Thursday, April 28, 2011

Adventures In Stay-At-Homing

Today I tried an experiment. After school Matthew's behavior was over the top ridiculous. As in, almost tipped the kitchen table on its side ridiculous. Found on the very top of our trampoline's netting support (approximately 15+ feet off the ground) in his underwear ridiculous. Riding the dog ridiculous. SO. I knew that the root cause of his behavior was a need for exercise, but I also needed to start dinner so I couldn't take him anywhere for a walk or bike ride. Amarys was screeching in my ear (when I say this, I mean literally, because her favorite spot is in my arms, looking over my left shoulder. So her voice is right by my ear), and Riley was flailing and crying in classic two year old style, and I was sweating. Trying hard not to beat anyone. You know, just another day at the office...
I gave Ayden my watch, and sent them to the park BY THEMSELVES. They left at 4:10 and were under strict instructions to return at 4:30, which they did. They had a rapid fire lecture about safety, don'ttalktostrangersdon'tgetinanyone'scardon'tgoanywherewithanyonesticktogetherifanyoneweirdshowsupcomehomekeepyourclothingONmatthewrespectotherpeoplespropertylookbothwaysbeforeyoucrossthestreetcomehomeontimeactresponsibly!!!
and off they went, on their bike/scooter. It worked. Amarys fell asleep on my left shoulder and I started the meat thawing in the microwave and spent 15 minutes on the floor playing blocks with Riley, making him feel special, which evaporated the flailing. When they came home Matthew acted like a normal child again. WHEW! Experiment successful. =)

Amarys shot through six diapers in ten minutes tonight. During dinner. It's always during dinner, isn't it? Its funny, I thought I would miss cloth diapers more than I do. I actually don't feel guilty at all. I did my part! I scrubbed lots of poos! In our old place we had our original washer die a sudden death with a load of poopy diapers in it. That was really fun to scoop out. Yup, I washed my own for 2 kids, paid a service for another, and now? I'm all conventional and bad for the environment and stuff. Her ass just can't handle cloth. In fact, it can't handle most disposables, either! Fortunately the brand she likes is the Walmart brand, one of the cheapest ones! SCORE!

I miss cheese. Have I said that before? Jeepers I miss cheese.

Monday night I had an emotional meltdown because Amarys screamed for hours and then shit on me. Another grenade launched shit, after she peed on me earlier and puked on me so bad: one of those been-in-the-stomach-for-awhile, curdy, nasty smelling milk pukes, and it got in my hair, on my shirt, on my pants, and even soaked into my underwear. After she pooped on me I left her on my bed half undressed and SLAM locked myself in my bathroom, turned on the shower and the sink full blast to cover up the sound of her screaming, and cried on the toilet. My bathroom is about 3cm x 3cm to begin with; fill it with steam and tears and it feels like its shrinking in on you like the trash compactor in Star Wars. Thank God for Brent, who put her to sleep while I cried and then listened to me cry about how I just can't handle her touching me anymore...
Some nights are rough.

Riley is cute, though. I mean, when he's not breaking $400 violins. He's got ladykiller eyes and a pretty cute lisp. He calls our dog, Simon "Hymen" because he can't pronounce initial 's' yet. And when he can't hear you he cups his hand behind his ear and says, "What you hay?" In fact, today we started working on saying "Pardon me?" instead of "WHAT?!" which he says top volume a kapillion times a day until I want to rip my eyeballs out with my bare fingers. In frustration. But the "What you hay?" with the hand behind the ear is pretty cute. He also says, whenever you say "Maybe later," "Maybe next weekend!" And he's quite satisfied waiting for the perpetual "next weekend" that somehow never arrives. And of course there is the chorus of "Me hungee!" that goes on and on like 99 bottles of pop on the wall.

I'm pretty much Stay At Homing now. Which crept up on me. I think stay at home moms are cool. Like, really cool. I know lots and they're pretty well all neato people I admire. But I've never been one. Since Ayden was born I haven't really worked full time except for short stints for some reason or other (like supporting my husband through 6 months of unpaid training for a job he now loves), but I have always worked some. Apart from maternity leave, of course. I love Canada for its mandatory 52 week paid parental leave (mandatory that your employer give it to you, not that you take it off), paid by the government (55%, and some employers top up). It was never this huge deal to decide whether to return to work or not because my babies were walking, talking, infrequently nursing toddlers by the time it was an issue. I liked my job, we could use the money, we made it work in a way that prioritized our kids first, and it worked.

So that was that! It worked for us and I figured it always would. But add a third. And add a fourth. And now it is logistically ridiculous for me to go to work at this point in our lives. I work once a week and suddenly our house and kids' schedules are chaos, no one has clean underwear, and there's so much dog fur on the floor we have a hard time discerning which ball of hair is the dog. It makes no sense to pay someone to look after four kids while I work, that would cost my entire salary, and I hate playing pass-the-kid baton toss with my husband as we both run full speed ahead and don't get any rest. So, I quit my job. (or I plan to when my maternity leave is up next March).
I have plans, as you know. I'm sloooowly starting my own business, curious to see where it will take me. I'm still keeping one eye on midwifery school (Seattle Midwifery School recently merged with Bastyr University and now their program grants a MASTERS! Midwifery training and a masters degree? Seriously the better if only I could rustle up $50,, I'm not exaggerating for the sake of humour, that's the actual price tag....). I'm considering art instead. But effectively I'm a stay at home mom. This is weird for me. Like I started life with an asphalt roof and wood siding, and suddenly I'm sporting cedar roof tiles and vinyl. An inside out switch. I never minded cedar and vinyl, I just always figured it wasn't what I was. Its not the most artistic metaphor, but roll with me here! I feel a little bit suffocated. And a little bit relieved. And I have a lot of trouble letting Brent be the only breadwinner. I constantly feel like I'm borrowing his money to buy groceries and gas, and I never spend money on my own clothing items or anything because I feel guilty. Like I stole from his pocket money and spent it on myself. And I feel guilty because there's millions of women around the world who don't even consider work vs. stay at home because without their income, the family starves. I feel like I owe it to them to stay in the work force and show my appreciation for my education and job opportunities, or something.
About as effective as finishing your chicken just because there are kids starving in Africa. I know. But I can't get those women out of my head.
Plus I love to work. I really do. I work really hard at home, I take care of my kids and house and invest in my friends and extended family and passions such as birth advocacy and doula care for my friends (not so passionate about doulaing for women I don't know). But there's something about putting on special clothes and getting up early in the morning and driving off to do something for the larger world that pumps me up. And then the type of work I love is hands on, has compartmentalized tasks with inherent completion and a sense of accomplishment, and is constantly changing. Different every hour. Every minute. It also has a life or death, fly by the seat of your pants quality to it that stay at homing just can't compete with. I mean, having four kids I certainly fly by the seat of my pants on a daily basis! But the life or death element is missing. There is a ton at stake OVERALL, but not a ton at stake that day, or that very minute, you know? If it takes eighteen years for a mistake or success of mine to show fruit, it's harder for me to get all pumped up about it. I prefer success or failure to wrap up within about a two hour time frame.
It's hilarious! But actually accurate.

I guess the biggest thing about stay at homing is that I didn't expect it. I've considered it heavily over the years and definitely looked square in the eye at the possibility, but each time I chose to balance work and family because it fit me best, and was workable for our family. I think what I'm trying to say is that it still feels like it fits me best but is no longer workable for our family, or for me. I refuse to live in such a way that I feel rushed, harried, over scheduled, over tired, depleted, scattered, or too busy. I don't want ten or fifteen years to brush past me without me noticing, and me get to the end of this phase of my life and think, gosh I missed something really fundamental it while it's happening to me! Working and having this big of a family was starting to feel like that. It got to the point where I didn't really consider stay at homing anymore, because I had considered it so many times and always come up so clearly in favour of working. But now I'm staying at home.
I know the oxytocin rush from breastfeeding contributes somewhat to this, but every single day, even when I'm being shit on, I'm grateful. So, so, so grateful. I'm so happy! I'm so blessed. I can't believe it, and I don't understand how or why, but I've got this amazing spouse and these four kids who are oozing with specialness and talent and character and intelligence and personality and jeepers, they're all so good looking, and we have this wonderful house and yard and school and family, and it brings tears to my eyes nearly every day. And I'm emotionally balanced. Life has been good to me, even when--especially when--it has been hard. Staying at home now helps me to enjoy it while it's here.
[And sometimes it's hard, to stay at home, to walk away from the job, to *just* be a mom].

Tonight I made taco pie for dinner. And it felt important, that I fed six people yummy food that was good for them, you know? It ain't CPR or driving Code 3 with lights and sirens or wrapping broken bodies up in splints and organizing helicopter landing zones on the freeway, but it's important. And even fun.


ms emili louann said...

Oh, man. Those rough nights are indeed rough. You feel so stuck. When Jonah would barf and barf and BARF on me, I thought I was literally *losing*my*mind* - I would start laughing hysterically, if only to keep myself from wailing or punching the wall. And yes, there were many a night crying on the toilet. (What is it about the toilet/ bathroom?) So hard sometimes...

I'm sorry :(

lori said...

What a post! What a life!

I think your park experiment kicked pants.

Also, I agree that Riley's eyes are something else.

I really liked your comparison of the minute-by-minute life and death EMT work vs. the slow and steady slog through parenthood with results not always being evident for ions. True, true, true.

While I don't have the same missing-work feelings, I can relate in this sense: there are several ways in which I thought our life might be different than it is. Like, we'd already be living the self-sufficient dream instead of starting down a new career path, or we'd have a bigger family by now. Life. Good ol.'

Tamie said...

PHew. Your honesty helps me feel so much less alone. Not that I'm even a mother, or that my life is really at all all that similar to yours, but just that you struggle too, have ups and downs, flounder around and then feel grateful and then wonder and ponder and all the rest of it. Seriously, Mel: knowing you makes me feel much less alone, much less crazy. Thank you from my heart.

Caryn Ouwehand said...

I hide in my bathroom too. Something about the fact that the door locks just makes the world's problems go away... even if it is only for a few minutes.

jenna said...

beautiful post. Thankyou!