Wifely

This is one of my favorite posts by my good friend Wired Momma. What the h is wrong with being a typical wife? According to her, nada. I think she nails it when she talks about how it’s easy to be a wife when we choose to leave our careers on our own terms. For those of us lucky enough to have a choice of whether or not we want to work, when we can exit when we please, it’s rather easy to embrace a typical wifely role. We have the freedom to be a wife/ mom on our own terms.

But then, it’s easy to forget that some of us out there don’t have this choice or struggle with the choice.

And, it’s also easy to forget sometimes that for us to be happy being a wife means that someone else has had to give up something.

The husband. The husband who makes it all possible for the “happy housewife” to exist.

But why would the media ever want to cover that angle?

Non working mom’s guilt

It’s a dilemma that comes up only once or twice a year, around the time certain conferences are scheduled, or I have a psuedo-business meeting. It’s the dreaded feeling of guilt, but of the non working mom kind. Like, the kind that says, do I really need to spend $300 to attend a conference for no other reason than it provides me a good excuse to get out of the house and interact with other like-minded women?

Yes, I do need that. But the other, Jewish-guilt ridden part of me feels badly that my son has to miss camp class and a swimming lesson tomorrow because I don’t want my part-time sitter to drag him around town.  Or that my IRL friends are making play dates and movie dates and are wondering why I can’t join.

To escape from my household routine for only a mere 24 hours now seems like trying to arrange a ride on the space shuttle. When I was working, it wasn’t so logistically challenging or gut wrenching to leave. It was the norm. One-and-a-half years later, and my three-year-old keeps asking me where I’ll be tomorrow (a meeting.) Or why we needed to run to Fed Ex Office late yesterday to pick up stickers for “my party.” (This one was harder to explain.)

I know come Saturday, when I’m exhausted from parties and adult chatter and I have to entertain my child at ungodly morning hours these feelings will all be but a blip on my non-working radar. But right now I’m just feeling the pain of all moms. Guilt.

And the mommy wars debate carries on…

tugofwarJust when I think the mommy wars debate has died down, a popular, and somewhat controversial site has to go and dredge it all up again. In a recent Momversation webisode, some of the most formidable bloggers tackle the (why won’t it ever die?) headline “Are You a Stressed Working Mom?”

I rarely watch this type of online chattering, but when Y tweeted about the resurrection of a common mommy wars debate I had to tune in.

I’d say the episode doesn’t really deal with the stresses of working motherhood so much as it becomes a platform for the women to talk about why they work, how they can’t be SAHM (uhm, because apparently in the video all we do is play with trains for five hours a day), and the ins and outs of freelancing/ working from home. Included in the discussion is everyone’s favorite former work/ life balance guru Lisa Belkin of the New York Times who now authors the parenting blog, Motherlode, for the paper. There’s some discussion of the “freelance” career path and not becoming the next CEO, but overall, the conversation never reaches into those deep, dark depths of working motherhood like tearing yourself away from your kids to go to work when they are screaming, and guilt we all feel when we have to choose work over our children.

And this is where the debate began to rage.

Temporarily Me and Miss Zoot reacted strongly about the video. You can read the posts for yourselves, but at the core of the argument is that even if moms work, there are discernable differences between all the types of working moms and those who work outside of their house in an office have it harder (edited to add: Miss Zoot did not intend her post to read that way, and I totally see her point, now). (To the Momversation episode’s credit, Daphne, of Cool Mom is actually honest about what the internet’s version of working motherhood is: freelancing and blogging from home is not really all that stressful of an occupation.)

I’ve talked about all this before.  Are you listening, internet? The mommy wars is old news.

Too bad it never dies. That’s because the choices we make as mothers are bound to conflict not only each other, but ourselves. It could be working or not, breastfeeding or not, feeding your kids organic foods or not- just about everything we do as mothers includes a choice we have to make that is inevitably going to piss someone off.

Unfortunately, though, many moms and dads don’t have a choice about whether or not they have to work.  Those who don’t have a choice cannot help but feel anger towards moms who work at home living out their dream of writing, designing web sites, whatever.  Likewise, the moms who work at home at “real” jobs, or doing these freelancing jobs think their situation is tough and that they have the stresses of all working moms as well.

Those of us like me who are just SAHM, well, we just suck all over the internet, don’t we. Because we just sit on our asses and eat bon bons all day long.

I’ve been around all the blocks possible with regards to working. I’ve worked at an office. I’ve worked at home. I’ve worked out of state. I’ve “freelanced.” I’ve not worked at all.

And guess what? None of it is easy and all of it is, well, gasp. WORK.

So I understand all sides of the debate. I understand those moms who are stressed out because they have to go to the office, but their kids have the flu and day care won’t take them so they are scrambling for child care. I get that. I get those moms who slow down their career path to keep themselves in the mix because they can’t stay home all day. I get those moms who work a ton even though they work from a virtual office at their house. I also get those moms who don’t want to work at all, but who freak out because their kids cry all day and they didn’t make it to the dry cleaners on time.

But what I don’t get? I don’t get why time after time, year after year, this “us” vs. “them” debate in the working mom world rears its ugly head. Yeah, the Momversation episode was totally slanted to a certain working mom demographic. But maybe that was its point. To show a sample of what’s out there. Because we all know “real” working moms just don’t have the time to film a five-minute internet show. (Just kidding, but you don’t, right?)

I know that no matter what anyone labels me, thinks, sneers at or is jealous of, that I’m glad I had the ability to make the career decisions I did. I don’t care if the WAHM or WOHM next door thinks I’m crazy because I enjoy playing with pretend airplanes ad nauseum.  Because I made a choice, and it was my choice, and I’ll be damned if anyone is going to make me feel bad about it.

On Bulls and Dinner Parties

There are two things I’ve been thinking about lately. First, I think my last post about quitting one’s job may have been a little bit bullish. The smart and sassy Kim brought my bullish-ness to my attention when she remembered something I said a long time ago – that re-entry into the workforce wouldn’t be an issue for me because of my fabulous part-time arrangement. She thought I had it all figured out.  I think basically I sound like a big asshat. (Truth be told, my word du jour is “daft prick” but I’ll save that discussion for another day.)

Did I really mean to be so confident about my chances of re-entry? Because I didn’t. I guess I didn’t forsee the whole part-time work thing not working out the way I planned and that I’d be getting more itchy over time for some real work. And yes, I admit it. I’m now really itchy for more work and sort of feeling more unsure about my possibilities than ever.

Which brings me to dinner parties. (Yes, these two topics are related, they really are.)

Whenever I go to a dinner party for my husband’s work I always get a case of the insecurities.  He works with so many smart, engaging and interesting people, that I’m always worried about how it’s going to look when I answer the question,

So, do you work?

Not that they care, nor do I really care what they think.  But I really wasn’t in the mood to discuss the mommy wars with the really smart lawyers around the room.

So imagine my delight when another SAHM at the dinner party sat right across the table from me on the other side of a really smart lawyer. She was older, wiser, had somehow gotten her kids into private school. Wow, I thought, I hit the dinner party jackpot.

But all we ended up talking about was potty training, after school activities, and playgroups. I kept trying to include the really smart lawyer to my left involved in the discussion, but really, what 60-year-old man wants to engage with two neurotic Jewish moms?

Any bullish feeling I had about myself evaporated at the table last night just like that chocolate mousse cake off my plate (my g-d was it good.) I left wishing I had more to add to the conversation than my thoughts about the Ferber method.

There’s always the next party, I guess. Either that, or I’m going to have to become a really good liar.

How to quit your job

I’m not good at many things, but one thing I know I did well was quit my job.  In fact, I’m gonna go right out and say it.  I’m really good at saying “no,” “I don’t think so,” “when monkeys fly out of my ass,” you know.

I’m an excellent quitter. 

Once I decided to pull the plug, I did it, and didn’t look back. It may have costed me headaches freelance work, but whatever, I had decided I wanted to be a slave to the little man a full-time SAHM. And, so here I am, still changing adult-sized poops one year after I stormed into my old boss’s office and told her what’s what.

Why am I getting into all this now? Because I have a ton of friends who are ready to pull the plug (even in this economy) and they’re nervous as hell about what to do.  So they call me because I once was like them, full of vim and vigor for the workplace only to have it sucked out of me like the squeegie-tool gets the snot out of a baby’s nose.  They, like all boogers, want out. Any way they can.

But getting out is scary. Going from a cozy place, whether it be a nostril, or your sky-high office with well-paying job is scary.  And here’s where I can help.  (And where the squeegie-nostril analogy will end.)

bulb-syringe

(Almost.)

I’ve been thinking about it for awhile, as you can tell, and I think it’s time for my unsolicited advice for all my friends out there on how to psych yourself up to quit your job. (Drumroll, please.)

  • Once you have made the decision, STICK TO YOUR GUNS.  Negotiating with your boss is a little lot like negotiating with your toddler. Giving in is sin. And what I mean by this is that if they want you to stay on a month and you want to give two weeks, split it in the middle and stay for three.  Unless they’re gonna throw in some ridiculous hanger-on bonus or something.
  • Don’t worry about what you’re going to do after you quit. If you are quitting to spend more time with your kids, then maybe try that until you’re blue in the face from playing Candyland all day long.  And then you’ll kick yourself for not being back at work. I’M JUST KIDDING. Nothing’s permanent. If it’s not working for you at home, I’m sure there are other jobs out there. Welcome to McDonald’s, can I help you?
  • I know, I know, you’re worried about child care. If you quit, you’ll lose your nanny, you can’t afford day care anymore, you don’t need the help. And you probably can’t or don’t. But really, who needs extra help when you get to spend every waking moment with that little ray of sunshine you call caffeine. I mean, really?
  • Really, you know yourself better than anyone else.  You know what’s best for you.  Not your cubemate, not the mail delivery guy, and no, not the barista on the first floor.  When you’re ready to leave, you just know. Trust your gut. Even if it’s put on a few pounds in the last year.

Now go on, get! You’ll be happy, I promise. Just think, in a year, you’ll have mastered the SAHM thing just like I did: you’ll have figured out exactly how to force-your-child-to-sleep-all-afternoon-so-you-can-watch-your-favorite-shows-and-dick-around-on-your-computer-while-simultaneously-empyting-the-dishwasher.

It’s a beautiful thing.

Payback is hell

A necessary evil of having friends, especially mom friends, is loaning money.  I don’t know anyone who hasn’t remembered at one point to put their wallet in their diaper bag when heading out for the day or realized they only had $45 in their checking account so couldn’t put anything on their debit card (who, me?).   At one point or another every mom has asked their mom friend for a few dollars here, $30 there (expensive dinner) with a “sure, I’ll pay you back soon” wink and nod.

I happily loan out money whenever I have a friend in need. Even if my checking account is absurdly low right now (ahem, perhaps I should find another freelance gig), I’m always flush with cash thanks to a neurotic husband and refusal to pay the $2 ATM fee if my bank’s terminal is not nearby. See you at Starbucks and you’re a dollar short? No worries, I got your latte. Need parking fee for the zoo? I’ll get your car out of that lot.

I’ve also been on the receiving end of many a dollar. But as soon as I see my bank friend again, I always pay back. Even if I have to shove the money in their wallet. I hate having an I.O.U. to a B.F.F.

There are those out there though who may not remember how I treated them to a yogurt or turkey sandwich (with a soda), wine (Australian Shiraz) or even a movie. That’s okay, to a point, but I’m finding that the $2 here and $14 there (zoo parking is expensive) can add up.  It’d be really nice if my checking account was at $60 instead of $45.

When I brought this up to my friends today (none of which had any outstanding loans from me), I felt like a cheapskate for my plan to ask my other friend to pay me back from a movie night a few weeks ago.  It’s not like there’s a lot I can do around town with the $11.50 ticket price (that’s 3 lattes!), but it’s sort of the notion that the money is floating out there, somewhere, trying to find its way back to my bank account. (I’d be up to $71.50, cha-ching!)

My friends were mixed on what to do. I just thought I’d be forthright, up front and ask point blank for my money back.  Some thought I should be a little more tactful.  Bring up the movie, talk about its obvious plots, fabulous fashion and terrific dialogue (I loved it too!) and see if she bites with an “oh! I owe you money for the ticket, don’t I?”

But I hate being passive agressive.  If I had any outstanding movie tickets, coffees, parking fees, bottles of wine, anything, I’d want to know ASAP.  As a SAHM now, I have to protect my funds.

So that’s what I’m gonna do.  I’m just gonna ask. I hope she has the correct change.

Paid less but earning more

I can’t stop thinking about something my father said to me yesterday while we were driving:

Whatever you decide to do, do what you love. And earn some money for it.

And it’s left me perplexed because 1) I am trying to figure out what I am going to love to do, and 2) I am trying to focus more on the “love” part and less on the money.  You don’t exactly quit your job to stay home with your kid to then worry about how you’re going to make money, right?

I’ve had plenty of opportunities to rake in the dough, but I am turning them down, even if it means I have less disposable cash to spend on anything that doesn’t come from Target. (Because I can strategically shop at Target – you know, buying the household necessities, but throwing in a $10 tank top that won’t throw off the credit card statement.)

What I’m aiming to find is the perfect mix of volunteer work that will reward me as much as a shopping spree would. So I ran for the board of my local community, gave a silly one-minute shpiel on why I’d be a good board member and got on the next day in some random post-election day miracle.

I don’t know if I’m going to like it, but the people seem nice, and the cause good. I love where I live and I am committed to helping the community. It’s a different world I’m entering. One that I’m honestly not used to.  One where public service outweighs cute shoes.

Month seven here I come. I think I’m ready.

48 hours

Why is it that whenever you return from a vacation (this one being childless to boot) it only takes 48 hours for the vacation euphoria to wear off?

Forty-eight hours post such a vacation and already I’ve been to Target, the grocery store, done umpteen loads of laundry, changed a number of indescribably smelly diapers, cooked dinner, AND got the dry cleaning. (Notice, blogging was not listed in the above. No time to blog when there are real things to be done in the house.)

I’ve gone from somebody’s wife who stayed up late every night drinking wine to somebody’s mother who hasn’t had time to dry her hair since she got back.

 exhausted.jpg  hair.jpg

Bet you can’t tell which one was taken before I went on “vacation.”

It feels like I never left.

The crush

blackhawks.gifOne of the strangest things for me about being a SAHM is who else is around and about during daylight hours. When I was working, of course, most of the other people I would see coming and going were in the same boat as me – commuting to downtown, grabbing a bite on a lunch break, rushing to get home at 5 pm.

But now that I’m home during the day, I’m meeting new people who I never would have been privvy too on my old work schedule.  The UPS dude. The mailwoman.

The hockey player.

See, my across-the-alley-neighbor happens to be a famous hockey player.  A famous, very good looking hockey player who I have a raging mild crush on.  (I know, he’s total jail bait.) 

I had heard the rumor about a year ago from a woman building a home across the way from me.

Yeah, we sold that lot to someone who plays on the Chicago Blackhawks.

I totally tried to play it cool, but inside I was burning. I love men who play the sport of hockey.  I imagined our friendship blossoming.  He’d teach my son to skate and we’d drink Bud Lights on our porch as the sun set.  He’d go off to play a game, and I’d go home and make dinner.  Our relationship would grow out of our passing each others’ garages on a daily basis.  He’d talk about me to his friends:

Did you see that hot MILF across the way? Her son is way cute too.

He’d continue to wave at me from his very manly, hunky SUV and we’d maintain our casual flirtation until he got traded and moved to Buffalo or something.

But then reality hits me.  As in yesterday when he pulls up to my garage as I’m backing in and we chat.  I offer up what I did this weekend:

Yeah, just got back from Grand Rapids visiting a friend and her new baby.

It hits me that my exciting weekend of visiting a friend and her daughter doesn’t quite stack up to pounding a six-pack and getting some ice time.  Of course, I’m totally oblivious to the cute brunette he’s got in the front seat.  I’m forgetting that I’m dressed in sweats (it doesn’t matter if they’re Lululemon) with ratty, greasy hair and bagel crumbs on me from head to toe lugging a 30-pounder on my hip.  

It’s time to close my garage door. Unless I have some lipstick on.

Just when I thought the Mommy Wars debate was dying off…

It seems to have reared its ugly head all over the internet and blogosphere again. I’m all for ending the Mommy Wars, but I’m also all for people articulating their feelings and points of view on the topic. To get a sense of how heated this debate still is, you should all check out the interesting discussions on these two blog posts:

  • Work It Mom! is currently featuring an article by Leslie Bennetts, author of The Feminine Mistake (which I wrote about way back when), that has set off a firestorm of comments and a response by the site’s founder, Nataly. I personally think Ms. Bennetts probably has some nuggets of wisdom in her writing, but found her article a bit off-putting.  I think it’s absurd to quantify or generalize the term “happiness” and that we all have to define it for ourselves as mothers and women and people, not by whether or not we work or not.  I also applaud Nataly for putting different opinions on her site.  We’re all not always going to agree with one another and that’s what is great about the internet and its various communities. Just don’t let it get too personal, people.
  • Speaking of personal attacks, Stephanie, a.k.a. Lawyer Mama, is taking some serious heat for a blog post she wrote last week about the scheduling of her son’s friend’s birthday party during a weekday time when she’s at work.  The ensuing debate and discussion underscore how mothers really judge each other. (You’ll notice I’m not participating in such debate, because I won’t opine either way! I am allowed to take a neutral stand on the internets, right?)
  • And to round it all off, Chicago Crain’s Business published an article this week featuring a few moms’ stories about working vs. staying at home. It doesn’t cover any new territory, but any article that has a headline, “Great friends –until they had kids,” is always going to get me. The mommy wars are so much more fun with a sensational!! headline!!

Ok, I’m off to eat bon bons and watch Oprah re-runs, because, well, you know, that’s all us SAHMs do anyway…

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