Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Stay at Home Madwoman

If it has not been clear before, it is now.  If I were a stay at home mom, I would go bananas.  I honestly do not know how people do it.  Every summer, there are stretches when I have a week or more with the kids, with no sitter or camp or anything.  It always has some very nice time -- swimming, playing games, cooking, bowling.  But I always blow my top, more than once. 

Part of it is that I do not have the capacity to entertain them for hours on end.  I would like to park them in front of a TV and ignore them all day.  But, I try to avoid having them become such lazy slobs.   I would like to open the door and say "go play and I'll see you at dinner time" but that doesn't happen anymore.  So, while  constantly trying to pry them away from ipods, TVs and other screens, I have to invent things to do (telling them to go read or play on their own works for a while but not all day).

This year, I have been setting up a lot of playdates, which helps keep the kids sane and gives them a little space from each other and from me.  It has mostly been nice -- I even got my daughter and her friend a manicure!  We have also baked, played board games, and gone for walks. But, then, because I am not the sitter, but the mom, part of me feels like I have to use this time, time when I cannot do my own work, to do practical stuff that I do not want to do when I am paying a sitter (and should be doing my own work).  So, in the cracks between playdates and bowling and playing and swimming, I have done doctor's appointments, haircuts, lots of errands, and massive clean ups of the basement, bedrooms, closets.  The kids are okay with the doctors and haircuts, even with the errands. But the clean ups are horrifying. These involve me taking all the stuff out of piles and boxes and cabinets and drawers and saying, "Can we get rid of this?" then fighting my kids' desire to save everything as a "treasure" or, as my 8 year old keeps saying, "something that has sentimental value."  According to my kids, the following have sentimental value:  broken toys, baby blocks, old chapstick, every drawing they ever made, every piece of plastic they ever got in a goody bag at a birthday party, every single stuffed animal that has ever crossed their paths. Sure, after wearing them down, we got rid of a lot.  It took some wheedling.  With books, I told them they could have the money we made selling the books to buy more books.  With the rest, I just made clear that no toys can come in unless there is room for them.  Still, it is a struggle.  So, inevitably I find myself yelling nonsense, making empty threats, sounding like a crazy lady.  I told my daughter that if she didn't change her ways she would end up on the reality show "Hoarders" and that she was grounded if she left even one stuffed animal on the floor out of a bin. 

Who is this crazy lady?  Why doe she care of her kids room is a mess?  Why can't she adopt a good enough housekeeping motto and leave it at that?  Why does she sound so much like her own mother?

I think it is because I am not a stay at home mom.  I want a clean place because home is both where I work and relax and both are troubled by random toys, piles of comic books, socks, and other strange misplaced items.  But, at the end of the day, I do not want it to be my job to clean that stuff up. (And I don't want it to be my husband's either.)  I kind of resent it, like I am being forced into a role that I thought I had decided to escape.  And I resent its inescapability.   I know the kids don't care, but I know, or think, they need good habits for later in life.  Even though I know that they, like most of us, will live like pigs for a while when they are older, then hopefully grow out of it and change their ways. I now have a greater sympathy for my own mom, who was also a working mom and who got no help at all at home (my father being much less helpful than my husband, who cooks and cleans a lot). And who yelled a lot.

Well, for now, it is tidy and, for now, I will try and be a nice mom.  But I, and they, are counting the days until the sitter starts work.

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