Monday, August 30, 2010

I'm not really sure where this post is going, but it clearly suggests I was Catholic in another life

My patience has been far too short lately. Is this what it's always like, raising an almost-four-year-old? When does the LISTENING start? When will my child actually take in something I say, think about it, and do what I FRACKIN' WANT HIM TO DO?!?!? I know, I know, it's the age. But it's not just the age, it's my reaction to this age's quirks and foibles and DIFFICULTIES. I yell. I pout and hold grudges. I even (and oh, I hate to admit this) spank on occasion. I do not BELIEVE in spanking. I think hitting your child (and oh yes, spanking is a type of hitting) only teaches THEM to hit. Not exactly what I want to encourage, you know? But yet, I have been so at my wits end that I HAVE DONE IT.

And I hate all of it. The yelling, the frustration, the repeating myself 15 times, the threats... the spanking.

I need a fresh start, a new approach. I need something more than "offer him choices" and "Have you read 1-2-3 Magic?" (Yes, I HAVE).

Tonight was a typical night, where trouble came from many minor areas that all served to push my mildly frustrated mood into a simmering, pouty, doom-and-gloom mood. Lucy was crying when I arrived to pick her up from daycare, and her teacher gave me the stink eye about her runny nose and cough. Finn was irate when I offered him yogurt-covered cranberries and chocolate-covered raisins as a snack, because WHERE ARE THE YOGURT-COVERED RAISINS? Lucy threw food during dinner, and Finn pulled a post-bedtime story poop fake-out to prolong his bedtime. Nothing out of the ordinary, but yet I couldn't help feeling inappropriately terrible.

As I picked up the house with M. (cleaning lady comes tomorrow), my simmering and seething began to focus on daycare. And I realized (tonight, at least) that it's not really the kids that were driving me crazy. It's my feeling (again) that we may not have them at the right daycare. The school is having a few staff changes - one teacher leaving, a shuffle to accommodate - and... I'm just not sure. I'm not sure I like the arrangements. I'm not sure these people are really qualified. And even if they are, I'm not sure I like that I'm even questioning whether they are qualified.

I plan to ask questions. I hope I like the answers, because there are many things I DO like about our daycare. But I'm getting tired of not feeling sure. Of feeling guilty.

As I thought even more about this though, I came to a second realization - that maybe guilt is the real culprit of my awful, no good, terrible evening. It's not the kids (even though it is), and it's not daycare (even though it is that, too). Mostly, I think my bad mood is coming from a conversation I had at work today. And the more I think about it, the more I have trouble believing that it actually occurred.

I was speaking to a group of women at work, all of us with kids of varying ages - some grown and struggling to find their way post-college, some starting grade school, and me with my little ones in daycare. The conversation was pleasant and nice and relatable and all the things you might think such a conversation would be among friendly women who get along. Then one woman told me a story that took me aback. She is recently back to work after taking several years off to raise her children. Her youngest child just started kindergarten last week, but she herself started back to work about 6 months ago. So during the late spring and summer, this woman enrolled her child in a preschool/daycare until kindergarten began. And one day, when she pulled up to daycare in her car, her daughter saw a baby being taken in to the school. She asked her mom what a baby was doing going to a preschool, and her mom told her that some women go back to work right after having a baby, and the daycare takes care of the babies for the mommies during the day. And her daughter replied, "Oh mommy, I'm so GLAD you stayed home with me, thank you!"

Now, I'm not begrudging this woman the appreciation she must have felt when her daughter said this. I'm sure it was very heartwarming for her. But this struck me as a very insensitive story to tell someone who did NOT stay home with her babies, who in fact still considers her children (or at least one of them) to be babies and IS NOT home with them. I have to admit, I felt a bit judged. OK, more than a bit judged, if I'm being honest; it stung.

Maybe I'm overly sensitive to this, as my mom stayed home with me, and M.'s mom stayed home with him. I feel like I SHOULD be with my kids, even if I CAN'T be with them, and to be honest, am not really sure I WANT to be with them all day.

So I obsess, and wonder constantly if I'm doing the right thing - pay the mortgage, or stay home with the kids? Buy stuff, or stay home with the kids? Clearly, for now, I've chosen to buy stuff and pay the mortgage. But then I wonder constantly about the care they get during those long, long days at daycare - at the quality of their stand-in mommies. And even though I yell and scold and threaten and even, occasionally, spank, I just can't convince myself that they measure up to ME.

Blah, blah... Sorry for the overly long, downer post. Quick, let me distract you with pictures of my adorable children (and husband)!


  1. (I am catching up on blogs while Jon watches GI Joe on vacation.)

    Four is good for us for the independence. But four is CRAZILY MADDENING when it comes to getting shit done. We needed our beach vacation right now bc if I had to spend one more morning trying to corral two kids to get their clothes on and eat their food, I was going to lose it. It's almost like they have ADD and now when I need them to do it NOW and they take forever.

    So I hear you on that. Vacation is good bc they live in swimsuits and are eating a steady diet of junk food.

    On the staying home front, I've had some SAHMs say crap like that to me too. And really, the hardest thing I have EVER done and the best thing I have EVER done is admit I am not the best person to care for my children. I do not want to sing songs. I do not want to finger paint. I am terminally bored by the monotony of caring for small children for prolonged periods of time.

    So I do what I am good at (software) and pay people who love being with children to be with my children all day. Some days I feel like that makes me a failure as a mother but most days I am proud I am making the choice that is right for everyone in our family. I'm a firm believer that happy parents means happy kids, and I would never be happy staying home.

    But yes, there is guilt in there because we have this stupid societal expectation that when we pop out babies, we should want to be with them every single minute of the day. Maybe I am missing that gene.

  2. PS We had to leave the beach this morning because Nate punched me. For reals. We're ON VACATION. Having fun. Building a fucking sand castle together and he punches me. I find it maddening because he knows better. And yes I get it's the wild part of this age but come on!

    And this is why I say I could not stay home.

  3. I'm nodding along with you about the almost-four year old. OMG it's like parenting a belligerent old man. I'm exhausted today after what seemed like one long argument that started when he woke up, but tonight while I was putting him to bed he told me he had a great day. Who knows?

    That WAS an insensitive story to tell a working mom of young children! However, I myself have said many boneheaded things about pregnancy to friends I know are struggling with infertility only to realize what I'd done too late and then feel horrible about it for days. So, maybe it was just thoughtless, not judging.

    I've never worked truly full time (I was in grad school when both kids were born), but the only parts I didn't like about working mostly full-time had to do with me--making dinner after a long day, doing chores on weekends, no free-time--Charlie always thrived in daycare (and certainly had a more interesting day than he does NOW). I hope you reach some resolution in that area. I know it's really stressful.

  4. Four is pretty crazy age, but I'm not sure that the kiddos are going to start listening to us anytime soon. Certainly not when they are teenagers?!

    ANYWHO, lay off yourself. You (and M) are doing the best you can. All you can do is be there for your kids as the best person you can be. Being a SAHM is NOT what makes you the best person. So, you win, hands down. And, you are obviously doing a great job.

    Game, Set, Match :-)

  5. Nobody else commented so I have to -- Finn will never forgive you for posting a photo of him on the toilet. How's that for laying on the guilt?

    You know how I feel about all this - so I agree lay off yourself

  6. M. assured me that Finn was not pooping when he took this picture - he was just capturing the moment before the face paint was wiped off (and then immediately followed by a fit of monumentous proportions).

    Thanks all for the words of support - I'm usually very much at peace with my decision not to stay home, but every once in a while I have doubts and need to vent. Guess this was one of those moments :-).

  7. I asked Husband last night if I could just stay home rather than going back to work. But I don't really mean that. I need to sit at a desk and drink coffee without some toddler knocking at the door and/or shrieking. [BTW - now frightened about twins turning 3 and then 4, thanks, everyone.] On the daycare front now that you are doing drop-off and pick-up can you move them back to Finn's old daycare? On the guilt front I would try to do a craft or special activity with the kids for 30 mins each day on the weekend. Since I'm not good at that stuff I felt like a good mom giving quality time. What we also try to do is severely limit the "chores" we do with the kids on the weekends, trying to do a few at night during the week and/or during naptime and various meal/snack times (e.g., prepping their dinner while they have afternoon snack). That let's us get out of the house more to do fun things while the weather is nice - go to the park or the zoo instead of to Target and BJs.

  8. I feel your pain! I can't count the number of times that I say "I don't want to have to ask you again - do it now!" And, this after a day of being away from her at work and just wishing to have a couple hours of pleasant family time. Ugh, some days are tiring for all of us... kiddos and moms alike.

    Don't let other people's choices make you feel guilty. We all make the right decisions for ourselves and our families. There are different advantages on both sides of the fence. While at times it kills me to not see much of G. during the week, I see differences between her and friends who have stay at home moms or even in-home nannies. And, I am very proud of the skills that she has developed that are directly linked to her having been at daycare and socializing and becoming an independent little creature.

    Just wait 'till kindergarten, the transition will be a breeze for us working Mommas with kids who love school and know how to play by school rules (and who have already boosted their immune systems).

  9. I agree with Kristin that I am now scared about the 3 and 4 year old stage! I've taken the very firm stance that I am not cut out to be a SAHM. I really treasure the evenings and weekends with Cameron which I would not do if I stayed at home. Sorry it was a crappy day! Let's catch up soon!!!

  10. As an educator and not a parent I can say that I love my children even if I don't like them at certain points of the day. With the beginning of each school year staff changes, policy changes and at times the parents are the last to know. I think you've struck the right chord in wanting to be there but knowing you may be better still having space. I feel the same about my classroom kids even if they aren't my bio ones!

  11. The thing is, you do the best you can and that's more than enough. Those kids are loved, protected, safe, happy, and healthy. Every family dynamic is different, every set up is unique. Now, I could of course tell you about the wonders of the au pair program.....but it's really about what you need and sometimes part of that is being able to work and engage in a different way outside of your home. If you dind't work you would wonder what was going on out there and would there be a disservice you were doing to the research community and now ont he other hand you worry about the opposite. You can't win in this tricky balancing act so you just have to take one day at a time and know that youa re doing one hell of a job.