals. We have a season pass to the zoo, and we take him at least once or twice a week. Blur is terrified of worms, ladybugs, and butterflies, but he loves to chirp at the meerkats, hug the goats, and gaze at the lizards and snakes in the reptile house.

*Blur also likes country songs, especially country music songs sung by purty country music artists. His favorite, by far, is Carrie Underwood. Whenever he sees her, he claps his hands, dances, and beams with glee. She was on Oprah the other day, and you’d have thought he’d just won the lottery. He’ll also listen respectfully (albeit briefly) to Kenny Chesney and Darius Rucker, but you can tell it’s a different kind of relationship with them.

*Blur is some sort of tech genius. You should see the way he uses an iPhone: for the last year, he’s had the thumb drag down pat. He knows how to find his baby blog and the dog-popping-balloons video on the Internet, even though we don’t have them bookmarked (watch out, though, because if the connection is slow and they take a few seconds to load, he gets very crabby). He figured out the “print screen” feature months before we did. I am afraid to let him play with my computer because he’d probably change the settings, come up with a new password, and render the machine useless to anyone other than himself.

*Blur doesn’t like sugar. This year he refused his birthday cake and demanded an apple instead. Clearly, this is not a trait from my side of the gene pool. I can’t pat myself on the back for reinforcing this good habit, either, because in desperate moments I have tried to break it for the sake of bribery. No dice. Lollipops work for some kids; Blur will have none of it. He knows how to divest me of my powers.

Like most moms, I could go on for hours. I won’t, though, because he just woke up, and it won’t be long before he runs in here, screams “MAAAAMMMMMMMMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” and hurls himself around my neck. It’s like being tackled by a miniature linebacker. Must go steel myself.

Who’s who and what’s what

July 30, 2009

I am a work-at-home mom (WAHM). My husband is a work-at-home dad (WAHD?). Our son – I’ll just call him “Blur,” a nickname that reflects his ability to move nearly at the speed of light and the appearance of every photograph we have of him – is a typical entropy-happy two year old who believes that no parent should have to spend his or her day attached to a computer when there are so many other, more fun things to do, such as entertain him. We coexist in a 1400-square-foot condo, a size that seemed perfectly reasonable when we purchased it but that now seems a little inadequate to contain all the energy the three of us create, often combustibly, as we bump into each other throughout the day.

It gets interesting around here, especially if we don’t compartmentalize and plan. We handle our situation by trading off. If my husband (why don’t we go ahead and call him WAHD?) and I both have a lot to do, one of us will take Blur in the morning while the other one works, and then we’ll switch off in the afternoon. If one of us is really, really busy on a particular day, that parent gets the entire day to work and the other gets the entire day to play cars, go to the park, watch Sesame Street, and keep Blur from doing stuff like chipping away at the hardwood floor or taking the closet doors off their hinges.

At the end of the day, both of us – no matter who worked and who did the bulk of the parenting – are exhausted. I used to stay up late and go to bed somewhere between midnight and 2 a.m. Now I find myself eying the bedroom at 9 or 10. Instead of watching movies all the way through, we usually have to watch them in segments. For instance, it took us four nights to get through The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, even though both WAHD and I really enjoyed it. As for free time, we have very little of it. Even typing this, I feel I’m being quite decadent with my schedule. 

Our friends often tell us how lucky we are to be at home every day with Blur. Here is my official response: Yes! Yes, it is! I love being with my child and watching him grow up. I love that I can wear my pajamas well into the afternoon if I feel like it. I love that I can have lunch at my own kitchen table, and I love that I do not have a boss (other than Blur) telling me what to do. I love that we can spend so much time together as a family.

Here is my unofficial response: Can I trade with you for a week? Working from home can be a giant pain in the derriere. Blur does not understand why his mom is at home but not with him. Blur sees nothing wrong with marching up to mommy’s desk and interrupting her train of thought, which is why every task seems to take twice as long as it should. I’m no stranger to feeling stressed out and torn up. If I’m making Blur happy and spending a lot of time with him, I’m putting work on hold. If I do a fabulous job at work, it usually means that Blur feels neglected. I care about my work and I care about Blur. I care about Blur more – but my work matters a lot to me, too, and besides, we need the income. We can’t afford to be a one-earner household. 

I’m sure I’m not alone in this, which is why I’m writing this blog. I figure that there are people out there who can relate. I’m sure there are other parents who feel like they’re constantly dropping all the balls in their own personal juggling acts. Being a parent is challenging and rewarding and stressful no matter who you are or what you do, but I do think that being a WAH parent comes with its own unique challenges and rewards.