Tag Archives: the mom job

Feminism on the home front

I was at the table with my husband, seven-year-old daughter, and nine-year-old son, and I decided to broach the topic of feminism with my daughter, basically so I could talk with her about Doctor Who and blogging. So here’s what I said. (Names have been changed for privacy purposes.)

“Jenna, do you know what feminism is?” I asked.

“No,” she said.

My mind went blank for a minute. How do you explain this to a seven-year old? It’s not possible. I oversimplified.

“Well, it’s a lot of things, but basically it’s the idea that a girl is as good as a boy and a woman is as good as a man.”

“Then I’m a feminist!” she said proudly.

“I am too,” I said.

“And I am too,” said my husband.

My son Ryan, who had been listening intently, said,

“Well, I haven’t decided yet.”

We didn’t challenge that or browbeat him. I’m glad he’s honest. This will be one of many, many conversations about respect for women, I’m sure.

But my husband said, “Well, it’s also about the rules for what women can do and what men can do.”

I said, “Right. Women can wear women’s clothes and men’s clothes. Men can only wear men’s clothes. That’s not fair.”

My husband said, “Right, and men aren’t allowed to have long hair!”

Jenna said, “But you have long hair!” and pointed to him and laughed.

Finally I brought the conversation back to Doctor Who and some blog posts about the Bechdel test. I said, “So there are a lot of feminists blogging about last week’s episode of Doctor Who. Clara and Emma kept trying to talk to each other, and the Doctor kept interrupting them.”

Jenna said, “But did Clara interrupt the Doctor?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Well, that’s fair then!” she said.

Everything’s missing

6:20. The alarm goes off. I know I have to get up and somehow get the kids on the bus, after a week off.

6:33. The alarm goes off. Maybe I can just push snooze one more time.

6:45. I’m sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee, a monumental achievement.

7:00. This is when I am supposed to be getting the kids up for breakfast. But it’s Monday. That’s the day everything goes missing. I’d better focus on finding stuff.

7:05. I’m sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee.

The Water Bottles

     Monday is the day I find and wash the kids’ water bottles. Where’s Oliver’s big black canteen? I can’t find it anywhere. Oh yeah, it was missing before we went on our trip. Oh yeah, he left it at school.

     “Oliver,” I say, “Better not drink from your canteen. The germs are a week old.”

     “Get me another water bottle, then!”

     I look under the cupboard. There’s a small canteen and there’s a plastic bike water bottle with a leaky lid. I can’t find the leaky lid.

     “Well, that’s the trouble, Oliver, I don’t know what there is for you.”

The reading log

     I need to help Oliver finish his reading log before he goes to school. I seem to recall that I wrote that all down on a notebook in the plane on the way to the trip. Where was that notebook?

PinkiePi

     Megan hasn’t gotten out of bed yet. The door’s locked.

     “Megan, it’s morning! Time to get out of bed now! Why is the door locked?”

     “I’m not getting up until I find PinkiePi! I need help!”

     “Well, I can’t help because the door’s locked.”

     I go into my office. Ah yes, there’s the notebook that has Oliver’s reading log! Megan unlocks the door and I enter her bedroom. There are stuffies under the bed, crammed against the wall, piled on top of each other, beneath laundry that went missing last week, under Megan’s pillow. But no PinkiePi.

     “I don’t know, Megan. I give up!” I go upstairs and work on helping Oliver with his reading log.

The retainer case

     “Mom, where’s my retainer case?”

     “Oliver, do you remember what I told you about that? Please keep track of making sure it’s in the right place at the right time. Before breakfast, put it at the table. Before teethbrushing, put it in the bathroom.”

     “Okay okay but would you pleeeeaaaazzze get my retainer case?”

     It’s in the bathroom. “Here you go!”

     He puts his retainer in the case and I go find a cup and some hot water and some Efferdent to clean it while he eats.

    Megan shows up and comes to the table. She found PinkiePi.

     “Mom, get me a cup of clean Seattle water.”

     “Just a minute, I’m working on the reading log. What do you want for breakfast?”

     “Mom, pleeeeaaaze get me a cup of water.”

     “First tell me what you want for breakfast.”

     “Carrots and yogurt. Peach yogurt.”

Yogurt

    The refrigerator is alarming. Where’s the yogurt? Oh, there it is. Carrots? Oh, there they are.

    Now, what days did Oliver read, what books did he read and for how long, and what were the reading observations? Sure wish I woulda been helping him keep that log all along.

The other water bottles

     Now to make the lunches. Oh yes, I was washing water bottles. Where are the water bottles that go in the lunches? They’re not in the lower cupboard. They’re not in the upper cupboard. They’re not in the dishrack. They’re not in the dishwasher. They’re not on the counter. This is a stumper.

     Oh yeah! We took them on the trip. And I didn’t unpack that backpack yet. Oops. Okay, now we have all four of the water bottles that go in lunches. Oliver’s is dirty and I’m gonna have to wash it unless I can find his other one, clean. I can do this. There are two clean water bottles and one of them has to be Oliver’s. It’s not. But wait, one of the clean water bottles is Megan’s. I’m sooo confused. We have four water bottles. One is black, one is pink, one is yellow but with flowers, and one is red with hearts. Doesn’t Oliver have two water bottles?

     “Megan, is this your water bottle? And this one? And this one? Then which is Oliver’s????”

     “Mom, we have FIVE water bottles.”

     “Oh, yeah. Then I wonder where Oliver’s other one is. Well, never mind, I’ll just wash the black one.”

     I drank the coffee, but I’m not quite awake yet.

     I find and fill the water bottle for lunch. I find to my amazement that the bread for Oliver’s sandwich did not go moldy while we were on the trip, and I make his sandwich. I find his lunchbox, which in a moment of competence I washed before the trip. The kids are done eating. This is outstanding.

The laundry

     “Mom, I’m just changing my shirt. I don’t have any pants or underwear.”

     “No, I washed them. They’re in the clean laundry.” We go downstairs and bring up the laundry and dump it on the couch. Now he has pants and underwear.

     What about Megan’s glasses? No problem. They’re on the coffee table. They’re dirty, so I’d better clean them. Where’s the cleaning rag? Oh, under the chips on top of the fridge. We really gotta find a better place to put that.

      “Megan, are you ready yet?”

     “What do I have to do?”

     “Change you clothes, put on socks and shoes, brush your teeth, and brush your hair. And wash your face.”

The toothbrush

     “That’s not my toothbrush!”

     “Where do you suppose you put your toothbrush?”

     Megan shrugs.

     “Try the kitchen counter, where you always put it.”

     “Oh, there it is!”

     I hunt pre-emptively for her hairbrush. It’s in her backpack. But she finds another one first.

The retainer

     “Mom, where’s my retainer?”

     “It’s on the table?”

    “Which table?”

     “The dining room table.”

     “But you soaked it in Efferdent.”

    “Right. And then I put it on the table. Or maybe the kitchen counter.”

    “There it is!”

     “Mom, I really should have my own washcloth for washing my face.”

     “Mom, do I haave to brush my hair?”

     “Oliver, I got your water and made your sandwich, and you’ll need to do the rest of your lunch. I don’t know what you want.”

The Gogurt

     “Mom, where’s the Gogurt?”

    I vaguely recall that it got moved from its usual place in the refrigerator. I lean over him as he hunts.

     “Everybody about ready?”

It occurs to me

     It occurs to me that I have been helping the kids too much with finding things. I should make it a point to be less competent than they are. Today was a good start.

My sweatshirt(s)

     “Where’s my Seahawks sweatshirt?”

     “Did you leave it at the restaurant last night?”

     “No, I brought it home and put it on the floor but it’s not there now. Someone cleaned it up. Ask Dad.”

     “Could it be in the car?”

     “Go check the car.”

     “No, put on this other one first and then we’ll check the car on our way out.”

    “Okay, fine. And my black sweatshirt is still missing.” Ah yes, that’s the one that he told me was missing the day after the school donated its lost and found collection to Goodwill. Shoulda put his name on it.

The library book

     “Where’s my library book?”

    “It’s on the bookshelf to the right of the Toy Story collection.”

     “What about my water bottle?”

    “You have the choice between a small one and a leaky one.”

    “Don’t we have a thing of bottled water?”

    “No.”

The other other water bottle

    “Yes we do, it’s in the car.”

    “Oh.” I remember that — it’s the water bottle he taped to the passenger side window last night as part of an exhibit. Maybe going out to the car will wake me up.

    I go out to the car and get a water bottle. The school bus goes by. I wave to it.

     “MOM, YOU NEED TO EMPTY IT!”

     “No, I don’t. And you need to ask nicely!”

     “Besides, it’s Megan’s.”

     “Oh. Megan, is this yours? Do you want it?”

     “Yeah, I do!”

     “Then mine must still be in the car!”

     “Come with me and look for it, then.”

     “By the way, did you find my sweatshirt in the car?”

     “No, I didn’t.”

The plan for tomorrow

     I am almost awake. And I have a clever plan for not missing the school bus tomorrow. It involves cleaning the house so I know where things went. There’s only one problem . . .

     I have another clever plan. It involves playing just a wee little bit of Tetris. The part of me that had that clever plan tells the other part of me that once I start I won’t stop, and I will be losing minutes, hours from my day.

     I get the remote controls for the video game player.

     “Greg,” I say.

     “Yes?”

     “Hide these, please.”

What I love about being a mom

Just from a personal level, above and beyond my absolute love and admiration for my children, one of the things I love most about being a mom is being appreciated for sharing the best part of myself. It’s not because I’m smart or did a lot of work, but because I have love and care and attention to share, and they need it and they know it and I know it.

Are moms crazy?

I just finished a great read: Bye, Bye Black Sheep by Ayelet Waldman (2006, Berkeley Publishing Group). She writes “Mommy Track” murder mysteries where the main character solves mysteries in between diaper changes and carpool rides. Somehow I identify.

Read it, because it’s great. But I’m going to use it as a springboard to talk about something else: parental craziness. Here’s a little excerpt.

“Juliet, now you’re talking like one of those neurotic, crazy mothers. Like that one who wanted to LoJack her kid. That’s not you.”

“But it is. It is me. I’m just like that LoJack nut. I am a LoJack nut! I’m just as worried that something terrible will happen to one of them as she is. I’m just as worried that Isaac will drink bleach, or get hit by a car, or that Ruby will get leukemia, or that they’ll become retarded from mercury poisoning because they eat canned tuna. I’m terrified that Sadie will fall off her changing table for the rest of her life. I’m just as crazy as the rest of the moms — the only difference is that I do a better job of faking it.”  (p. 113)

Freaking out over everyday dangers – that is me and every single other mom I know.

Why does it happen? Maybe because everybody is telling us things like, “You LEFT your child in the CAR when you went into the gas station? Don’t you know what MIGHT HAPPEN if you leave your child IN THE CAR????” If we’re crazy it’s because the world is telling us to be. But wait, there’s more. This is the part that I love.

(Although the plot deals with women from many walks of life, here she’s talking specifically about women trained for professional careers who have left those careers for kids – something else I really identify with.)

“Add to these factors educated and competent mothers trained for professions they no longer practice, who have turned aside from the futures they once expected for themselves to focus their attention and ambition solely on their children. These children are valuable beyond measure, because we’ve sacrificed ourselves for them and to them. We now understand that we are as able and skilled as men, that we can do the work of the marketplace as well as they can, but we have left that work to raise these children, not because we have to–most of us–but because we want to. These children must be worth our sacrifice, they must be extraordinary, and they must be safe. We cannot risk the possibility of anything happening to the precious focus of our lives.

“For those mothers who have not willingly paid the professional price, guilt provides the same motivating force. It ratchets up the value of their children so that harm to them is intolerable, and all too easily imagined.” (pp 189-190)

I hadn’t really thought of it that way before, but that’s it exactly.

Of course I don’t love my kids any more because I left a career to care for them. But I get what she’s saying about the price thing. My self-worth, sense of confidence, when most of my work is either childcare or some other unpaid pursuit, in a culture that expects success in the marketplace, is, well, complicated.

To put it another way, we went to school for twelve or sixteen or twenty years and worked our butts off to be good at some pursuit. We were told to give it one hundred percent and then we went in to jobs and were asked to work overtime. And then we left the workforce and are expected to raise kids. (Or didn’t leave the workplace but are expected to do the same things for their kids.) What are we going to do? Give it one hundred percent, work overtime.

And worry overtime.

Not only about our children’s safety, but about their physical, mental, and emotional health, their intellectual growth, their academics, and so on.

So the next time you see a parent with unrealistic expectations for their child or concerns that seem blown way out of proportion, try not to be too judgmental. We’re that way for a reason.

One hour worth of questions from my kid

Here are all the questions I’ve gotten in the past hour. You’ll have to figure out the context yourself, or not, as the case may be. Or you could ask me, in which case you may or may not get answers that are better than the ones I gave my kid.

What is the hottest thing in the universe? Is anything hotter than the middle of the sun? If we went near the sun, would we catch on fire? If we went near the sun, would the middle of the sun get hotter?

What if there were fires under the ocean – I mean ten feet under the top of the island?
I mean a volcano that’s done erupting and then it went deeper down and then it got covered up, then what? Would it spray really hot water?

Is it the five-second rule?

Can I have more cheddar bunnies?

What if they sewed my pants to my shirt? What if they sewed my shirt to my underwear? Cuz then I’d have to wear my underwear every time I weared that shirt. And if my underwear was dirty I couldn’t wear either of them.

Does she get the rest? Did I get more or did she get more? Could I at least have one more handful? Oh, and Mom, look!

What is this called? Is it called a square knot? Would it be called a knot?

How did you know it wasn’t a ring? Did it not sound like one? Where is the phone, Mom? Did you say “end”? Why? Which one makes the ringing sound? Does this one or this one?

Mom, will you make it connected so it stays on my wrist? Thanks. Will you do it farther? Thanks. Will you please do the other one? Actually never mind, because watch. I’m going to launch it. You know what? I accidentally broke it when I was trying to fix it.

You mean mine and hers are mixed up? Why would they be mixed up? Where are the instructions? You wanna know why I want the instructions? Because I wanna know if these go with them!

Mom, will you help me find a piece to my Lego set?