Moments of Innocence

Being home allows me to witness moments with my children that I wouldn’t otherwise get to experience. Sometimes these occasions involve something of great fun for them such as going to the park or a friend’s birthday party, but for me capturing the ordinary has been the most interesting and rewarding.

One of my favorites: My son and daughter sit on the bench before the school bus comes and he puts his arm around her and says, ”I have to go to school now.” So matter of fact. Like a little old man.

Or my daughter trying to climb up on the couch all by herself to reach the stuffed dog and, when she gets there she cuddles it and laughs in delight, as if it was real and returning her affection.

In these moments my kids do not know the evils of the world and I wish I could keep it that way forever. I wish I could shield them from the truths that they will undoubtedly encounter one day.

For now I’m reminded of the poem Good Bones by Maggie Smith that seems so perfectly to express the struggle that I imagine many parents fear because these ordinary, simplistic, innocent moments are far too fleeting.


Good Bones by Maggie Smith
Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

A New Form of Mom Guilt

It’s 11 on a weekday morning and there is quiet in my house. My son is at school and my daughter is napping. I’ve done the laundry and have cut up the vegetables for dinner already. There is a calmness I’m not accustomed to.

Generally I spend every waking moment doing something productive but lately motivation is lacking, partially because I have contracted the cold or virus that has circulated throughout my family the past month but also because I am feeling paralyzed by my new role as stay at home mom. It is sinking in that this is it. My days are very mundane. There’s no big leveraged buyout financing to detail or egregious dividend being paid out to private equity firm at the expense of a corporate issuer that needs exposing.

Shouldn’t I be doing something purposeful? One dilemma is that there’s not much time to accomplish any great task. Naps are never predictable in this house – one might be 45 minutes or 2 hours. And usually by the time my daughter goes down and a few chores are done, my son’s school bus will be returning him to us.

I should feel relief and enjoy these few moments of peace and tranquility, but I can’t. Where I once felt guilty for working and not being available to my children when they needed or wanted me I now feel guilty if I steal a moment for myself when there’s work that could be done in the house, or if I divert my attention from either child throughout the day to check e-mail on my phone or a text message.

In my pre-kid life, I don’t recall ever feeling guilty. Does mom guilt ever go away or is it just redirected?

Hold that thought. My daughter has just awoken.

Toddler Tantrums

My son was late to walk and talk but he was definitely early to embracing the terrible twos. We are now well into the threes and there seems to be no let-up when it comes to tantrums. He has started preemptively shouting “No” before we even ask him to do something or deny him of what he so badly needs.

While these occurrences are exhausting and frustrating as a mom, I’m trying to find humor in some of them. For example, when my son was angry that I wouldn’t allow him to play outside at 7.30am recently he looked for something to throw, choosing a very soft, quilted baby book. I found the disappointment on his face too cute to resist smiling. He was not as amused, however. When he realized his effort was innocuous, he started going for the hardcover books. Before I allowed him to hurl any at my daughter or me, I removed the remaining ones from the shelf.

More frequent occasions on which my son protests ostentatiously include: coming indoors from playing outside, offering something he doesn’t want to eat at mealtime and telling him he must wait to have something that he really wants. When I say something he doesn’t want to hear, my words are often met with “Stop it!” and “Shut up!”

These outbursts once were reserved solely for the enjoyment of me and my husband; however, recently my son’s been a little more comfortable with manifesting his emotions while on playdates, at the park or in stores. It’s embarrassing at times, but it’s also something of a rite of passage and I am trying to embrace it calmly. It’s teaching me a lot about myself and how to handle situations that are beyond my control. Let’s face it — there is no controlling a toddler mid-tantrum.

Other moms have warned me that three could be worse than two, but have assured me that four is fantastic. While I know we aren’t supposed to rush these years, I am hoping for an expeditious end to these terrible twos.

Isolating

The word that inevitably comes to mind or up in conversation with moms I’m encountering since leaving the work force is “isolating.” Despite having a kid with me at all times, the lack of adult conversation and interaction after only a few short weeks is a huge adjustment.

Feelings I had while on maternity leave with my son while living in the city have resurfaced, and even then I had only to go into the lobby of my building to talk to a doorman or find someone to chat with in the laundry room. It’s a lot harder in the suburbs where most neighbors are working during the day and the majority of stores are only within driving distance.

When I used to work, I’d just get the kids to sleep and have about 20 minutes of solitude before my husband walked in the door from his day at the office. While I’m a person who needs some quiet time, entire days bereft of adult conversation can be depressing.

Friends think now that I’m home I have ample time to chat on the phone, especially if the kids are napping. That’s just not the case. I find myself always doing something: folding laundry, straightening up the toys, vacuuming and cleaning, prepping lunch or dinner. The list is endless and the tasks are isolating.

I’m hoping that isolation will dissipate as warmer weather enables us to get outside to the park. There, I’m sure I’ll meet many moms who tell me how isolating it is to stay at home with their kids. And while that’s not necessarily stimulating conversation, misery loves company and I will be delighted to hear that I’m not alone.

 

Spring Break

This week in our town is spring break. While Cancun and partying are often associated with the customary week off from school, it takes on a whole new connotation when we are discussing it in the context of a toddler. Instead of excitement, there’s fear. Instead of anticipation, there’s anxiety. How am I going to handle my two busy children all day for 5 days?

The addict’s adage “fail to plan, plan to fail” is certainly applicable to parents of young kids. My children aren’t yet able to entertain themselves and rely heavily upon me as a playmate and enabler of their enjoyment. I find being out of the house is often easier for all of us. Being confined indoors leads to claustrophobia and trouble.

Somehow we survived this morning of spontaneity, thanks largely to the good weather. I even managed to put both kids down for a nap at the same time, affording me some time to be productive (clean the kitchen and fold laundry). When they wake I hope to meet up with one of my son’s friends and his mom at the park in town.

While I’ve got activities loosely lined up for the next four days, I’m very aware that even with careful consideration, my kids may disrupt my plans. Let’s face it: I wasn’t planning on croup, fever or three trips to the doctor’s office the first two weeks of being home with my kids. But that happened and it was no “break.”


Peanut Profile

A recent post left me wondering, what if there was a dating app for moms? Then yesterday, almost serendipitously, I came across an article about Peanut, an app that basically facilitates mom friendships. It got me wondering about my potential mom profile.

I would highlight my interests in travel, fitness, fashion, reading, but would also stress that I no longer have time to indulge in any of these, aside from perusing the occasional magazine or newspaper article, or anything on my phone that can be read between house work and mothering.

Things I’m passionate about: wine, knowledge and being a mom.

I couldn’t live without: caffeine, wine, vegetables and my children.

Career highlights: being a reporter at one of the biggest media companies in the world and being a mom, even though the latter is the hardest job I’ve ever had and I’m in way over my head.

My perfect day would look something like: Wake up from the sunshine coming through the windows, have breakfast and coffee while watching the news, go for a run, take a shower that lasted longer than 3 minutes, take my kids to the park, barbecue something delicious for dinner to eat with my family while drinking amazing wine, finishing the bottle while watching a movie with my husband and both of us staying awake for it.

I’m not a stranger to online dating (I met my husband on e-Harmony), but I don’t plan to sign up for Peanut just yet. Still, it’s nice to know someone’s already developed what could be a useful tool for moms to make one area of life a little easier.

 

Constant Company

When I became a mom, I was pretty much prepared for the changes my life would undergo. I knew I’d have less time for myself, but what I wasn’t expecting was the audience I’d have anytime I needed to go to the bathroom or take a shower.

My quiet morning coffee while watching the news has been replaced by eating cold toast while trying to tune out repetitive episodes of Paw Patrol and Peppa Pig, with the occasional diaper change, milk refill and the frequent game of picking up my daughter’s milk cup and cheerios.

Surely, that’s deserving of a few seconds in solitude to run to the bathroom? Not in this house.

If I tell my son I’ll be right back, he says, “I’m coming too.” If I try to sneak away, he follows me, now that he’s able to operate the baby gate and reach the light switch. My daughter might cry, or might get herself into her own mischief of crawling up the stairs or climbing onto a table. It’s almost easier to just take the kids with me in the first place.

And yet, despite the constant company, being at home with the kids all day can get pretty lonely. While being a mom is extremely fulfilling on some levels, it is a stark contrast to the vitality derived from nearly 15 years of leaving an apartment each day to get to a job, which required interaction with an array of bankers, investors as well as writers, editors and media relations people. City dwelling pretty much ensured that you were a part of the buzz below at all times.

As I sit in my office typing, my son’s at school and my daughter is napping. There is silence. I know I should revel in each precious moment, but there’s too much to do before my son returns and my daughter wakes. That reminds me, I better use the loo now.

Another Day, Another Sick Child

My son was at school. My daughter was in the middle of her nap. I was enjoying some rare quiet time and doing some writing. That’s when I received the phone call from my son’s school. It was the nurse informing me he had a fever and I needed to come get him.

This came out of nowhere, much like illness itself in a child. I quickly woke my daughter and put her in the car, driving to the school. When I got there, my toddler was sitting on the bench, wearing his coat and holding his backpack. He walked over to me and started crying, hugging me tightly.

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I’m sure he was frightened being away from home and feeling so awful. I am glad I was able to drop everything and get to him as quickly as I could. I was available to take him to the doctor the next day, and just hold and comfort him as much as possible.

This is exactly why I chose to leave my job and stay at home with my kids: I want to be there for these moments when they need me. Like my financial advisor said when I informed him of our decision to be a one-income family for now, “Is it nice to have more money? Yes. But there are more important things.”

I can think of at least two.

My son was fever free and back to school quickly, but, as it typically goes, my daughter came down with the same virus the next day.

Yes, germs are the one thing kids have no problem sharing.