Sturm und Mom

The Storm & Stress (& Joy) of Motherhood

Archive for the category “Issues”

Career Choice: Polar Bear!!

“What’s work? What do you do there?” Big Boy, who’s 3, asked me.

Casting my mind back over my Husband’s latest comments on “consumption testing”, “project deliverable spreadsheets” and “Go Live! dates”, I thought I should simplify.

“At Daddy’s work he types all day.”

Desperate to salvage the young man’s idea of labour, I asked, “What do you want to be when you grown up, Dude?”

He stopped. Scrunched up his eyes and then said, enunciating every syllable, “Polar Bear.”

“Polar Bear? How do you do that?”

“Weeelll…I’m going to borrow Dad’s tools and build, build, build, and then I’ll go inside it and be a Polar Bear. See? I’m done.”

I thought it was an another example of Why Children Should Not Have the Vote, but my Man was way more impressed.

“Military applications. Metal working skills. Carpentry skills. Tool and die making. Animatronics. He could rent himself out as a team mascot, or to parties sponsored by beer companies. Sure the hell beats the pants off the job prospects of my Poli Sci major.”

I am constantly running into people — in person and online — who in 2001 were dutifully stuffing RESP (education savings accounts) with everything they could find under the sofa cushions, and yet today are trying to get their kids to seriously consider other options. My moment of uttering the words I never thought I’d say came two Saturdays ago, when I told my uber-smart daughter, no less, that she didn’t have to go to University. Even she was shocked.

“If you do go, get some kind of practical degree like Nursing, or Engineering. Just stay away from Law and Education. And for God’s sake, if you enter Gender Studies we’re kidnapping you and hiring a deprogrammer!!”

When I met my fellow first-time Mommies in the park 11 years ago, all of would have included “got into University” as a one of our parenting benchmarks. But now it seems criminal to insist that your kids take out thousands in debt — when they don’t even have a job yet — just to satisfy some vague notion of success you had 18 years prior. Student loan debt is like the bad of an arranged marriage, without the good of a marriage. It’s going to take you years to get out of it, determine where you live, work and travel, and never, ever, make you breakfast in bed or be your date to your cousin’s wedding.

Plus, when’s the last time you read “History Degree Essential” in a help wanted ad? I’ve also increasingly run into lawyers and even doctors my age, living in houses smaller than the starter house we bought 14 years ago on our office worker salaries. Then there are the Ph.D. holders I know of who can only land part-time teaching gigs at community colleges.   (Oh, did I mention their degrees were in Physics?)  All the while the stay-at-home wives of tradesmen drop their kids of at Tae Kwon Do in an Escalade.

Yet, I still feel like a dirty heretic for even admitting this all.  Even this post took me over a day to write.  Why, in the era of pushing condoms on 16 year olds “because we shouldn’t judge their choices,” is declining to attend a degree granting institution seen as in some way shameful?  Shouldn’t purchasing something, which is what tuition is, be judged on its economic merits?  Am I the one in need of a deprogrammer?

University used to be an achievement worth the cost, but increasingly it’s becoming an expensive, four year social club pursued out of tradition and convention. Of course, we will support our girls in whatever they decide.  But, it’s is nice to have a boy who’s since decided to devote his workaday life to a career as Batman.  All he needs is a Class 5 Driver’s Licence for the Batmobile and some safety gloves for that huge spot light. No degree required.

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Hope, Terror Haze and Old German Tourists

Guess who’s too old to make Superhero poses? (Hint: Look for the Aviators…)

We went Fall camping, which is awesome if you can get two days off work, live 3½ hours from Jasper National Park, the daytime highs are 27°C and you have a tent trailer with a furnace.  Yes, that’s right.  Not a backbacking tent which is enveloped with condensation by 4 AM, but a nice cozy tent trailer with a kick-butt furnace pumping out the BTU’s all night.  This is necessary in the Rocky Mountains because, no matter how warm it is mid-day, come breakfast time it’s going to be hovering around 5°C.  From toques, to shorts, to fleece, to toques all in 16 hour period.  Nature is not that forgiving, especially to your wardrobe.

I would say that I was tough, but that would be a lie.  Hardy, in that I can take all the frosted breath and brisk hikes to the ladies’ washroom.   Dear Husband convinced me to take all the kids — including the small ones — up the Jasper Tramway, which can best be described as a tiny, metal box which zooms up the side of a rock face attached to a tiny, metal cable, all while your children press their oblivious faces to the window screaming, “Look how far doooowwn it is!”   Now I, sans kids, had hiked up this rock face and I thought it was quite tame.  However I had never considered what a sheer drop of 2400 odd feet combined with progeny with no common sense and slow reflexes would do to my adrenaline level.  We’re talking about a 3 year old who runs to the side of a cliff, starts jumping up and down, yelling:  “If you jumped off this cliff, you would be DEEEAAAAD!!!  Right Mommy?!!”  Or nearly crashes into the sliding glass doors that open onto the tram when it isn’t there, just an elevator shaft straight into Hell, to, yet again, demonstrate what one should NOT do in the name of safety.  When we finally touched down, unharmed, on God’s sweet Earth at the bottom, Dear Husband asked me if I was okay.

“A haze of terror.  That’s all I remember.  Children running to their death and sheer, unadulterated terror.”

He agreed not to take me back up there again.

Jasper, like all the Rocky Mountains, attracts visitors from all over the world.  English, Australians, Japanese (less and less), Chinese (more and more), Americans (varies from year to year), and always, Germans.   It wouldn’t feel like you hit the mountains unless you heard “ich bin…” or “Stimmt!” at some point when walking around town.  If the Parks are open, there’s a German somewhere in it.  Including all over our campground.  Which was the weirdest part of our trip.  All the sites in this campground are extremely open, including ours which was smack-dab next to a walking path to the showers.  All the nice Commonwealth types would walk by with a friendly greeting and smile at the children.  The Germans though, would return my hello, and immediately look away.  As soon as our gaze was averted, they would then start staring at our children.  When I caught them, they would immediately look away, and pretend to be really interested in a tree.  This happened over, and over, and over again.

Our way too young to be driving a rented RV site neighbours, were the worst.  This young couple could barely mutter a word to us, but would stand there — when they thought we didn’t see them — and gawk at us.  I couldn’t understand why they just didn’t come up and ask us where the kids were from.   But then it I caught one facial expression that I was not meant to see.  Embarrassment.  They were staring because they felt it was obscene to see a family with so many children.  They were watching a freak show, and they didn’t want to admit it.  No, these folks had no shame in driving around in a Granny-mobile in their 30’s, wearing uber-expensive mountaineering clothes to walk around handicap accessible groomed trails, and leaving their empty wine bottles at the entrance to the campsites for the “forest fairies” to collect for recycling, but were ashamed for us that we had too many children for their tastes.  Huh.  Auf Wiedersehen right back at you, Sweetheart.  (Did I mention the Australians were really nice?)

I have children because I have hope.  At one point I had no hope, and I had no children.  I do not believe that life is pointless, I do not believe that God will fail, and I do not believe that things will ever get so bad that I will wish that the human race would disappear in favour of the Dominion of Slugs.  There’s a trite expression, “Children are God’s way of saying the world should go on.”  They are also people’s way of saying that they should go on.  But if you have no hope, and then why should you go on?  Waste your money and time travelling around foreign countries, trying to fill your days with some pleasure and diversion, before it all comes to its meaningless end.  Staring at big families when they’re not looking.  Like I said, Auf Wiedersehen Sweetheart.

(Sorry for the rant.  Did I mention the Australians were really, really nice?)

Don’t Call Your Kids Rude Names, Even Though They Earned It

You have a problem with me, Mom?

“Be careful when you open that pop,” I warned Dear Husband.  “They kids were in the pantry shaking it up today.”

“You know that comedian you don’t approve of, who calls his kid a that name?”

“I just don’t think you should call your kids that.”

“You have to admit he has a point.  People who take your favourite drink, shake it for no reason so it loses all it’s fizz and  sprays all over you when you open it, and then puts it right back so you don’t know, well, let’s be honest. That person is an ass    .”

In response, I just looked at him and pursed my lips, which means, Yeah, maybe you’re right, but push it and you’ll find yourself in all kinds of wrong.  But he does have a point. If your children keep acting like children once they reach adulthood, they would correctly called all sorts of nasty names.

Like this kid:  She comes home and tells me that she won’t use the school bathroom stalls, because she is sure that the lock will fail and she will never get out.  This, of course, is crazy.  I try to role play asking for new pants from the Lost and Found, when she runs upstairs to use the — you guessed it — bathroom, knocking the humungous package of toilet paper off the stairs from which it was to be carried to the — guess again — upstairs bathroom, leaving it in the middle of the room.  She comes back 5 minutes later, interrupting me to shout, “WHERE’S THE TOILET PAPER?”   I pointed to the floor, and I went back to making supper.  Imagine my surprise when I found that package lying right where it fell, with just one roll clawed out of the package.  If you do that when you’re 35, there’s a name for you.

Oh, and remember sweet, little Princess?  After playing with her for nearly an hour, I tried to sit down and listen to an interesting audio clip posted on the Dumb Old Housewives blog.  She walks over, squeezes onto my lap, and asks all these questions about the stock photos that are playing, so I can’t hear.  Finally, “How looong is this?  It’s sooooo boring.”  Meaning:  You are welcome to entertain yourself, as long as it also entertains me.  Again, if you’re pulling this stunt anytime after the 3rd decade of your life, it’s not going win you a nice nickname.

But, they aren’t bad kids, just kids.  This is childish behaviour.  Immature.  Juvenile.  They aren’t doing this because they have decided the world should revolve around them.  It’s just that no one has taught them any better.   The teaching being my job, the job of a parent.

I would like to say I always treat my kids with respect because I am such a morally developed person.  But really, if I call them a jerk, they’d probably just look me in the eye and ask, “Oh?  It must be how I was raised.”  I have enough trouble with these kids without being shown up by the under 11 set.

Does this Baby Picture Make You Sick?

How annoying is this?

I’m sure by now you’ve heard of the app that lets you replace the pictures of your Facebook friends’ kids with those of kittens, sunsets and bacon.  Unbaby.me‘s website promises to “delete…babies from your Newsfeed permantently — by replacing them with awesome stuff…Now you don’t have to look at all your friends’ annoying kids”.  Yeah, who would want to look at pictures of human beings, when you could amuse yourself with pics of stuff to own, watch or consume (and judging from some of the sample photos on the website, also lust and mock.)

I don’t think anyone who’s tried to take more than zero kids onto a Tim Horton’s Sunday around noon could be that surprised at this.  And I bet it’s not just Hipsters among the over 71,000 “Likes” — some of the dirty looks that little old ladies, (sorry, I think the term they prefer is “cougar”) shoot you when it appears that the generation that is going to be funding their twilight years of government pensions and nursing care, might disturb their weekly Maple Glazed Danish and Double-Double, could peel paint.  (By the way, this is precisely why I avoid eye contact in public places.)

I do find it bizarre that those of us who have chosen to sacrifice the present for the sake of providing everyone else with a collective future, get cast as selfish, annoying dweebs, who just want to talk on and on about our kids.  I totally agree that forgoing children for a higher purpose is a very noble and commendable sacrifice.  Getting really good at Call of Duty, or devoting more time to your dogs doesn’t even register, Folks.

This reminds me of a something from woman’s magazine I saw from the 1960’s.  It was the Shocking! Emotional! tale of a mother who was going to use birth control, despite whatever her Priest said.  “What about the children I already have?  If I have more, won’t it be unfair to them?”  This seems so quaint now, considering the massive experiment in family living that would follow in the divorce happy 1970’s and 1980’s, calling a younger brother and sister in an intact family “unfair.”

However if this is unfair, with 5 siblings my kids must be first in line in the Completely Shafted Department, just itching to get their own Android compatible device, so that they can purge all those annoying pictures of their sisters in diapers.  And yes, they surely can complain when things aren’t so smooth between them.  But when the two oldest, Tall Girl and Sweetie Pie, made it home from camp, they did something that even I didn’t expect. As they piled out of the van, they ran first to me for a hug.  Total reassurance that they were home and Mom was there.  But, then they immediately started for Baby.  They picked her up, and carried her around, and almost started to fight over who got to give her a hug.  Baby, of course, lapped it up and was her super, smiley, giggly, baby perfection, waving hi with her fat little hand.  Funny, their faces didn’t look put out or annoyed.  Joyful would be more like it.

I really don’t know why people hate kids.  Maybe they hate part of themselves.  But as I’ve said before, people are awesome.  Even the noisy, inconvenient, over-photographed little ones.

Are We All a Bunch of Braggarts?

Check out this awesome article at the Wall Street Journal about bragging and social media (like, maybe, the Blogosphere would be included?)  Are We All Braggarts Now? – WSJ.com.

As Elizabeth Bernstein writes,

Changes in parenting style also play a role. Nowadays, every moment—first day of school, exhausted nap in the back seat of the car—is documented. The problem is that these shared moments can easily come off as crowing about how great Mom and Dad are to have raised such an adorable kid.

We’ve become so accustomed to boasting that we don’t even realize what we’re doing. And it’s harmful to our relationships because it turns people off.

Read the rest here.  I remember 25 years ago, being told by an older co-worker to “never say anything negative.”

People don’t like downers, she said.  If you say something, make it positive.  If someone asks how your trip was, say it was great, even if you spent the entire time indoors eating Dorritos from the vending machine and making up dialogue with the TV turned down.

As for parenting, and as a parent blogger, you have to wonder how all this “look nice Luv, I want to put this picture on Facebook” is warping our kids minds and view of the world.  But is there a corollary of “suckitude bragging”?  You know, the folks that no matter how bad you’ve got it, they’ve got it one stroke worse?

Anyways.  I’ve got to fold laundry while standing on my un-vacuumed carpet while I gaze out the window at my no-longer-weeded garden.  I told the kids to get out their pj’s but they ignored me.

There.  I hope that made you feel better.

Am I a Narcissistic Psycho for Putting My Kids’ Pictures on My Blog?

No, really.  That’s a real question for you all, not a prelude for me to shout in ALL CAPS for the next 400 words about how everything is OK.  I’m wondering if I’ve made a mistake decorating this page with pictures of my still-minor children.

All this comes down to those nasty Stats and Search Engine Terms.  Yesterday, I had a (mild) spike in traffic (for those of you with lives and not blogs 😉 that means visitors to my blog page,) and upon closer investigation, it all came from a Google Image Search from Switzerland.  Which reminded me that “Boy Playing with Barbie” brings up Big Boy as the 5th top image in Google — at least on my computer since Google and other search engines trick us into thinking the little customized version of the world that they present us is the same for everyone.   But it started to creep me out, and leads me to wonder where were my kids’ pics are going, who was looking, and would they end up somewhere weird one day.  Its not just creepy deviants — are these photos going into advertising, viral emails, Internet memes?  Are their faces going to be Photoshopped into the Joke of the Day at the latest Lumpen Prol Mock Site?

I’m trying to not have delusions of grandeur here.  My kids — while they will always remain in my eyes the most beautiful creatures alive — realistically land the middle band of “pleasant” in the attractiveness scale.  And Ansel Adams I ain’t (which is probably good because I don’t think he was known for his portraiture.)   And I know that “everyone does it,” and with no ill effects so far for the most part.  Plus, kid shots are 96% of the photos that I have.  It’s them or the tulip, baby.

This has really started to bother me, to the point that I thought about pulling down my blog while I figured it out.  However, considering my deep seated aversion to quitting anything even when it sucks, the whole idea of giving up caused me too much anxiety, and I had to write a blog post to calm down.  *Sigh*  What’s a crazy person to do?

Am I a terrible woman using the likeness of my unsuspecting offspring to attract eyeballs in a feeble attempt to brand myself, never considering the long term damage my profligate posting may be doing?  Or am I just a boring old housewife livening up the drab Internet with my random pics of innocence and domestic bliss?

Psycho or Mrs. June Cleaver?  I guess I’ll just have to think about it.  Feel free to wade in below.  In the meantime, here’s that picture of the tulip.

Update! I took Dr. Drew’s Online Narcissism Test and out of a possible score of 40, I got a 4 (the average is 15.) So, I might be crazy, but I’m probably not a Narcissist. I’m going to go think about myself for a while — looks like I’ve fallen down in that area so far….might explain why my idea of me-time is folding laundry.

Community That Lifts You Up, and Holds You Down

I love my new backyard!!!!

I am now typing this in my brand new address.  The movers came a week ago to take the heavy furniture and the too large boxes in their (what would turn out to be too small) truck.  Auntie took the little kids, school took the big ones, and an installation appointment took my Sweetheart to the new house, leaving me all alone with an open front door.  Desperately needing to keep out of the way least I cause a Worker’s Compensation Board claim, I stood at the kitchen island, trying not to look indolent.  The multi-coloured activity that is recess at the playground of the school down the block caught my eye.  Suddenly, I realized now that I was leaving, how much I had connected myself to that swarming mass, even though they weren’t necessarily my children out there.  I had a kinship to those kids and those parents that I saw everyday out my kitchen window, even when my own little ones were sitting beside me eating apple slices and Triscuits.  The melancholy realization struck me that my moving way meant losing a community that I didn’t even know I had.

How much of our sense of community is more than just physical?  Location, work, Church, sports — these are the easy identifiers to where we belong.  But we all carry around in our heads an idea of who we belong to, and who belongs to us.  Much the same way that search engines customize their results based on past search requests, we start to view the world as a collection of groups, placing ourselves as members in or out of them.  But what happens when we find that our self-selected group doesn’t think we belong?  Like when your favourite comedy suddenly turns the jokes on what you hold most dear, and you realize that they see you not as a co-conspirator but as ridiculous.  Or when a group of Moms organized a playdate in front of my friend, making a conspicuous effort to let her know she wasn’t invited.  There is something psychically jarring about finding out that as far as part of your identity is concerned, everyone voted and you don’t belong.

People often write, often quite beautifully, (like Jen at Conversion Diary did recently about a horrible motorcycle fatality in her neighbourhood,) about how community can stitch us together, bind us up, and make us whole.  But in my sadness in leaving my familiar haunts, I also mutter “and good riddance to that.”  Community can lift us up, but sometimes it keeps us down.  My last neighbourhood paired streets of McMansions straining at the setbacks of their city lots, with blocks of status seeking starter homes and condominiums.  People worked so hard and long to take constant trips to Mexico, carry flashy purses, and buy their 8 year olds Macbook Pro’s for Christmas — they got their iPhone for Kindergarten Grad — that they were never around.  Every evening at 5:55 PM, it was a line of luxury cars down that same school street as parents rushed to make it to After School Care pick-up before the fines kicked in.  I saw my neighbour with kids twice in the year that she lived 5 doors down from me.  She was such a stranger I walked right by her at the Public Pool, and didn’t clue in until I was 20′ past, that I had just snubbed her.

I hoping, praying, that things will be different in our new digs.  We’ve already met more neighbours here, than I did the entire 7 years I lived in my old house.  Perhaps this house will bring more of the same, but it’s too soon to tell.  And until then, I am hoping that we have landed into a community that’s more chatting on the sidewalk, and less chasing after the latest win.

What Makes a Good Mom?

Letting a baby play with a plastic bag probably wouldn't qualify as good Motherhood.

This last week my chest felt like it was in a vise, but not from anything physical.  I was fighting off anxiety over the kids’ crazy baking schedule.  Brownies for Tall Girls’ class on her birthday, stollen for Sweetie Pie’s class on her “Share a Bread” day, and gingerbread cookies for Art Girl for her presentation on family traditions.  I tried to convince Art Girl that our new family tradition was hiding in bed trying to ignore all the coloured sheets of paper in her backpack announcing more school “FUN!!!”, but she didn’t buy it.

I know what you’re saying.  “So, Mrs. Busypants, just say no.”  But no one wants to be the Mom whose kid doesn’t bring the treats on her birthday, who’s presentation didn’t include the snacks that the student teacher suggested that you could provide (in a letter to the whole class, by the way.)   Motherhood has become a competitive sport with kids as our proxy players.

But why?  How did things get like this?   This debate was brought to my mind by the whole “Never worked a day in her life” kerfuffle.  Which then reminded me of the times when I was out with my stay-at-home mom peers and heard that Moms with nannies, “don’t love their kids as much as us.”  And the time my friend worried aloud if her son’s autism was due to the TV she let him watch.  Or the sadness I felt reading that Veronique at Vie de Cirque she went to Grad school in part over feeling “that (she) was a rather lousy mother,” (which I totally don’t get because her blog always makes me feel like a couch potato slacker.)

This self-loathing coupled with drive-by character assassination and the endless busy-busy-busy, is due I’m sure to that the fact that are target is worse than just moving.  It flies around the room like a laser pointer piloted like a toddler, landing on everything for exactly 3 milliseconds.  There is no consensus on what makes a good Mother.  When is your job done?  What do you owe those little angels of yours?  A college education?  A Tiger Mother study schedule?  Non-stop “advocating” until they are placed in the gifted class?  A TV?  Trans-fat free diet?  Perfect spank-free discipline delivered in a monotone voice?  Three meals a day and roof over their heads?  Lots of money?  Frugality and simplicity?  Really, I ask what?

And God forbid if you get it wrong.  Your adult children have the licence to go on about how their mistakes in life are somehow due to you.  (Thanks Dr. Freud!)  And that’s what we’re fighting against:  someone someday looking at our messed up offspring and thinking “what kind of bad mother let’s that happen?”  After all the sleepless nights, the money spent, the stretch marks from here to your ankles, this is what just might come your way:  a judgement of failure.  You should have done more.  What that more might be, that’s not so forthcoming.  But judgement, as a society we’ve got loads of that.

What makes a good Mom?  You try your best with what you have.  Period.  Really, what more can anyone do?  But more importantly, we are about to pass this toxic hate cult on to the next generation.  I’m not sure how happy I’ll feel watching my daughters fall as casualties in the Mommy Wars.  While I’m not sure where this all began, I feel deep down in my bones that this is where is all should end.  I believe we need to have a conversation on the Philosophy of Motherhood.  As a society children are now (mostly) fed, clothed and sheltered.  We need to look at the opportunities this affluence has given us and decide what we are going to do with it.

Because I can’t believe that God and nature intended Motherhood to be a guilt laden taxi-service marathon, and until we figure out otherwise, that’s just what it’s going to continue to be.

Why Introverts Don’t Have Lots of Kids

Just a nice quiet day around here

I am an Introvert.  I prefer to think things through, to have deep one-on-one conversations, to really delve into the philosophy of something rather than just skimming the surface of a lot of topics.  And sometimes my kids make me feel like I have a ringing alarm clock strapped to my head.

I am reading (or trying to at least) a fascinating book by Susan Cain called Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.  In it she discusses fascinating research into personality and neurology, that aims to figure out why some of us draw our energy from being outgoing and interacting with others, while others (like myself, my husband and a bunch of the kids) draw their energy from being solitary and really thinking deeply about things.  Breadth versus depth, warrior commanders versus philosopher kings, you get the idea.

So a book like this is right up my alley.  Each page is more fascinating than the last. Until I actually tried to steal a few quiet minutes to read it.  As I bent my head over the page…..

“WHHWAHHHHAAAIEIEIIIEAAA”!!!!!!

Baby started screaming and hysterically laughing, while banging the side of the tub.  Yes, I was trying to read a few pages as I sat next to Art Girl and Baby in the bathtub.  Art Girl’s new Allergist recommended daily baths to help her eczema.   (By daily, he meant up to three times daily.  It’s hard enough for me to remember to remind her to brush her teeth, so I am really hoping that her skin is dramatically improved by her trips of the Upstairs Main Bath Spa.)

Art Girl was oblivious to all this.  She was busy squirting water with a latex rubber octopus all over the floor and walls.

“Mom, look!  The Octopus has to go to the doctor!”

At this she piled poor, sickly Octopus into a floating bucket (why is that in there?) filled it with water and proceeded to dump it all over Baby’s head.

Baby is not amused.  She now starts crying while trying to climb out of the tub, splashing water and furiously clutching for my dear, neglected book that I am holding over my head as I try to find a place that hasn’t been covered with 3mm of water from all the flaying and squirting.

“Stop it!  Hold on!  Wait a sec!” I cry.  Then….

“Ring. Ring. Mommy.  Ring. Ring. Mommy.”

I grit my teeth at another interruption.  Princess, who was banished from the bathroom 2 minutes ago for encouraging Baby to climb out of the tub, is back.  She is standing on the other side of the closed bathroom door, calling me on her imaginary cell phone, which is really her fist put up to her ear.  For some reason, this always compels me to put my fist to my ear and answer her.

“Yes, Mommy here.  I’m really busy and I have to call you back.”

No!! You don’t know who this is yet, Mommy.  We have to start over.  Ring. Ring. Mommy….”

“Helllo-who-is-this?” I interrupt trying to answer my hand while towelling a wriggling 10 month old with the other.

“Hi, Mommy. It’s me. I’m sending you a letter. Are you having a nice day?”

“Yeah.  It’s great.  Bye”  I say in my “I don’t want to be remembered as the 21st Century’s Mommy Dearest” fake nice voice.  By now, Baby is dry and I am wrestling her into a diaper, and then sleeper.  I open the door and ask the nearest older girl to play with for 5 minutes while I help Art Girl with all her medicated creams and ointments.  As I walk past my book, my dear abandoned book, it reminds me of the deep thoughts I was going to have.  Something about personality and kids and….

Knock.  Knock.  Knock.  “Mail delivery for Mommy!  Mail delivery for…YOU SQUIRTED WATER ALL OVER MY LETTER!!  MOMMMY!!”

One day I’ll finish that book.  It will be a good day, a very good day.

Escape from Perfectland

If you buy my house, I'll thrown in my laundry!!

I was agreeing with Elizabeth Esther’s take on Mommy Bloggers and their “oh-so-natural” lives, when I started trying to figure out why we do this to ourselves.  Any Mother who’s been on the Internet knows what I’m talking about here:  all those ever so perfect blogs with the lovely pictures of the great crafts, the repurposed toddler dresses, the homemade educational toys, the organic gluten-free everything to eat, the hand painted baby’s room mural.  And just as Elizabeth points out (the other one,) as soon as you’ve been around the block a few times, you know that this isn’t the whole story.  It can’t be.  Motherhood is a messy, tumultuous business, with lots of fibs, and fudges, and milk spilt all over the organic steamed broccoli that no one will eat anyway.

I ruminate upon this as I scrub my house within an inch of its drywall.  Part of the reason that this poor blog has been put out to pasture for the past week is that we are desperately trying to list our house as soon as possible.  Part of the work required, as anyone who has tried to sell a house in the last 4 years will tell you, is that it must look Perfect.  As is in “Wow!  I didn’t know that a structure could be occupied continuously for 30 years, and have no one ever set foot in it.”  Every single picture?  GONE!  Kids’ toothbrushes in the bathroom?  HIDE THEM!  Kids’ toys anywhere?  BURN THEM!  Tiny little toe prints on the hardwood?  WHAT??  YOU MEAN YOU ARE STILL ALLOWING YOUR CHILDREN TO WALK IN YOUR HOUSE?  (And you said you are serious about selling?  Parents.)

Over and over again I keep coming up with the news that people, especially younger Gen X’s and Millennials, want perfect and they want it now.  They want a starter home with slate counters, stainless steel kitchens, and some kind of rare rainforest hardwood that can only be harvested by indigenous tree climbers on alternating Full Moons.  And they don’t mind paying mortgages for 35 years to get all this, either.  Because which is worse, being owned by a Bank or having to wait?  It seems that most folks are picking Perfect over Free.  And what’s true in real estate, is just as true in Motherhood.

“So, what?” you might be saying.  “Hasn’t it always been like this?  June Cleaver and 2.5 in the neat and tidy house?  Pot roast on the table and Dad gets his pension 65?”

But, back then everyone wanted the Perfect Life, but everyone agreed on what the Perfect Life was.  Children, Mom at home, Dad gainfully employed, ownership of a modest house, a car in the driveway.  Now, no matter what Perfect you seek to emulate, someone is there telling you how wrong you are.  Stay-at-home?  That’s nice, until your kids need the programs that your extra income would have bought.  Birthday party?  Oh sweet, actually too sweet, since all that sugar will ruin their health.  Put them in hockey?  Fine, unless running to all those games means you eat too much fast-food in the car.  But I suppose if good health isn’t a priority for you…..

I once heard a mom of Baby-Boomers proclaim that, “As long as they graduated high school, we knew we had finished as parents.”  Could you imagine how great that would be?  That we could define success in Motherhood as raising adults that have finished high school, got a job and moved out?  And we as parents could only be required to provide a home environment that would allow them to do that.  Everything else, the organic diet, the homeschooling, the musical theatre camp, was just an “if you want”?   Maybe we would have fewer adults graduating with their second Masters without any prospect of gainful employment, and thirty-something parents asking their kids’ Grandparents for “help” with the mortgage.

All this uncertainty, married with a paranoia of unknowingly making a mistake, is fuelling this “my lovely life” blog-o-frenzy.  That’s why, as evident in many of the comments in Elizabeth’s original post, these ladies respond as if they are the ones under attack — because in their minds they have responded to this feeling of never being good enough by drawing up the lines of their own battle and fighting back.  Except, that by doing that, they unwittingly become soldiers in the enemy’s army.  You don’t overcome June Cleaver Perfect, or Celebrity Mom Perfect, by substituting Crunchy Momma Perfect.  We need to remember that some of the greatest human beings ever to live never had Mothers who cared about how white the toes of their socks were, and as for diet — only cared that they had one.

All this Perfect is costing us our freedom; freedom to be happy, to enjoy ourselves as Mothers, to make choices based on what we think is best rather than on how we will be judged.  So I’ve said good-bye to Perfectland, and never looked back.  Let me tell you, the grass, even littered with dollarstore toys, fruit leather wrappers and the occasional Happy Meal wrapper, is still a heck of a lot greener.

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