Friday, September 25, 2009

Mine, Mine, Mine

I have a confession to make: I don't like to share. With anyone. At all. And I don't care who knows it. I'm like Joey on "Friends", in that episode where he refuses to share his french fries with the girl he's dating. "Joey doesn't share food!" he yells. Well, that's me, only not just with food. With everything.

Oh, I used to make sure that I "modeled" those skills, and prided myself on the fact that my firstborn never went through the "MINE" phase that most toddlers do. I used to insist that everyone share everything, from blankets to cookies to crayons. Share your toys at playdates, your Golfish at preschool, the couch with your sister.

But that was before I realized that I didn't actually have anything that was all mine anymore. I share a room and a bathroom and a closet with my husband. My kitchen table is usually covered with homework or art projects or leftover apple slices, my beautiful flower garden has jump ropes and princess figurines in it, and even my cat has a doll's bonnet on his head and a pink bow on his tail. (Not a joke. He's very tolerant. And lazy.) I found a Webkinz in my bed this morning, and I'm pretty sure it wasn't mine.

Once you become a mom, suddenly it's like you're living in a communist state: you own nothing, it's all communal property, and the dictators take your stuff and redistribute it to the "needy". My body, once strong and hard and decked out in designer fashions, became first a milk factory and then a giant napkin for kids to wipe off whatever they found on their hands. (I have a memory of ketchup-y hand prints on the white t-shirt covering my 8-months-pregnant belly.) My mind, once used to write insightful papers on the rise of socialism or the fall of apartheid, is now barely able to read the headlines in my local paper, but I can recite Goodnight Moon from memory. My car? A total mom-mobile, an SUV complete with car seats, stale graham crackers, and school spirit magnets. I used to carry cute handbags that would barely contain the essentials: ID, money, lipstick. Now I could feed a third-world country with the Cheerios at the bottom of my bag, and there are enough stickers to entertain a classroom full of Kindergartners. My tape and stapler are usually on my third-grader's desk, even though she has her own stuff in her own desk in her own room. Don't ask what they did with my toothbrush. You don't want to know. I don't want to know.

And it's not just the kids. If I open a soda, my husband materializes out of thin air, asking, "Can I have a sip?" And of course, his idea of a sip is about half the can. If I grab a brownie, he's at my side: "Are you going to finish that?" Um, yes, that was the general idea. I may not have finished law school, but I'm pretty sure that community property law does not extend to dessert.

So I've decided that enough is enough. If I have a piece of toast, no one better ask me for a bite. When I get a new nail polish, you'd better believe that I'll be the first one to use it. And no, you CANNOT have a sip of my diet Dr. Pepper. It's mine, mine, all mine! (Insert evil laugh here.)

As moms, we tend to lose ourselves while caring for our families. We put them first, their needs way ahead of ours, forgetting that we need to care for ourselves, too. If the kids sit in front of the TV while I drink a cup of coffee and look over the paper, that's just fine. Thirty minutes of the boob tube probably won't take off more than a point or two from their IQs, right? And if my husband has to get his own damn Oreos instead of eating mine, he'll live. Why do my daughters look like they just stepped out of the latest Justice catalog while I'm wearing a Target t-shirt from 2002? How did that happen? I used to wear Armani! And what am I teaching my daughters about their roles as mothers some day? Will they think that they have no right to a life of their own once they become mothers? That is so not what I want for them, so why do I let that be my reality?

Slacker Mom Says...don't practice what you preach all the time. It's ok to say, "No, that's Mommy's and you may NOT have any of it." It's ok to make the rest of them wait while you paint your nails, check your email, or eat your toast before it gets cold. I may have to eat my lunch at 10:30 in the morning, but I'm going to make sure that I have some time each day that belongs only to me. And I'm reclaiming the living room as a toy-free zone! And no one uses my nail polish or hairbrush! And the french fries at the bottom of the bag? MINE! And the roses on my birthday cake? MINE! (Insert evil laugh here.)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

"Why Is There a Booger On the Bathroom Wall?" and Other Things You Never Thought You'd Say

Some days it feels like my life is all about wiping. Bottoms, counters, noses, feet, pets, floors, doors, windows, tables, walls. No matter how clean the house is, the second the kids walk in the door, it's like that Tasmanian Devil guy has come in, too. A whirlwind of debris follows. I find myself asking things like, How is there yogurt on the wall upstairs? No one eats upstairs! Why is there glitter in MY room? Is that pizza sauce on the couch? We didn't even HAVE pizza this week! Whose turn is it to pick up the poop? And what IS that dried crusty stuff on the bathroom wall?

I feel like I say, "We do NOT have a maid here! Clean up after yourselves!" about a hundred times a day. This leads to, "I feel like a broken record!" (which leaves my kids confused. They have no idea what a record is. They don't even know what a cassette tape is) and other mommy-isms that seem to pour, uncontrollably, from my lips. Sometimes I step back and listen to myself, like an out-of-body experience, and wonder, what would someone think if they could only hear my part of the conversation, out of context, like listening to that annoying person on a cell phone in a restaurant? (You know who you are. We ALL know who you are.)

Since having my first baby seven years ago, I find the most bizarre things coming out of my mouth. A sampling of my favorites:

We don't put our hands in our diapers while we're at the table.

The dog does NOT need a pedicure!

Pick your nose on your own time, please.

Cats don't actually like to swim, so let's not put him in the pool.

I know it looks like a dress, but no, your witch costume isn't appropriate for church.

Just leave the sunglasses in the toilet!

Mommy's keys are where? In the cat box? No, don't get them. We'll take Daddy's car.

Why are there raisins under the couch? We don't even HAVE any raisins! Wait, no, DON'T TOUCH THAT!

I saw a movie once where the main character's sister asks her young son, "What is all over you? Is it poop or chocolate? Poop or chocolate?" and takes a sniff and a lick. (If I weren't so busy wiping, I'd google it and find out the name of the movie.) Her single, childless sister is horrified. "What if it had been poop?" she wonders. Well, let me tell you, that's not the worst thing I've wiped off my kids.

Motherhood changes you. I used to puke at the mere THOUGHT of vomit. Now, I can handle two puking kids while changing their sheets, taking temperatures, and cleaning vomit out of my own hair. The smell doesn't faze me in the least. I used to be very sensitive to disgusting smells, but now that I'm a mom, I have to get over it. Who among us hasn't done the "lift the baby up, sniff her butt for poop" test? And we do it to other people's kids!

Slacker Mom vision of myself as a perfectly-poised, always calm, sweetly-smiling Super Mom has been shattered, but I'm OK with that. When you hear yourself saying bizarre things that you never thought would come out of your (perfect) mommy mouth, just remember that we've all been there. Our kids make us crazy, our husbands make us crazy, we make ourselves crazy, but we wouldn't have it any other way. Just try to put down the phone before you ask, "Poop or chocolate?"

Friday, September 4, 2009

What Kind of Back Rub Is This, Anyway?

A recent dinner with friends found the dads outside on the back porch while the moms were inside doing tequila shots. I'm not kidding. Hey, we were eating chips and salsa, and the dads had the kids. It seemed appropriate. Besides, my friend had brought this tequila all the way from Mexico for us to try. Wouldn't want to be rude. After all, this is the South.

So there we are, drinking, laughing, and talking about sex. (What else would four moms talk about while shooting tequila and licking salt off our hands?) The conversation turned to frequency. Now, I am by several years the more, shall I say, experienced member of the group - meaning they are all in their early 30s and I am not. So I was surprised to hear that, while their husbands wanted sex night after night, these women at their so-called sexual peaks thought once or twice a week was sufficient. When they turned to me, I think I surprised them back: my husband and I have a rule. When either one of us wants it, we do it. Yep, that's right. If he asks, I give it to him. If I ask, he reciprocates. No questions asked, no excuses.

After they got over their initial shock, I learned this: everyone has rules about sex. One busy mom friend tells her husband to approach her before 10 PM. Another asks her husband, "Is this back rub supposed to lead to sex, or are you helping me relax?" A third tells her husband, "Take a shower and brush your teeth before you even ask!" Romantic? Spontaneous? Not really. But motherhood isn't romantic, and sometimes we need a little time to transition from Mommy to Honey. Sometimes we can't switch off the mommy mode that quickly. We used to go from zero to 60 in mere seconds. Now we might need a few minutes, but we'll get there.
Another thing that came up was HOW our husbands initiate sex. Like, if it's nearing midnight and I'm still folding laundry, don't pounce on me when I lean over to pick up a stray sock. Not sexy. Or, if I'm at the sink washing dishes, don't come in from mowing the grass and start kissing me IN THAT WAY. And, my personal favorite, while I'm in the shower washing the spaghetti sauce-induced vomit out of my hair, DO NOT join me thinking it will lead anywhere. It won't. There's a puking kid in our bed who could give Linda Blair a run for her money, for crying out loud!

So the four of us started thinking: we know what they want. That hasn't changed since Johnny tried to get to second base at the junior high dance. Do we tell our husbands what WE want? Do we tell them what gets us in the mood? For me, there's nothing hotter than watching my husband do the dishes, make the school lunches, AND fold a load of towels before hopping in the sack. Anything that gets my chores done sooner is likely to put me in bed sooner. And if I'm not so exhausted that I pass out the second my head hits the pillow, then...well, you get the idea.

Slacker Mom Says...go for it, ladies! Tell your man what you want and how HE can get what HE wants. Hand him the vacuum and tell him to get busy if he wants to (wink wink) get busy later. Tell him you'll be waiting in the bedroom as soon as he puts the baby to bed. And if he initiates, go for it. As my best friend says, "Hey, if he still finds me hot 18 years and 3 kids later, I'm not complaining!" Besides, it's all good once you're there. We'll ALWAYS be tired and busy. We're moms! But having sex with my husband isn't yet another chore; it's an expression of our love and committment to each other. And it feels good, dammit! So leave the dishes in the sink, lock the bedroom door, and, as Nike says, Just Do It!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Disclaimer

From time to time, my friends and family appear in this blog. If I think something may be potentially embarrassing, I will change the names and/or details to protect the innocent (or their husbands). If you see yourself here, know that it's actually a compliment and that you have inspired me! And thank you for being my friend.

"Emergency Preparedness" Isn't Only For Earthquakes and Hurricanes

Whenever people come to my house for the first time, they make fun of my schedule. It's prominently displayed on my gorgeous, shiny, black, brand-new refrigerator, marring an otherwise-perfect surface. (Fridge magnets scratch, and, honestly, aren't that cute.) But it's the single-most important piece of paper in my entire house. You don't believe me? It went up the same day I came home from the grocery store to find two screaming, hysterical kids laying on the floor, sobbing, and my husband about to throw his own temper tantrum. The girls were 1 and 3, and when I asked the oldest why she was screaming, she replied, "Because I'm so very hungry, Mommy!" Turns out when he made himself a sandwich at noon, he forgot to feed the kids. Or put them down for naps. Oops.

Now, my husband is a great dad. He's a thoughtful husband. But he's a guy, so sometimes he's a little, well, clueless about what goes on around here. He's not around a lot during the week, so he's not always sure when they eat, when they do homework, when they go to bed, or who has library and who has P.E. Sometimes he forgets that one child is a vegetarian and the other won't eat anything green. (He also forgets that the "leave" time is NOT the same as the "tell everyone to pee and put on their shoes" time. No, Hon, that takes an extra 10 minutes, easy.) To help him out, I posted the Flexible Daily Schedule on my refrigerator. Sure, it's a throwback to my days as a teacher, when we had to have our schedules posted on our classroom doors, but hey, it works.

On said schedule, I list things like wake-up times (one for grown-ups, one for kids, because let's face it, if I'm not up before them, nothing's happening on time), when to leave for school, pick-up times, when they need a snack and when they do their homework. I also include extracurricular activities, the school's related-arts schedule (they need to wear sneakers for P.E. and "messy clothes" on art days) and any other regularly-scheduled events. Dinner time, shower time, and bedtime are at the end. Let's be honest, the kids MIGHT tell him when they do all this, but it's unlikely. I also make notes like "check assignment books/initial when homework is done" and "lay out clothes for the next day before bed". He's never experienced a tween girl having a clothing or shoe crisis at 6:45 AM, so he needs this information.

I also keep a Family Notebook, where I list other pertinent information. Sports practices, game schedules, coaches; the name of and directions to the dance studio and the girls' dance class schedules; the kids' friends and playmates, and neighbors who could help out in an emergency; school and PTA commitments and events; personal and health information for the entire family - all of this is in one place and can be accessed at a moment's notice. (Really, does your husband know which dentist or specialist to call, or the home and cell phone numbers of your girlfriend who would come over and do a ballet bun before the big recital?)

Some moms consider this system too rigid, a little controlling, or (more than) a little Type-A, but there's a method to my madness: if I weren't around, my family would have one less thing to worry about. A few years ago, my mom had a heart attack and I had to hop on a plane to L.A. with little notice. Everything Mr. Mom needed was at his fingertips. Sure, he couldn't do their hair, but the preschool teacher was more than willing to help him out with that. And last year, I had surgery and didn't recover as quickly as I thought I would. The schedule and notebook system meant that I didn't have to worry about things running (somewhat) smoothly while I was recuperating. OK, so the leotard went on backwards, and the ballet shoes didn't make it home from class that day, but overall, things went well. The kids were a little wrinkled, but everyone got to school and their activities on time. My husband knew which of our friends to call when he needed someone to pick the kids up while he took me back to the hospital, and who had a house key and could let the dog out and feed her. It meant that the kids had the comfort of the familiar during an uncomfortable time.

Slacker Mom Says...don't make fun of another mom's system (or apparent lack thereof). We all have our own way of doing things. I may be a Slacker Mom in other areas - don't look under the beds or in my linen closets, and I certainly don't have an earthquake kit or an apocolyptic "we can live for months without the outside world" kit. But my family's affairs are in order. My system is like having a will and life insurance: I hope I never need it, but if I do, I'll be so glad I took the time and effort to take care of things.

Find Your Sisters Where You Can

When I first started the monthly Moms' Night Out (MNO) group, I had a 14-month-old and a husband who worked 12-hour days. I had four girlfriends with toddlers the same age as mine, and, as much as we loved playgroup and Tumble Tots, we needed some kid-free time. Our husbands all worked long days, and our kids were fed, bathed, and in bed by the time they got home. Coley, Jill, Leslie, Brandy and I were single-handedly running our households and caring for our children while the daddies worked hard so we could (happily! gratefully!) stay home with our babies. None of us had our mothers or sisters nearby, and we'd become each other's support systems. But we were all starting to feel a little overwhelmed - and more than a little burned out. So the five of us agreed that on the third Thursday of each month, we'd head out to dinner - without husbands, kids, or mommy guilt.

At first, it was kind of strange eating somewhere other than the mall's food court. We chose restaurants with linen tablecothes, no play area, no kids' menu, no high chairs or booster seats. We ordered things that our husbands and kids would NEVER eat, shared appetizers and entrees, even ordered dessert and coffee. After all, we weren't paying a babysitter and we didn't have to rush home to take care of the elaborate bedtime routines that all of us first-time moms thought we needed (and later found out that none of the daddies were following, just dumping them in their cribs with a quick pat on the bum. But more on that another time.).

With everyone now driving minivans or SUVs, we certainly had enough room to ride together. Besides, we were all getting pregnant again - first Leslie, then Coley, then me - and that way we always had a designated driver. We continued our MNO through the summer and into the fall. Dressing up, putting on a little more makeup than usual, eating at new restaurants, all made us feel like people again, more than just a harried mommy with spit up in her hair and ketchup on her shirt. We liked not being responsible for little people, for their safety, health, education, enrichment - even if it was just for two hours. And no one's husband begrudged her a little time off, a few apple martinis, a night out with the girls now and then, did he?

Sometimes our kids cried when we left and we felt guilty, but we went anyway. Sometimes our husbands cried when we left, and we definitely went anyway! But the kids got over it, and the daddies got over it, and we continued for the next year. Our second babies were all born three months apart, one after the other. By the time one of us was ready to give birth, the last one had recovered enough to help out. Once or twice, someone brought a newborn out with us, but more often we left them at home for a bit, laughing through leaking breast pads and sore "lady parts", and discussed the proper way to "pump and dump" after a glass or two of wine.

My husband quickly learned that a happy wife meant he'd be happy...later, if you know what I mean. I came home refreshed, renewed, re-energized. My friends recognized me for the funny, smart, interesting woman I had once been, and didn't just see me as a chef, housekeeper, accountant, doctor, finder of lost binkies, all things to all people. It was fun, it was good for me, and it was good for my family.

Over time, we've all gone our separate ways. I moved away when the big kids were 2 1/2, and started a MNO group in my new town. The others continued for awhile after I left, but eventually their kids went to different preschools and made new friends. But for the time that these women were in my life, they were more than just my friends. We spent holidays and birthdays together. When a new baby was born or one of us had to go on bedrest, the rest of us took care of the older children and fed the family. Whatever anyone needed, we provided. We were the extended family we created for ourselves. They were the sisters I needed, since my own was so far away. They gave me advice, they cared for my family, they loved my daughters, and I loved their kids. And even though our contact is mostly limited to Christmas cards now, I still remember them fondly, still love their kids, and I'm still so grateful for the time I had with them.

Slacker Mom Says...cherish your friendships. Enjoy and celebrate the women in your life. Leave the dusting and go to lunch; forget the laundry and get a pedicure together. Grab some girlfriends and start your own MNO. Your kids will be fine. Your husband will (eventually) be fine. Take in a movie, have coffee, meet at the gym, and don't feel guilty if the beds aren't made and the kids' uniforms are a little wrinkled. They won't remember that, but you will remember your friendships forever. And time off makes us all better moms!