Sunday, October 25, 2009

Taking Time Vs. Making Time

Six weeks after giving birth to her first child, my friend Becky (a paralegal) found herself shopping for some new non-maternity clothes at her local mall. Heading into the dressing room with an armload of outfits and an infant car seat, Becky started to undress - only to discover that she'd forgotten to put on panties that morning. My friend Aimee, a former beauty queen, confesses to leaving the house in her slippers more than once while pregnant with her second child. She used to have perfect nails and hair, but now complains that she doesn't have time to wash her hair daily or iron her clothes - although her girls are always pressed and perfect, giant bows adorning their spiral curls.

When I was pregnant with my second child, I once met some friends for lunch with two different shoes on. Granted, carrying a 10-pounder, I hadn't been able to see over my belly, but you'd think I'd have taken the time to check the mirror. And just a few weeks ago, I was driving home from dropping my kids off at school when I happened to glance in my rear view mirror. In my haste to get everyone ELSE presentable, I'd forgotten to put mascara on one eye.

In contrast, I recently saw a picture of my friend Katie, who's just had her fourth baby in five years. It's her "welcome home" shot, where she's walking in the door of her house, her newborn in her arms. Her hair is gorgeous, her make-up is flawless, a glowing smile lights her face. If she took time (because we all know she didn't HAVE time) to look good, why don't I?
So this got me thinking: does motherhood make you sloppy? Does having kids make you forget about your appearance, make you so busy that you truly don't have time to "do" yourself up anymore? Or is that just an excuse? Is it that we don't HAVE time, or that we don't TAKE time? (Don't even say the words "make time". As if we can just flip a switch on some machine and "make" more time in our day. If I had the patent on THAT, I'd be a rich woman.)

Before I had kids, I worked full-time. To quote that Klymaxx song from the 80s, my nails were done and my hair was fierce. I never left the house without lipstick. I wouldn't THINK about walking around in public in a stained tee-shirt or baggy sweatpants. Even my gym clothes were cute. I wore name brands: Gap, Ann Taylor, even the occasional Armani. Nowadays? I'll admit to grocery shopping in Wal Mart sweats and a tee-shirt that's older than my kids - and significantly less clean. I've told myself that it doesn't matter, that we moms are just so busy that we don't always have time to be put together.

But isn't that just a load of crap? What if I still had a job? I might head to my kids' school with dripping hair and chipped nail polish, but would I go to work like that? My best friend and my sister are both working moms, and I've never seen them at the office with greasy hair, in sloppy sweats. At home, sure. On the weekends, without a doubt. But at work? Not on your life. They have kids and husbands and homes AND jobs, yet they manage to be presentable at work. They don't magically have more time than I do; if anything, they have less.

So here's my theory: it's not so much that it's socially acceptable to sometimes be a slob if we "just" stay home with our kids. It's that is more socially UNacceptable to go to work that way. You just can't get away with it, so you don't even try to.

Slacker Mom Says...yes, having babies fries your brain. It makes you forgetful, cranky, tired, and fat...but only for a few months. Then it's time to stop blaming the kids. If I don't take 20 minutes to slap on some make-up and do my hair, I can't blame anyone but myself. What does it say about me if my kids wear clean, pressed clothes and have lovely French braids, but my soaking wet hair is scraped back in a ponytail and my yoga pants were clearly pulled out of the hamper - for the third time this week? If I don't TAKE the time, you can be damn sure no one is going to give it to me! When I was a teacher, I felt like I couldn't get ahead; as soon as the towering stack of papers was graded, I'd have that day's work to grade all over again! Motherhood is a lot like that: No matter how many hours a day you spend doing it, there will always be something more to do. So why not just take a break and take some "me" time? Pathetic, I know, that doing my hair is "me" time, but maybe thinking of it like that will make it easier to TAKE the time that I deserve. My girls look to me to see what a mother means; I don't want them to think that they have to put themselves last once they become mothers. No, I don't need to look flawless all the time, but I'll be honest - I could be more pulled-together.

Besides, soon enough my kids will be in middle school. Then I'll need some way to embarrass them. So I'll save those Wal Mart sweats and the mac-and-cheese stained tee-shirts for awhile longer.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Someday I'll Get 8 Hours of Sleep IN A ROW

My friend Beth recently updated her FaceBook status with, "How come I got the non-sleeping model of infant?" It reminded me of being a first-time mom, and feeling completely exhausted and sleep-deprived. Until you've been there, you have no idea. No, it's nothing like drinking all night and then taking a final. Not even close.

When my oldest child was an infant, I asked her pediatrician about her sleep habits. I mentioned that "all the books" said that, at her age, she should be sleeping through the night. Dr. Aqua, a mother of three/pediatrician/wife of an obstetrician, looked at me and said, "Honey, the trouble is, sometimes the babies don't read the books."

Hmmm. Didn't think of that.

But now, my kids are both school-aged. They can wipe their own bottoms, get themselves a snack, read themselves a book, tie their own shoes. Doesn't it follow that they should be sleeping through the night by now? You'd think so, wouldn't you?

Here's a partial list of the "reasons" (read: excuses) my girls have had for waking me up during the precious few hours I'm in bed (you know, from like midnight to 5 AM):
~ I need a drink.
~ I have to go potty.
~ I had a dream that there was Purell on my hair.
~ Book orders are due tomorrow!
~ My pillow is wet because I washed my hair.
~ I can't find my tissues.
~ I forgot to tell you that I won the race in P.E. today.
~ I think I have Show and Tell tomorrow.
~ Did you pack chicken fingers in my lunch tomorrow? Cuz if you did, I need ketchup, too.
~ Can I some some Halloween candy?
~ I think I might have a fever and should stay home from school tomorrow. No, it has nothing to do with the fact that I have a math quiz and I forgot my study guide, I swear.

So, like a good mom, I squelch the screaming banshee within (she who wants to say things like, "Are you f#&@ kidding me? You walked past two bathrooms to tell me you have to pee/need a drink/can't find a tissue?" or "I already KNOW about the book orders because I'm the book mom, remember?" or "Candy? CANDY? WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?")

Or, and I might actually have said this one out loud, "Maybe you're hot because you are wearing 5 sweatshirts. No, you do NOT have a fever, and yes, you ARE taking the quiz tomorrow. Get out of my room."

And, not to be a bitch or anything, but sometimes I wonder how the hell my husband is sleeping through these conversations. How does he wake up if the dog breathes too loudly, but can't hear a screaming child over a baby monitor THREE INCHES FROM HIS HEAD???

Now, it's not every night that the kids come down the stairs in the dead of night. Sometimes we go days without midnight incursions; sometimes it's 4 or 5 a night. Per kid. So I wonder: Is it wrong to send them back upstairs by themselves? Is it wrong to be fighting mad when it's 3 AM and someone is telling me that she wants to paint her fingernails after school tomorrow? If you're sick, if you've had a bad dream, I'm all over it. But most of these seem to be of the "I just woke up and thought it would be fun to go hang out with Mommy" variety. Am I a total slacker because I am too tired to argue with them and send them back to their own beds?

And then I remember that, soon, very soon, these sweet angels wouldn't be caught DEAD crawling into my bed. The teenage years are just around the corner, and then they'll be going off to college, and I might get my wish after all: a night where I could sleep 8 hours in a row with no interruptions. No pitter patter of little feet on the stairs; no warm little body sneaking up between my husband and me, saying, "I need you, Mom" as she snuggles into the crook of my arm. No sweet baby breath on my hair, no one pressing her little feet up against me as she sighs into sleep, content and sure that all is right in the world because she's got her mom and dad next to her.

Slacker Mom Says...screw the books. Yes, they SHOULD be sleeping through the night. Yes, they shouldn't be allowed to creep in during the night. Yes, I'd sleep a LOT better without an extra person (or two) in the bed. But like the country song says, "You're gonna miss this." I know I will, so I'm going to hang on to it just a little longer. Who needs sleep? That's what coffee's for, right?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Birthday Party Madness, Part II

Last night, my best friend, Nina, called me on her way home from work. She's a teacher, a mother of 3, a graduate student, and her husband works out of town 4 days a week. She's ANYTHING but a slacker, but she's the epitome of Slacker Mom - and, in fact, the inspiration behind my Super Mom to Slacker Mom transformation. She makes room for what's important and knows how to weed out what's not, and we all - her kids, husband, students, professors, neighbors and friends - get the best parts of her. She knows what it means to prioritize. Now, it may sound like I'm going off on a tangent, but there's a point - she read my latest post and called with an "I can do you one better" story of her own. Not to beat a dead horse, but I cannot resist relating this story that drives home my ooint.

Nina's girls were once invited to a birthday party for a friend named Abby. (Names have been changed for privacy; otherwise all my friends would stop talking to me in case I used them as material for the blog.) It was Abby's First Birthday (capitals intended), a joyous occasion for any parent. But where most of us have the grandparents over for cake, Abby's mom hired a Vegas-quality magician, a professional artist to paint faces (no, not a professional face painter; a professional ARTIST!), and had a real, old-fashioned hot dog cart. There were nearly 100 guests. I could go on, but you get the point.

But this is what concerns me: is this what is expected of me for a CHILD'S party? I'm exhausted just thinking about it, and my kids' birthdays are months away. I thought it was really cool when I threw a Hannah Montana karaoke "Half-Sleepover" a few years ago. I thought the Garden Party where we painted pots and planted impatiens was awesome. I loved the Lilo and Stitch Luau so much that we did it two years in a row. With the same guests! And the same decorations!

Don't get me wrong - if you have the means and the desire to throw the Mack Daddy of all parties, knock yourself out. If it makes you happy, and you can afford it, go ahead and hire the ponies and clowns and jugglers and fire eaters. What bothers me is that this is becoming the norm instead of the exception to the rule. What bothers me is that some people feel they have to spend money - and time - they don't have in order to keep up with classmates and neighbors. Will my kids be ostracized if they don't have professional dancers at their next ballet-themed party? Do I need to invite every single child my kids know in case someone's feelings get hurt? (Which is ridiculous. Do I cry when two of my friends have lunch and don't invite me?)

I don't think so. One of the very best parties my kids ever went to was in a church basement, with Domino's pizza, crafts, and a cake from the grocery store. They had the BEST time, and I guarantee this mom didn't stress over her child's party. She was relaxed and able to truly enjoy her daughter's big day. The kids had fun running around and playing, and the moms enjoyed each others' company. Appropriate, fun, easy - the perfect kids' party.

Slacker Mom Says...I'm jumping off the bandwagon. No more "keeping up with the Joneses" for me. I'm setting a budget, limiting the guest list to their closest friends, and serving up some old-fashioned fun and games. Goodie bags with stuff you'll use, a pinata, Pin the Tail on the Donkey, and Musical Chairs. It's a birthday party, not a wedding reception.

Or I might do what Nina does: no parties, but we can go to Disney for the day.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Beware Birthday Party Madness

My sister, who lives in LA, just sent me photos of a birthday party that her four-year-old daughter attended over the weekend. The birthday tot chose a Fancy Nancy theme; the miniature guests were given jeweled tiaras, sparkly sunglasses, and feathered boas. The place cards were printed in a Fancy Nancy-like font, in glittery pastel colors, with each girl's name (Fancy Samantha, Fancy Katrina, etc). But the piece de resistance? A topiary-shaped cake, dirt made of brown sugar, and decorated with sugared strawberries. The whole thing was absolutely stunning, a fantastical, magical party for someone's little princess.

But it got me thinking: what's next? If this is her FOURTH birthday, what will these well-meaning, adoring parents do for her sweet sixteen? her prom? for her wedding day? Can you say "live doves and ice sculptures"?

There's a new virus going around, and it's called Birthday Party Madness.

Whatever happened to Pin the Tail on the Donkey (or the crown on Ariel, or the microphone on Hannah Montana, or whatever) in the backyard? What happened to a nice sheet cake from your local grocery store, or one that your grandma made, with "Happy Birthday Timmy!" and some candles on it?

When did kids' parties start to rival the Inaugural Ball? It seems to me that parents have gone a little crazy with the party planning, the prep, the sheer dollars spent, on a ONE DAY event that, let's face it, the kid didn't ask for anyway. Even an at-home party with cake and ice cream and trinket-filled goodie bags will run you $5 a kid, at least. What do these "parties on steroids", as my friend Tina calls them, cost? What's the going rate for ponies and a bounce house? And what's the cover charge - I mean, how much do I have to spend on a gift? I'm thinking a Littlest Pet Shop playset might not cut it.

I admit, in years past, I've been accused of overdoing it. For my oldest's fifth birthday, we hosted a Tinkerbell party, with a bejeweled, sparkly treasure box for each girl and a hairdresser to create updos ala Tink. Several moms made snarky comments about the "extravagance" involved. But the hairdresser was a close friend who'd asked to come because she loves my kids. The invitations, decorations, and thank you notes were my sister's gift to her niece, also her goddaughter. I bought the treasure boxes at a Michaels sale (2 for $1), spray-painted them, and then glued giant jewels (from a party we'd gone to the year before) over the sparkles. Fun, yes. Extravagant, no.

My favorite party was my youngest's third birthday. We invited all her friends over for a luau and had a Lilo and Stitch theme. Two hours outside on the swing set and in the sand box, some cake and ice cream, a sand bucket with a beach ball inside for each kid, and we were done. Still considered one of the best parties ever by our friends, it was also the easiest and cheapest one I've ever done.

Slacker Mom Says...just say no to Birthday Party Madness! I feel the pressure to have the "best party ever" for my kids every single year. I feel the need to outdo and outspend and outshine the best Martha Stewart mommies in the neighborhood. But it's not about showing up the neighbors or getting compliments for myself. It's about having fun, enjoying my kids, remembering and celebrating the day they entered this world and my life. It's about THEM, not ME; it's about showing them how special they are. Spending $100 or 100 hours making the cake to end all cakes is fine, if that's what you want to do. But birthdays aren't any more special for my kids if I'm sleep-deprived and cranky (and poor!) just to show them (me?) that I love them. They know how much I love them. Homemade cupcakes are just as good (and maybe better, since they get to help make them!) as the fancy cake. And that leaves more time for hugs and kisses - and playing, together, with those new toys.

Friday, October 16, 2009

No One's Puking Up the Tamiflu, So I've Got THAT Going For Me...

My kids have swine flu. Yep, that scary-ass bug that the media has us all convinced is the next plague has invaded my Purell-soaked world. Both kids are flat-out on the couch in their jammies watching "The Barbie Diaries" and drinking grape juice as I write this. And you know what? We're all still alive.

Don't get me wrong; it's been a little hairy around here. When the fevers were climbing and no amount of Tylenol could bring them down, when the hacking coughs started, when I realized that they had EVERY SINGLE symptom on the handy-dandy checklist that my health insurance company had sent me, I panicked. A little. And prayed a LOT. Then I called my pediatrician, a mom herself, and put them in her capable hands. Armed with Tamiflu prescriptions and a little mommy-education, I felt much better about our ability to deal with the devil virus. And then I read the notes on the bottle of blood-red (cherry-flavored?) Tamiflu: "often causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea." Great. Because a little vomiting of bright red medicine is EXACTLY what my couch needs right now. Each child got her own beach bucket (I know what they're getting for Easter next year because those suckers are going straight into the garbage if anyone pukes), and I put a drop cloth on my new family room rug.

So, yeah, the kids are watching a LOT of TV (while I watch them) and drinking a LOT more juice than normal (while I'm sucking down the coffee like it's water just to keep from passing out next to them on the couch), but so far, so good. I haven't slept in days, but I think we've got this thing beat. Meds are staying down, I'm staying up, and we've even started on the make-up work. (Hey, you can take the mom out of the classroom...) My kids may be sick, but my house is the cleanest it's ever been: I have a bucket of bleach and I'm not afraid to use it. And Lysol disinfects everything, right?

But I didn't follow the CDC's protocol: I took my kids to the doctor when their fevers were only at 102. I didn't wait for 104. I didn't wait for extreme lethargy and blueish skin and trouble breathing. I took them when my mommy-instinct screamed, "SOMETHING'S WRONG HERE!" And I'm glad I did. Tamiflu is most effective when taken in the first 24-48 hours of onset of symptoms.

Slacker Mom Says...don't always trust the "experts". We're moms - we're the experts on our own kids. If I'd waited, who knows how sick they'd have gotten. We've escaped relatively unscathed, thank God. Whether it's a bump on the head, a child who just seems "off", or swine flu, we gotta do what we gotta do. We're moms. That's our job.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Defense Rests

You've heard of the Twinkie defense, right? Where you're so intoxicated with sugar and fat and artificial dyes/colors/preservatives that you can't be held responsible for your actions? Well, I've never claimed that one (I'm scared of Twinkies - how can there be no actual cream in the cream center?), but I HAVE claimed the Happy Meal Toy Defense. You know, the one where I'm so sick of crappy little fast food toys overrunning my playroom (yes, MY playroom; kids don't write mortgage checks) that I creep in, in the dead of night, and THROW THEM ALL OUT. Then I adamantly and vehemently deny all knowledge when the alleged crime is discovered the next day by the occupants of said playroom. Originally pioneered by that ground-breaking friend of mine, Nina, it works every time. Seven years of this motherhood thing and I've never even been accused, much less convicted.

The Happy Meal Toy Defense Strategy goes something like this: the kid can't find the beloved McDonald's emu she got in 2003 from a Happy Meal eaten with her grandmother. (Never mind that she hadn't touched it in approximately 924 days - not the point.) Suddenly, it's the "must-have" toy of the moment and she's searching high and low. Finally, in desperation, she comes to Mommy, all-knowing keeper of the whereabouts of everyone else's stuff (as in "Honey, do you know where my belt is?" Seriously? Your belt? Try the closet. Or maybe your pants. Or "Mom? Where's my sneaker?" Um, didn't you just take it off like five minutes ago?? ARGH!) in an effort to locate the treasured Beanie Baby emu. And how does Slacker Mom deflect all suspicion? She answers, "How would I know where it is? It's YOUR toy! If you'd put things away in the first place, you'd be able to find it now!" (Sometimes this is followed up by a nice long lecture about how I'm not the maid around here and I didn't play with it so how would I possibly know where you'd put it and I'm tired of having everyone ask me about all their stuff. The best defense is a good offense, after all.)

Ah, the deception. Yep, I'm guilty - of using their own stupidity against them. How have they not caught on? Do they really not get it? I mean, I have a threadbare stuffed tiger that I got at the San Diego Zoo in 1975, but the Barbie lip gloss from last night's Happy Meal is already missing?

Slacker Mom Says...toss the guilt with the Happy Meal toys. Are any of our kids really underprivileged? How many toys do two kids need? The playroom is bursting at the seams with American Girls and Barbie dolls. And if they can't put away their own crap, then they must not really value it. Some will call me a liar (I am; so are you. Did you tell your kids about Santa and the Tooth Fairy?) and some will say I have no respect for the children's belongings. But when they haven't touched these toys since the day they opened them, and Christmas is only two months away, it's time to get rid of something. So have at it. Call me what you will. I have a great defense strategy, and a jury of my peers (all mothers!) would never convict me.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Halloween is For Slackers

Halloween has always been the perfect Slacker Mom-friendly holiday. Think about it: no cookies to bake, no cards to send, no perfect holiday photo to stress over. No special fancy outfits to shop for (and then fight with your kids over, amid screams of "I'm NOT wearing THAT!"), no gifts to buy, nothing to wrap or send or deliver. No parties to cook for, no invitations to figure out how to get out of, no company shindigs where you have to make small talk with people you don't even know. No teacher gifts to buy (an impossible task, even for an ex-teacher). No deciding who to visit and how to break it to the ones you're ditching.

You buy a few bags of candy, whip up a few costumes, and you're done. Ah, Halloween!

More and more, schools don't allow the "H" word to be spoken; everything is "Fall Festival" or "Harvest Celebration" these days. Even easier. Cookies can be bought at the local bakery and dropped off at school with no guilt, since I can't use my special jack-o-lantern cupcake molds anyway. Most schools won't even let parents bake treats anymore; they have to be store-bought and can't exceed "wellness" requirements set by well-meaning (but lame) district officials.

I admit, before Slacker Mom arrived, I used to over-achieve and SuperMom the crap out of Halloween, just like every other holiday. I used to make sure each child had two costumes, one for school (sticky, day-glo orange cupcake frosting all over the fleecy baby lamb costume I spent 10 hours making? I don't think so!) and one for trick-or-treating. But last year, my husband took the kids to the costume store and told them they had 30 minutes to find a costume. They came home as a pretty witch and her sweet black cat. Wading through piles of slutty pre-teen costumes was no fun for him, but it saved me about 15 hours worth of work, and didn't cost much more than I would have spent on materials.

I used to throw an elaborate annual Halloween party for all the kids we know. I had games, treats, crafts, a full buffet, and goodie bags. I'd spend hours making homemade, hand-decorated cupcakes and cookies that were gobbled up in seconds. This year, Slacker Mom pointed out that between school, neighbors, and extracurricular activities, we'd have to invite about 60 kids. And their parents. And their siblings. And it rained on that weekend last year AND the year before. So Slacker Mom convinced me to spend that money on a more worthy cause: a mid-year trip to Florida to see friends instead. Surprisingly, the kids were totally on-board and won't even miss the party that I've prided myself on for 7 years now. Talk about a wake-up call.

Slacker Mom Says...before I know it, I'll be a grumpy old lady turning out my porch light on October 31. I might as well start enjoying this holiday instead of trying to create yet another perfectly memorable, perfectly Martha Stewart holiday. Instead, I'm going to buy costumes and cookies, take my kids trick-or-treating, and get some extra sleep. After all, Christmas is just around the corner. And my Slacker Mom detox program hasn't figured out a way to talk me down from SuperMomming the crap out of Christmas yet.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Put Down the Ketchup and Catch Up

So the other night I was watching Jeopardy with my husband. Boring, I know, but hey, that's life as a parent: no babysitter, so you put them to bed and watch TV and call it a date. Anyway, one of the questions was about the Secretary of the Treasury. I realized that I had absolutely NO idea who that was. My mind was as blank as the look my kids give me when I ask them what they did at school each day.

Now, I majored in International Relations with an emphasis in US/Soviet relations and Middle Eastern conflict. I minored in International Business with an emphasis in Pacific Rim economies. I used to know all 12 Supreme Court justices and the year they were confirmed, the names of various ambassadors and United Nations dignitaries, and who each of my senators and members of Congress were. I used to be knowledgeable in foreign policy, domestic policy, our military's presence in any foreign land. Not anymore.

These days, I can correctly name all four Wiggles by color, name, and musical instrument, identify the entire PTA executive board, all 8 Kindergarten teachers, and Miley Cyrus's current boyfriend - but I don't know a single member of the Cabinet or who the lieutenant governor of my state is. What the hell happened?

Motherhood happened, that's what. My priorities changed, my sphere of influence changed, my world shrank, and my reading list changed from Newsweek and USA Today to Goodnight Moon and Hop on Pop. I used to be the most well-informed woman in my neighborhood, and, I'll be honest, I looked down on the rest of them for not keeping up on current events. Now I know: they weren't stupid or unconcerned with what was happening in the world. They were just stuck in baby jail, barely able to find time to pee and throw in a load of laundry so they could go to the store without spit-up on their clothes. That WAS their world. They didn't have time to step out into the "real" world because their lives were so busy with diapers and feeding that, IF the TV went on, it was Elmo, not CNN, they watched. Rather than French politics, they were busy with french fries. Who knew.

Slacker Mom Says...I'm going to make the time to catch up on what's going on around me. I don't want to make my world so small that I forget that what's out "there" is really important, too. I want my girls to be up on current events, to be able to discuss world affairs (but not politician's affairs, thank you very much, Mark Sanford) and the human condition beyond our front door. Miley's boyfriend may be news in pre-teen land, but there's a whole world outside that I used to know and love. Time to recapture it.

But first I have to go figure out who the yellow Wiggle is. You know, the one who took over for Greg.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"Baby Monkey Is Missing!" and Other Non-Emergencies

I hardly ever get a night out, but when I do, there always seems to be some major catastrophe that befalls the rest of my family. Not, of course, calamities that would require a mom to call for help, but daddy emergencies that require immediate attention from the absent mother.

Say, for example, the first time I went on a Moms' Night Out dinner with the girls. Ten minutes in, my phone rang. Assuming the worst (you know, sharp stick in the eye, snake bite, poisoning), I answered in a panic. "What's wrong? Who's hurt? Should I meet you at the ER?" I panicked. "Hey, Honey, quick question, um, which pan do you use to make cheeseburgers?" came his totally serious reply. My heart rate just went through the roof, and he's asking me about cheeseburgers? Someone's going to ER, all right, but it's not the kids. And no jury would convict me.

Or the night that I was sitting in the hair dresser's chair, foils all over my head like something out of a sci-fi movie, when my cell phone rang from deep within my pocket. Ignoring the evil glares of the other patrons, I quietly answered with, "What's wrong?" (See, less panic. I'd been doing this mom thing longer.) I heard the sorrowful voice of my preschooler: "Mommy? Mommy? I can't find my Ariel doll and Daddy didn't make the oatmeal right!" Really? He didn't make the freakin' oatmeal right? It's instant. Add milk, microwave, and you're done. How do you mess that one up? And why are you interrupting my "me" time to tell me that? (And why is a hair appointment "me" time?!)

Or, my personal favorite, while I was at the movies the weekend before delivering my second child. My best friend and I were trying to grab one last kid-free evening before I was back in baby jail with a nursing baby, when I got the call. This time, with panic in his voice, it was, "How do you sing the bedtime song? She won't go to sleep without the bedtime song!" Well, actually, she will. Close the door and tell her to go to sleep. She's working you big time, buddy. If she's two and you've never had to sing the bedtime song before...can you spell "manipulate"?

But the bigger issue is my right to time off. In motherhood, there's no sick leave, no vacation pay, no days off. When you are a mom, it's a 24/7 job. You're never off-duty, ever. Even when you take a night to yourself, you still have to be the mommy - and that's exhausting. So sometimes, kids have to make do with Daddy, who has to step up, take charge, make the decisions. With that in mind, I devised a list of approved reasons to call me when I'm "off":
~Severe blood loss requiring an ER visit or a 911 call (not "where are the Dora bandaids?")
~Prolonged, projectile vomiting (not spit up)
~Fever of 102 or above (and don't ask me how to use the thermometer or where the Tylenol is)
~Fire requiring the services of the fire department
~Broken bones protruding through the skin

And then there's the list of interruptions guaranteed to result in an angry wife:
~Lost toys/loveys/pacifiers (Find it yourself!)
~Cooking questions (Really, just read the chicken nugget bag.)
~Homework questions (You have a Masters degree. Figure it out.)
~Any call including the words "But they wanted to call you!"
~What to allow children to play/watch/eat/do/wear
~Questions relating to the location of common household items, like the extra diapers/pjs/books/thermometer/his mom's phone number/cheeseburger stuff

Slacker Mom Says...guard your "time off". Let the daddies know that your time off is sacred and not to be interrupted without just cause. If he can handle it himself, he'll feel better about being in charge, and you'll relax and enjoy your night out. Just make sure he knows where his cheeseburger stuff is - or, better yet, bring your leftovers home for him and turn your "Moms' Night Out" into Date Night as well. Everybody wins.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Casting the First Stone

Yesterday, my friend Amy posted a video on her Facebook page called "Ne Jugez Pas Trop Vite." For anyone who's forgotten high school French (or took a more useful language, like maybe, say, Latin), that translates to "Don't Judge Too Quickly." The video, actually five mini-commercials for a financial institution, shows people in innocent yet embarrasing situations easily misconstrued by those who are watching. For example, in an ill-fated attempt to get to the bathroom without waking her neighbor, a woman in a middle seat on a crowded overnight flight tries to climb over the sleeping man next to her. Add a little turbulence, and suddenly she's on his lap with her skirt hiked up to her waist, as fellow travelers look on in horror. Oops. But the clip drives home the point - that most of us are guilty of jumping to conclusions, of making snap judgements without all the facts. So I started thinking: don't we all do this? Not sit on strangers' laps on airplanes, hopefully, but judge too quickly? And do we even recognize that we do it?

Come on, admit it: ever frowned in disapproval as another mom drags her screaming kids from a restaurant or store? Ever thought to your (perfect) self: I'd never allow that type of behavior! Ever privately felt smug when you see what other moms pack in their kids' lunches? Hmmm? Admit it: when your kid is eating organic carrots, apples, and yogurt, and you catch a peek at Johnny's Cheetos, Oreos, and Hi-C, you feel like the better mom, don't you? Yep, me too.

Remember the mom who was caught on mall security tapes spanking her daughter in the car? Despite the public outcry, all I could think was, I wonder what came before. Who knows what had just happened, off camera, that led to that very public spanking. I'm not advocating corporal punishment, but who among us can honestly say that she doesn't understand how a mom could snap?

Breast vs. bottle. Working vs. staying at home. Cloth vs. disposable. Academic preschool vs. play-based. As moms, we are constantly making decisions and are constantly under scrutiny. And if we aren't being judged, we feel like we are! Ever whipped out the boob to breastfeed your newborn and been told to use the bathroom? (Because I like to eat there, don't you?) Or pulled out a bottle, only to have some "nursing Nazi" lecture you on the evils of formula - even if that BPA-free sterilized bottle contains breast milk you diligently pumped at 3 AM after baby Katie only nursed on one side? (And if it DID have formula in it, SO FREAKIN' WHAT?!?) Ever reprimanded your child in public? Childless (child-free?) shoppers watching and frowning? Ever had your kids give an Oscar-worthy performance in front of the entire carpool line? While the principal stands there, too?

What about the time an old lady at the grocery store yelled at me (yes, raised her voice and called me a bad mother) because my "winter baby" didn't have on a hat? I've had to half-drag, half-carry a screaming toddler out of the mall under the scrutiny of (highly judgemental) shoppers, all of them shaking their heads and feeling sorry for my kids - while my sweet baby girl yelled, "You're hurting me, Mommy! You're hurting me!" over and over and over again. I wanted to scream, "Feel sorry for ME! You get to go back to your latte and shoe shopping, and I've got to somehow buckle this kid into her car seat and get her home before she falls asleep! And I'm NOT hurting her, but keep judging me and I'll definitely hurt YOU!"

Slacker Mom jugez pas trop vite! Let she who is without parenting error cast the first stone. I've made mistakes, you've made mistakes, and none of us can say that we know exactly what the other mom is going through. Maybe Johnny's mom was sick and he made his own lunch. Maybe my toddler was just mad because I (gasp) dared to say no cookies before lunch, and she was tired, and she had a new sister, and she just lost it because SHE'S TWO and that's what 2-year-olds do and I WAS being a good mommy! (And, by the way, that "winter baby" did not need a hat, because it was March in South Florida - which means it was like 75 degrees outside.) We may not be perfect, but we are doing the best we can. So here's our homework: Try to go a week without judging ANYONE, yourself included. Things aren't always what they seem. And I've found that if I judge others a little less, I can go a little easier on myself. Try it.