Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Due Diligence and the Ski Lift

I recently found myself on a ski lift.  It was a Friday and I had been given a rare gift.  My mom had graciously offered to watch my two youngest so I could enjoy a day of skiing.

Just me.  And a friend.  No children.  Instead of driving our sticky, gooey, smelly mom-mobiles, my friend picked me up in her sporty little jeep.

We loaded our skis, kissed the kids goodbye, felt a momentary pang of guilt (not really, but it makes me sound better if I did) and set off for the slopes.  We talked the whole way without a single interruption of....

"Mommy, he's annoying me!" 
"Take your fingers out of my nose." 
"Gross!  Is that poop?" 
"I'm hungry." 
"Are we there yet?"

It was heaven.  And that was just the car ride.

So there I am on the lift sitting next to my friend and another skier who had joined us from the single's line.  We begin the friendly banter that usually happens on a lift.  Perhaps it's because you're dangling many feet above a slippery slope in a lawn chair, or the fact that you can't feel your lips so you figure talking will help, but we exchanged the usual pleasantries with our new buddy.

"Beautiful day isn't it?" he says to us.

"You bet!" I say enthusiastically, still on my mom-vacation high.  "We are so lucky to live here and to be able to enjoy the mountains like this.  It's just great!"

"Are you from around here?" he inquires politely.

"We're from Bailey," I answer and wait for the usual response of Bailey? Where's Bailey?

"BAILEY!" he says enthusiastically.  "I've been there once.  Huh, Bailey! That's pretty far out there."

The conversation lags for a minute as our lift friend digests this curve-ball of a discovery.  I know what he's thinking.  Who actually lives in Bailey?  Is there even a grocery store in Bailey?

"So what do you do out in Bailey?  Do you both teach...or something?" Our incredulous confidante asks.

And here it is.  The answer I have struggled with since June 2006.  The dreaded stay-at-home mom answer.  I have never been able to simply say, "I'm a stay-at-home mom!  That's what I do!"  I usually feel the need to blurt out that before my current occupation of rearing the future, I had a job as a fundraiser and before that completed my masters and before that went to college.

And then I just sound like a pompous jerk.  The problem is that I never intended to abandon my career goals and stay at home to raise the kids.  I'd always wanted children but I wasn't worried about the nitty gritty details of how they would be raised.  I was going to graduate and save the world or at the very least, use my education and be really successful.

But when the babies came along it just seemed like the right thing to do.  I couldn't bear the thought of not spending these precious years with each teeny, tiny, swaddled infant that came along.  It was not always an easy decision to live with.  In the early years, it felt like I had abandoned my education and career in favor of spit-up, potty talk, seclusion, laundry, dishes, fights, tears, and just a dash of hormonal craziness.

As the years have passed and my youngest is now three, the fog has cleared enough for me to gain a bit of perspective.  I look terrible on a resume.

But I have a theory.  When I am ready to return to work, I will make an ideal employee.  And not just me.  I believe that most stay-at-home moms who return to the workforce are ideal candidates.  While I may not have attended the latest training in my former field, stayed ahead of the technology curve or know when it's appropriate to Twitter, e-mail, Facebook, text, IM, video chat, get LinkedIn, or just make a phone call, I have developed an acute sense of self-awareness.

Moms are moderators, peace-makers, cheerleaders, confidantes.  We are accounting, HR, program coordinators, support staff, and co-COO.  We have to make hard and fast decisions that affect those around us.  We know where we excel and we are only too aware of when we fail, but we do both with a sense of pride and humility.  When the going gets tough, we can't quit. (Although I was fired once by a 5-year-old.)  We push through the most challenging of times and bask in successes always with an eye on how we can do things better.

We work well in a team.  We can say no.  And we are always learning and willing to try new approaches if the old one doesn't work.   

With this revelation, I have finally overcome my hesitancy to answer the dreaded, "What do you do?" question.  The sun is shining, the sky is bright blue, and my skis are just itching to hop off this lift and navigate down the mountain.  So, I turn to my new snow chum and answer with conviction,

"I am a stay-at-home mom.  What do you do?"  There.  I said it.  That felt really good.  It doesn't matter the title, I am a competent, smart, capable woman who will one day be a true asset to the work force.   

"Oh, well I'm a consultant," he says with vigor.  "My focus is working with companies to make sure they do their due diligence...."  Here he pauses and gives me a questioning look.  I wait expectantly and give him the universal "go on" nod.

"Do you know what due diligence means?" He asks rather slowly, placing emphasis on each syllable.

Right.  Guess I should have mentioned my college education. 



Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cold Season Mothering

Health Alert:  If you have had a winter void of snot, juicy coughs, runny eyes, fevers, etc. etc. etc., please do not make the following statement out loud, "We've been really healthy this winter.  Maybe it's all the vitamins we're taking, but we just don't seem to catch any of the crud going around."

Upon making this statement, germ central will sound the Code Green alert and send a platoon of militant, disease laden germs your way.

Case in point:  We just spent a lovely ski weekend at a condo with two other couples and eight children.  Many of the children were hacking like life-long smokers.  My friend said, "Our kids have those rotten colds that are going around.  Take this vitamin and hopefully you won't get it too."

I confidently declined the vitamin while smugly saying, "We've been really healthy this winter.  Maybe it's all the vitamins we're taking, but we just don't seem to catch any of the crud going around."

Payback's a bitch.

I had a LASIK follow-up appointment yesterday.  So I went, with two of my hacking, dazed-looking children in tow.  When I first walked in, a few of the waiting seniors gave me the "what precious, well-behaved children you have" look.  And they really were...precious AND behaved!  Of course, this strange behavior could be attributed to the fact that the ibuprofen had worn off causing their fevers to spike, which in turn made their painful ear infections painful again.  They were just quietly miserable. 

I took them to the chairs farthest from anything breathing.  They sat down and began to play quietly.  For a blissful moment, I appeared to be a mother in complete control of her children.  I could just imagine what the sweet, white-haired grandma who admired us from afar was thinking.  She was probably wondering why her daughter, Jan, wasn't more like me.  Jan always allowed her young ones to run around screaming and throwing disgraceful public tantrums.

At that moment, it felt really good to be compared to Jan.  But, as all seemingly perfect mom moments must end, mine soon did.

In unison, both children started coughing.  A loud, wet, endless cough.  You could actually  hear the contagious droplets being expelled with each juicy hack.  And not just once.  It was like the Hallelujah Chorus of coughs.  They started out coughing beautifully together.  Soon it became a coughing harmony.  If I hadn't been so horrified, I might have been impressed with how wonderfully they complemented one other. 

I tried the "dutiful mother determined to mentor her children on public health issues" tract.  "Children," I said calmly and in one of those really high, daycare provider voices.  "If you have to cough, please use your sneeze catchers."  And then I demonstrated by delicately "ah, ahing" into the crook of my arm.

The children looked up at me, eyes streaming, noses red and running, the snot collecting in the dimples on their chins.  They looked around them, apparently realizing for the first time that they were in a waiting room filled with people.  Then, as if their moves had been choreographed, they stood up, faced the room of sweet-faced vision-deficient people and (very loudly),

coughed and spewed,
              coughed and spewed,
                            coughed and spewed.

I could hear quiet gasps of horror from those sitting closest.  The squeak of chairs rang loudly as they were frantically relocated from ground zero. 

Immediately, Jan's judgmental mother shot me the "why aren't you at home with your sick and disgusting kids instead of out in public infecting poor, innocent, healthy souls" look.  Sweet grandmas can say a lot with just one look. 

Fortunately, at that moment I hear, "Melissa, we're ready for you."  I grab my two coughing and spewing kids and shuffle quickly to the exam room.
The moral of this story:  
If your kids are sick and you need to go out in public where people will judge you, tell everyone you're the nanny. 


Thursday, February 3, 2011

New Parenting Alert!!! Honesty is not always appropriate for children

"Mommy, did you know that when babies are born they have blood all over their eyes?"

I paused, put down the Junie B., First Grader book I was reading with a theater-worthy performance, to glance nervously at my 6 1/2 year-old daughter.  It was bedtime.  We read stories, talk about our day, say our prayers and kiss goodnight. And sometimes discuss the big questions in life.

"Where did you hear that, sweet pea?"  I ask, fingers crossed, hoping that by this time she has forgotten what she said.  Kids do that, you know.  There have been many times when I'm in the middle of an amazing answer to a big question, when I notice their eyes have glazed over.  That's when they look at me and say something like, "I really love everything green.  Please stop talking now, Mommy."

But not this time.  She was sitting there expectantly, waiting patiently for an answer. 

"Well, maybe honey.  But when you were born the doctor cleaned you right up and by the time I held you in my arms you were blood-free."

There.  That should satisfy her for now.  Pat, pat.

"How do babies get born anyway?"

Crappity, crap crap.   I have two options here:

1. I can spin a tale about that long-beaked slightly creepy stork who delivers babies wrapped precariously in pink or blue blankets.  But has any child in the history of children really believed that one?  Santa, I get.  But a flippin' bird?  Delivering babies? 

2. Or I can tell her the G rated truth.  In fact, a friend of mine had just recently shared that when her kids ask the big life questions, she just tells them the truth.  That is so 1970's cool.  I consider this option and already feel like that groovy parent who can always be counted on to give their kids the real "skinny on the deal."

So I take a deep breath and begin, "Remember the scar on my tummy?"  She hesitantly nods her head.  "That is how you came out of mommy.  It's called a c-section."

"Okay.  But did I climb out?"   

Oh boy.  I start to get fidgety.  Time for honesty parenting. I take another deep breath and begin. "All right, here's how it happened.  The doctor takes a scalpel, which is like a really sharp knife, and cut open my stomach.  Then he reached in, pulled you out, wiped you off and handed you to me.  It was one of the best moments of my life." I finish with a nostalgic smile on my face.

I turn to my little girl.  It was really wonderful to share something so real yet touching with her.  But she is staring back at me, eyes wide open, chin trembling, mouth open in a silent horror movie scream.

I frantically begin back-pedaling. "Oh, baby.  Wait a minute.  You think it hurts, don't you?" Tears are beginning to fall from her once-innocent blue eyes.  I take that as yes.

"It doesn't hurt at all," I assure her confidently.  "You see, before they took you out they gave mommy loads of drugs that made me feel numb and super happy.  I couldn't feel a thing.  But...ah...don't do drugs."

Impressive parenting talk.  Pat, pat.  I was just totally real and truthful with my daughter AND I advised her on the downside of drugs.  

"Mommy," she says in a trembling, tear-filled voice. "I don't want to have babies, ever, ever, ever. Can we ask God for me to never, ever, ever have a baby?"

No, no, no.  This is going so wrong.  I've just gone from loving, truthful parent to demon bringer of horrific news and I've just convinced my daughter to never have a child.  I'm actually terrible at this. They should really make people pass a test before they become parents. 

We sit there in silence for a bit as I hold her.  Then she says in a small voice, "Is the knife actually very soft?"

Screw honesty.  "Absolutely.  Very soft."

"Is the knife more like rubber?"

"Definitely.  Just like rubber....and you know what else?  On the day you were born, a big beautiful stork flew you to our house in a pink blanket and safely delivered you to mommy and daddy."

And now that her world had been set straight again, she happily snuggled closer to me and as she was falling asleep she mumbled, "That's what I thought in the first place.  You can be so silly, Mommy."