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It’s Mother’s Day

The Husband
The Husband, a humorous picture from Easter 2011. (Photo credit: alexis22578)

Disclaimer: This is sort of a grumpy post.

A few days ago, I was asked, “What are you doing for mother’s day?” I answered, “Oh, I’ll probably have to do dishes, make bread, you know…” “What do you want to do?” was the response. “I don’t want to do dishes, I want to be shown I’m appreciated.” “Well, then what you need to do is say, ‘I’m not doing dishes.'” I tried to explain that doesn’t work in my family and that the dishes would simply be waiting for me the next day.

True to form, this Mother’s Day has been more or less like any other. Any other day, for that matter. It’s not that it’s been a bad day – but it hasn’t been particularly special. And, ultimately, that’s what I wanted – to be treated special.

My husband asked me, to his credit, what I wanted. He wanted to know how he could show me that he appreciates me. I told him I didn’t want to do dishes on Mother’s Day, nor did I really want to make any food. So, we went out for Thai on Friday night. But, that’s not Sunday. I want to get caught up in this collective silliness and celebrate the day on the day, not two days before.

Sunday morning rolls around, and Levi is the first up. I get up shortly after Levi, and begin by … you guessed it .. cleaning the kitchen. I can’t make breakfast if the kitchen is messy. So, I finished putting dishes away and reloaded the dishwasher. Then, I started to make breakfast, at which point, my husband got up. He immediately realized that I was doing dishes and making food on this day. And, he clearly felt remorseful, but he always claims he can’t cook – so how is he really going to help?

We ate, cleaned up, and prepared for our next adventure: Home Depot. The husband has been desiring a trip for some time, so we could collectively decide and plan on more planter boxes for our backyard. Sure, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for some time, but again — my favorite Mother’s Day errand? Not hardly.

All told, it hasn’t been a bad day. No one has been mean. No one has been incredibly disrespectful. And, certainly, no one has been spiteful. But, it hasn’t been special.

I can’t answer the question of what I would want to be treated in a way that my family shows me they appreciate me. A card would have been nice, but I’ve even forgotten cards for other events (my own mother! for example). So, that’s not a deal breaker. I don’t need breakfast in bed. What would it be? Cereal and milk? That’s not what I like to eat for breakfast.

I was able to explain to my husband tonight that doing housework makes me feel like a maid or cook for my family. Sure, they say thank you after meals, but mostly I feel like a made-to-order cook. I work for me. I’m home for my family.

Levi did a sweet thing. He arranged the couch so we could both share it, lying down, to show me that he appreciates me. My husband has another layer peeled off of understanding. We’ll see how next year goes.

Yes, all told, not a bad day – despite the learning we still have before us.

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Uniquely Mine

I have a friend who named her blog, “Broad Brains.” She defines it like this:

broad (brawd), –adjective: of great breadth. . . not limited or narrow; of extensive range or scope. . . liberal, tolerant. . . unconfined, free, unrestrained. . .
noun: Slang, a woman.

brains (breyns), –noun: understanding; intellectual power; intelligence. . .the center of thought, understanding, etc.; intellect.

Duh, thinks my brain, uniquely hers. I would never conjure such a clever use of words and define it like that. I created my own, so simple in my mind, yet so explicit. Daily, I strive for balance. I am one mom. A mom of many moms in our world, so simple: One Mom’s Balancing Act. Act because sometimes you really do have to fake it until you make it.

If you Google “Moms Balancing Act” you get my blog “One Mom’s Balancing Act” and another “A Mom’s Balancing Act” that pop up first. Similar, sure, but mine is uniquely mine. So, while it might not (in my mind) be as clever as a Broad with lots of Brains (and she does have lots) “One” Mom’s Balancing Act is uniquely mine – at least for now!

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SAHM to PSAHM to Not a SAHM

2,011
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

What the heck is a SAHM? Oh, right, thought I a few years ago, Stay-at-home-mom.

When I was in middle school, the idea of being “Little Miss Suzie Homemaker” was chided by many, including myself. This idea that you couldn’t really be anyone if you were at home, and not interacting, probably more specifically, with the business world and the world of men. As, I think about it now, I can see how this is a latent belief stemming from the 70s feminist movement.

I find it interesting this push for recognition of choice over the last decade, and I find it even more interesting how it affects my life. After I entered adult hood and became more interested in the things a stay-at-home mom could do (prior to Levi’s ever being conceived physically and mentally), I entertained the thought with vengeance (although what was missing was a life partner).

After Levi was born, I realized, and a friend pointed out, that what I really liked to do was the cooking. Did you know that being a mom is HARD? I giggle, now, at all the people I know who are having babies for the first time. We’ll see them in a couple of months. I didn’t know the method we used was Ferber, I’d encourage it for the sense of taking care of one’s self first to allow taking care of others later.

That all said – I needed my brain to work. I did enjoy spending time with Levi. I did not enjoy having him in daycare when he was two years old. But, now, he is ready. He enjoys it. I’ve been a part-time-stay-at-home-mom for more than six months. This week has given me more hours, and we just made the arrangements with daycare (excuse me, preschool) to allow him four full days. We got in the groove of halftime, and more than once, I wished he was full-time to allow for flexibility and simply the experience. There were many half days that I had to work out where we came mid-day, making for an interesting arrangement and not a lot of activity at school. Sure the traffic is great, but Levi was missing out on the benefit of preschool and the activities that come into play.

Levi gets to attend preschool because mommy has school loans that need to be paid off and mommy needs adult interactions (and mommy wants to build her career). I am also surprised at how preschool has transformed from something we wouldn’t have done to  a high priority. I never did just stay-at-home. Who does, really? I know many SAHMs who engage their children in activities: dance, swimming, school groups. We couldn’t afford those things. So, we attended playdates at community centers, and I helped start a food club. I never did just stay-at-home.

I am concerned about food. To be sure. I need a regular bread making day. Dinner has to be made every day, and I’m the dinner maker. My husband and I have this unwritten agreement. He tends to the cars because he is good at it. I make the food because I am good at it. Sometimes we teach each other both. I do know how to take a tire off and put one on. But, life will change, for a little bigger net, to allow the loans to be paid off. Maybe, if we’re lucky, we can afford the Fishwife more regularly to help maintain our sanity as I become a full-time-work-outside-of-the-home-mom.

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The Price of Motherhood

Levi Cooking
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

I can’t finish reading this book (The Price of Motherhood). It’s concepts hit so close to the heart, it makes it difficult to read. I am being punished by society to have a child. What other way can we look at this? Childcare is considered unskilled work. Until recently, even basic human functions for children weren’t considered (many still aren’t) at the tax level. There is no padding or assistance when you have to take time off to do the most important job in the world.

Our saving grace when Levi was born was that Peter lost his job. Then, the State (and feds too) recognized we needed help. Now, we’re in this nebulous of a middle ground, teetering on just making it without the tax benefits to help cushion the .

We need an extra chunk of change a month to pay for my school loans. No matter what we trim in the budget to even out expenses, we’d still need more to pay for that debt I accrued when I didn’t think there was another way to get what I still believe I need: a college education.

I got the job I love. But, I’m paying for it. 55% goes towards Levi’s school. 25% goes towards gas to get us out there. The rest is eaten up in taxes and what’s owed for school loans. Even though we have much more than the chunk needed to pay for the loans added to our income, it’s a hefty price.

Where’s the balance in that?

I have been quite happy working where I am. I love it. I feel fortunate that I love this paid work when one of the objectives is to stabilize my career from the short length spent at previous jobs.

But, what happens when the economy forces the job to make changes that will significantly eat into that chunk? I would be paying close to  60 or 70% for daycare, the rest would go to gas, and then, nothing left for school loans. A very hefty price for work indeed.

And, Levi loves daycare. He’s thriving. He’s learning. He’s making friends. He simply loves it. This might have to change. Not to a lower cost option, there isn’t one. I looked. It would be a no-cost option, which means no preschool.

This doesn’t feel like balance.

This doesn’t feel like choice.

I opt for prayer, for reasons stated in previous posts, hoping for comfort when life simply isn’t fair.

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Levi’s Fourth Birthday

Levi's 4th Birthday Cake
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

Tomorrow is Levi’s Fourth Birthday. That means, he’s been in this world five years. That means, I’ve known of his existence for almost six. That means, my life has not been the same for almost a decade.

I feel I ought to dedicate this post to my darling boy who gave me the title to this entire web log (One Mom’s Balancing Act). He is such an interesting, sensitive, inquisitive, compassionate, curious little boy. Even at Day 1, I couldn’t have imagined life without him – even considering he was a surprise!

Let’s see, what shall I say about my son? He’s silly. He takes after his parents in that regard. One of the things he has been doing lately is stating, “Mommy! Guess what?” I’ll reply, “What?” And he’ll follow up with, “Pickle Pie!” Why would he say something so incredibly silly? Because I taught him that.

Levi wants me to pass all the cars in the morning. I took the opportunity last week to explain police officers give adults a scary jail time out when they go too fast or otherwise do bad things, so it’s not always a good idea to pass all the cars. Sometimes, I can appease him by showing how the cars going in the opposite direction are being passed by us. Sometimes.

On the way to work, just east of exit 61, there are six balls on the power lines. I don’t know why they are there versus other places. Our job, though, is to count them every morning. Levi would get sad when they were gone, which is how I explained the whole “passing” concept. That was almost 6 months ago. “Two red, two white, and two orange. Six balls!”

Every morning he wakes up in a good mood. Seriously. It’s a rare, rare morning if he’s grumpy. Even when he’s sick he has bundles of energy. I blame temperament and the “low-cry” method, but generally, when we put him down to bed, he’s down. Thank you, Kate, for sharing that one. It has been a life savor. (The occasional excitement or night terror could disrupt that perfect bed time, which is why I say generally.)

Levi's 4th Birthday Cake
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

I was considering a large-ish affair for his birthday. We thought about bowling and a few local party-places. But, when I asked him what he wanted to do for his birthday, he mentioned two friends. Well, that simplified things! We drew the guest list out a little bit, but this was a relief because I couldn’t imagine 6 to 15 kids in my living room and I was wary of the cost of even bowling at $8.95/kid for an hours worth of fun. This is the first year our “regular” crowd won’t be in attendance for his birthday. I will miss that. The menu, though, is the same: homemade pizza and homemade cake. We’re even trying something new: no presents. Sure, we got him a few, and grandparents did too – so we’ll open them up afterwards.

Levi was in school for the first time this year. This is the first year he has notable, “real” friends. Oh, the times, they are a changing.

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Thankful

Little Levi Sunshine
Peter reading Little Miss Sunshine to Levi on Mommy's Night Off. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

He said, “Mommy gets a night off.”

He said what?

My husband continued, “Nope. No more mommy tonight, she gets the night off. You get Daddy tonight.”

What?!

Daddy then preceded to complete the bath, put the pajamas on, and read the book. I still put the bug in bed, because that’s what I do.

What did 6:45pm bedtime and Daddy helping out allow me to do?

Clean my kitchen. Put the food away. Empty the dishwasher. Start coffee for tomorrow. Set lunches aside for tomorrow. Clean all counters and tables, and load the dishwasher for a new load.

Caught up on kitchen duty.

The power of teamwork. I hope it can last.

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Daily Post: Uncredited Populations

Levi, Christmas, and Cars
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

Topic: Name someone who deserves more credit than they get. And for bonus points, how to change things so they get more

I started reading the Price of Motherhood by Ann Crittenden the other day. It was suggested through Oregon’s Mother P.A.C., a political action committee designed to support, encourage, and broaden women and mothers in politics.

The premise of the book is discussing how, and I think later how to change, mothers are so undercredited. It’s recognized the world over from the average Joe to political leaders that the most important job held by anyone is being a Mother. Raising the next citizenry, shaping our future, raising the next generation – yet when taxes, census, and public assistance are concerned mothers are more often than not considered dependents.

So, this blog is simply to all the mothers out there that every day do one of the following:

  • Get up, get yourself in order
  • Make breakfast for yourself
  • Get your husband/partner/spouse off to work with a packed lunch and clean clothes
  • Clean the kitchen
  • Wake the small ones, feed the small ones, appease the small ones
  • Plan your day: “work”, errands, shopping, cleaning, baking?
  • Get you dressed, get the small person dressed
  • Avert crises over the wrong pants/socks/shoes/shirt chosen or put on in the wrong order
  • Clean up messes, prevent messes, get teeth brushed and hair presentable
  • Make it out the door (on time you get lots of bonus points)
  • Wade through traffic, offer appropriate snacks, calm tears of unknown origin (boredom?)
  • Wish them well off to daycare/preschool/babysitter
  • Commence errands with our without children
  • Pick up one thing, drop another off, pick up another at another location, visit another place and make an exchange, all before noon to ensure lunches are had
  • Fix another meal (snacks have been had around mid morning)
  • Clean kitchen, again
  • Put small fry down for nap, repeating self, justifying the need to the small person when reason isn’t always what works
  • Begin bread
  • Start laundry
  • Think about reading a book
  • Sweep floors, tidy rearranged items putting them where they belong
  • Hope this was done before Husband returns from work where a new set of distractions commence
  • Consider dinner, prep frozen things, time oven with bread baking and dinner making
  • Enjoy family dinner
  • Clean up Kitchen
  • Prep lunches for next day
  • Appease emotions of all members of household
  • Think again about reading that book
  • Recognize that you too are tired
  • Get the big and little people down to bed
  • Forget about putting things away
  • Read the book

Two years ago, I was looking for paid work to help pay off my school loans. This was on the heals of the 2008 Wall Street Crash and Housing Market Crash. This was more or less my routine, without the daycare/preschool/babysitter line. I enjoyed much of it, but much of it left me unfulfilled. In many ways.

Part of motherhood is coming to terms with choices and being able put them into place with new realized boundaries. This is something I struggle with everyday. This book, the Price of Motherhood is helping me to put a voice to some of these feelings I have had. So, this post is simply to mothers. If you think someone or something is undervaluing you – STOP. Think, believe.

We need to change this paradigm under which we’ve operated for far too long. Society recognizes our position as the most important, so it is time for us to collectively stand up and say, YES, you are right, our job is important, and we need your help valuing it as important as you say it is.

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