Sunday, August 9, 2009

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

That's where my happy thoughts seem to have gone. Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Like Peter Pan, no happy thoughts = no flight. And, when the going gets tough, the happy thoughts are fleeting. By "tough" I mean that my to do list is long but my resentment list feels longer. THAT'S a problem for me. A BIG problem. When silly resentments cloud my brain I don't laugh as much. And I don't like NOT laughing. So, what's causing my resentment and keeping me uncomfortably bent over the rainbow?

Expectations! My unrealistic expectations! That's what!

OK, this post is going to be about motherhood and the thing that frustrates me about it... with a twist of humor if I can manage it (LOL). But, there's always a pot of gold at the end so hang, for just a few minutes, over the rainbow with me.

I've been working as a stay at home mom for 6 1/2 years now. Working 24/7/365. Yes, I said WORKING and 24 as in 24-hours-a-day! Sure I sleep... lightly and sporadically and mostly NOT. Never mind that since I gave birth to 3 children (with a 2fer1 in there) my bladder went somewhere over the rainbow too and I can't sleep through the night without making multiple trips to the potty which is downstairs in my house so it's a total wake up -- not a half-dead zomby walk to the throne and back -- lest I fall down the stairs. On the graveyard shift, I also wake up when any of my children stir, whatever the reason -- have to go potty, lost a diaper, giggle in their sleep, kick me in the guts, kick my husband in the guts (yes, we have a "family bed" for the extended re-construction of their bedrooms so I wake and move the kid to spare him the discomfort), got precariously stuck in the bedrail, or itch because one of 50+ summer mosquito bites are driving them out of their peaceful slumber land. With 3 kids AND my own potty trips, that's about... 3, 6, 9 -- hold on let me get my calculator 'cause I don't have enough fingers to count the wake ups. Never mind, you do the math and make sure you divide it into 8 hours of sleep and figure out that I sleep in 10-minute increments... IF I'm lucky. I hear you all laughing. Who gets 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep? I told you it was about unrealistic expectations!

Hubby used to Captain work boats, sometimes doing ship-to-shore stores replenishment and personnel transport on 24 hour shifts. During the night when he was anchored up -- "asleep" -- he was still listening with one ear, so to speak, for the squawk of the radio telling him he needed to move something or someone from ship to shore or vice versa. That's me. Mock-asleep. Waiting for the call which may or may not come. For me, it ALWAYS comes! And, I don't get paid, in the traditional sense, like he did. I am and have been on call every single night since my oldest child was born 7 1/2 years ago. EVERY SINGLE NIGHT!

Oh wait, there was one night that I went to sleep and didn't wake up for 6 hours. One night! That was a miracle! Truly!... Anyway,

During the day shift, things get... easier (Did I type that out loud?). Well, at least the lights are on and I can see things more clearly despite my fatigue-induced brain fog. And, I can complain out loud without worrying about waking anyone up... except maybe Daddy who probably worked overtime for the Yankees until 2AM. I've learned to complain quietly on those days. Still, for me, the daily 60-mile round trip drive to and from school is nothing compared to the prep for said trip. Trying to get 3 tired kids -- tired because it's summer and we stay up later doing fun summer kids-stuff until it's actually DARK enough outside to sleep (note to self: buy blackout shades for the bedroom) -- up, fed, dressed, lunches packed and in the car in a 30-45-minute time-frame which actually requires coordination and patience I don't always have after working the graveyard shift. Once in the car, with the kids in lock down in their car seats, all I have to do is keep up the constant, CONSTANT chatter with music and applause to Laurie Berkner, Philadelphia Chickens and Gary the Singing Bus Driver sing-alongs -- diligently ensuring that their self esteem is growing as fast and as big as they are. This also cuts down on the complaining (did they learned that from me?). Once dropped off -- an occasionally stressful scene in itself since the boys' surgery when my little man learned about separation [from Mommy] anxiety while his brother was in hospital -- you'd think there'd be some peace. Like 4-6 hours of it... But, you'd be wrong because it's summer and Olivia chose to forego recreation to spend a fun summer with Mommy! Did I mention EXPECTATIONS were part of the problem here?

I'm the first one to jump at the chance for some fun... Truly! I try to make everything I do fun in some way. But I was hoping for, let's see, if I'm searching for a description, then I'd say a... PRODUCTIVE summer! God knows our house needs a ton of work (don't mean to bring up the unfinished children's bedrooms again but...) on the inside and outside... as do I (both side too, that's why I'm writing this post). My summer plans included daily strenuous exercise -- which you can't really do with a kid or 3 in tow -- AND removing the old shingles on the front of the house, restoring the original nearly-200-year-old clapboard, and painting so that our house would finally be all one color... That's work that could be toxic for a child so there's no way I can do it with Olivia's or the boys' help or presence. While we stay-at-home-Moms do take the housework seriously -- and there's much work to be done on the house [and me] -- suffice it to say that my first and most important 24/7/365 job duty is the care and happiness of my children. That said, if the Old Soul wants, expects and deserves more of my time and attention while she's home for the summer... So be it. I'm still getting some little stuff done around the house... but MOST of my transformation plans [for the house and me] ended up in the trash with the summer recreation sign-up forms.

Each weekday, before by the time we've barely broken out the craft supplies, it seems it's time to run the second half of our 60-mile daily trek to go get those boys. Once home, there's literally not 5 minutes I get to do anything for myself. Literally! I sit at the computer and the boys take turns walking me away and back to their activity. Read to me! Play with me! Sit and watch with me, Mommy! That's what they'd be saying if they could speak so eloquently... but I'm a good translator so I know what they want... ME! As it should be, I know! But, I'm just trying to prove a point here!

I don't get to punch out after 8 hours. I don't get an hour for lunch. No personal phone calls allowed -- they won't have it! No cigarette breaks. Heck, not even private potty breaks. D'ya think I made the 24 hours per day point yet?

On to the 7-days-a-week part! Hubby works a lot... I mean A LOT of overtime to make ends meet given we live here in Nassau County, deemed to have one of the highest costs of living in the United States. (Yes, I know it's our choice. But we were born and bred here. Kind of like those born in the arctic... they don't leave... It's what they know. So we work to live.... here!) Anyway, he often works nights. Those Yankees like their NYPD security details and so does Hubby. But, even he arranges for at least some evenings off. One day, maybe two and sometimes even three days off per week because he's tired.... OFF from work! I know my hubby comes home and does some stuff around the house. That's true! But, his 2nd job --working around the house -- is optional! It's a day job that includes frequent breaks-at-will, evenings and nights off and he gets to pick the task. Not so with motherhood. I don't get weekends or evenings or mornings or any time off. Ever! Motherhood is not optional.

Same goes for the 365-days-a-year part of my rant! Yeah, I once went to an all-day seminar about marketing on the internet. I arranged for the child care with tasks assigned to my mother, my father and my husband on his day OFF. Between the 3 of them, the children were cared for while I sat and learned how to set up and market stuff using an ecommerce web site... so I could WORK FROM HOME and help hubby makes ends meet. That's not OFF, my friends. I have not had a day, night, morning or evening off in 7 1/2 years. Sure, I had lunch with my mom twice, once with my sisters [together] for their birthdays which are both in May, and with 2 different girlfriends once each. That's it. 5 times, I went out for a leisurely salad for lunch. YES! IT IS MY CHOICE! I'm just explaining... complaining... whining... acknowledging to myself (and to you... sorry)!

I chose to have my children. I knew motherhood, and I in it, would be THIS WAY! OK, not quite THIS way but I've chosen this and I'm ok with it... As a matter of fact I DO LOVE this. These beautiful children are my responsibility and I take this role to heart. Some might say too seriously. But, I have only one shot at getting this done as right as I can do it. My pre-children past included lots of uninterrupted nights of sleep, lots of lunch salads with the girls and plenty of socializing... PLENTY... as well as countless hours at the gym and impromptu travel for pleasure all selfishly taken for granted... I realize now. I DO NOT take my 5 minutes at the computer (before the boys come and get me), or my sporadic lunch break to catch up with my Mom or a friend, or even the 4 hours per day during the school year I have "free" to do re-construction work on the house (because I like to do that) for granted anymore.

In the old days, most days at work were good days. As were the days I spent NOT working. Admittedly, I liked to work almost as much as I liked my time off. I used all of my time well, in my opinion. Filling every minute of every day with productive, usually enjoyable activity. But, you know what, the stuff I fill my days with now is also productive -- just not the same way. And not the way it used to be. I spend my time raising my children to love and respect others, each other, the earth and all living things. I hear that kids only listen to their parents for a short window of time. (I think I'm beginning to experience this already with my 7-year-old). So, ALL my time is spent in this way. ALL MY TIME. Before kids, I got to relax once in awhile, and I chose when. Relaxing is productive too when it's needed. And, maybe that's what I'm mourning lately. I don't have any time to relax... much needed but unavailable time to relax. Honestly, I love my life and the role I play in raising my kids and fixing up the house. Though I don't see much of Ben Franklin these days, the pay in affection from my children lasts a lot longer than that hard-to-come-by green stuff anyway. The hugs and kisses I get from my kids are more than plentiful and I don't ever have to ask for a raise. They raise the pay whenever they think I need it and even when I don't.

So I know exactly where the proverbial pot of gold is! It's somewhere over the rainbow where my children play. My wonderfully content, well-mannered and happy children. And, that's where all my funny, happy thoughts are too... When my head is clouded with resentment and I can't feel the joy, I know where I need to go... And that's where I'm going now. Over the rainbow... with my kids!

Epilogue: For the record, it is not my children that actually cause my resentment. It's missing the freedom of my old, pre-children/pre-married life that occasionally leads me to pine for just a moment to myself. Heck, the door staying shut while I spend 3 minutes in the restroom would be heaven... but only if I know that someone's got my kids covered while that happens... Otherwise, forget it! And there's the rub. When I worked during the first year of my daughter's life, I was positively miserable at work, not playing the full-time Mommy role. I waited a long time to have my children and I don't want someone else doing the job for me. So, NO, I don't want to go back there... get a job and pay a nanny. That won't work for me. I just want a moment to relax. I want a brief intermission -- the kind you get in the middle of a long Broadway play -- to go potty, grab a drink and touch-up your eye make-up before the curtain calls again. That's all! Just a break. A reprieve from all the responsibilities for just a brief moment. Then, I'll happily jump right back into my seat for the rest of the show. Because this is where I prefer to live and play -- over the rainbow with my children is where I am happiest!


  1. This is Joyce. I'm not sure whether I should laugh or cry with you. I just read that word for word and although I do not think I could handle it, I would be willing to trade for a day. Just the fact that I am sitting here reading on a Saturday night tells you that my life has slooooowed down considerably, as will yours one day, hopefully before you get to the otherside of the rainbow. I did cringe at the bathroom downstairs...I get up now at least two if not three times a night:) Love your writing.

  2. Well, here I am at 2 am giggling away, with sympathy mind you- empathic giggling!I get jealous of SAHM's- I always envision tan mom's on the beach (not so? Sorry) but in truth I know I would have the same issues exactly the way you describe. 24/7- whew! What I get in terms of an office, lunch breaks (granted I'm doing little errands most of the time) and a break from the house - I am grateful for. The hardest part, and the relief part at the same paradoxical time, is the choppiness of it all- that sense of being split in two (family head and work mind). And of course an incredibly messy home and garden.
    How about any public funds for the boys for a life skills coach, a couple of hours a week or something? In truth- sometimes I enjoy grocery shopping just because I can be all by myself! Hugs- as the boys get older it will get easier. And no water before bed:)

  3. So, what you're telling me, is that the sleep thing NEVER get s better?!?!?!?! LOL

    I only have one kiddo (and he's only 11 months) and I feel like I can barely keep my head above water (I'm a full-time stay-at-home mom and I work about 25 hours a week from home, as well). Your post made me feel even more exhausted. But that pot of gold (oh, those kisses!) is worth it!

  4. Thanks for all the comments. I know you guys can understand because some way or another we've all been there... or are here now LOL. The half-work/half SAHM brain killed me. I never felt like I was doing anything well during those do-it-all days. I couldn't. Things were all half done and I felt like a failure every where. That's why I quit. It's better now (for me) but I do miss that escape. If only I could work for a day or two so I could gain perspective (and a break). It is what it is! And, the tenet I live my life by when things are hard, "This too shall pass!" As Joyce, Sarah's mom, points out above... all too quickly too!

  5. I can completely relate to your post too Maggie. Five children, two with special needs, and three who just want my attention at every waking moment..UGH! Someday we shall look back on this time and miss it so much and cry that we have so much time on our hands (compared to today) I can't wait for the day that I can watch a good rated PG-13 or R movie again...LOL

  6. Oh boy, can I relate. On so many levels.

    ((hugs)) to you, mama.

  7. Amen sistah!! Your post is filled with such truth, and puts it into perspective for sure. It's always so hard to find the "happy medium" or the balance. Why do we as Moms always put so much pressure on ourselves?

    Thanks for the giggles, I'm relishing my private potty break memories:)

  8. I could identify with this post! especially the epilogue...I often feel like I wish I could be 16 again - no responsibilities except to do my homework LOL