(Lifted from Crazy in Suburbia, Dec 2005)
So I’ve figured out pretty quickly what the problem will be with a blog: one more thing on the list. Everytime someone asks me to do something, they back quickly out of hearing range so they don’t have to listen to me mutter, “Great! One more thing on the list!”
The list is mental, which right there is part of the problem. What mother of young children consistently gets enough sleep to be able to maintain mental lists? Perhaps mothers who work… Mothers who work are mythical creatures who get to wear clean clothes, maybe even clothes designed in the last five years, and they get to go to places known as “the workplace” where there are other grownups, and they don’t have to talk to children if they don’t want to, and they have a whole eight, nine hours of being an adult. They get to have adult food for lunch, and if it’s hot to start with, it’ll be hot when they eat it. And, even if they don’t keep track of what day it is, somebody does. Stay-at-homes know when they’re getting up to get kids ready for school and when they’re trying to sleep in…the latter usually negated by that moment of blind panic when the mom looks at her alarm clock and thinks, “I’ve slept in!” I don’t know about other moms, but I’m usually dragging on jeans and socks, before I slowly become aware of the lack of outside weekday morning noise. But by then, the rush of adrenalin is such that there’s no possible way to go back to sleep, even for a completely sleep-deprived mom.
Okay, so I’m a sleep-deprived stay-at-home mom, wearing not-as-clean-as-they-could-be jeans (and marvelling at just how hyphenated my life is), who figures out what day it is by what show the child on the sofa is watching. First step of the day is to wander around and open all the curtains, check the temp on the furnace, let out the cats, bring in the newspaper, make my coffee, put food in the catbowls, and put the kids’ breakfasts on the table.
(I used to make it an absolute point to read the newspaper right after that, no matter what. I’m a person, I have a brain, I can think, I can read…unfortunately, even a desperate-to-think mom can wear out on the nonsense that the newspapers publish in their need to maintain readers. How hard can it be to maintain the interest of a woman who will end up watching the Weather Channel for twenty minutes at some point, just to have thoughts put into her head? Harder than the Toronto dailies can manage… Honestly, a Shopping section? A whole section devoted to Shopping? There’s whole magazines for that…and trust me, people obsessed with shopping don’t need to buy a newspaper to get their jones. They’re off at Starbucks buying a $6 latte. And don’t even get me started on the reading levels to which these newspapers aim. There was the day I read a newspiece in which I was informed that someone was sentenced to twenty years in prison because “he was found guilty of icing someone”. Really? Is that what the judge said? “You’ve been found guilty of icing someone.” Did someone honestly think that a person with a grade four reading level couldn’t figure out what manslaughter or homicide mean?)
Okay, so I’m up and I’ve had coffee, there are children, the newspaper has been tossed aside with contempt…and the day is beginning. And I could make a list of everything I do after that and it will be impressive and long and full of stuff but, isn’t everybody’s list? Everybody has a list of lots and lots of stuff. Why do stay-at-homes think that their list is somehow magically so much more complicated and impressive? Years ago, a wildly talented friend was writing a play about women and, as a hip, urban non-mother, needed a sense of what the day was like for the stay-at-homes. I was so excited at the opportunity to tell someone what it was like to be me that I promptly sat down at the computer to fire back a response. I began the list: 7:00 am: wake up with children, and off I went. The list grew longer, and longer. And I was bored. Sure the list was going to be long…did I really want to take the time to type it all? I had things to do, children screaming at me, a husband trying to find the one clean frying pan in the house. How badly did Leanna need this list?
I looked at the list I had typed so far, and it was dry and uninteresting. It didn’t have that overwhelming sense of panic that floods most moms I know. Where was the angst? the drama? The sense of hysteria if someone asks you to do one more thing? And I realized that all of that was not from the items on the list but from the life around it: the life of mom. Stay-at-homes, the working moms, they all know this feeling. When the child falls and hurts themselves and they push their father out of their way in order to get to mom…no matter what mom is doing…even when dad is saying, “No, mommy is busy, I’m right here.” When the child is sick and mom realizes that she’s the one staying at home from work, or her appointments, or her meetings with friends. When the husband calls from the bedroom, “Honey, I have no underwear!” and says that he hasn’t for three days. When the child decides to take up a newspaper route “for the responsibility” and the accompanying information booklet talks about the absolute understanding that, in the new world of parenting, he can’t do it without an adult to accompany him, and mom knows that dad will be much too busy for that. When the child is getting dressed in the morning and becomes hysterical because it’s gym day and he has to have track pants and they’re all in the wash and if he doesn’t have track pants he’ll have a detention and it will all be mom’s fault, because he’s not in charge of laundry. When the child wets his bed in the night because mom fell asleep on the sofa and forgot to wake him up at midnight and take him to the bathroom which is the only way for him to remain dry as he sleeps like the proverbial log.
The feeling is what fills me as a mother, when the father comes in to tell me how complicated his life is because there are two shows on at the same time that he wants to burn on dvd. Wow…two shows! Or after dinner, when the father goes downstairs to watch his favourite sitcom because, if he watches upstairs, “the children will make too much noise.” I watch shows with the sound off because the kids are running in and out of the room, asking me to negotiate each and every fight, my husband will come running to tell me the funny things he read on his blogs, the phone rings and needs answering, I have fifteen minutes before I have to pick up kids at school… I only watch the last twenty minutes of movies because there is no way I will ever get to watch the whole thing, that’s too much time! I used to try and watch them in twenty minute chunks but weeks and weeks would go by before I could see the next part and I would forget what happened. Now, I just watch how they end.
The feeling is present when the father/husband will get an invite to a party and he’ll accept…and ask me afterwards if I would like to go with him. I get an invite to a party and I have to think what the family schedule is, who is in the house then, who will be able to babysit, will Ty be around, will he want to go, will I be able to get the car?
Being a mother is to constantly employ your grade school math. There are moms who tell me that they think like me and when they have to buy something they have a moment of panic thinking, “This is 1/20th of what I have in my account.” That’s how most of us think about time… Someone asks me to do something and I think, “Wow, I have eighteen hours in which to do things, and you’ve just asked for two of those hours.” I keep a constant running tally…at the same time that I’m keeping the running tally of the money.
The stay-at-homes think wistfully of the working moms: they get to leave the house, they get to wear nice shoes, they have a whole eight, nine hours without their children. They don’t have to prepare food for them and nag them while they do or don’t eat, they don’t have to clean up after them for nine hours, they don’t even have to think about them if they don’t want to. Working moms can have coffee breaks, and newspapers, and adult conversation.
The working moms think wistfully of the stay-at-homes: they get to stay home and do their cleaning throughout the day, rather than facing the whole pile at the end, knowing that they only have from 7pm to bedtime to get it all done. Stay-at-homes aren’t in a mad rush every morning trying to get the kids organized and out the door. They don’t have to worry when the babysitter cancels, or the kids are too sick to go to the daycare. They get to watch morning television and do crafts with the children.
To be a mom is to have this horrible, funny feeling…the feeling that no matter what it is that you are doing, why you are doing it, when you are doing it, there’s something else that you’re not doing. I’m typing a blog entry right now: I’m not organizing my son to do his paper route, I’m not folding the three bins of laundry in the dining room, I’m not washing the breakfast dishes piled up in the sink, I’m not changing the cat litter box, I’m not checking the kids’ rooms to see if they made their beds, I’m not vacuuming the carpet, I’m not scrubbing the bathrooms, I’m not repainting the downstairs hallway, I’m not replacing the sink in the powder room, I’m not tidying the teenager’s room for when he returns from university, I’m not making Christmas presents, I’m not...I’m not doing anything but the thing I’m doing right now and in order to do this thing, I’m not doing something else. That is being a mother.
posted by Keiren Smith @ Saturday, December 17, 2005 0