No Thanks Necessary

Just as mankind has long pondered what is more delicious, chocolate or peanut butter, so have women debated what is better, working in an office or staying at home. I don’t know the answer to either of these timeless riddles any better than I know if Miley Cyrus or Britney Spears was the bigger mess-up. All I do know is this: I wish husbands would stop all the sanctimonious blogging in praise of their stay-at-home wives.

I am not saying that stay-at-home mothers don’t deserve praise. They do. As do working mothers. Personally, I’m a bit like a Reese’s peanut butter cup (no, I am not saying I am round—and if you are now imagining me as round, know I am trying to fix this with cross-fit). What I mean is that I am a mother who works from home. Stay-at-home/work-at-home mothers (or STORKS as I like to abbreviate us) are an increasingly common hybrid mother-type who works from the house in an attempt to also get to experience the joys of being a stay-at-home mom. The result is that STORKs get to experience the good and bad of both sides of the fence.  You get the yoga pants but you also get the conference calls. You get the volunteer time at school but you also get the boss calling wondering where you are. (Which, by the way, is always at a medical appointment for yourself. A female one. No one wants to hear about that.)

As a STORK I can tell you that stay-at-home moms have a lot to be thankful for. They get to be there every step of their child’s journey. They never have to worry about missing a first word, a first crawl. They never have to hear their child call their nanny Mama and cry when she leaves. They get to volunteer whenever they want at the grammar school. They never have to miss a school play because of a business trip or, worse yet, a rainbow-loom wearing male boss who is a hero when he leaves early to coach his kid’s soccer team but gets mad when your kid needs to go to the doctor. Stay-at-home moms have no boss. No boss. Working moms, close your eyes and feel that freedom. Now, I know what you stay-at-home moms will say, the kids are your boss. But just because your child thinks you made the sandwich wrong, you won’t miss a bonus. And kids could care less if you forget to brush your hair or wear the same mysteriously stained shirt a few days in a row. And, like I said before, stay-at-home moms get to wear yoga pants. Every single day.

But working moms also have it good. What stay-at-home wouldn’t kill for 45 minutes alone in their minivan, singing 80s power ballads on the way to work. Stay-at-homes, imagine: You and Jon Bon Jovi. Alone. Screw you, Music Together. Working moms get to leisurely stroll alone to Starbucks, with no overpriced kids’ hot chocolates or madeleines involved. They get to have adult conversation and sometimes even adult beverages. They get intellectual stimulation and put their degree to work. Working moms can go pump in a nice quiet room and read magazines instead of having a baby attached to them all day. They can go places, meet people—even people who don’t have kids. And they can justify buying fancy high-heeled shoes. Shoes you simply cannot wear with yoga pants.

There is a bright side for each group. And for both groups, there is at the core one thing in common. We are mothers. We change diapers, we hold hands, we chase away bad dreams. We do homework, we throw pitches, we practice lines. We sing our children to sleep, we wake them with a smile. We tie all of our hopes for the future in their tiny, honest faces. We love, we worry, we fail, we start over. We figure it all out. Because we are women. And we are strong.

I can tell you one thing we don’t need, and that is husbands posting blogs in praise of their stay-at-home wives. Women didn’t fight to give us a choice for us to be standing behind our husbands. We can fight for ourselves. Women—and mothers—can stay at home. They can work at home. They can work in an office.  All their kids need is their love. True love is rare and beautiful. When you are loved you feel it, whether your mom is with you all day or only at night.

So, yes, to the most recent husband-savior being circulated online, mothers are as elemental as the sun. And guess what, the sun shines just as brightly in an office as it does on a playroom floor.

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M.D.

About a week ago, I wandered into the kids’ room, running late as always, and told Annie it was time to wake up. She stretched and said, “Mommy, I think I threw up.” I looked from across the room and could see a thin line of what looked like dried puke, perhaps the size of a snail’s trail, near her head. Oh, I said in my most calm and reassuring voice, yes, maybe you did a tiny bit.

No biggee, I thought. I actually had seven hours of sleep last night. I can do anything. Maybe it’s so little I can even just spot clean it. (Don’t judge, you know you’ve been there.)

And then I got closer. Annie raised her head like a crazy Medusa born of Linda Blair and Sissy Spacek, and I saw. Oh God what I saw.

Vomit caked her face. It had created dreds in her hair. Vomit was dried on both her hands, leaving them as puckered and lifeless as if she’d been underwater for days. They hurt to move. Vomit had soaked through her pillow. It dropped on the ground as we went for the bathroom. It was everywhere. Everywhere. Her brothers started to gag. They were revolted. They panicked. The oldest started shouting something insane about Annie staying home from school on a day where I had rigged my conference calls so I could actually go workout. They lost it. But not I. No, not I.

I stayed calm, got her showered, threw the filthy pillow in the outside trash, rinsed the caked sheets in the toilet (the only place that could handle such huge chunks—again, don’t judge), got everything in the wash. And then I got everyone washed, fed and out the door for school in 30 minutes flat. We weren’t late. We chatted on the way there. If it wasn’t for the lingering odor of the excessive amount of pizza and chicken fingers Annie had consumed at Daisy Scouts still haunting the kids’ bathroom, no one would know anything had happened.

How did I accomplish this? And why am I so proud that I am still reveling in my speed a week later? Because I am a mother, damnit. And if there is one thing I have learned in the past ten years, it is how to deal with disgusting bodily fluids, gaping bodily holes, and a heck of a lot of blood.

Let’s be honest. How many times have you gone to the doctor’s office and thought, why am I paying them? I can diagnose this illness and treat it just as well at home. Hand over the Rx pad. I know what this kid needs. I can identify the difference between a Fifth Disease, yeast and Hand, Foot and Mouth rash. I can pop and drain an infected boil better than the nurse practitioner. I have relocated my son’s nursemaid’s elbow. I know when my kid has asthma and when he has croup.  I can administer the field test you give to someone with a head injury. And no, I don’t need a thermometer to tell you if you have a fever. I have a mother’s hand.

I think you start preparing yourself for the atrocities of motherhood the first time you pee yourself pregnant. You are mortified, disgusted. But then you get used to it. You might even give it a whiff every now and again at around nine months just to make sure it’s not amniotic fluid. No big deal. Except it’s just one small step from there to the day you walk in and your baby has decorated herself and her walls with poop from her diaper.

Sometimes, after a particularly invigorating visit to the pediatrician, I start to fantasize about going back and getting my MD. My latest Grey’s Anatomy BuzzFeed quiz did in fact identify me as McDreamy.

But whenever I mention my new career plans to my husband he is unenthusiastic. He says I wouldn’t like all the hours away from the house.  I think what he’s really saying is if I’m not there, who will be around to pick up all this shit….

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Registration

Today I registered my baby for kindergarten. It was pretty non-eventful, really. He’s my third so I knew the secretary, knew what forms not to forget, knew not to bother waiting in line. In fact, I knew so much that it all almost felt like old hat.

Except it still isn’t.

Back when I had three babies under five, I thought I knew a lot about what life with “older” kids was like. Frankly I pretty much thought it sucked, which isn’t surprising since you don’t typically have three kids in five years unless you really enjoy babies (or you are a sadist). I was addicted to their fuzzy sleep sacks, belly laughs, walks downtown with a double stroller and the youngest in a Bjorn. Amusement parks, plane rides, even grocery stores, I could go anywhere with my three and love every minute.  (Of course, there is an element of rose-colored glasses in this story, as in all stories, by this point, but you know what I mean). I loved co-opping at preschool, I loved My First Art Class, Music Together, Little Gym. I loved them over and over again with each kid, in fact. I loved watching my four year old dance in the kitchen playing a kazoo, my two year old wobbling on princess heels while the baby trailed behind them with a maraca for their “Happy Day Parade”. I loved first foods, first steps, first falls. I used to record them all in my wall calendar.

And then suddenly that all stopped. The firsts were replaced with soccer practices, CCD, baseball tryouts, play tryouts, Crazy Sock Days, Crazy Hair Days, basically any kind of crazy day you could imagine. My big boy refused to wear an “I love Mom” t-shirt. My daughter wanted to fall in love. My baby wanted to watch Ninja Turtles, something only a third child could possibly request at four years old. There were no more bouncies, no more Little People, no more plastic plates, and very few Cheerios on the floor. Babydom had come and gone, and somehow after years of advance pining for its absence, I had missed it leaving.

So today I thought I might feel a profound sadness for what was officially gone as I registered to move on to the next phase. One where I had no nursery school towels to bring home to clean. No diapers. No one sticking their hands under my office door or yelling for me to wipe their bums while I am on a client call. An empty house from 8:30-2 on those seemingly few weeks when school is on a normal schedule.

Instead what I felt were those same old pinings that it might all go by too fast. 100th days of school celebrations, helping kids cut out those crazy glasses. Days on yard duty, holding my daughter’s hand after she’s fallen from the monkey bars yet again. Suffering through multiplication tables with my oldest. Helping the kids prepare their acts for the variety show, and wondering how to comfort them if they back out in the end. Terrorizing little kids in indoor playgrounds as we play a whole family game of hide and seek tag. Racing around Embassy Suites across the country. Swimming together. Googling things like astral projection and Blloody Mary together, and then dealing with the aftermath. Reading Harry Potter together. Knowing the words to every song in Frozen. Actually looking forward to the Lego movie. Making rainbow loom bracelets at midnight. Listening to their dreams and lying with them as they fall asleep. Hearing funny stories about their friends. Finally convincing them that the custodian’s name really is Mr. Gross as opposed to a mean nickname. Mornings, any morning, walking to school with everyone fighting to have their say, tell their story. Dog piles on the bed. Holding hands until you reach the schoolyard gate.

So now the day I fear is the day when all these events fall off my calendar too.  You can’t blame me. I’ve heard no parents ever hang out at the middle school.

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