What Do You DO All Day?

Lindsay Horvath is a 36 year old stay-at-home-mom. She writes, photographs, mothers and drinks her way through each day. If you want to know more, she blogs at horvathhappenings.wordpress.com.

Ahh…the proverbial question all stay-at-home-moms encounter routinely…the proverbial question that has no clear answer, because to piece it all out in words and descriptions often doesn’t even come close to what SAHMs do all day.  (Though, for the record, there’s a Forbes quote floating around that I recently read stating that if SAHMs were paid for all that they do–childcare, housework, chaufferring, etc –their annual salary would be $112K. ) But then, someone made this.  http://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/this-beautiful-short-film-shows-exactly-what-it-is-that-a-st And not only does it show what all of us SAHMs do all day (hint: it’s not watching daytime television in pjs while eating bon bons!!) but it also lights a fire under why  moms do what they do and why it is such important work.  I would say this video extends beyond SAHMs, because in a lot of ways working moms do all this and then go work an 8 hour job, only to come home and do more.  And of course, they have weekends.  I implore you to watch the above link–it’s about 3 minutes long–but if you don’t, it’s a short video capturing moments throughout a day of 3 different moms-of-small-kids’ lives.  Of course set to sappy music, so if you have any amount of estrogen in your body, break out a few tissues first. Being someone who is in the thick of this life that is known as Staying Home With The Kids I can state that this video really did bring tears to my eyes.  Because it so poignantly captures the things that are so mundane and tiresome and weary-inducing to moms are actually so instrumental in how we raise and love our kids…from letting them “help” us make breakfast to wiping noses to simple acts of patting their backs and holding them.  Wah.

And, as I get to the point where I’ve had more years in this gig than I have left in this gig, I start to wonder what am I going to do once Stella starts kindergarten?  Even though there are lots of things that I know I want to do and there’s still a whole lot of SAHM’ing left when the kids start school, namely in the form of chauffering.  And I think, I’m going to miss them terribly even though I don’t miss Gabey terribly since he started kindergarten (I do miss him…but not terribly.  I’m happy to drop him off in the morning and just as happy to pick him up in the afternoon.  It is what it is, and will probably be what it will be when Stella starts school too.) And yet…so much of what I do is exhausting, mind-numbing, and challenging.  But its hard to put it into words, and when I’ve tried–both to non-parents and to working parents (to a degree) I sort of get a look that says “Oh…” because it just doesn’t sound that taxing.  You have to get your kids dressed and feed them breakfast?  Yeah?  You hang out at home with your 2-year-old all day?  Sounds rough. And to complain about anything involving being a SAHM, ever, puts you in the category of “people who have a luxury afforded them who are complaining”.  Because it IS a luxury, to me and to them, but that does not mean that it’s all a big rainbow and unicorn macaroni necklace-making naptime party for all.  It doesn’t mean I don’t love it, cherish it.  And I think that’s why I love this video so much. Every single morning I make my kids something simple for breakfast…every single morning they fight.  EVERY. SINGLE. MORNING.  The little one often falls off her chair because she’s screwing around, and my morning is spent making food, feeding, wiping messes, kissing tears, prodding and nagging “put on your shoes” “15 more minutes!” “brush your teeth” “let’s go potty!”  Nearly every morning I eat standing up, between making food, cleaning the kitchen, breaking up fights, preparing for departure.  Yes, preparing for departure. There’s no such things walking out the door.  There’s the bringing of stuff.  The packing of bags.  The putting on of coats.  The last-minute cries of I need to poop right now!  The crying and fighting over who opens the door first.  The fight to put the 2-year-old in the car seat (every day.  EVERY car trip.)  The dog running in and out.  The backseat fighting Its mine…no, its MINE!  It’s not like when adults walk out of the house and get into the car, buckle up, and go.  Not in the slightest.

gabe 1

And then there’s the drop off at school…waiting in a line of cars.  The daily grind of chores, or errands, or perhaps a playdate or library class.  Everything centered around 12:30 being nap time, or centered around skipping nap time and planning for the inevitable behavioral fall out.  Leaving the house 30 minutes before school gets out in order to get a parking space so I don’t have to carry my 25 lb child across a large field to meet my 6-year-old at the school door.  Waiting.  Dealing with the whining and the crying and the boredom of waiting on the 2-year-old end.  The inevitable fighting that begins before even pulling out of the parking lot…over a random red pool ball that sits inexplicably in the backseat (how?  why?  I can’t even…)  Yelling from mom, threats to call Santa, tears from the 6-year-old, screams of angst (or something) from the 2-year-old.  Arrival at karate.  The dragging of kids from the car across what is always a crazy parking lot due to it being in a strip mall.  The rush to get inside, with just minutes to spare.  To get changed, take the 2-year-old to the potty, where she fights if she doesn’t get to turn on the light, shut the handle on the door, pull down her own pants, do it by myself!  So I let her, but sometimes I forgo washing her hands because we need to get back out to help the 6-year-old get his uniform tied and his belt on before class begins.  So after kneeling on the floor of a public (more or less) restroom, you choose between hand washing and a little boy being on time for class.

gabe 2

And then you sit, for 30 minutes, and watch this (twice a week).  With a 2-year-old.  Who wants your phone.  And your drink.  And gum, which she isn’t allowed.  And she pulls unsavory items like tampons and lighters (??) out of your purse and offers them to strangers.  And she begs to go “see da fishies!” so you walk down the long, cold hallway of the strip mall, many times, to the pet store.  Inevitably you end up carrying her both ways, and sometimes she will nestle her head in your neck and murmur “I lub you Mommy” and it makes the screaming back pain feel like nothing.  Other times, she will for no reason known to anyone on earth, hit you in the face and wrinkle up her nose and lower her eyebrows and grin like every bully in the history of bully-dom and you will want to drop her right there and send her the bills for your chiropractor when she’s 18.  But of course, you don’t, you calmly explain we don’t hit and keep walking.

stella 1

This is a pretty accurate description of my day, many days.  And then we go home.  Depending on the night, it’s either bathtime while Gabe cooks, then dinner – which is often like a 3 ring circus – then TV and then bed.  Or, if he’s working, its dinner a la mom, bathtime, TV show, and bed.  Dad dinner nights are bit smoother because OMG there are TWO adults working here.  Mom dinner nights are either (a) highly innutritious or (b) highly stressful or (c) take out.  Tonight, I cooked a 3 course breakfast for dinner type dinner and it was all I could do to keep things together.  Between the kids fighting over who was “helping” me to complaining when I DID ask them to help by setting the table, letting the dog out, etc.  Gabey announcing in the middle of the most precarious timing moment (fried eggs!  flipping French toast!) that he was “just going to go take a bath because I’m bored” which led to me saying “NO” which led to Stella screaming and sobbing because “I wanna take a BATHHHHH!”  Then there was a falling-off-the-island-chair incident.  Then I realized the dog was let out…but not back in.  And I burned some French toast.  And Stella “stole” Gabe’s chapstick from his back pack which resulted in a Hunger Games-esque chase around the house.  And then I served them dinner.  And repeatedly filled cups, got more syrup, cut up bacon, got an extra napkin, etc etc–all of which led to me sitting down to eat as the two of them were finishing up.  For just one moment of peace, and at this moment, Gabe walked in and took sight of the three of us at the island, blissfully chewing away.  “Ohhhh, breakfast for dinner.  Nice.  So what did you do today?” Yes.  What DID I do?  Because I suppose, from an outsider point (and I don’t mean Gabe per say, just anyone in general) it would look like the only thing I did all day was decorate our mantle for Christmas.  Not the whole house mind you.  Just the mantle. And then we went up and did baths, and Stella screamed at Gabey because he was pooping while she wanted to dump the pee from her little kid potty in the big potty and then more screaming because the water in the bath was too hot, but the water coming out was too cold and I not washing my hair! and Where’s MY jammies and How come Stella gets to wear Christmas jammies and I don’t? No fair.” And Where MY t-shirt..Gabey have t-shirt…where MINE!!?? and on and on and on down to the living room for a half hour of TV before bed.  In which one kid mercifully, wonderfully sits and stares like a vegetable (and I used to complain about that haha!) and the other is climbing in baskets, stealing my water, spilling my water, rolling on the dog bed (freshly bathed and in fleece pjs, mind you), hitting her brother for no apparent reason, begging for my phone, begging for food, begging for juice until finally.  FINALLY.  7 pm.

stella 2

And that’s when the paradox kicks in.  You just want the madness of little people to end, to drink some wine, talk to grown-ups, watch television shows with the F word and do whatever the hell you want even if it’s just Facebooking and watching The Walking Dead, which you will certainly fall asleep during.  But then you carry a little, not so heavy, body upstairs…take her to the potty and marvel that she’s already potty-trained.  Read her a Disney princess story that you swore you’d never read but you do because she loves it so much.  And feel her little body and kiss her little cheek against yours as you read.  Talk about your day and feel flooded with warmth when she cocks her head and says sweetly, “Tell me something” as you said to her when she just learned to talk and you just wanted to hear her talk at night.  Then she tells you funny things and uses proper grammar in the voice of a baby and you want to squeeze her and eat her up.  Then you go through the nightly song rendition in which she, not you, performs–in no particular order–The Elmo Song, Beat It, Jingle Bells, and the ABCs.  Then you tuck her in, cover up her and 4 baby dolls, turn on the turtle music.  You say “I love you” and she says “I love you Mommy!”   And you walk out with just a bit of bittersweet pangs of…what?  All day, just wanting a little break and when it comes?  You’re tired, and you already miss them, and every scream, tantrum, refusal, mess, and disobedience is rendered null and void by the tiny little sing-song voice. “I love you Mommy!” And then you listen to your 6 y ear old try to read you a book, and listen to his ramblings about his day, and think about how you can’t really carry him anymore, and think that you need to spend more time just talking to him and hanging out with him.  And you will, tomorrow.  When it starts all over.  When you get up at 6:30 so you can have an hour and 15 minutes of silence with nothing but coffee, a dog, a computer and if you’re feeling ambitious, laundry going.  When inevitably the 6-year-old will come downstairs fully dressed and he’ll quietly play next to you and it will remind you of when he was a toddler and did this.  And then you’ll realize “Shit!  Its 7:45!” and you’ll get up the 2-year-old, who will greet you with kisses and love and immediately scream because her potty seat is still drying, or she doesn’t want to get dressed, or “Gabey has the pink bowl!  That’s MY bowl!”  And so it goes. But the very essence of what we, SAHMs, do all day lies in those quiet moments.  What all moms do really.  A hand on a kid’s back.  Band-aids applied.  Cardboard boxes turned into forts.  Meal prep.  Feeding.  Driving.  Cleaning.  Caring.  Holding.  Loving.  Mothering. So simple, vague, so hard and so profound.  So time-consuming, so exhausting, so boring at times, so enchanting.  So fun.  So rewarding.  Frightening.  Painful.  Important. So I guess a really good answer to the ever-pondered question what do you DO all day would simply be this: I’m raising my children.  It has its perks (hello, pool days and jammie days and art projects) and its downfalls (hello, many hours spent in the car listening to fights, being exhausted more days than not, dressing little bodies, wiping noses, sharing food…).  But THAT is what I “do all day”.  Raise my kids.  And in the thick of it its hard sometimes to grasp those tiny moments of wonderfulness and brush off the many big moments of for the love of God just. stop. screaming. crying. complaining. fighting. pooping. carrying on. And sometimes you watch a little video that totally encompasses all of it so eloquently it makes you want to drink a glass three glasses of wine and write about it.  Because someday they won’t be little and needy and you will know that what you’ve done all day, every day, was the very, very best you could have done.

Plus, kids are really cute.

Nine Years…and Counting

I’ve been trying for several days now to write a post about today. And, y’all, I just can’t write anything that doesn’t sounds like a big cliche pile of mushy, braggy crap. Today is my 9th wedding anniversary.

Our wedding day!

Our wedding day!

Here’s the thing though…there are a lot of cliches in my marriage. We have good communication, we are friends, my love for my husband has grown in depth and breadth as these nine years have passed, and it doesn’t feel like it’s been nine years.

On our way to our honeymoon..or just home from it?

On our way to our honeymoon..or just home from it?

I’m also mushy about it…I am defensive of anyone who wants to be critical, unless it’s me. I feel sentimental and nostalgic over the steps we’ve taken to get here. I couldn’t imagine walking this road with anyone else.

Our last picture at our "house of firsts".

Our last picture at our “house of firsts”.

And there’s a lot to brag about. Joe is such an amazing man, friend, husband, and father. We’ve learned how to push each other’s buttons, and thus how to avoid pushing them. We are also good at building each other up and making sure we acknowledge the sacrifices and triumphs of the other. Anyone who is friends with Joe knows you’ll never find a more loyal man with more integrity. He’s a great catch and we have a great marriage.

He's so good at playing with the kids...perhaps because he's mentally the same age?

He’s so good at playing with the kids…perhaps because he’s mentally the same age?

I’m not suggesting that our marriage is all unicorns shitting rose-scented glitter…but I can’t imagine that it gets much better than this. Really.

He has grown so much as a dad of three girls. And they love him for it. As do I.

He has grown so much as a dad of three girls. And they love him for it. As do I.

I’m not perfect. Joe isn’t perfect. I think that we are perfect together. I’m grateful for our little family and for such an awesome partner.

The whole famdamily.

The whole famdamily.

 

Surprise! I’m healthier!

“You’ve changed your lifestyle.”

For a person who over analyzes and is pretty reflective about herself it’s not often I’m told a truth about myself that I wasn’t already aware of. And you’d think this one wouldn’t be one of those “give you pause” kind of moments, but it was.

I was chatting with a girlfriend and we were comparing notes about a recently completed “Whole 30″. If you’re not familiar with this particular diet/cleanse/whole food challenge the basic idea is that you do a very strict clean eating diet free of grains, sugars, alcohol, dairy and a few other things (but those were the hardest for me) for 30 days. It’s not really about losing weight, rather about eliminating inflammation causing foods as well as most allergens, and listening to your body when you’re eating in a healthy and trash-free way. This wasn’t my first W30, and probably won’t be my last. I wasn’t very good this go round, though I did turn around my summer of indulgence.

I wrote before about trying to get healthier. I starting running as soon as I was cleared to after Elizabeth was born. That ended in October  (six months later) when I pulled my.. well… let’s just say it’s not an easy muscle pull to explain in mixed company. Then in November I started taking advantage of the gym and trainers available through Joe’s place of work. I was COMPLETELY out of my comfort zone, but made the effort until about February. I’ve never seen a change in my body from exercise. Which, duh. Weight is lost in the kitchen, muscle is made in the gym. It wasn’t until January (I know, so cliche) that I started working on the diet. I saw results. And so I stopped working out. I did Weight Watchers for a while because it makes sense to me. Everything in moderation. So by May (and certainly by the end of the W30 I did in May) I was flirting with my weight loss goal. I was wearing a size I haven’t worn since college. It was awesome. I liked the way I looked and felt comfortable in my clothes for the first time in ages. I couldn’t fit in my wedding dress..because it was too big. Hell yeah.

Stick Figures

I wasn’t working out anymore though.  And then with the summer came vacations, and poolside drinks, and visits to family where I wasn’t as in control of what was being served for dinner…and I frankly didn’t want to be. My mother and mother-in-law make some awesome food. So I gained back some of those pounds.

The tightness of pants is a very motivating thing. Not to mention having tossed all my larger clothes and not having budgeted for new “fat” clothes. Hence the October W30. I’m good again with the number on the scale…but still hadn’t jump started that whole exercise thing. So I’ve been trying to remedy that..because “strong and healthy” aren’t the same thing as “having met my weight loss goals.”

Which brings me back to that conversation today. I had one of those “aha” moments when you realize that the cliches you’ve heard actually mean something. This whole healthy lifestyle thing really is about the journey. It’s not like I’ll get to a point where I can say, “I made it!” and then stop paying attention to my diet, or stop forcing myself to work out. And I do have to..force myself that is. I hate working out. I do not feel any sort of high afterward. I do feel proud of myself for doing something I totally didn’t want to. So there’s that I guess. And Joe and I have made huge changes…to our activity levels, our diets, our priorities.

It wasn’t overnight, in fact, it may have been slow enough that I didn’t even realize what was happening..but it’s happened.

Missing school

So, Jed’s home sick today.

When I called to tell his teacher and she asked what he had I replied “fatigue and a bad attitude” and don’t think I was too far off. I like that teacher. She said well, I’ll put it down as a mental health day.

I might have known something was wrong yesterday when I drove him across town to his mixed martial arts class in a rush after school, only to have him tell me once we got there that he couldn’t do it. And then we drove all the way home, and he didn’t even cry when I lectured about following through and telling your mom you feel bad before she drives an hour because YOUR MOM IS BUSY I KNOW YOU DON’T REALIZE THAT BUT SHE IS.

And then when we got home I asked him to put his pants in the wash and he dropped them into the toilet instead. So I was like, all calm and loving, hey Jed, come sit with me for a minute. What’s going on in your head right now? Do you just feel worn out from the weekend? (On Saturday, a birthday party at the trampoline gym that more closely resembled Lord of the Flies 2.  On Sunday, a hiking adventure over a lava flow up at McKenzie Pass, which Jed loved but that caused him to greatly miss the comforts of home, i.e., me.) Then I asked, did something happen at school today? (Turns out he had an argument at lunch with the absolute first crush ever of his life. Truly, love hurts kid, I get it. I get it.)

So anyways, I was trying to be cool and comforting to him yesterday, despite the hour of wasted drive time and the pants in the toilet. But I also needed him to get out of my hair because I had stuff to do.

Last week I started studying for my Real Estate Broker’s license. I know. WHAT a divorced mom cliché. Whatever, I can be a Ninja in a blazer. [No? Crickets? Modern Family fans?] Actually I’m not completely sold on the idea, but it’s a field I’m familiar with, thanks to a family of contractors, developers, realtors and my own history of actually buying and selling homes and figuratively buying and selling every other home I see everywhere in my mind. So, what the heck, I’m doing this plus sending out resumes for writing and marketing jobs plus still pretending I’m a stay at home mom who desperately needs to decorate for Halloween and figure out my crock pot.

So anyways, when Jed demonstrated pseudo-sick like behavior yesterday, I was having none of it. I had a class to get to and a stupid hard test to study for.

Oh, oh oh oh! My Real Estate course? All online, plus one in-person class a week with a graded test. Everyone who has ever done this will agree the testing is ridiculous. Just imagine every multiple choice question ever, written to trick you, plus statutes, dates and definitions. (NOTHING at all about my potentially very cute Broker wardrobe and how to close a sale.) Like, question: Of the following three answers that are all true about the Civil Rights Act of 1888, which is the one that would be false if you changed just one word. Answer: None of the above because it’s the act of 1866. Cha-ching! Just throw the commission over here, bitches. Mama needs a new Mercedes.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Back to Jed. He’s fake sick, and that’s ok. My mom used to give us fake sick days. She’d call the office and say oh yes, bad cold, she’ll be there tomorrow I’m sure. And I’d sit at home and watch game shows and soap operas and by about 11 I’d be super bored but she’d be like, sick day, poor you, back on the couch! And I’d start missing school and wishing I was in 5th period European History RIGHT NOW. Anything but sitting on this stupid couch watching stupid TV.

So I’m kind of running it like that here today. Jed’s shoulders deep into a Zack & Cody marathon on Netflix. I’m ignoring his requests for fancy snacks and giving him crackers, “because if you feel sick, that’s better than a cheesy tortilla roll up.”

I’m trying to catch up on bills and get a couple of resumes out. Later I’m going to drag him with me to TJ Maxx to buy Halloween decorations. He asks me every year to decorate and every year I don’t. But this year I will. So far we have a giant spider, a pumpkin, and a skeleton. There is no punchline.

Oh, oh oh oh! At class last night, we had a LIVELY discussion of the legalities of notifying buyers of a haunting.

Take it in.

A HAUNTING.

An actual in person live discussion, brought to the table by one of my fellow students, about whether we, as Brokers, needed to disclose to potential buyers that we had knowledge of a past haunting in a house we are listing.

Man, I have missed school.

Also, if this is my potential competitive pool of agents, I think I’ll do just fine.

So today, I’m giving Jed about two more hours, and then dragging him out to shop for Halloween decorations and groceries. Then he’ll miss school too.

If I sell this house do I need to tell you it was haunted by a fake sick kid?

If I sell this house do I need to tell you it was haunted by a fake sick kid?

Five O’Clock

More smiling. Less talking.

More smiling. Less talking.

Every day when I pick Jed up from Kindergarten I ask some version of, “how was your day, how are you, did you have fun, tell me something you learned, tell me something you did, tell me someone you played with, tell me what your teacher said, tell me what you ate for lunch, tell me what you want to do this afternoon, tell me school is the best thing you’ve ever experienced in your whole life.”

And every day Jed answers me with some version of dead silence, eye rolls, and “please be quiet and turn up the music.”

Then later in the day, around 5 o’clock, after a snack and a show and playing with friends and maybe reading a little Ranger Rick together, he gets chatty:

“Mom. Mommmmm. Mom. At school today I played with a new friend, her name was wait what was her name, and then on the monkey bars, look, look at this, I got a blister, but it’s ok, it’ll turn into a callus, and did you know you say blue in French bleu and, un deux trois wait what’s four, and did you know in math it’s not like really math yet it’s like shapes and counting but I guess that’s math, and we didn’t read today but we have third grade buddies, oh quatre cinq, and here’s (another) piece of paper I wrote my name on, I’m really hungry, can I have school lunch tomorrow, wait is tomorrow the weekend or school, what’s for dinner, will you play Legos with me did you know there’s such thing as a Lego table, shark tag is really just another way of playing normal tag, do I have swimming lessons tomorrow….”

I get it for him.

Kindergarten, two schools (public and a private wrap around to create a full day of school), a new language (French immersion in both schools), new friends, new rules, new everything.

And I get it for me too.

Living in this weird transition between married and single, stay at home mom and needs to work mom, so many changes, new stories, unbelievably scary and weird things, potentially crazy good things. So lately I’m just like, shut it. Stop asking me questions, I’ll talk about it later, just please be quiet and turn up the music. And I’ll tell you something juicy at 5 o’clock.

Au revoir!