Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Grass Is Always Greener...

Something's been bugging me all week long (raise your hand if you're shocked to hear me say that). When I got back from Seattle on Monday this week, the first thing I did was head upstairs to my sleeping children and try to wake them up so that I could say goodnight to them.

This may not sound that unusual or odd to anyone, but I am a very firm believer in the need of sleep in children. I know how much sleep my children benefit from, and I also know that having spent the previous four days with my parents, they weren't getting anywhere near that level of sleep.

So why did I (unsuccessfully, mind you) try to wake sleeping children? I feel like I'm missing out on them. I see them growing up quickly, and I don't get a chance to spend the time with them -- particularly not one on one -- that I realize more and more I want to because they're such fun and neat little personalities.

My mom told me that on Monday, Little Miss asked her when my mom picked her up from daycare if Mommy would be on a conference call when they arrived home. That's my only daughter's view of me. When she comes home from daycare, Mommy will still be working and unable to ask about her day or play with her or even just pay attention to her.

Work has been really busy for awhile now for me. I work twenty-four hours, and my agreement is that I stay at twenty-four hours, even if some weeks I work more than that. In return, other weeks I work less. I quickly built my way up past thirty hours "extra" that I had in the bank. I've been trying hard to reduce that backup and get back to even, but five months later, I'll end this pay cycle up around eighteen hours.

Granted, I'm really lucky that I work only three days a week and that I do have two days during the week that I can spend with the wee ones. It's amazing how fast that time disappears though.

Little Miss goes to preschool five mornings a week (not my choice - the special needs preschool is five days a week or nothing and she benefits from being there), she comes home, eats lunch, naps, wakes up to eat dinner, and our bedtime routine starts. There isn't a lot of quality time with her on the days that I have home with her.

Mister Man's days with me aren't much better. He's home in the morning and doesn't head to preschool until after lunch. We had a playdate this past Tuesday, and I realized how infrequently we have the opportunity to do this and how much he loves playing and sharing with his friends -- and how much the playdates benefit him and his social development.

The first Tuesday of every month I have the PTO meeting which essentially takes up the entire morning. I have only twenty minutes after Little Miss gets on the bus to hang out with him before we need to head to the preschool. Tuesday and Friday mornings are my only chances to run during the week, so we talk in the car on the way to and from the club, but that's it. Granted he loves going to the Kids Area and making new friends there, but I don't spend the time with him. If someone needs a doctor's appointment, guess when I'll plan it? Or if I need to run to the post office? Or maybe if my car needs an oil change? How about grocery shopping? Yep, it's all during the time that I should be spending playing with him or working with him on something or setting up playdates for him.

Then I run into the issues where the school plans events on days I'm working. Since they rarely try to plan anything for a Friday knowing how busy Fridays are, there's a seventy-five percent chance that whatever event they plan, I'm going to have to miss it for work. Forget the Halloween parade at school. Forget the Thanksgiving craft with my child. Forget the RIF events. Forget Valentine's tea. I'm the mom who isn't there. Unfortunately, with the frequency they come up, I can't take the time from work.

And don't get me started about my actual job. It's better and safer for everyone if we leave that topic completely alone.

But how can I even think about quitting in this economy? Could we make it work as a one income household? Yes, we could. It would involve cutting back on various things, but we could make do. I'm a nicely frugal person. But everything is so uncertain. Who knows where inflation will be going. Who knows when our roof will need replacing followed immediately by our furnace then our hot water heater then my husband's car and then medical issues? Were any of those worst case scenarios to arise, making do would no longer be in my vocabulary.

I work part time. I have a job that challenges me intellectually and gives me great responsibility. They pay me decently. How can you walk away from a situation like that?

Then I peek into Mister Man's room to see him sound asleep with a cat curled up on either side of him. Roar lifts his head at the noise, sees it's me and goes back to sleep. I quietly edge open Little Miss's door and see her surrounded by stuffed animals. These quiet, stolen moments are sometimes all I get from the wee ones.

How much longer will Little Miss say that I'm her favorite? How soon before Mister Man again pushes me away? And how soon before I don't recognize the teenagers before me, grown up in an instant while I was distracted elsewhere.

It's really been bothering me this week. Ironically, tomorrow I have an article or post or whatever you want to call it up on BettyConfidential talking about how I got to my part-time life. Go check it out tomorrow, and then whack me upside the head for forgetting that life's never perfect.


Melisa Wells November 20, 2008 at 1:05 AM  


I haven't checked out BettyCon yet, but thought I'd whack you in advance.

But I've had days/weeks like this. It's totally normal. Give yourself a break: you are doing the best you can and your kids are NOT going to need therapy. They know that you love them, and it just so happens that part of Mom's routine is to make conference calls.

I totally understand you feeling melancholy about them growing up and feeling like you're missing out, but I have two things that will hopefully cheer you:

1. It is very, very important that you have things going on that don't *always* involve your kids. Obviously the degree to which this is taken varies for everybody, but really, if you lose yourself while the kids are growing up, what will you be left with when they leave home? It's just hard to balance, that's all. But you're doing it!

2. Don't forget; I still have a 13 year old and 16 year old who don't push me away. Keep those communication lines open, and you may still get to hug Mister Man when he's a teen!


Karen November 20, 2008 at 8:08 AM  

We all have guilt. I have guilt because I DONT work. When my shop is doing well I feel as though I'm contributing, but when it's not I think that maybe I should go get a job outside the home.

The point is, whether you work or not, you'll feel guilty about something. It's how women are. Your kids are little and you do lots of fun things with them. Give yourself a break.

Jen November 20, 2008 at 10:08 AM  

I think we all do what we can and try to do the best that we can. I don't work and sometimes worry about money. But then I think about how much I enjoy spending the time I can with my kids, while I still can. My son is in full day Kindergarten and my daughter in preschool 3 half days a week. I've been able to stay home with my kids but have many friends who can't. So when you feel guilty about the little time you have....think of those who work full-time. They have even less time. You do the best you can and make the best of what time you have. This kind of brings up yesterday's could always be worse. :)

Jen November 20, 2008 at 10:08 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cookie November 20, 2008 at 12:02 PM  

I've struggled with the work at work or work at home subject a lot. One thing I can say is that either way, the time does go by fast! and the other thing I can say is that the grass is always greener on the other side. When i worked I wanted to stay home because I was jealous of all of those moms who got to spend all day with their kids. Those moms who were there for all of the "firts." The moms that didn't have to be jealous of the day care worker who helped your child first write his name... But then when I was home, I was jealous of the working moms who got a break from being home alone all the time, who had money for those nice vacations so they could enjoy the time spent with their kids instead of arguing with the kids over stupid stuff. So don't worry, no matter if you choose to stay home or to work, you'll always want more. That's what moms do!

Katie November 20, 2008 at 4:33 PM  

I totally understand. I work from home and have gone back and forth about preschool. I'm in this transition myself. Thanks, too, for stopping by!

Anonymous November 20, 2008 at 6:22 PM  

Wow, I am so touched by your blog. You have perfectly documented the struggles we face. At least they are here, written down for your kids to see someday and know how much you care. I wish I could look back and read my mom's feelings.

Thanks for letting me look into your life.
I'm Weather Kim from DC. I found your blog through Melis(with one s)a's blog. Have a nice night with your kids :-)

Michelle November 20, 2008 at 6:53 PM  

Melisa - Thanks! :) And today isn't Friday yet, so don't go checking it out errr do, but go back tomorrow, too. Something like that. Thanks for the reality check!

Karen - I know. That's exactly it, isn't it? No matter what I'm doing or not doing, there will always always be guilt.

Jen - I know. I DO have the best of both worlds. And yet I still want something different. I did think it was rather ironic that these two posts came one day apart, huh?

Cookie - Yep, there's always someone to be jealous of. And there's always someone to make you realize how good you have it. It's about focusing on me and what I'm doing that's right for me -- and that's the hardest sometimes. And yet I still want the grass over *there* sometimes....

Katie - Welcome! It's a rough transition, but we all make it. And we all survive it. And so do our kids. Priorities, I know!

Weather Kim - Welcome! And thank you; such kind words from a woman who wears leg warmers ;) And I do hope that someday the wee ones read this and know that they aren't alone in how they're feeling because Mom felt that way, too.

Jeff and Charli Lee November 20, 2008 at 9:08 PM  

Beautiful sentiments Michelle. Thanks for sharing your inner struggles. I think you'll find there's a LOT of people who can identify with you on this.

Kellan November 20, 2008 at 10:41 PM  

You have a very busy life. I often go into the kids' rooms after they are asleep and kiss and kiss their cheeks and they never wake. Those are good moments - even if they don't realize you are there. You are doing a great job - we are all doing all we can - the best we can - most of the time! Don't be hard on yourself.

Take care - Kellan

Michelle November 20, 2008 at 11:42 PM  

Jeff - I'm quite sure there are. And I'm quite sure that it isn't just moms. I didn't mention this part, but when my mom brought Little Miss home from daycare yesterday, I went to say hello and she pouted, turned away and told me to go back to work. THAT is part of the heartbreaking pushing away that I don't want.

Kellan - I do... but at this point, who DOESN'T have a busy life? Besides, what kind of a mom would I be if I weren't hard on myself?

cornnut32 November 21, 2008 at 10:46 AM  

it is such a difficult thing, balancing work and family.

i actually just blogged about this last night. come over and share in the debate, if you'd like!

it is a religious site, but we love people from ALL backgrounds to share their opinions with us.

DiPaola Momma November 21, 2008 at 12:13 PM  

Thanks for stopping by my open letter and giving the boobies some well needed support.. if in spirit only:-)

Oh and thanks for feeling me too...well not ACTUALY feeling me.. ha ha

Michelle November 21, 2008 at 2:55 PM  

cornnut32 - Welcome! It is difficult. And no matter how well you're balancing, it seems like we're never happy!

DiPaola Momma - Welcome! Yeah... you're ummm fumbling around about as well as I was ;)

Sam November 21, 2008 at 3:33 PM  

It must be so difficult. I am not a mother and cannot imagine how I might be. Yet somehow I get the feeling that you needn't beat yourself up about this - I am quite sure that you'd do anything to move the world for them!
It's a strange thing to say, but the fact that you ARE worried about this says more for you than if you didn't even notice that there was a potential problem.

anymommy November 22, 2008 at 3:26 AM  

Beautifully said. There is no perfect and striking a good balance is near impossible. I think you're doing an incredible job. I read the post above and thought about how patient and clever you are with your kids and about my personality and how I'd probably just get fed up and tell them they couldn't leave the table til they drank their milk, and I was blown away but what a great, creative parent you are. It's inspiring. Off to Betty.

Heather M. November 22, 2008 at 5:49 AM  

Really great post.. it's making me appreciate this time I have at home with my little one before he starts going to daycare.

RebekahC November 22, 2008 at 10:12 PM  

Kids do grow up so fast, and even a few hours a week seems to make such a big difference when you're missing out. I went back to work a couple of months ago, and even though I'm only doing part-time I'm still putting in 15-22hrs or so each week. And while I'm a SAHM during the day, my oldest daughter is in kindergarten so I alot of days I see her before she goes to school in the morning and then for a few minutes in passing when she gets home and before I go to work. It stinks, but that just makes the time we do have together all the more valuable and worthwhile. :)

Big hugs to you, my friend! And thanks for visiting my blog, Ready Set Read Reviews. Good luck in the draw, and feel free to send any friends over to participate as well (if you don't mind the competition- lol). ;)


Michelle November 22, 2008 at 11:24 PM  

Sam - Welcome! And you may be right about the noticing thing, but that only makes it a little better. There's always something, I know!

Anymommy - Hmm. I hadn't thought about the creativity part. I just know that a battle of wills, especially with Little Miss, is just asking for it. Mister Man I can beat down (figuratively) but not her. Thanks -- that makes me feel better :)

Heather - Welcome! Definitely enjoy that time. It's never the same once they start heading out to daycare or elsewhere. Snuggle as much as you can now :)

Rebekah - Welcome! I know the feeling of passing briefly as that describes many of my days. Being part time is a huge gift though, and I should be more grateful for it -- and of course I don't fear the competition. I just have to get my act together!

KatBouska December 2, 2008 at 4:38 PM  

I think you're being too hard on yourself too. Your kids are benefiting from your work, it's not going to be the end of the world of they just hang tight for a little while things are busy. It won't always be like that.

I totally would have snuck in for extra loves though too. Sometimes it's not so much for them as it is for us. :) Hang in there!!

Michelle December 2, 2008 at 8:18 PM  

Mama Kat - Thanks... They are benefitting from the work, but there's so much outside work, too. And yep the extra love is TOTALLY for me :)

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