Monday, July 16, 2012

It takes two to be friends

So clearly the theme of this blog has changed.  I will still write about money saving ideas and how we cut corners, but right now my passion lies with being a SAHM.  I made a promise to myself today that I would spend an hour a day either pleasure writing (here) or working on the Great American Novel (I finally have the idea...I think).

As I type this our son is trying to convince my husband to lie with him to go to sleep.  Its 10 on the nose and he is coming up with every trick in the book.  The guy who wrote the "Go the F to sleep book" nailed it.  And last week my MIL rightly told us in no uncertain terms our son plays us like the fiddle.  I am done being played. (update, after his hysterics woke our daughter who I am trying to wean, I *had* to go in so husband could care for her.  son fell asleep literally within 2 minutes)

But today's post is about the status of adult friendships.  I have had this conversation at length with many friends, both childless and with children, married and unmarried. The catalyst was this article today in the New York Times. 

Several friends posted this story today. One "Sophia"* I rarely see, if twice a year, I am lucky.  She has easily the most demanding job of any friend I know.  She is married with one daughter, who is 2.  (update #2, he woke up, so I returned again, sat for a few minutes.  Hopefully this time he is asleep, we'll see).

Anyway Sophia friend is someone who I could call at 3 am if I had a problem and I know that if there was anyone possible for her to help, she would move heaven and earth to do so.  We met during what was essentially our first job here in the big city.  We hated each other immediately.  I have teased her that she was  mean to me and I was certain she wished me dead.  But a few months later, and a lot of wine, as well as commiserating about our horrible boss, we were close.  To this day one of my biggest regrets in life is not being able to attend her wedding because my husband and I were both unemployed.  She is a treasure who I love dearly.  And while I don't see her or talk to her as much as I would like, I don't doubt for a second that the bonds of our friendship are as tight as they can be.

Two other friends, affectionately referred to as "the sisters" were my roommates before I got married.  They have since moved away.  Neither is married, although one is in a serious relationship.  Neither has kids.  Both have demanding jobs.  Haven't seen one sister since last August, and the other since 2010.  Like Sophia, I could call them anytime (and am certain they feel the same way) and know they would drop everything.  And also like Sophia they could walk in my door tomorrow and we could share a bottle of wine (or several), some takeout Thai food, talk for hours, and it would be as if we just saw each other last week.

Finally, there is DA.  We are in many ways as opposite as two can be, but while God didn't give me a sister, he gave me the next best thing, her.  We met in 5th grade and have been inseparable since.  Like the sisters, she is unmarried and childless.  I simply cant imagine the void in my life if she wasn't there. There are no words to describe what she means to me.

Each of these 4 relationships I have worked hard to maintain, but none of them are necessarily as easy to maintain as say those with my married child friends because the reality is my world has changed.  I know this.   But I also know that none of these people wants to hear me endlessly rattle on about poopy diapers.  By the same token all of these women understand that while I may be home all day, my life is far from my own.  I have two very demanding bosses.

The article was about making new friends, and yes its hard doing this the older you get.  I remember the first friend I made in DC 12 years ago.  I felt as if I had gone out on a date I was so happy to have a relationship with an adult I met here, that was genuine and not based on who she knew or could do for me professionally. Little did I know this woman would wind up introducing me to my husband and to this day I will love her forever even if I couldn't tell you the last time I saw her. :)

But its important to keep the old friend, and also be ok when some of the old slip away.  Accept that we all move on. This is easier said than done.

I used to joke I had a harder time when I got married accepting that the sisters moved away as did another friend at the same time I said "I Do,"  than I did adjusting to married to life. Not having the sisters and this other friend in my life was more challenging than dealing with the quarks of my husband. I missed them terribly, a real deep pain.  This other friend helped plan my baby shower, has called me crying about personal details of her life and shared her hopes and dreams.  When her father in law died (during our dual unemployment no less), we made the out of state trek to the funeral.  But somewhere along the way this friend decided I wasn't worth the effort.  I realize that sounds cold, but that's genuinely how I feel.  When my own father passed away I didn't receive so much as a card.  I have seen her all of twice in the last 3 years.  I am beyond sad about this, but there is nothing I can do.  Its life. I know I tried.  But as I have mentioned in previous posts, sometimes we have to accept our own failures, and this for better or worse is one of mine.

Which brings me back to my title.  Friendship is a two-way street.  It doesn't always have to to 50/50, but it has to swing back and forth.  And as you get older, and you have less time to yourself, you have to decide who stays and who you set free.  Who you have time for in your mental rolodex and who simply doesn't make the cut.  When I first came to DC I worked with a guy named Brian. He said to me and my best friend Kate who also worked with me that he didn't have time for new friends.  We were aghast.  Turns out he was right.  She and I joke about that now.

Ok, this is rambly and I having been up since roughly 4 am, and its now 10:51 I want to go to bed. I hope this makes sense.

Btw, I put * next to Sophia's name because its not her real name.  But if she reads this she knows why I changed, and she is named Sophia because when we left that first god awful job the theme song to Golden Girls came to mind then (and still does today). So to her, "the sisters", DA and all my friends, I say...Thank you for being a friend, I love you all more than you ever know.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I'm not alone in thinking women cant have it all

My friend Mike posted this article from The Atlantic and I cant tell you how glad it made me feel, while at the same time sad, to read it.  The good is: I am not alone in believing women simply cant have it all, no matter how hard we try.  The bad:  We cant have it all no matter how hard we try.

For me, I had the supportive husband and the flexible schedule, two things she mentions.  What I didn't have, at least now, was children of an age where they did not need me 24/7.  I didn't realize this until it was too late.  I think this is perhaps my biggest reason for failure.  Its been two weeks since I completed my last portion of the project I still haven't had the time to write an expense report.  I suppose I could be doing that now, but I wanted to write here, and I think I am prolonging the expense report because that's when this assignment will be completely done. Yes, I am in denial.

The point is, being a mom, especially to toddlers and a baby (she is 9 mos old, 9 mos!!) takes all day.  I am looking forward to the weekend so I can sort  my laundry.  I have had two showers this week, and that's an increase on last week only because I have been to the pool and sat in the Baby Pool (read Pee Pool) for hours.  I am just now getting caught up on bills.  I have foot problems and have been trying to find time to schedule a pedicure (which is honestly more for the massage than the actual artwork to my toes) for months -- not an exaggeration -- and fingers crossed, will finally get to go this weekend.

I watch my son entertain my daughter and she laughs with glee.

I sing to my daughter as she explores new food.

The three of us "rode a train" as my son was "the conductor" in the tent downstairs this morning.

I get to play in the aforementioned pool in 96 degree heat.

My daughter is frustrated since she is on the verge of crawling and my son rushes to comfort her.  I get to SEE this, and not hear about it.

So, it really is a life of sacrifice.  I love my life and my kids.  We are just going to be poor for the rest of our lives, or until I am able to go back to work.  As of tonight, being a SAHM is winning, even if the financial rewards are not as great.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Can you tell I have changed the theme, somewhat??

While I am now back fully on the money saving train since I am out of a job, I am also now for the first time in I don't know how long 100% on the SAHM train without income of my own and a day completely devoted to being a home maker.

First let me say, just don't ever get robbed.  This process is the worst.  And nothing is better than having to leave a message for your insurance agent (as I did this morning) and interrupt the message to tell your 4 year old not to tackle his nearly 9 month old sister!  I am sure the woman loved hearing that scream...maybe that is why she hasn't called me back.

Seriously though, this process is perhaps the worst thing we have ever had to endure just because it seems never ending even when you would be certain to be done with it.  And the cost, while yes insurance covered a lot and we are grateful, it still at the end of the day cost us $$$$$. I had hoped to get away for a day, just a day, to go to the beach with my girlfriends, and just relax.  No longer an option.....

Don't get me wrong I love my kids, my husband and my life, but I hate these thugs that turned our lives upside down.  I hate that because of them I essentially had to give up a great job and disappoint my employers and those who referred me.  (I went to sleep last night wondering how we were ever going to afford our son's preschool tuition this coming year).

Now off to the library...I left my credit card there yesterday when I paid our overdue books fine.  Yup, its been that kind of week, and its only Tuesday so far...

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Invasion of the 4 years olds

Today we celebrated our son's birthday. We had 20 4 year olds and their respective parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, etc over to our house. It was a blast. I can honestly say I am pleased with how well things went. And my did my son ever score in the gift department. People's generosity always amazes me.

But because its me and this was a party for toddlers things never go as planned. I have to say from the get-go my day was made when my cousin by marriage told me how much fun he was having at a low key stress less party. I could have hugged him! This is exactly what I was hoping for :)

The party was scheduled to begin at 2 pm and at 11:30 I am still driving around trying to get the final touches accomplished. I bought picture frames for pictures I have wanted to hang since we moved in. But alas they didnt get framed until after the kids were asleep. (Sigh...)

I went to go get the cake. It wasnt ready. Translation: we are heading out of the house, all 4 of us at 12:45 to get the cake, and get a party favor for one person whom I forgot. We also had to pick up the balloons. We get home at 1:30 and I go take a shower. This is the first shower I have had in a week. Yeah, I know, disgusting. But showers are luxuries I just dont have anymore. Its the summer though, and since I hate air conditioning, am guessing I will be finding time to make more...if I dont no one will come near me.

At 1:42 my husband jumps in the shower.

No lie, people started showing up at 1:54! Who comes to a kiddie party EARLY?? By 1:57 I had three guests in my backyard. Now simultaneously two things happen: both of which make me screwed. First, I drop the salsa jar into the chip bowl, which of course shatters everywhere, so I have glass all over my table and the floor And I realize that one parent never RSVPd, so I have no personalized favor for one the boys!

I am frantic. I call my best friend and practically beg her, no order her, to go to Party City and pick up the favors. I send a picture, thank God for iPhones. I mean seriously, what did people do 20 years ago??? We couldnt leave, we were the hosts. I couldnt dare not have a favor for this kid. And you know, as the God's truth, this kid forgot his favor???

As for the glass, that was fun to clean up just as guests were arriving. I think though most parents these days get that you cant always be a meet and greeter. My husband was out there, and that was fine. No chance I was letting some kid step on glass less than 5 minutes into the party. We ordered pizza. Our niece did an awesome job face painting. We did a pinata. We ate cake. Must say cake from Giant, not all that great. But chips and salsa from Costco -- they are the bomb! I dont think I will ever buy regular chips and salsa again.

When all was said and done it was a great day. I think my son had a blast and I hope he remembers it. As for Mom and Dad, we did minimal cleaning. Now both our feet are drapped on the coffee table/ottoman. We have no desire to move. Ever.

Friday, June 8, 2012

First I have to say thank you!  Thank you to my many friends who wrote me and told me I was being too hard on myself.  One said there was no way I could have done all that -- even if I was doing the work in the daylight hours and my kids were in daycare/school. Another said she was amazed I lasted as long as I did. A day out I am feeling better.  I still feel guilty, but this guilt is mostly directed toward the people who were my references.  I wish I could tell them this, somehow though I fear this would be a terribly awkward out of the blue conversation.

I want to make clear though I in no way regret my choice to be home, even if initially it wasn't my choice.  I absolutely love being home with my kids!

Yes there are the moments like today when my son proclaimed at the top of the slide at a park 40 mins from home that he had to go to the bathroom, and then almost immediately had an accident for the entire park to see.  Nothing better than walking a waddling, crying toddler out of a park, knowing there is a big puddle at the top of the slide and there is nothing I can do about it.  Then the drive home, with him naked waste down, praying that we don't have to stop suddenly because cant imagine that would be fun for him, even in his young age.

Instead I focus on the good, like this afternoon when my daughter was taking her nap my son and I built a car store, "CarMac" out of legos.  He wanted it to be just like the one where we recently sold our old car. He put two cars on top.  I am constantly amazed by his imagination. Later he told me how he was doing the crazy dance just like his friend at school -- with bunny ears and all.  I also love that I wake up every morning in no rush and can thoroughly enjoy nursing my daughter and the giggles that ensue.  She is beautiful, she has the biggest smile and her life is flying she is nearly 9 months, escapes me.  It seems like just yesterday I was pregnant.

The joys of being a SAHM are endless.  There are long days but I wouldn't trade them for anything. I still think I could have done the job had all the insanity that ensued hadn't happened.  A bright side is now I am going to try to chronicle the adventures of being home all day with a monkey and a cupcake....happy reading!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The poster child I never wanted to be

Hillary was right. It takes a village. I don’t have one. And today I accepted without one I can’t do it all. I feel guilty and like a failure, but the reality is there are only 24 hours in a day, my family is my life, and until God gives me the 8th day He doesn’t give to anyone else, there is a limit to what I can do.

In February I accepted a freelance job I knew would be time consuming, but the pay was amazing and my kids are at an age where I believed I could do 6-8 hours of work a night when my husband got home.

Then reality hit.


Movers no show.

Daughter to ER.

Computer issues.

Food poisoning.

Kitchen pipes exploding.

Elderly family member who is sick.

Mom’s milestone birthday.

Horrible weather turning a 30 min drive into a 9 hour round trip.

Son to doctor.

Car theft (including wallet, checkbook, stroller, etc.)

The only thing on that list (and these are the things I remember) I could have planned on happening in February was Mom’s birthday. And if one of them in and of themselves had happened I would have been ok. BUT ALL OF THEM!

My job got to a point where I was staying awake until 4 am, and getting up at 8. I don’t remember the last time my husband and I were together in the same room that was not our bedroom with us fast asleep. Have no idea what happened on Modern Family. My Words with Friends cue is overflowing. We moved February 20 and I still have boxes to unload. The number of newspapers that have been chucked to recycling bin without being read is horrifying.

All this said when I got the email this morning saying that I was relieved of my duties for the project, while not surprised, I burst into tears and felt (and still do) like a failure. This job was not hard; it involved research and writing, two of my favorite things. I was able to use skills I haven’t used in years. But it was time consuming, and my schedule of what essentially became a full time job on top of my SAHM full time gig became unsustainable. I fell behind. Project delayed. At the end of the day it was a business decision and I had agreed to be timely. I wasn’t. Case closed.

I know I gave it my best. I worked 150 percent. Every spare second I have had these last four months has gone to the project. In the last month alone three different people diplomatically told me I looked like ass. I take little comfort in knowing while I gave it my best, I failed.

I failed my family. We need the money that job provided. In an attempt to make me feel better my husband joked that the job allowed us to “afford” being robbed of car. Think of how screwed we’d be had I not been bringing in that money??? Before the theft, which is what really kicked me down, the plan was put half the money to savings half to debt. We were on track to eliminate all our credit card debt, which has grown more than I ever dreamed. Our cushion was going to actually be comfortable. Now the debt is bigger than before thanks to the thugs, and our cushion is getting smaller and smaller.

I failed those who were professional references for me. They put their necks on the line for me saying I could make a valuable contribution. Sure my work was good, but deadlines that were blown by sometimes days, sometimes weeks, wouldn’t make up for Pulitzer work. My editor was understanding at first, incredibly understanding. But her patience began to wane and who can blame her. I tried to keep up. On the way back from a family gathering in New York we spent the night in Delaware so I could work all night in the hotel. My husband took the train in the am to get to his work while I slept.

Looking back I think I was foolish. There was no way with a 3 year old and a nursing infant I could work for 8 hours after spending all day with my kids, and then function the next day. This routine lasted for a few weeks, but ultimately I was crashing and crashing hard. My body ached, my stomach hurt and my eyes felt as if they had real honest to goodness cobwebs growing on them. My weekends began to look more like college finals week, except I am 15 years older and these weekends were never ending.

I have friends who are SAHM who have part time jobs. But they have family nearby. My mom is an hour away and my in-laws are 2 hours away – by plane. I don’t have any sisters. My best friends live in Baltimore, New York and Connecticut. While we have great friends here, some of whom have volunteered to help me with time, I can’t keep going to this well. If we pay for a nanny, than the money I am making is significantly reduced. Not to mention, I am not about to let some stranger watch my babies. A friend suggested today I should use this as an example of why I need to move our family back to Baltimore. Who knows?

This is not a vent on the lack of childcare options. This is not a pity party. But in the age when it seems so many women feel guilty about going to work away from their children; I thought it was important to put something out there that talks about the guilt SAHM feel.

I used to believe anything was possible, if you put your mind to it. Now I know I have limits. I am not SuperMom. I can’t do everything I want to.

But mostly I hate that in the minds of my former editor I am the poster child of why not to hire a SAHM. I not only let my family down, but I let the collective whole of SAHMs down. I was “that” Mom who always had an excuse, only it wasn’t an excuse, it was real. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried. That said, all I am left to say is I am sorry.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Being a SAHM is not a luxury

I haven't written in awhile, but today I was so fired up by the whole Ann Romney/Hillary Rosen debate I typed while I could. Here goes nothing....

Since I heard about Hillary Rosen’s comments this morning my mind has been swirling with thoughts. Its 1:04 pm, let’s see when this thing actually gets posted.

First, being a SAHM is hard. Period. At 12:47 pm my 3 year old son looked at me and asked why I was still in my pajamas? Not because I was being lazy, but because I hadn’t had a chance to change. Thankfully my 6 month old daughter is taking a nap so I am now dressed. Haven’t showered, but clean clothes is a bonus.

Since last Tuesday, I have done 23 loads of laundry. Yes, I counted. That’s what happens when you have two sick kids, one puking and one with green Hershey squirts because of a reaction to medication. Son woke up puking at 635 am last Tuesday, a few minutes after I walked in from spending all night in the ER with daughter.
I get on average 2-3 showers a week. I have to plan them.

Last night I went to bed early. It was 3:23 am. I am doing freelance work to supplement our income. I get, if lucky, 4-5 hours of sleep a night.

I have used nearly every item of clothing I own as a tissue.

My life is so carefree and without “work” it’s hilarious.

My two “bosses” are a 3 year old boy who has a mind of his own. He can be the sweetest little gentleman on the planet one minute, and a complete spazoid the next. Terrorists don’t need torture. The whining musings of toddlers on end will get them to spill the beans I can assure you. If this didn’t get them to talk, the cries of a baby teething surely would. At least my son can articulate what’s wrong. With my daughter it’s a constant guessing game. Guessing wrong sometimes makes me want to pull my hair out.

Yes my husband I made the choice for me to stay home, but this certainly was not a choice we initially made. Like millions of other Americans, I was laid off. TWICE.

First time was six days before we learned I was pregnant with our son. Second time was when my son was barely a year old and 6 months into my husband’s unemployment. So while I was fortunate to get a job 7.5 months pregnant, by the time my son turned 1, both his Mom and Dad were unemployed. Summer of 2009 was filled with Ramen, no AC, and lots of prayers.

Don’t talk to me about struggles or having the luxury of staying home. I cut coupons. My husband and I regularly discuss the thermostat settings that I keep low/high depending on the season to cut back our bills. I am so close to eliminating cable it’s not even funny. And no, I am not kidding.

My industry doesn’t exist anymore. I am in the process of going to back to school to change careers. In the meantime, I am home. We are not rich. Mitt Romney probably makes more in interest in a week than my husband earns in a month, maybe even two. We make lots of sacrifices. Haven’t had a date night in I don’t know how long. Have had more cereal dinners in the last three years than I did in my first 30.
It’s now 3:24 pm. Load number 24 is in the wash and I am on third change since my original change at 12:47. I am back in pj bottoms. I gave my daughter a wash cloth bath on her changing table and wound up giving myself a wipes-wash because my hands and arms were nothing short of hazardous. Had the outfit she obliterated not been one on loan I would have cut it to get off. The Oxy-clean stain gel I bought less than 48 hours ago is more than ½ gone. My $1.70 lunch is in the microwave. At least my kids are entertaining themselves for the moment, although I did just lose my patience when my son asked me for the 1000th time today if we are going to the playground. The answer is still no.
Now it’s 6:02 pm. I should be doing my work, but I am fired up and need to finish this. In case you are keeping track at home, while no new load of laundry is in, I have changed yet again. This time the pj bottoms are inside out. I know those who criticize SAHMs think this is glamorous. I know they are jealous.

This debate today angers me on so many levels. First, why do women feel the need to constantly berate each other for the choices they make? Being a SAHM, whether by choice or by accident, is not easy and is certainly not for everyone.

One friend has a utopian vision of what child rearing should be like and entail. She has a smile on during the day but I know is miserable being home all the time. Nothing is wrong with going back to work (assuming she can find it) but she believes her children are better suited with her constant presence. Likewise, working outside the home boasts its own challenges. Some women thrive at it. I have one friend who works in a very stressful job but somehow managed to get a picture of her daughter every single day of her first year of life. I was and am still amazed by this. I am not sure I have 365 different pictures of my monkey and cupcake combined, let alone even one of them. There is not a doubt in my mind she loves her daughter as much as I love my own children.

Women need to do what’s best for them and what fits their family. But staying home is not a luxury. This, above all else today, is probably what made me most angry. Another friend is a single mom. God Bless Her. Instead of going back to work in her chosen field – and she has a masters no less – she decided to take a job as a nanny so she could be with her son during those early years. I would pity the person who made the mistake of implying to her she was anything close to rich or lead an extravagant lifestyle. The sacrifices she has made are endless. I have told her more times than I care to count, I genuinely have no clue how she does it. She and other single moms/military moms are my heroes.

Why has our system gotten so out of whack that it’s ok to go after people for their own personal choices that in no way affect others. I believe many women who genuinely want to stay home could, it would require sacrifice and planning and certainly needs a supportive partner, as well as a village. If Hillary Rosen really wanted to stay home, she could. I would be stunned to find out otherwise. Maybe she couldn’t always go to Starbucks or eat at The Palm, but she could stay home. She doesn’t want to, and that’s fine.

My second point is to ask why is it ok to go after someone just because the other side did it. Rosen is no more the mouthpiece of Obama than Rush is of Mitt. Rush was wrong, dead wrong, to go after the Georgetown student. His words were visceral and counterproductive. And the GOP partisans that beat up Michelle Obama for her healthy eating campaign are just idiots. Michelle Obama is right on this issue, 1000%. But today of FB I saw all kinds of comments about how Rosen’s comments were somehow justified because GOP does it all the time. BOTH ARE WRONG!

Let’s discuss issues and come up with policy solutions so that every woman who really wants to stay home knows she can. And let’s not keep tearing each other down and vilifying women who do work outside the home as somehow elitist uncaring mothers.

At the end of the day we are all on the same team. We want to raise children that will be productive members of society that know just how much their moms and dads love them. As long as your kid doesn’t hurt my kid, I really don’t care how you go about doing this. Neither should anyone else.

It’s 6:39. Disney chicken time is calling, with a side of tater tots. Yeah, it’s five star dining at its finest.