to the working moms

You know, whenever I saddle up to write a post, I'm always aware of the fact that everything I'm about to write has already been written on the internet one quadrillion times. If we ran some of these blog posts through one of those automatic plagiarism detectors, I guarantee I would trip a red flag or twelve. I'm writing about parenting, toddlers, tantrums, feminism, sensational current events, and foolproof seasonal fruit gluten-free scone recipes. So is everyone else on the co-op board.

I'm aware that if I am going to earn your readership, I must begin by surprising you, and then continue to surprise you until the last word that I type, if I am to avoid disappearing into the thick batter of mommy blogs like just another unremarkable clot of flour. Like that scone thing. If you were paying attention, you know this is not the spot to learn about scones. No hate on scones. Just, you know, not in THIS blog.

So I'm about to write a post that has been written 17,492 times in the last 24 hours.

I'm going to write it anyway.

I got a tiny taste of working motherhood today.

I have a flexible part-time job assisting a professor at UW. I clean out the inbox, write recommendations, grade, and assist with other writing projects. I work at nights and on weekends when Ryan is home and I don't have to pay a babysitter. If one of the kids gets sick, we reschedule; I am fortunate to work for a woman who is happy to flex with the unpredictability of life with small children. 

Today was one of the rare occasions in which she needed me during regular working hours.

Sometimes stay-at-home motherhood can feel like a game without a winner. You know, like cricket. Or the Cold War. Absent even the sweet relief of defeat, there are weeks at a time that feel like I'm a dead cat walking, one of those old ones with patchy fur, one curly whisker, glaucoma, and four teeth, three of which are loose. The week before we moved from Brooklyn to Seattle I had a dream that I was dead but still totally walking around, seeing friends. They were like, "so what's new?" And I was like, "I'm dead now," and they were like, "cool. How is it?" And I was like, "honestly, pretty much the same," and they were like, "cool. Want to get pierogies?" And I was like, "I might be dead but I'm not taste-blind amIright?"

The dream was about the strange limbo of having moved on, and having stayed behind at the same time. That's what stay-at-home motherhood feels like, on hard days.

On the one hand, the kids grow; they cannot be stopped from growing, catapulting themselves forward, and I am just the jet-skiier clinging to the line, dragged behind the boat as they drive like hell for the horizon. It's a pulse-pounding, mortally dangerous enterprise. There should be daily, possibly hourly waivers, is what I'm saying.

"Welcome to Thursday. Please sign below to release us, your children, from any liability should you spontaneously combust/need to throw yourself in front of a moving train in order to save our lives because we saw something shiny on the tracks."

"I, _____________, understand that I am voluntarily participating in ___lunch with two toddlers___ and that any injury (including but not limited to physical, psychological, spiritual, and dental catastrophes) tht occurs between the hours of    12:15 pm    and    12:19 pm    is my own damn fault for not knowing that when the 2-year-old says 'sandwich' what he means is 'yogurt parfait,' or possibly 'ham. just one piece of ham.'"

How could it be dull? How could it be that glum, dead-but-alive deal I described?

Because so much of a child's explosive growth lives the following conversation:

Kid: Why is this cheese?
Me: It's cheese.
Kid: But why?
Me: Are you asking why I gave you cheese?
Kid: NO MOMMY. I said why is it cheese?
Me: It's cheese because... (drags both hands down face) OK so it started as milk--
Kid: Why was it milk?
Me: Cheese is made from milk.
Kid: Why?
Me: That's just what cheese is made of. Anyway they put the milk in a machine--
Kid: Why did they put it in a machine?
Me: To turn it into cheese.
Kid: Why?
Me: Because people like cheese.
Kid: Why?
Me: Because it tastes good.
Kid: Oh. (Tastes it)
Me: Right?
Kid: Why does it taste like that?

I KNOW I'M SUPPOSED TO BE EXCITED THAT YOU'RE CURIOUS. But right now I would trade all your curiosity for a single warm cup of shut up and eat your fucking cheese stick.

My world is a lens; it narrows and sharpens on a singular moment: Did he just say cunt? WhatdoIdowhatdoIdowhatdoIdowhatdoIdo I THOUGHT I WAS RAISING A FEMINIST but it turns out he is a MONSTER and everyone knows Monsterism is genetic.

My world is a lens; it opens and I see the slight curve of the horizon, our smallness in the bowl of sky. The Earth is round, after all. We have time to work on feminism. Right now let's just get some cheese in this kid because he's on his 8th slice of watermelon and he's gonna need something to lock him up for a minute.

Round and round I go, in and out, claustrophobic panic to universal comfort, "I'm definitely fucking this up" to "I'm probably not fucking this up but even if I am we will all be dead soon, live in the present, namaste."

HE BIT ME it's okay kids bite and then they stop biting. HE'S AFRAID OF MR. NOODLE FROM ELMO mr. noodle is scary as fuck that's like a really healthy survival instinct and you should be so proud shhhhh sweetie here drink this tea shhhhh just drink it, all of it, there's a good girl. Now we wait.

Stay-at-home motherhood can feel like the only ride at Disney that doesn't go anywhere. All around you, you see people eating churros and taking selfies with Pluto. You see life, ice cream dripping, "Should we ride the fucking awesome roller coaster again?" "Uh fuck yeah! Best day ever!" And there you are, clipped into a 5-point harness on a bench seat bolted to the fucking ground.

I got a tiny taste of working motherhood today.

If stay-at-home motherhood can feel like a game with no winner, my single day of working motherhood felt like a game with two losers, and they were both me.

I got to leave the house in a blazer and flats to interact with adults and earn some money... but in order to win that prize, I first had to hustle for a babysitter, and thank God my mother-in-law stepped to the plate because otherwise I could have just given the babysitter's account info for my paycheck direct deposit. And then I had to pre-parent my kids, pack lunches, snacks, set out shoes for going into the yard, make sure to hit the highlights of today's parenting reel: "real quick guys before Grandma gets here what DON'T we do with our teeth?"

then i got to work and i was like

i wonder if the kids are asking about cheese
they're so wonderful
i'm going to order them a cheese book
right after i'm done

I got to come home to my children who missed me, kick off those fucking bastard flats, cook a dinner while they played on the deck, and relish the fact that tomorrow we could do whatever we want to, again... but I'm bolted to the bench again.

If stay-at-home motherhood is an interminable cling, like those Biggest Loser challenges where the contestants dangle from a rope over a pit filled with cow semen, fettucine alfredo, and cream-filled donuts and they just have to HANG ON, for ONE MORE MINUTE, then my one-day experience of working motherhood was an exercise in choosing the least losery of the two losers in a lose-lose situation. You know, like Fear Factor. Or the Bachelorette. Eat live fire ants or be buried alive for 72 hours? Marry Thad, the realtor from Staten Island who masturbates to his own selfies, or marry Tadd, the man-bunned horse-breeder from Connecticut who masturbates to Pinterest pages of antique dolls that have lost their eyes? Tough call.

I had to hold the line with an eye on the clock to get home to my kids when I said I'd be home; I had to pray that my sacrifice to the traffic gods would be received with pleasure and munificence. The neighbors won't miss one measley chicken, although we did get some calls about the drum circle. Good news though, it totally worked and I made it home by 4:30. Sorry, Fluffernutter (pours out some chicken feed on the ground.) #worthit

I rushed to get to work; I rushed to get home. I was never simply here.

It took all of 2 hours to miss my bolted bench, to miss watching people race around from my rooted perch.

Working moms, I hope that your reality does not reflect my feeling of being trapped in a room with Thad and Tadd. I imagine that this sense of deep-cutting compromise may be a common feeling for moms returning to work, not because I'm wise but because I'm not special, and if I felt this way my guess is that it's kind of the standard response.

Working moms, whether you work because you have to or work because you love it, I hope you go to work and take a minute every day to enjoy the thorough activation of your adult muscles. I hope you go home and take a minute every day to enjoy your children's delight that you are back. I'll tell you what, my kids don't rush me with hugs when I come back from the bathroom. I have come back from WORK to get that kind of hero's welcome. You have split yourself in half like a worm and you manage to exist in two places at once. That is some crazy voodoo hoodoo that you do and it is my JAM, b.

Stay-at-homeys, whether you're hanging on for dear life at breakneck speed, or clawing your eyes out as you explain "why this book is," I hope you take a minute every day to enjoy your fucking stamina as the kids demand all ten verses of "The Ants go Marching" in an Elmo voice... again. You are one badass mother.

Stay-at-home parenting or working parenting; winlessness, or dual defeat. Any way you slice it motherhood is a tough fucking gig. And you are tough, inside of it. Keep on keepin on. 


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