April 13, 2012

Actually never worked a day in her life

Monday at 12:50 AM found me dropping Lilah off at my friend’s house.  Preschool had gotten out at noon, and we had rushed home to a 20 minute lunch.  While she was eating, I scrubbed the peepee out of her shoes from the accident she’d had at preschool; I was careful to stand back from the sink while I washed, since I’d already dressed in work clothes before picking up Lilah.  I brushed her teeth, scrubbed some of the food off of her face, and strapped her into the car.

I had picked up a freelance project and, as is often the case, had a meeting to discuss the work beforehand.  The meeting wasn’t until 2:00, but Tara lives 20 minutes further out of the city from my house and you never know about traffic and I’m sort of a maniac about being early.

Here’s how it works now that I’m living near Tara again: when she has an afternoon meeting that interferes with her 2:20 elementary school pickup, I get her daughter from school then race back here for our 3:00 elementary school pickup. And vice versa.  I think it was nice of our school districts to stagger it like that for us.

But the problem with a 2:00-2:45 meeting – especially on Mondays and Wednesdays, which are Benjamin’s kindergarten half days – is that I have two children to dispose of and the babysitters are still in school.  Tara is very willing to take them, but she’s working during those hours. I don’t want to ask her to shelve her work so I can take a meeting, and only one of my children will play quietly while she works.  Take a guess which one.

I arranged a playdate for Benjamin with a kid whose mother who doesn’t work on Mondays.

The meeting went great and I could focus because at 2:20, I knew Tara had Lilah in the car while they went to get her daughter, and then at 2:25, they were driving away, fighting traffic to get to my school district.  At 3:00, as I drove away from my meeting, I knew that Tara was picking up Zachary.

As to Benjamin?  Well, the girl he was playing with has an older sister who also gets out at 3:00, so the mom was returning him to the elementary school, where she would meet Tara and make the handoff.

I drove up to my house, where Tara was just driving away to get her youngest child, leaving my three playing with a high school babysitter who had rushed over from her school to be there for the 10-minute gap.

It doesn’t take a village, people.  It takes a fucking spreadsheet.

On Tuesday morning, I started the project before I had to rush back to the preschool and then the babysitter came back for two hours in the afternoon so I could finish and then when the kids went to bed I revised and then Wednesday morning I emailed out the draft to the powers that be and – holy shit – I had a whole hour before preschool pickup and I could go to the damned grocery store.

There was this mother at the grocery store with a toddler and a preschooler.  She was one of those mothers who makes the rest of us feel like assholes because she was so calm and patient and I had screamed like a fishwife to get my kids out of the house that morning.  “You’re so calm!” I marveled to her, as we stood in line.  “I feel like all I did this morning was yell at my kids to put their shoes on.”

“Oh, well, I’m only home today because he’s sick.  I work full time, so I just appreciate the time I have with them,” she purred.  Then she looked at me with that I’m-so-magnanimous-to-you-pampered-SAHMs thing going on and gave a modest shrug.  “There are tradeoffs.”

At which point I wanted to throw my carton of eggs at her one at a time because, dammit lady, if anyone knows about tradeoffs, it’s me.

All of this is to say, in response to the recent kerfuffle about whether stay-at-home parents work, can we please stop with the Working Mom/SAHM dichotomy?  Enough already.  Except for the rare person who is married to a very wealthy governor, very few parents fall neatly into categories anymore.  I know parents working part-time to keep their resumes up while they care for young children.  I know single parents who somehow show up for every school event while also maintaining careers.  I know parents who look like full-time caregivers but spend the hours their kids are at school sending out inquiries and resumes.  I know fathers rushing their kids to school in the morning so mom can get to work early and then pick up the kids at 5:00, when after-care ends.  I know laid-off, underemployed, and freelance parents.  I know people in my boat – we’re able to make it on one salary, but we’re very aware of how dangerous it is for a family to be reliant on the continued employment of one person.  I know very few full stay-at-home parents.

If the Mommy Wars are truly revving back up again – and I hope they aren’t – I’d like someone to tell me which side I’m on.  Not that I’ll have time to do battle, because revisions will come in and the kids need new shoes and we all need to exercise and at some point Downton Abbey will start back up and there’ll go another hour of my week.

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  • Reply Lilian Nattel April 13, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    I can’t help but think that if all the moms of whatever combination got together on any issue, we’d have a healthier and happier society. And it makes me wonder who the Mommy wars serves–it sure ain’t the moms.

  • Reply Melanie April 13, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    Yes lets please stop…. and why women always seem to have to take it out on other women *gah*…. I am a full stay-at-home Mom, for about 6 months after my first son was born my employer up till his birth begged me to do some bank reconciliations at home because no one else seemed to know how to do them (don’t get me started on VERY basic skills but I digress).. those were the days where my son slept most of the time and it was easy to squeeze in the work and it was kind of nice getting a small paycheck to ease us into OH MY GOD I JUST QUIT MY JOB AND THERE GOES HALF OF OUR HOUSEHOLD INCOME, which woke up me up in a panic for months even though I planned and did the math and knew we could do it if we just gave up things like nicer cars, new furniture, new house or any type of vacation at all. My point is this, I got used to being frugal, my former employer finally hired a competent employee who took over my duties and I eased into my new life. I have 1 year 4 months (roughly) before my littlest starts all day kindergarten (which is the only option round’ these parts)….and I will have to make a decision about what I am going to do, and I am still SO TORN. On one hand, I love being able to volunteer at the kids school working with kids who really need an adult buddy, I love going on their field trips and being home when they get home and I may just say the heck with it and become a lunch lady at the school so I can just have that time with them until they are older and want me gone… I don’t know….. but what I don’t need is other women thinking I am stupid because of my choices. My college degree is NOT a waste and despite my lifelong struggle with grammar, I did not check my brain at the door when I stopped working.

  • Reply Catherine April 13, 2012 at 6:29 pm


    (I know that’s what I’ve said regarding your last three posts but, really, that’s my response. I could have said it all myself…including the always early part. I can’t help it.)

  • Reply Anjali April 13, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    “It doesn’t take a village, people. It takes a fucking spreadsheet.”

    I just love this line. It so adequately sums up everything.

    • Reply Kris April 13, 2012 at 9:44 pm

      Or maybe a village with a spreadsheet and compatible devices for file-sharing the child caring.

  • Reply D. April 13, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    The Mommy Wars bring out my inner Infertile Bitch. You got to have a baby didn’t you? So no matter what side of the fence you fall on, shut up about how misunderstood you are and how hard it is and just be grateful that you are where you are. Grossly unfair, probably, but although I try to help myself sometimes I get really frustrated…

    Sorry, just being honest.

  • Reply D. April 13, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    *You, collective. Everyone, the universe, etc. Certainly not you, Emily, specifically. Just wanted to make sure you understood that my frustration is targeted at no one specific person, and I begrudge no one their children. Someone not getting pregnant doesn’t magically mean that I will; it’s not as if only a certain amount are allotted per year.

  • Reply Not Donna Reed April 14, 2012 at 5:52 am

    I was a SAHM for the first ten years of my son’s life. I LOVED every minute of it. Of course I only had one because I saw the writing on the wall immediately. I wanted to stay home and raise my son myself. I wanted to BE THERE for all the firsts. And I was. I quickly learned: I could only handle one. I could only afford one. When my son was 2 or so, I remember having a conversation with one of those annoying financial advisors you try to avoid as he tells you how much money you’re going to need to put your child through college as he maps out a plan on how to get there. Fast foward 20 years later: Boy was he off base. But my SAHM life was way different from Ann Romney’s not-a-care-in-the-world, my husband is rich and powerful, his friends are Nascar team owners for goodness sake! And this, my friends is what Ms. Rosen was trying to get across to the world and might have actually been successful if she would have included “outside the home” to the end of “Ann Romney has never held a job”.

  • Reply Poker Chick April 14, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    Dear god I hope the mommy wars won’t start again. I think that woman just made a very unfortunate and stupid comment. As a full time working mother who appreciates her time with her child AND yells like a fish to get her out of the house in the am, I have no idea what side I’d fall on.

  • Reply niobe April 16, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    I think I’m pretty squarely in the work-for-pay (I hate the term working mom/dad) category. I work full time. Though the kids are in daycare and L has a flexible schedule, we still hire plenty of sitters.

    I’m sure there are lots of people who believe that I’m making bad choices. But, honestly, I don’t care what they think.

    Which is probably why I’ve never really understood the mommy wars.

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