Thursday, April 22, 2010

Post Script from the Idiot.

Post Script to my recent entry that SAHMotherhood is making me a moron.

Note: this is not going to be a retraction. While some of my other entries could very much have benefitted from a mandatory cooling-off period (hello, bit I wrote about how I've stalked my exes on facebook, my husband really enjoyed you), this entry wasn't one of them. I stand by everything I wrote about being a SAHM, harsh as it may have come across (I'm talking to you, 3 people who voted "You Suck!" in the corresponding blog poll).

No, what I wanted to say is this. I may be a bit embarrassed by my "job" as a SAH mom on occasion, and I may worry that being a SAHM is turning my mind into mush...

but I am hella good at my job.

So what if, as we speak, my husband is sitting on the sofa reviewing important, small-fonted documents pertaining to an international negotiation, while I am on the floor painstakingly wrapping 15 small presents so that each of my 3 daughters will have a cheerful little surprise to wake up to on each of the 5 mornings my husband and I will be traveling next week. So what if the pre-K teacher gently suggested this morning that perhaps my eldest daughter is bringing in *too* many fun little show-and-tell related items to share with the other kids in the class (today, for example, per the week's theme of "Spheres and Cones" I sent her in with a jar of perfectly round marichino cherries and a box of empty ice cream cones). So what if my former neighbor once exclaimed to me, in the midst of a text war over something entirely unrelated, that she is "sick of making excuses for [me] to the other moms" (referring to my habit of bumming around in the sand pit with the kids while 99% of the other parents sit in the cafe area, sipping mid-afternoon lattes and half-heartedly looking on).

No, screw all those latte-sipping people. I am a million billion times better at my present job than I ever was at my "real" job. I take my children's happiness and well-being (mostly, happiness) VERY. SERIOUSLY. Yes I spoil them with presents ("What's the point of doing Chanukah?" my husband teased me last year as I was setting up the menorah. "In this house it's Chanukah 365 days a year." Sure I get a little shaky at the thought of going away on a mini-vacation without them in a few days, because there is absolutely NO WAY that I could transcribe all of the valuable information in my head into a single packet of information for my babysitting father to review (and annotate, and ask intelligent follow-up questions on, if he knows what's good for him) (there WILL be a test before I leave for the airport). And true, I hardly ever experience an actual deep, restful sleep-- nor have I for the past 5 years now-- because half of my brain is always, *always* tuned into the nearly imperceptible coughs and murmurs and rare but critical "Mommy?"s coming forth from the baby monitors in the middle of the night.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that yes, there are some days when I look in the mirror and am disappointed by what I see-- a person who looks more like an underslept teenager than a 35-year-old woman, a person who wonders why she became an attorney when she knew all along that being a SAHM was truly what she wanted, a person who eyes her husband with maybe a little jealousy in the morning as he is pulling on his fancy work clothes. But there are other days-- today is one of them-- where I think that, if my occupation were an actual paid position, I'd be on the damn cover of Forbes magazine. Every year. I hold my mothering to an extraordinarily high standard, and you know what? Who cares if I don't get written up with all "Exceeds Expectations" on an annual review. (Though I'm so proud of *you,* Stallion/Love-God/ Honey!) I don't need any person of authority to tell me that I am doing an awesome job and that I am raising the bar and that I "add value":

In my office, I *AM* the freaking value, baby.

So yay for Mommy. Today I am holding my head up high.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What's In My Bag.

I think this is how grown-ups play Tag.

I have been "tagged" by my old friend college Kathryn at the lovely marburyvmadisonave to reveal the contents of my bag.

And so, in the spirit of the game, I've emptied my purse and taken a photo of the contents. Here's what we've got:

(1) wallet. Actual Coach, as opposed to the knockoff stuff I usually have on me. Then again, I got this wallet off ebay, so maybe the label's integrity has already been irreparably compromised by virtue of that inelegant transaction.

(2) phone. You can't see it, but that's a mini replica of Adam Lambert's Rolling Stone cover as my phone charm. You wanna make something of it? I'm fiercely loyal to my teen idols. (wait, what, I'm not a teen? and neither is he?)

(3) camera. Have three. Keep one on me at all times. (Would take photos with the iPhone my husband gave me, but I loaned it to my dad, who seemed to be getting much more pleasure out of it. I like my camera. And my phone. Separate entities. Thank you.)

(4) sanitizer. Am a hypochondriac.

(5) tissues. Have three young kids.

(6) cough drops. Can't get rid of this cough, had it for a couple weeks. Was fine with it until a neighbor just told me that her husband's lingering cough ended up as pneumonia. Thank you for that, neighbor.

(7) headache pills. See #5.

(8) Bonjela. My stress over our upcoming vacation without the rugrats has caused me to develop a canker sore on the inside of my lip. Hey, you asked.

(9) lip balm. Am obsessed with it. Read somewhere that chronic use of lip balm causes lips to stop developing their own moisture. Can confirm that, as I would sooner put cooking oil on my lips at night, before going to sleep without anything on them.

(10) pacifier. I HATE PACIFIERS. But am too much of a p*ssy to take them away.

(11) barrettes. From a recent kid party. Nice goody bag item, no?

(12) pipe cleaners. Needed to carry 11 large treat bags into school yesterday for daughter's in-class birthday celebration. (Official party over weekend was spa-themed and girl-only; didn't want boys to feel left out and/or uninvite daughter from future birthday celebrations out of spite.) Used pipe cleaners to bundle bags for ease of transport.

(13) Pooh wrapper from cake plates at said in-class celebration. Not sure why the wrappers got to come home after the party. Also not sure why, after taking this photo a minute ago, I put this obvious garbage back *into* my purse.

(14) camera memory card. Purchased in anticipation of upcoming vacation, see #8.

(15) ballet slippers. Stashed in there for 1-year-old who accompanies older sisters to their ballet class and sometimes goes bananas if she, too, is not ballerina-attired.

(16) Barbie shoes. Evidence of dropping off real live Barbie doll at bakery a week ago where she was then incorporated into a real live cake for weekend birthday celebration. (Baker took the doll but gave me back the dress and shoes. Dress has since been returned to the doll, shoes remain confiscated as a potential choking hazard.)

(17) USB stick. From when I printed personalized photo party invitations at Kinko's. Loving me some more ebay purchases. (Nine dollars for the .jpg design is a bargain, you should check it out.)

(18) yo-yo. Distributed, for reasons unknown to me, at 3-year-old's after school sports class. Took it away when she wasn't looking, so as to avoid the inevitable mind-melting frustration that necessarily accompanies a 3-year-old trying to operate a yo-yo.

(19) mini-DVD tape. Spare for birthday party.

(20) child's sequin ring (which is, incidentally, too big to fit any child I've ever known). From Claire's. Where all of my husband's disposable income ends up. Hey, if he didn't want 3 little girls, he should have delivered me some Y chromosomes.

Ok, so what have we learned here. That I'm a hoarder, I guess. That I'm into cameras. And that, apparently, sanitizer doesn't work.

Your turn, Mama of the brilliant theelmowallpaper! xo.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Dodging the ER Bullet.

I had a kid emergency the other day.

Not a life-or-death kid emergency, THANKFULLY. Just a minor emergency. But an emergency nonetheless: my 3-year-old dislocated her elbow.

(By the way that's *not* an x-ray of her actual elbow above; however, now that I've seen that photo I think my post-traumatic stress disorder has just kicked in again.)

My daughter has a "history" of this injury-- 2 times before-- and both previous times had landed us in a hospital emergency room. But the elbow had been fine for long over a year now, so we assumed that the joint had firmed up just as the pediatrician told us it would by around age 4. In other words, we got careless and stopped thinking about it and stopped putting people on notice about it.

I wasn't there when it happened. And my husband was traveling in another country. Here is the text of the email I sent him later that night, modified only insofar as the names have been changed to initials ("S" is our 4-year-old and "M" is our 3-year-old and "I" is M's friend).

* * * * * * * * *


First, let me say that M is fine. But we had a little crisis today.

Both S and M were invited to playdates this afternoon. So I brought M to I's house and S to A's house and headed to the mall to return a dress and the kids' library books. I was testing out long-range camera lenses in the store you recommended when my phone rang. I answered and could hardly hear I's mom over the sound of M wailing. I's mom said that M had gotten hurt, something about her arm, and I said oh my god it's her elbow put her on the phone, but when she put M on the phone all I heard was horrible sobbing and gasping. I must have caused a scene in the store yelling into the phone, "M can you hear me?? M can you speak??" It was very scary because I was at least 15 minutes away and I knew that M was losing her mind. I started running out of the store, calling my dad and asking him if he had access to a car to go pick M up but he didn't, so now my dad was a wreck. I drove home like a lunatic and pulled up just as I's mom was in the driveway laying M in my dad's arms. I pulled up on the sidewalk and saw the limp arm and the kid's beet red tear streaked face and my heart just broke. I knew the elbow was dislocated and I knew that I had learned (in theory) how to fix it in my first aid class last year but my brain didn't feel like it was functioning and I was so, so terrified of doing it wrong and putting the kid into agony. I held her in my arms on the driveway until she stopped wailing, as she was obviously much calmer just having me with her (not great for my comfort level re: leaving for our upcoming vacation, but anyway), and I asked if she wanted me to fix her arm or let the nurse do it. (I had already called the ER on my way home to tell them we were coming.) She was sobbing that she wouldn't get in the car. I was about to attempt to fix it myself when I chickened out cuz she was already in so much pain, it seemed. But she got hysterical when I tried to get her to the car. So, with my dad there for moral support (actually, he was begging me to tell him how to do it, but I didn't know how to explain it; I just thought I had it somewhere in my head, and knew what the end position of the arm had to be), I sat in front of her, turned her arm palm-up (against her wailing), and brought her hand to her shoulder (while holding the joint with my other hand). I thought I heard it click back into place, but now she was wailing so loudly that I started to second-guess myself. I went to put her in the car to the ER but then decided that no, I was sure I heard it go back in. So I repositioned it again just to be sure, and this time it was clear that the elbow was back in the joint and the kid was just freaked. So I took her inside and got her set up on the sofa in the office and my dad ran out to get ice cream and apple juice boxes (per M's request) but she was still refusing to move her arm. That is, until I suggested that she paint my face. At which point she took her injured arm, picked up the face paints, and happily scribbled all over me. The end.

* * * * * * * * *

There is no funny punchline to this story. I share it with you only because I'd like to encourage you to take a pediatric first aid class if you can. At the time, I wasn't sure I was retaining the information (a lot is covered in a short amount of time), but my experience the other day goes to show that the stuff does stick, even if you're hazy on the details. That first aid class I took allowed me to quickly take away my daughter's pain, and it spared both of us a traumatizing trip to the emergency room. And one day, heaven forbid, maybe it would help me when faced with an even bigger emergency.

Now go thump on the chest of a featureless dummy! You can tell them I sent you. xo.

p.s. Upon reflection, am very embarrassed that I addressed my supremely macho husband as "Honey" in the above message. Terminating use of that emasculating nickname, effective immediately. From here onward, will refer to him in correspondence only as "Stallion" and/or "Love God." Apologies all around.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ode to Unemployment.

I know what I’m supposed to say here.

I’m supposed to say that being a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) is the hardest but most fulfilling job I’ve ever had. I’m supposed to say that I don’t at all feel like my education was wasted, because my law degree is part of what makes me such an effective and insightful parent. I’m supposed to say that it’s great knowing that I have my credentials to fall back on, or go back to, if and when I ever decide for whatever reason that my time as a SAHM is coming to an end.

But screw that. I was never one to toe the line and I don’t see any point in starting now.

The truths are these:

(1) I love, love, love being a SAHM, on many, many levels; and I am obsessively devoted to my three extraordinary, scrumptious little girls. Being a SAHM was something I always wanted for myself and for my family, and I feel tremendously fortunate that my husband’s job allows me the privilege. Full stop. But being a SAHM certainly does not give me that same sense of accomplishment that I gained from, say, taking a witness deposition. Rather, with SAHM-ness, the experience is much more “Thank God I survived today” as opposed to “Look at what I got done today!” There are no obvious benchmarks, no productivity markers, no end-of-year bonuses. I mean, sure, I take huuuuuuuuge satisfaction in my four-year-old’s ability to read books at a six-year-old level, and I am enooooooooormously proud of how exceptionally well-adjusted all three of my daughters are in social situations. But on a typical day-to-day basis, I have nothing tangible to SHOW for my considerable time and effort. Or, the tangible things that I *do* have to show for them are, frankly, INANE. (See, i.e., the gigantic paper Easter bunny that I, as “class mom,” was required to construct for my daughter’s school Easter celebration.) (And our family does not even celebrate Easter.)

Now lest you be fooled into thinking that I actually *enjoyed* the five years I spent working as an attorney, let me quickly disabuse you of that notion: for the most part I despised it. Going to law school was never my idea (thank you, overbearing parents), and to placate them I intentionally only applied to the three highest-tier law schools I thought I had zero chance of getting into (thank you also, Ivy League, for lowering your standards so as to accommodate little ol’ me). I spent just about every day as an associate doing the absolute MINIMUM I could do to avoid a billable-hour apocalypse, while at the same time charming the pants off every partner (not literally) (but I never rule anything out; there’s no such thing as a normative morality) so that he/she would not notice that I was only barely doing the job. So no, it isn’t the work that I miss—it’s just the quantifiable nature of the work that I miss. My husband closes deals. I just deal.

(2) I am 99% positive that being a SAHM is a gigantic, embarrassing, ethically objectionable (per my own, non-normative moral code) waste of my education. I have a freaking top notch pedigree, for crying out loud. The reality is not lost on me that there are people on this earth who would do anything—ANYTHING—to secure a seat at either of the Ivy League schools I attended. People who have remarkable resumes by age 17, astronomical SAT scores, tear-jerking sob stories. And yet, for reasons forever unknown to me, I was given those seats. So that I could get my world news from Perez Hilton. And visit my Facebook profile an average of twenty times a day.

Hey, I’m not saying that there isn’t an advantage to being intelligent. There are, honestly, a bunch of really good parenting decisions I’ve made (teaching my kids basic sign language at 12 months of age, for one, which gave them the invaluable gift of self-expression while not stunting their speech development) that I believe can be directly attributed to my willingness to seek out and critically process information. But good lord was it really necessary that I take out several HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of dollars in student loans (all of which are still relatively intact; hello, minimum monthly payments!) and become an attorney (took and passed the bar in 4 different states!) just so that once in a blue moon I could enlighten my Mommy and Me class with some obscure reference to the theories of Piaget?

Nope, I’m wasting my education, I’m pretty darn sure of it. And I have massive guilt about it, too. Maybe law schools should make every female candidate sign an oath (worthless, admittedly, other than for its effectiveness in propagating said guilt) vowing upon admission that she will continue to practice law after giving birth instead of just sitting back and letting her smarts atrophy while all the male associates move robotically down the assembly line toward partnership?

(3) I am not at all convinced that I could go back to lawyering, even if I had the desire. Not because of any psychological or emotional hang-ups, mind you (ask me, on a bad day with the girls, like when one of them has just spent 45 minutes screaming directly into my eyeballs for no intelligible reason, whether I would work for FREE and the answer would be yes), but because I have the sneaking suspicion I have turned into a certifiable idiot. Too many episodes of The Wiggles, perhaps; but the idea of having to sell myself in a job interview as a dependable, functional adult absolutely makes me cringe. Now as you’ll recall, I was never a rising star in my law firm to begin with; but before having kids, at least on paper I was as competent as the other associates of my year. At this point, however, I—having zero poker face—fear that I’d immediately blurt out: “Treat me as if I just graduated from law school yesterday. A really crappy law school. In fact, treat me as if you’re only hiring me as a favor to my dad. And speak slowly. I’m new to this planet.”

Ahhh, this bums me out. All of the above bums me out. Because I worked hella hard to get those Ivy League degrees (don’t you just bet Michelle Obama and I had eerily similar days today?), and now I take my toddlers to the playgym in the middle of the workweek right alongside a bunch of women who never really bothered applying themselves to school at all. (Note: I actually have no idea what those other women do; they could be astrophysicists for all I know; it just makes me feel better about myself in a very juvenile way if I think of them as intellectually inferior middle school dropouts.)

And if you want to take this to a really existential level of crisis, riddle me this: By virtue of the fact that I have given birth to only daughters, haven’t I only condemned the whole pointless cycle to start all over again? I mean, I plan to lean on them academically just as my parents leaned on me (what? it’s my God-given right to repeat all the parenting mistakes my own mom and dad made)… only so that they, too, will ultimately discard their hard-earned law/medical/graduate degrees in order to stay home and breed with the rest of the middle school drop-outs?

So there you are. I am a very smart person who is very much in debt because of some very prestigious degrees that become more and more obsolete with every passing day.

Feel better about YOUR life choices yet? J