Monday, April 27, 2009

The Golf Widow

The golf season has officially begun and I find myself in a new role - that of a golf widow. This will be our first summer as members of a country club and I'm not sure this is what I signed up for. I was the one with the connections to introduce us to the club and I went through the proposal process fully aware that the goal was a golf membership. Maybe I was counting on there being truth to the rumored 5-10 year wait list for golf. Maybe I was distracted by my husband's excitement at golfing again. But, regardless of how I got here, I am about to embark on a summer of single parenting the weekends while my husband is golfing.

The argument by my husband is, "what's the big deal, you take care of the kids by yourself all the time". Thank you for noticing and EXACTLY. That is exactly the big deal. I don't count on the weekends for blissful alone time, but I do count on sharing the load. I look forward to the weekend where the parenting duties get split up. I like the support when a death match breaks out over a toy; and now this spring, I appreciate the team approach to t-ball and soccer practices.

My husband's rebuttal is, "I work all week, when am I supposed to have any hobbies?" I don't have a good answer. I work all week too. And, if we want to get technical about the work week, I put in a lot of overtime. There are many nights that my husband gets "stuck on a call" or "stuck in a meeting" and misses the train.

My sister-in-law, a seasoned golf widow, has told me to "stand your ground". But how much ground do I really have? There's two of us and theoretically we should be splitting this parenting gig 50/50. We've established that we both work all week, so who should have the weekends off? I do have time during the week to run or play tennis when the kids are in school, so I don't always need my husband's support on the weekend to have hobbies. But, I'm also not happy with the expectation that I am always there to take care of the kids.

Since I do have hobbies of my own during the week, I will be as flexible as I can to support my husband's interests on the weekend. Maybe we can compromise for one round of golf a weekend. This discussion is tabled for now, but definitely not closed. He assured me just this past weekend that he is only golfing a lot now to build his handicap for the summer tournaments. Yes, you read that right, tournaments is plural. Definitely not closed.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The "P" Word

I used to cringe when saying the "P" word. You know, "penis". I always felt uncomfortable, like I had no business uttering this word. That feeling definitely stemmed from my upbringing. I remember once when I was probably about 5, I have no idea what the context was, but I said the word in front of my Mother. Her anxious response was "Where did you hear that word?". She had to ask because she knew I didn't hear it from her. Certain words and topics were just never spoken or discussed in my house growing up. And, her line of questioning made me think maybe there was something wrong with that word.

Fast forward and I am now the sole female in a household of males. Having two boys, a husband, and a male dog, the word "penis" is used in everyday conversation at our house. For example, my 5 year old likes to refer to the opening in his boxers as his "penis pocket". Or, come to my house any evening at bath time and you will be sure to hear my kids comparing their penises in the bathtub. I decided to get over my hang up with this word and am now shocked sometimes how often I use the word "penis". But, I want to make sure my kids do not feel ashamed to talk about their bodies using the correct terms. Why should we make up a word for something when a word already exists?

According to my husband, my mother-in-law used to refer to it as a "dinger". Really? My 2 year old threw her for a loop when we had an entire car ride conversation about his new adventures in potty training. As you can imagine, the word penis came up more than a few times. She turned a shade redder with each indifferent reference he made. They are little boys and they see no reason why they wouldn't refer to that part of their body any differently than another. If their arm hurts, they would say their arm hurts. So, when we are at the beach and have been in the sand all day, anyone within earshot knows they have sand in their bathing suits and their penis hurts.

We do, of course, have a couple of rules regarding such words as certain topics might not be seen as "polite" in all situations. We don't encourage this as dinner table conversation and this is not a hot topic for the general public. Although, I did have another little boy on a play-date innocently point out to me that his Teddy Graham had a penis. I'm not sure I could see it. But, really, hearing a kid state the somewhat obvious is not horrifying. I just smiled and so did the other mother. If there was a split-second where his mother or I felt the slightest bit uncomfortable, we didn't let it show.

We really do learn by example. My husband and I have never once made our kids feel wrong for calling a penis a penis. And this word has just become a part of their regular vocabulary. This is a start. My hope is that our openness with them now will lead to productive open conversations down the road when we are no longer talking about just a penis.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Inconvenient Truth

Having a sick kid home all day can be a real inconvenience. I know you Working Moms have to deal with this; you can't go to work if you need to stay home with your child. But the same goes for us SAHMs. I'm a Stay At Home Mom who is now realizing that I am actually very rarely home.

The 5 year old has been home from school now for two days with Scarlet Fever. Don't get too alarmed, its just strept throat with a rash. But nonetheless, he is still contagious until tomorrow when he has had a few doses of the antibiotic. Most days I do have a 2 year old tethered to me, but we still get out, run errands, hit the gym, attend various committee meetings, etc. We pack in a pretty full day. With a contagious one, I am now tethered to both kids at home.

Yesterday was our first day at home and it felt like a time warp. Without my usual schedule, my brain seemed to stop functioning. I think I got confused why I was still standing in my kitchen after 9am. The thing is, if he hadn't been complaining yesterday morning that his ear hurt so bad, I might have pushed forward with our day as usual. He was otherwise pretty much asymptomatic. An early morning trip to the doctor's office did not work with my other obligations for the day.

I now understand why it was always so hard to convince my own Stay At Home Mother that I was sick enough to miss school. I rarely exaggerated my symptoms, but she rarely believed me. My illnesses were probably not too convenient for her either. Sick days at home became pretty special. It was not often that I got the small TV moved into my room and all meals served to me on a tray in bed.

However inconvenient, the truth was, I had to cancel my day yesterday. I made my calls and emails from my cell in the doctor's office waiting room. A throat swab later, I was making up a little bed on the couch in the den for the 5 year old to spend a sick day at home. When I turned on some cartoons for him and brought him his lunch on a tray, he said to me "Wow Mom, this is like I am really sick, this is really special". History repeats itself.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Being Brave

I took the kids to see a movie today alone. This was a brave move for me. I knew it wasn't guaranteed to be a smooth trip, but I forged ahead anyway. So many things can go wrong with getting a 5 and 2 year old into the theater complex, into the bathrooms, in and out of the food line, into the theater with the popcorn still in the bag, into the seats, and then have them want to stay in those seats for the duration of the movie.

Thankfully, today's adventure did go smoothly with only one minor popcorn spill. But, when did this type of scenario define the bravery in my life? Before kids when I had a career, being brave was speaking in front of 200 people at a conference. Or, sitting with a family while their loved one was dying in the next room. I still think I am capable of doing both of these feats, but at the same time I am intimidated by what seems like the simplest task - taking two kids to the movies alone.

I remember my first brave act as a new mom. My first born was two weeks old and I took him for a short walk in his stroller. I drove to the park, got the stroller unfolded and the infant seat attached correctly. And when we were done with the walk, I got the infant seat back in the car and the stroller folded back up again. I remember feeling such accomplishment! And just one month prior to this I was working full time, managing dozens of patients and systems. How does this happen? Why is Motherhood so intimidating?

Perhaps its because nothing about Motherhood is as simple as it might seem. As mothers, we learn fast how true this is and become wary of each new task set before us. The summer my second child was born we were spending our weekends at my family's beach house about two hours from our home. There were quite a few Fridays where my task was to get the two kids and the dog to the beach alone. I learned after our first trip that took five hours due to nursing and potty training stops, that this was a rather difficult task and one to be very afraid of.

I continue to take on these tasks however, proving my bravery in any situation. I've braved a cross country flight with a 1 year old, an overnight stay with both kids, and I have a couple of solo amusement park trips under my belt. And with each new situation I build my confidence that I can handle anything Motherhood throws my way. My friend recently told me about her weekend away alone with her four kids. My immediate response was "Wow, you're brave". She followed with "I know, right." Right.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Art of a Compliment

My 5 year old appears to be a bit of a snob when it comes to making new friends. In his mind you are either his absolute best friend or you might not exist. He doesn't quite understand that you can be friendly with someone without pledging to be blood brothers. Breaking him out of his clique is something his preschool teachers have asked me to work on with him. Help him open up his circle a little.

I've started by teaching him how to make compliments. I think that if you can find one nice thing to say about someone, it makes them feel good. This is a nice gesture, but it is also a great way to break the ice when trying to interact with someone you may not know well. So, we have been working on finding those nice things to say. He is supposed to find one thing he notices on or about a person that he likes and tell them. He is not supposed to lie, he just is supposed to comment on the thing he likes the best. And he is supposed to be practicing with his classmates at school.

What is amazing to me is how well he listened to me and how effectively he delivers a compliment. Not only did he tell several girls in his class on picture day that they looked pretty or had pretty dresses, but I now receive the wackiest compliments at home. And these compliments flow from him without any obvious thought - he never misses a beat. I get a lot of "I like your shoes Mom" or "That is a really nice shirt". Usually because there is a bright color that caught his eye. I also get "You look pretty" or "I like your hair". Those seem to be his standbys, especially if he is sensing he is in trouble.

I had the pleasure of watching him interact with an adult friend of ours who was staying with us for the weekend. Our friend, Jay, walked into the kitchen one morning dressed to go out and the 5 year old hit him with "Jay, that is a really great shirt". Jay seemed a little confused by the compliment, but nonetheless had a huge smile.

My 2 year old is now following his brother's lead. Just the other day I got a "Mom, you look pretty today" - I was wearing my pajamas, glasses, and hadn't brushed my hair yet. I couldn't help laughing while thanking him for his kind words. This morning I was helping the 2 year old get dressed and he touched my chunky turquoise necklace and said "Mom, you look pretty today, I like these little rocks on your neck". Instant smile.

Its true - my thought on making compliments. I feel great when these little guys say something nice to me. And my smile is then contagious. They give me a great big smile right back, usually followed by an "I love you". I think we're onto something. Could we change the world with a compliment and a smile? Its worth a try.

Not Pregnant, Just Fat

A friend of our family came over to babysit and we hadn't seen her in awhile. She had put on some weight and was wearing yoga pants and a fitted shirt that were kind of highlighting the weight gain. My then 4 year old asked her "Is there a baby in your belly?". I was mortified and I tried to brush it off by quickly saying "He asks me that too". My 4 year old quickly responded "No I don't Mom, you're not fat".

Cleaning up for the Cleaning Lady

Here I am again, cleaning up because the Cleaning Lady is coming. Whenever I say it aloud to my husband or kids it sounds ridiculous. "You have to clean up because the Cleaning Lady is coming". But its true. You really do have to do some prep work for the Cleaning Lady to come do her work. She is here to clean, not straighten up. I don't want her wasting time moving toys, shoes, or stacks of papers around so she can clean. And I certainly don't want her missing anything because a surface is covered in Legos or trading cards.

Our Cleaning Lady comes every other Friday, so I go through this ritual every other Thursday evening. I go around the house putting things away. Is this extra effort worth it? I think so. Every other Friday my house is sparkling and someone else spent 8 hours making it that way. Of course, then I do have to go around again after she leaves and put things back the way I like them. She is very thorough and the drapes and picture frames are always askew.

Its funny that we hire people to do some of our work, but we are never fully relieved of the work or the inconveniences. At least not in my world. I suppose if I had a full time live-in staff of twelve, I could maybe not worry about anything, but I would still have to manage all of those people. I have enough trouble managing the Cleaning Lady and my husband manages the Lawn Guy.

So, as I spend tomorrow strategically moving the dog and kids around the house to stay out of the way of the Cleaning Lady, I will ponder is it still worth it? Of course it is. Absolutely. I won't be cleaning and will have plenty of time to play in the yard with the kids and the dog. And then we will have to clean it all up because the Lawn Guy is coming . . .

Sick Days for SAHMs

I really wish that Stay At Home Moms got sick days. Or, sick days off, as my husband corrected me - we get plenty of sick days. We take care of everyone else, but when we are down, who takes care of us? No one. And the world at home doesn't stop or even slow down on our account.

Two winters ago our household was hit with the stomach flu. Both of my children were throwing up and a day later, so was my husband. It must have been Divine Intervention that kept me from getting the same bug because even being around all three I never got sick. If I had been stricken too, who would have cleaned up all of the messes, done the dozens of loads of laundry, and administered the saltines and ginger ale? My family got a break, having their care-giver not get sick too. I got anything but a break.

But why don't these breaks ever come our way? Why couldn't it have snowed the last time I woke up feeling too horrible to get out of bed. Maybe then my husband could have stayed home from work and taken care of things. Such is the plight of the SAHM. I woke up this morning feeling like crap only to hear two kids screaming that they were hungry . . .

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Team Stay At Home

I caught a segment on Good Morning America this morning where Cokie Roberts was promoting her new book "We Are Our Mother's Daughters". She made a reference to the ongoing feud between Working Moms vs. Stay At Home Moms. Cokie commented that women need to support each other without judging because what works for one woman and family, doesn't necessarily work for another. It got me thinking. How supported do I feel as a SAHM?

Staying home is not for everyone. Financially, the option for me to stay home was available. I had a career before I had my first child and I made a well thought through decision to stay home. I am happy with my decision and it has afforded me opportunities to be involved in things I couldn't be if I were at work all day. Even on the worst days at home, I don't regret it. When I am having a really bad day, I don't wish I was back at work, I just wish the kids would listen, or stop crying, or stop fighting, or, well, you get the idea.

Those of you that had a choice to return to work and chose to, can you just admit that you like working?? Just be honest. Just say you enjoy your work. I respect that. It doesn't have to mean you don't like being around your kids. Please don't tell me "I need to work because I need adult interaction" or "I need to use my brain". Are you implying that I don't do either of these things because I have chosen to stay at home?

There is one woman in my life that has made these very statements to me on more than one occasion and I can say with almost certainty that these comments stem from guilt. She has 2 children and has been voluntarily in and out of the work force at least 3 times in the last 5 years and it was not for maternity leave. She definitely has some inner turmoil over her decision to return to work.

A "Mommy Blogger" featured on the Oprah show yesterday suggested that this war we wage between the Working Moms and the Stay At Homes, is really an internal war within ourselves. My being at home makes you feel guilty for not being there and your suggestions make me question my role there. And it all starts inside with how we are feeling about our own decisions.

So, let's just be honest. And then, let's just accept that honesty without judging. What is good for one person is not good for all. Just admit that you like working outside of the home. That statement doesn't have to be followed up with any justification. I like being a Stay At Home Mom. Period.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Hello, "My name is . . ."

I've been working on teaching my children some real manners. More than just the "please" and "thank you" manners. My latest push has been properly introducing yourself when meeting someone new. I distinctly remember my Grandmother being on this same kick when I was a child. She wanted us to shakes hands, make eye contact and say "How do you do?" I always felt that "How do you do?" was a little dated and goofy, but I guess this was coming from her generation. I am just trying to get my boys to at least shake hands, make eye contact, and say "Hello, my name is . . ."

So, practicing what I preach, allow me to introduce myself. I'm The Main Line Mom, a "Stay at Home Mom" of 2 boys, ages 5 and almost 3. I've been married for just about 9 years to a man I've dated since High School. We live in a swanky suburban area of Philadelphia (also known as The Main Line) dotted with beautiful estates - I live in the average sized house down the street from said estates.

Let me preface anything that will follow with: there was never any question for me that I would stay home with my children and I have no desire to rejoin the workforce right now. That being said, I've just started to really notice how ridiculous my once sophisticated adult life has become and I'm struggling a little with it. I don't know why it has taken 5 years for this to surface. Maybe it was adding the second kid into the mix? Or maybe, my kids are older than infants now, and I finally have a moment here or there to realize my frustrations. Before, I was just trying to survive Motherhood at any cost.

Whatever the case, I have really been inspired to write about it. I tuned into abc's sitcom "In the Motherhood" and then poked around on their website and it got me going. I'm not promoting the show itself as an award winning comedy (just yet, I will give it a few more episodes). But, I do really honor the premise of the show - Motherhood is its own crazy funny thing. Sometimes I find myself just laughing because I don't know what else to do. I shared a few of my stories on the In the Motherhood website and soon realized that sharing life's "funny moments" may make them actually funny. And so here I am, ready to share . . .