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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Which side are you on?

Last weekend Father in Chief installed a sturdy metal gate separating the computer room from the living room in order to protect the kids from the computer and the computer from the kids. But I have found that instead of locking the kids out of the computer room, I increasingly want to lock myself in.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Drug-induced bliss

To say I wasn't nervous would be an understatement. I was reclined at about a 45-degree angle on one of those hospital beds reminiscent of a Craftmatic Adjustable Bed. I was draped in one of those unflattering one-piece muumuus with the open back and flimsy ties. My clothes had been crumpled up into a clear bag with plastic snaps and stuffed into my canvas bag with food and a Vitamin Water for after my surgery. But none of that matters. I was all alone and it was wonderful.

I had not had anything to eat or drink in 14 or 15 hours. My shoes were off. My glasses were on. My mouth was dry. I did worry that I was going to have a coughing attack and there would be no saliva to swallow to coat my scratchy throat. But I only worried about it for a minute, and then I forgot about it altogether. I was holding a novel and it kept flopping forward onto my abdomen as I waved in and out of consciousness. I could hear hospital staffers rummaging around outside my partitioned space with clipboards. There were voices calling out patients' names. Even though it was just on the other side of the curtain, it sounded so far away. My mind was cloudy with thoughts of nothingness: no kids to feed, no snacks to prepare, no household duties to tend to, no deadlines to meet. Almost an hour passed this way before the surgeon came in to draw a map on my leg with black magic marker. Just as she photographed her art with her camera-phone, a nurse handed me a tiny paper cup with three pills in it--two large white ones, one tiny blue one. What? You mean I didn't already take the pills? They actually double-checked the chart since I seemed so relaxed. Then again...

The Vicodin and the Valium were dreamy and my mind wandered farther still from the daily responsibility of parenthood and my concerns about whether my boobs would burst before I could nurse Baby in Chief again. Finally the time came to be wheeled down the hall to the operating room where my arms were strapped down and I was tipped backwards just far enough so that I wouldn't slide off the table and onto my head. A large blue bonnet covered my hair, but fortunately the nurse allowed me to have my iPod in one of my ears to distract me from the sounds of scalpels and sensation of warm blood dripping down my leg. I don't remember many of the songs that came and went during that hour-long procedure, but I remember singing--loudly apparently--to Ageless Beauty from the Stars. It was sort of fitting since I was in the middle of trying to fix some of the damage that pregnancy and childbearing has done to my body. So I guess it isn't ageless beauty I am striving for, but more childless beauty in the form of nice legs.

As the bandages were wrapped around my leg, the surgeon told me that they never had someone sing throughout an entire procedure before. I didn't care. All I knew was that the worst was behind me and I was headed home to a long nap while Father in Chief tended to the wee folk.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Holding it all together

I've seen motherhood illustrated as an octopus--think February 2005, Newsweek cover when Judith Warner was about to release her book Perfect Madness--and that just isn't quite right. With an octopus, you have eight working parts all functioning independently. And presumably, if one of those limbs was severed, the other seven would still be operational. If I had to illustrate the idea of motherhood, it would be a spider web. Because if one thread is compromised, the whole thing collapses. Sure the spider would immediately start mending the damage, but it would take time.

That is a more realistic view of motherhood. Mothers are stretched in so many directions, so when mom hasn't figured out how to stabilize all the parts--child rearing, spousal relations, domestic duties, getting much-needed breaks, pursuing her own creative outlets, managing house projects, etc., etc.--the whole web suffers.

So if I don't find childcare soon, this whole thing is going to collapse. I'm a totally frustrated writer--I have so much to write and no time. Yes, you could argue that instead of writing this, I could be writing that. But at least it isn't the other way around with so much time, but nothing to write. So what is holding me back, you ask? Finding a reliable and normal person to watch Baby in Chief. Finding someone who meets my seemingly-simple criteria seems about as likely as finding a contact lens in a cornfield. With the bad luck I've had, I'm going to start taking it personally. Here are the sordid details:

  1. Successfully hired Childcare Person #1 (but then I changed my mind because she wanted to bring her two kids with her).
  2. Successfully hired Childcare Person #2 (and then she flaked and I never heard from her again).
  3. Was ready to hire Childcare Person #3 (and then she backed out because she accepted a full-time job elsewhere).
  4. Wanted to meet Childcare Person #4 (but then she hung up on me once she realized she was a 45-minute drive from my house. Who just hangs up on someone? What kind of person does that? How about a normal person's response: "Oh, wow. I didn't realize you lived so far away from me. I don't think it will work. Thanks anyway.")

Perhaps a better solution is sharing someone else's nanny. I responded to an ad and even went over to meet the mom, the boy, and the nanny (aka: interview for the privilege of sharing a nanny with them). And now I wait, and wait, and wait while they interview other prospective families. I even upped my offer to include more hours. Please, please, please pick me!! When did finding childcare become as competitive as buying a house in the Bay Area?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Shed tears? Are you kidding?

I think of images of parents weeping as their kids head off to school. That is probably about as realistic as those images of couples sleeping in separate beds, like Rob and Laurie Petrie from the Dick Van Dike Show in the 1960s. Preschooler in Chief started school last Monday and total elation was the result. If there had been tears, they would have been of utter joy. As soon as he left, I did a little happy dance and got out some chocolate to eat for breakfast. Because I can't eat chocolate for breakfast when PIC is here.

He has been the most annoying, loud, defiant, and obnoxious kid. I'm gritting my teeth just thinking about it. It is best for everyone that we are not spending as much time together. Yes it is nice that I have a bit more time to work, to exercise, and to play one-on-one with Baby in Chief. But honestly, the best part is that I am not with PIC 14 waking hours a day. The chocolate part is nice too.

I thought the worst was going to be the Terrible Twos. Everyone knows about the Terrible Twos. It's a well-advertised fact that kids are annoying and demanding and difficult when they are two. Even people without kids have heard about those Terrible Twos. And two was actually a pretty easy year. But then he turned three. And then everyone started talking about the Terrible Threes. Wait? What? Terrible Threes?? It was all false advertising. I thought two was going to be the worst year. But we took a deep breath and looked forward to the Fabulous Fours. But no, it didn't end there. Now that he's four I keep hearing about the Frustrating Fours. When does this end?? Well, frankly, I'm sick of it. I want the Fabulous Fours, not the Fuck-Off-Mom Fours. I want the Freakishly-Wonderful Fives, not the Go-Fuck-Yourself Fives. I want the Stupendous Sixes, not the Shitty Sixes. How long can this possibly last??

I guess it really doesn't matter that much because as soon as the PIC hits those good years, it will be just in time for BIC to take his turn trying to win the award for Most Annoying Kid. Ugh.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

First order of business

Fashions have changed since I was last gainfully employed. And so has my body--for better or for worse. So when I was invited by Photographer Friend to a media networking event last night in San Francisco, I sadly struggled with what to wear. After several outfit changes--complete with a list of expletives to match--I found a compromise that would work for the night, but I felt so outdated that I might as well have shown up in a shiny blazer with shoulder pads.

Over the last four years, my career has shifted from full-time writer/editor/managing producer to full-time parent/activity coordinator/household executive. As a result my wardrobe has shifted. Instead of cute and sassy business-type outfits, I have Capri pants and tank tops. Instead of financial-conference-type slacks, I have sexy dance outfits. Instead of comfortable but fashionable shoes and boots, I have Crocs or candy-red dance shoes. I have held onto some stodgy business-type outfits. But do not have any cute business casual outfits that say I'm smart, talented, somewhat stylish, and I've been shopping at least once this century. That said, I did wear my smart-girl glasses.

Lesson learned. As part of my effort to get back into business as a professional writer/freelancer/author, I need to look the part when the opportunity arises. I will go out and get two outfits that make me feel just sophisticated enough and just hip enough to fit in and feel confident, like I belong. Because as they saying goes: Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. And while my primary job is parent, I don't want that to be the primary impression I give when I'm out mingling with the natives. At least I didn't have any crusty spit-up on my shoulder or breast milk leaking down my front. So I guess it could have been much, much worse.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Desperate times call for desperate measures

IT has been officially scheduled in my calendar. In pen.

This does seem to take the spontaneity out of the whole thing. But if scheduling in advance is the only way to ensure that we succumb to post-coital exhaustion--instead of just plain old regular parental exhaustion--then I'm all for scheduling in advance.

My only hope--besides success--is that all this planning doesn't take all the fun out of it.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Standing still or left behind

I'm tired. I'm grouchy. I'm underwhelmed with parenting and overwhelmed with all of its responsibilities. I'm sure part of it just some of the ebbs and flows of having two small kids. Part of it is having too few breaks and too little help. Part of it is feeling left behind.

I think of Therapist Friend who managed to create an amazing part-time private practice. I think of City Planner Friend who seems to have been able to be promoted all while having a part-time schedule (it wasn't clear for a while if a part-time schedule would preclude her from achieving that goal). I think of Colorist Friend who gets to decide what colors will be in fashion in the seasons to come.

Then there's me. I'm wrangling with my two kids. I can't wait for it to be dinnertime so that Father in Chief comes home to give me some parental relief. Instead of totally enjoying the moment, I'm waiting for this moment to be over because it's so hard or exhausting. I never used to be that person. I don't get up and feel energized and ready to take on a new day, a new set of challenges.

Those friends seem to have figured it out. They work, they parent. They are moving on with their lives. So what is wrong with me? I haven't figured it out yet. I'm feeling bummed because I didn't land that freelance assignment for that publication I never heard of--that I didn't want anyway. I'm feeling exhausted because Preschooler in Chief has been an incredibly annoying four year old that I don't enjoy being around. I'm feeling overwhelmed because Baby in Chief never stops moving or putting things in his mouth. I'm feeling discouraged because CraigsList is a crappy place to find a childcare provider. I'm. Just. Plain. Tired. When does that stop exactly? Are there different vitamins I should be taking?

I need to remind myself that my friends who seem to have figured it out only have one kid. Having two kids is really hard work. Especially after you are used to just having one kid who sleeps through the night and can feed himself and can drink out of a cup and use the bathroom by himself. Starting over is hard--whether it's parenting or working. Despite having a year of experience under my belt with two kids (yup, BIC is having a birthday next week), I haven't figured it out. Maybe I just need to get over the fact that he is a very different kid from his brother. Many of the parenting skills I have are for a different type of kid. I guess I need new skills. As for the working part, I haven't figured that out either. I've equipped myself with the tools to produce a solid book proposal. I've skimmed the books, sloshed some ideas around my brain on what some sections might actually say when I get time to start typing up the proposal.

Maybe my goals and deadlines are too optimistic. Maybe I'm setting myself up to fail. Basically, I need to stop comparing myself to other people, all those people who are my age who have already published a book. Those people who are so perky and organized. And successful. I'll get there. I guess I need to remind myself that it's been a tough year.

Monday, July 02, 2007

No iPhone

There is no doubt that the iPhone is very cool. But really, why do I need one? Why does Father in Chief need one? He has a cell phone that works perfectly well. He has a computer at home and two at work which all offer excellent Internet capabilities, so when else will he really need Internet access? Sure the iPhone has maps, but so do those computers with Internet access. And so does his Prius with the navigation system. If we are ever out somewhere and we don't have the nav system and we are in need of directions, I'll volunteer to ask someone. What about photos of the boys? Available on those computers again. And on our television. And round the house and on his desk at work. I'll bet there are even some in his wallet.

Father in Chief's argument was that everyone else is getting one. It reminded me of one of Preschooler in Chief's favorites whines these days: It's just not fair. And as with PIC, it is just not a compelling argument. He also said with much enthusiasm that could get email at the park. As soon as he uttered those words, he realized it was a mistake. That is an argument to never, ever get one, ever.

Any new gadgets that have the potential of cutting into family time or us time are not welcome in my home. FIC and I already have so little time together that we needed to schedule nightly meetings to make sure we are still communicating. And I'm pretty sure we need to start scheduling sex if we really want that to happen as well.

Part of my objection is that I don't want my kids to grow up in a world where our family gets rid of perfectly good stuff just because there is new stuff to buy and to have. Both FIC and I grew up in families where there wasn't a lot of frivolous spending. Going out to dinner was a special treat. Getting new clothes happened because our other clothing was too small, because they were totally worn out and no longer wearable, or because the neighbor's garage sale had a bunch of clothing that would fit my brother and me. Extras were few and far between. I feel fortunate that FIC is able to contemplate buying an iPhone without including the can we afford it question into the decision-making process. But just because we can doesn't mean we should.

I don't mean to squelch FIC's excitement for the iPhone. I'm sure some day FIC will have one. I'm sure some day I'll have one. But not now. Not when our perfectly good cell phones work. And we have perfectly acceptable digital cameras. And we have more Internet access than any family needs. Maybe, just maybe, I'd be on board if ongoing, quality childcare was included in the $600 price tag.

Deep down, FIC must agree with me. Or else he probably wouldn't have asked my opinion in the first place.