Off Duty Mom

Thoughts from an exhausted mom who is NEVER really "off duty"

Archive for the month “April, 2012”

Three Unexpected Lessons Learned from my Children

Obviously, I knew on some level that my life would be vastly different after having a child.  You know, everyone feels as though it is necessary to tell you that, too, when they find out you’re pregnant.  Yes, my life is going to change.  Got it.  Go away now.  No, you cannot touch my belly.

I realized that my definition of “love” would change and that my concepts of duty and responsibility would shift.

I did not realize that there would be a series of valuable lessons I’d learn from each of my children that would make me a better parent, but that would more surprisingly make me a better version of myself.

1.  SLOW DOWN —

Kids are like therapy, man.  (And they cause a need for therapy, too, but perhaps that is for another blog post…)  Before children, I was always a little anxious.  I even suffered from a rather debilitating panic attack once while at work.  That sucked.  I’d worry about things I couldn’t control.  Well, I still do that, I suppose, but now that I have children, I have learned to take things a bit more slowly.

This weekend, I decided to steal time away from the kids and do some gardening.  I was very pregnant with baby #2 last spring, so my garden was neglected for a year.  There were weeds, branches, dead leaves and even a little trash all over the place.  The old “me” would have done a half-assed job of picking through the entire garden (which is enormous, by the way).  I would have rushed and felt overwhelmed by the fact that the garden is so big and there is such a mess and Oh-My-God-I-Am-Never-Going-To-Be-Done.  I would have been tired after an hour.  This time, though, I took my time and did a really good job on one section of the garden.  I tilled the soil, uprooted old, overgrown plants, potted some unwanted things to share with neighbors, got rid of weeds, threw away trash that the wind had swept into my flowers, cut a clean edge between the lawn and the flower beds.  I only did one section, but I did it right.  And, it looks good.  And, I can go back out the next magical time I have free time and do the same thing on another section.

Because there is no rushing kids, I have learned that slow, deliberate, careful work is the ONLY way to get a job done well.  There is no way to rush a toddler through the bedtime routine just because I know that it is past his bedtime.  If I try to hurry him through brushing his teeth, getting his pajamas on, washing his face, using the potty and reading his book, he’ll have a tantrum or drag his feet or get distracted by the first shiny thing he sees.  Or, he’ll do all of those.  Small children cannot be rushed.  It takes LONGER when you rush a 3-year old.  So, I have learned to slow it down.  It is the only way that anything works.

Yup. That's totally what I'd look like, too, if I went hunting. And, that's the exact outfit I'd wear,

2.  MARKSMANSHIP —

Personally, I am pretty against the use of weapons.  Whatever you do is whatever you do, but I am uncomfortable with the idea of even holding a gun or bow (or Samurai sword?).  But, I am pretty sure that I’d be AWESOME at it if I ever tried.

Have you ever tried to dress a cranky 1-year old?  I have.  Ever tried to feed a tired 8-month old?  I have.  Ever tried to catch a naked and wet 2-year old who is all riled up after his bath?  I have.  Ever tried to put shoes on a 3-year old who Does. Not. Want. To. Go. To. School?  Yup.  I have.

My life is all moving targets now.  The deer of America better hope I never get a sudden urge to learn to love venison.  I’m pretty sure I could successfully spear hunt.  If I can get strained peas into a moving, crying pie-hole the size of a half-dollar with out spillage, I think I can hit something the size of a Toyota Camry with a giant stick.

3.  TEACHING —

I spent four years of my life in college learning how to become a successful teacher.  Actually, that’s a lie.  I spent most of that time drinking beer.  But, most (okay some) of the time I was not drinking beer, I was learning how to become a teacher.  I then spent another three years part-time in graduate school to further my education on education.  And, yet, nothing could prepare me like motherhood did.

I was a teacher for over a decade before I had a child of my own.  I was always pretty sure that I was awesome at teaching.  And, truthfully, I really was.  For reals.

But, when I became a mom, I understood the gravity and importance of working with other people’s babies.  Even though by the time they got to me, those babies were old enough to operate motor vehicles legally, they were all still the babies of other moms.  That means something very different to me now.

I try to listen a little harder, empathize a little more and dial back the sarcasm a bit with the young ‘uns.  My kids have taught me that every story they tell is important to them even if I can’t stand to hear about Thomas the Tank Engine one more time.  He wants to tell about it and it is the most important thing to him at that moment.  If I really hear him and show an interest in Thomas, maybe when he gets to be old enough to be my student, he will still tell me about the things that are important to him in those moments.  I have a feeling that I’ll want to know about those.

And, if I try to remember that every child is someone’s baby, I am able to hear them all a bit better.  And, I can feel for their situations a bit better.  And I can be a bit more aware of how my actions and words impact someone’s day (or life).

What a journey this has been so far.  I’ve learned much in a few short years.  I know that more is yet to come.  I look forward to growing with my children.  And, I feel blessed that the universe has chosen me to share this journey with the two most amazing boys in the world.

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Running Away

The hubs and I are running away from our responsibilities for a few days to revel and act like irresponsible kids in Vegas.

We’ve been there multiple times and I feel like I have kind of done all of the must-do stuff (Old Vegas, Fremont Street, water show at Bellagio, Cirque du Soleil shows, gambling, drinking, sitting by the pool, driving out to Valley of Fire, etc.).

If you have thoughts on how to make the most of my Vegas vacation, I’d love to hear from you.  

We only get a few days before we have to return to our real lives as working parents.  So, I want to make this count.

Your feedback is not only welcome, but encouraged! 

Off Duty Mom, On Duty Complainer

Let’s talk (and by “talk,” I mean “complain”) about education.

So, I’d like to outline my list of complaints about preschool, specifically.  And, no, I do not plan to wait for Superman here and get all judgmental about our country’s teachers and the state of educational efficiency nationwide.  I do not plan to spew hatred for the millions of men and women who’ve devoted their lives to helping to raise our nation’s youth.  I do not plan to pretend to know ANYTHING, really, about the inner workings of early childhood education and therefore I do not plan to pretend as though I know EVERYTHING about it by suggesting that things like merit pay, standardized tests, de-unionization or de-tenurization might “fix” the “broken” educational system in the United States.  I do not plan to turn this into a bitchfest about how cruddy our schools are and about how we “deserve” better for our kids.

Instead, I just want to crab about my experiences with choosing a decent preschool option for my kid.  I shall offer no advice, solutions or thoughtful ideas here.  Only whines.  You can decide to stop reading now if whining ain’t yo thing.

First, I’d like to moan about how many public school systems have opted not to offer preschool at all.  I live in a nice neighborhood with a nice school system.  It’s one of the reasons why my husband and I selected the place.  But, they start with Kindergarten, not Pre-K.  So, I had to set out to find another option for my little guy.

Second, I’d like to complain about how I didn’t realize that I’d have to start the process of finding this preschool program so damn early.  I began my search when my older son was 2 1/2 years old.  It was January and I was searching for a viable option for him for the following September.  He is now nearly 4 and I’ve STILL not heard from one location where we had been waitlisted well over a year ago.  We were also waitlisted from our #1 choice, a Montessori school very near to our house (which, by a stroke of luck, our son got into only because someone moved away).  The little guy did, however, get into a private school that required a $500 non-refundable deposit (which we paid and which, incidentally, was INDEED not refundable…).

That private school was a fabulous place and our son would have done well there.  And, it would have cost about as much as my freshman year of college cost my parents.

This is not, interestingly enough, the reason why we opted not to send our child there.  The convenient location of the Montessori program was the deciding factor, but nevertheless, what preschool can cost is pretty crazy.

The school system for which I work offers a tuition-based preschool option for those of us who work for the district but live outside of it.  The program costs $700 per month.  And, it runs only 6 hours per day.  Of course, I work more than 6 hours each day, so that $700 cost is just the beginning as I would have to find childcare and transportation for my child, too.

So, the nanny costs me $15 each hour regardless of whether one or both of my children is home.  She will gladly take my older son to and from school, but by the time all of this is said and done, at $15/hr. for 10 hours per day (8.5 hour work day plus commute — assuming I NEVER have to go in early or stay late…) that is $750 each week for childcare, or $3000 each month or $36000 each year just for someone to look after my children (not that that is an easy job; but that just only begins to cover all of my family’s needs).  Then, with the cost of tuition-based school at my public institution, that takes me to almost $43000 for one year of my child’s education and care together.  That, too, is more than my private college education cost for one year when I attended back in the dark ages in the 1990’s.

Now, tell me, is this a standards-based curricular component or is it competency- or task-based?

I did not ever consider sending my son to a daycare center that offers “preschool,” because (and I imagine I will get angry comments about this — bring it) I do not consider this to be real school.  I have visited many of these locations and have asked to see a curriculum.  I have yet to visit a daycare center that was able to produce a curriculum of any type, or even really explain to me exactly what benchmarks they intend to help kids reach.  The closest I got was at one place where they told me that kids will sing and learn numbers and letters.  Great.  At 2 1/2 my kid could already count to 20 and sing his A-B-Cs, so that wasn’t really fucking helpful.

Homeschooling is absolutely not an option, either.  First of all, my husband and I both work, so it might be a little hard to fit that in to either of our schedules.  Second (and I may get angry comments about this one, too…), I personally think that homeschooling is bullshit.  I spent about 12 years teaching high school literature.  I was really good at it.  This does not in any way make me an expert on Science, Technology, Mathematics, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Physical Education, or any of the other subjects I would want my child to have the chance to learn such as Digital Photography, Music, Painting, Industrial Arts, Sewing, Graphic Design or Health.  Yes, yes, yes – there are lots of resources out there to assist people with homeschooling and kids can even attend field trips, participate in local schools’ sports and communicate with other homeschool students through technology.  Whatev.  I believe in traditional education.  There is a reason why I spent 8 years earning multiple degrees and certifications to work effectively with young people.  It all made me QUALIFIED to teach.

Squeezing a human out of your vagina doesn’t a teacher make.

I know NOTHING about how to teach someone to read or play nicely or understand the water cycle.  So, I will leave that up to the experts.  When my kids are ready to talk about William Shakespeare, Richard Wright, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, George Orwell and Sylvia Plath, I’m all over that.  Until then, I want to be a homeschool teacher about as much as I want to be (or think it’s a good idea to be) a home-doctor or home-dentist for my kids.

And, now I am back to the beginning.  Preschool is expensive and hard to find.  There are more kids on this planet than schools to fit them.  We do not value early childhood education nearly enough in our society.  And, most frustratingly, at THREE YEARS OLD, my child’s schedule is already causing stress.

So, there you go.  Ranty rant rant.

Got something to add?  Feel free to comment here.  I love hearing what you have to say (unless you disagree or want to call me names, in which case I don’t give a shit about you).

Being Better

Women.

Can’t live with ’em; can’t shoot ’em.  Am I right?  Yeah?

Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?  Anyone?

I kid.

I was listening to a popular morning show on the radio yesterday.  A young employee of the station (but not a regular on-air talent) was being “featured” in a segment they were doing about dating.  This girl (a very recent college grad) sounded kind of like Dahlia from “Suburgatory.”  She came off as arrogant, infantile, self-centered and, like, totally annoying, you, like, know?

I judged her from that short segment and decided that I hated her.  Then, I decided that if I told anyone that I hated her, men would call me “jealous” and would suggest that it was the fact that she was young and (presumably) attractive that I decided that I felt this way.  Having this imaginary fight with unidentified men in my head made me pretty pissed.

I thought about why I had had such a strong reaction to this young lady.  I decided that I didn’t want her speaking for or representing me.  When people turn on a source of media and they hear someone talking arrogantly and obnoxiously about her experiences with men, I didn’t want that to be connected to me in any way.  I didn’t want anyone to make the mistake in thinking that the opinions expressed by one naive 22-year old were in any way the views held by the larger consituency.

Then I felt petty and stupid.

You see, since I became a mom nearly 4 years ago, I have slowly but surely become more interested in women’s issues.  Why is there no national standard for long-term PAID childcare leave for new mothers (and new adoptive parents and fathers, too, for that matter)?  Why am I still earning 70 cents to my male counterparts’ dollar?   Why do some politicians want to discuss the contents of my uterus?  Years after the inception of Title IX, why are girls’ athletics still underappreciated, under-funded and under-attended?  Why do boys still outperform girls in mathematics and science?  Why is the US one of the only  industrialized, 1st-world countries who has never had a female head of State?  On television and in movies, why are all of the female characters either sex objects or wounded little kittens?   Oh, wait, they aren’t.  Sometimes they are lost souls who are unlucky in love and are just waiting for some handsome, wonderful men to come make their lives complete.

What the fuck?

And, here I am contributing to the bullshit.  I am a woman.  Every day the world will judge me by the way I look, the way I talk, the way I dress and the way I act.  After that, the world might give a shit about how smart or strong I am.  I just better not be too smart.  I also better not be too strong.  I better not be “too” anything, really.  Too tough?  She must be a lesbian.  Too pretty?  She must have had work done.  Too thin?  She must be anorexic.  Too hardworking?  She must be shirking her duties in her personal life like parenting and housekeeping.  Too high-earning?  She must be a ball-busting bitch.  Too maternal?  She must not have any skils or drive.

And, yet, here I am.  I am sitting in my car, judging a person’s worth and character based on 3 minutes of hearing her voice.  I am part of the problem.

Since becoming a mom, I have also realized that the point of the sexual revolution fought so hard by our mothers is to provide us with options and to allow us to select any option we wish and throw up a big middle finger to the world while doing it.  WANT to be a ball-busting bitch?  Do it.  WANT to be a stay-at-home-mom?  Do it.  WANT to be a snob?  Do it?  WANT to be all full of silicone and collagen?  Do it.

You.  Have.  Choices.

My hope now, for myself, is that I will learn to respect that more.  It is tough enough out there with my 70 cents at the societal dollar store.  I think I ought to start being a whole lot more accepting and respectful of a woman’s right to choose to be whomever she wishes to be.

I have an important role as the mother of boys.  I can be a part of molding a generation to be better than my own has been.  I can teach my boys to judge others not by the length of their skirts or the size of their waistlines, but by the content of their character.  I can teach my boys not to say (or think) stupid shit like that ass-clown on “The Amazing Race” did last week when he lamented “I lost to a freaking GIRL.”

It is an important role we play as moms.  I wish the country in which I live recognized that more readily.   I wish western culture were more interested in equity, honor and responsibility and less concerned with breast size, hair type and fragility.

I am thrilled to have been given the opportunity to raise two men. I hope I do right by them, help them find their ways in this world, help them find self-worth, help them become well-rounded and courageous, and help them grow up to be men who will make this a better planet for all of its inhabitants.

Thank you…

Image

I was touched to have been recognized as a “versatile blogger” recently by the lovely Jennifer Butler Basile at the “Chopping Potatoes” blog.  Yesterday, she surprised me by recommending “Off Duty Mom” for the The Versatile Blogger Award.  She could only select 15 blogs to list as those she most admires, so I am thrilled that she included “Off Duty Mom” as one of them.  Thank you, Jennifer, for your kind words.

Many of you have likely seen these awards that bloggers give to one another to help recognize the fact that someone’s words have resonated or have impacted readers in some way.  The idea is for bloggers to let one another know that when we take that leap of faith and bare our souls to the vast empire of internet-dom, our words not only reach people worldwide, but make a positive — and often permanent — impression.  There is no greater gift than to know that you’ve touched someone’s life.

So, I plan to recognize the writers who have touched mine:

Momma Be Thy Name

Pile of Babies

Dirty Rotten Parenting

Jean Day Friday

Mittens and Boots

Science of Mom

Noodle and Goo

Working Momma With a Baby

My Toddler Peed in the Fridge

Moms Who Wine

The Good, The Bad and the Saggy

Katy Stuff

The Bookshelf of Emily J.

Making the Trek

Storyteller in the Digital Age

According to Jennifer, “if you find yourself nominated, you’ve been awarded The Versatile Blogger award.  And then, you need to pay it forward” by

  • Thanking the person who gave you this recognition
  •  Including a link to their blog
  •  Selecting 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly
  •  Nominating those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award — you might include a link to this site.
  •  Telling  seven things about yourself
                       Here are 7 things about me:  I HATE peanut butter and chocolate together (Jennifer says she loves it — I just don’t understand…); I currently have a sign in my cubicle that says, “If Britney (Spears) can make it through 2007, I can make it through this day” (thank you, Buzzfeed); I typically wear completely insensible, uncomfortable shoes to work even though I know I will always regret it; and the last four songs I listened to just now were “Breathe” by Prodigy, “Freedom 90” by George Michael, “Under the Milky Way” by the Church and “Rainy Monday” by Shiny Toy Guns.
Again, thank you to Jennifer and “Chopping Potatoes” for thinking of “Off Duty Mom” for this award.  
UPDATE:  another FABULOUS blogger has decided to spread some “versatile” love.  Check her out here.  Thanks, Calibama Mom!  I am flattered to be recognized again!


My kids wear pants

In March and April, stores seemed to be bursting with adorable, tiny pink dresses awash in a sea of tulle and lace.  There were daisy-covered fabrics, giant grosgrain bows and white patent leather Mary Janes as far as the eye could see.  My visit to Macy’s children’s clothing department left me in awe of the beautiful items one could purchase for one’s selected springtime-holiday-celebration-or-religious-observation-of-choice.

IF YOU HAVE A LITTLE GIRL.

If, however, you are the proud, heavy-wallet-wielding mother of one (or more) fabulous young boy, you are shit out of luck.  Learn how to sew, sucka.

Certainly, I understand that young men do not care about fashion and don’t beg for the latest accessories like their pre-teen female counterparts might.  But, in the case of  a 3-year old boy, guess who does his shopping?

Thank you to The Children’s Place, the ONE black and white sweater vest you offered was lovely.  And, yes, Macy’s, the 20 square feet of Angry Birds T-shirts were lovely as was the T-shirt with the screen-printed necktie on it, but I was hoping for something a little more appropriate for pictures in my mother’s garden.  Perhaps if the little girls’ section hadn’t been at least SIX TIMES the size of the “Boys 2-7” section, there might have been room for something other than racks upon racks of basketball shorts and one three-piece suit in a size 6.

I can't be the only one who thinks this is cute...

Let me expand my rant to include non-special-occasion clothing as well.  My boys (ages 3 years, and 10 months), do NOT run around solely in wrinkled camo cargo shorts and Phinneas and Ferb tees.  I buy (with MONEY — just like moms of girls) khakis, polos, sweaters, jeans, vests, dress pants, oxfords and ties (if I can find them).  On a daily basis, my older son looks mostly like a Gap ad.  Though, it would be freaking nice if Target started carrying more of these items as the Gap bill isn’t something I love.  I’ve bought lovely things for my preschooler at Janie and Jack, The Gap, Old Navy (but their sizes run so small and their cuts are so wonky), J Crew, and so on.  I am sick of it.  My kid’s sweater shouldn’t cost more than my pumps.  But, I also shouldn’t have to settle for putting him in Garanimals, either.

My sister-in-law once asked if my children owned sweatpants.  They do not.  They play and get dirty in anything they are wearing because kids play and get dirty — period.  No biggie.  That’s why God invented washing machines.

But, is the retail industry trying to tell me that girls don’t play and get dirty?  Ummm…I’ve BEEN a little girl and I can say that we DO.  So, 14 racks of frilly dresses are no more useful for girl moms than the 3 total racks of all of the very limited boys’ clothes in the same store.

I also have yet to come across a single all-boys clothing store.  Yet, I can think of at least five all-girls’ clothing stores within 10 miles of my house.  What’s up with that?

Again, I reject the argument that girls are just more into clothes than boys are.  With children under 7, I do all of the shopping, anyway, and my kids would wear what I buy no matter what their gender would have been.  Shouldn’t stores be catering to mothers, not the kids, anyway?  I have the purse, people.  And, even if my boy never cares about clothes, I always will.  Don’t you want my money?

So, my kids wear pants.  Not dresses.  Does this mean I am doomed to roam aimlessly back and forth along the 4 feet of wall space devoted to boys’ clothing in a department store?

Hmmm…

If you are the mother of an adorable little boy and you appreciate outfits, perhaps one day you will be able to shop in my affordably-priced, boys-only clothing emporium where we will carry beautiful things for mothers to buy for their children.  I haven’t invented it yet, but when I do, at least I know that I will have the corner market.

Welcome to Fifteen Minutes Ago, Today Show

The Today Show has noticed that parenting is hard.

Duh.

We’ve been talking about this for a long time now.

Check out the segment here:

http://moms.today.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/04/04/11006197-5-best-scary-mommy-moments

The Truth Shall Set Me Free (or help me get my ass kicked one day)

I am a snob.

I admit it.  I am a complete snob about three things:  beer, books and grammar.  I do not apologize for it, either.  Suck it.

As I reflect upon the theme of my blog, I find that the longest-running common thread throughout is honesty.  I use the blog for a sort of therapy, so getting real is part of the deal here at Off Duty Mom.  There is an old folk saying that suggests that “the truth is heavy, so few men carry it.”  Maybe I don’t carry it well during every moment of my real life, but I try to in writing.

The problem with honesty is that it really pisses people off much of the time.  I don’t think that anyone really wants everyone to be honest all of the time.  The truth sucks, usually.  True statements such as “Yes, you are fat,” “Your husband is a real dick,” “Your wife is cheating on you,” and “I farted” aren’t really what anyone wants to hear – ever.

Tough shit.

Have a seat.  I have some truth to spin, y’all.

You call that a "beer"?

  1.  Coors Light sucks.  No one really likes to talk about that much because it’s nice to want to drink healthy beer (um…”healthy” beer?), but if you’re going to drink Coors Light you really might as well save your money, order a pitcher of water and one bottle of decent, medium-bodied ale and mix them together.  All of a sudden you get the equivalent of about a half dozen Coors Lights for the price of one craft ale.  Awesome.  By the way, one Guinness Draught has fewer calories than a large pear or a bowl of peas.  And, it has fewer carbs than one ear of corn, one apple, a cup of lowfat yogurt or a cup of minestrone soup.  If you are going to drink beer, drink BEER.  Otherwise, get an appletini, candyass.

    "I wrote a book, don'tcha know?"

  2. Sometimes publishers decide to publish books while ingesting copious amounts of Angel Dust and Demerol.  I have no other explanation for the reason why so much absolute garbage makes it to bookstore shelves.  In my purse right now is a beat-up copy of “The Fountainhead.”  Before that, I re-read “Cat’s Cradle” for the fourth time.  Both are fabulous.  So, I don’t feel a need to add “Twilight,” “The Art of the Deal” or “Going Rogue:  An American Life” to my library.  Even having typed the titles, I feel as though a few brain cells popped.  You know, you don’t EVER get those back, people!
  3. It ain't hard to talk right.

    I am always amused/saddened/enraged by how many native English-speakers – people born and raised in an English-speaking country by English-speaking families in English-speaking communities with English-speaking schools — cannot speak or write in ENGLISH.  Of course, everyone who reads and subscribes to Off Duty Mom is a genius, but some other folks out there can’t seem to differentiate between “to,” “too,” and “two.”  And, can I remind everyone that “you” has a “y” and an “o” in the word?  And, may I add that sentences can only have one subject and one predicate?  Maybe that one’s too high-level.  I mean, we all did learn that in 3rdgrade.  Dare I even mention that pronouns come in different cases such as “nominative,” “objective” and “possessive”?  At least let me say that there is NO gender non-specific third-person pronoun.  Wait, that’s probably too tough for the general public, too.  Crap.  Can we all just at least agree to capitalize the beginnings of sentences and use punctuation at the end of a sentence?  Is that asking too damn much?

And, now I feel therapied for the day.  I shall now pay myself $100 for the last hour and declare myself cured since I feel SO much better.

Thanks for joining me for today’s episode of “Ranting, Hormonal Mom Goes Batshit Crazy and Spews Nonsense on the Web.”

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