Thursday, January 08, 2009

Finally, Someone Gets It

A friend sent me this newspaper clipping from Carolyn Hax's Tell Me About It column in the Washington Post. I loved it!

"Dear Carolyn: My best friend has a child. Her: Exhausted, busy, no time for self, no time for me, etc. Me (no kids): Wow. Sorry. What'd you do today? Her: Park, play group . . .

OK. I've done Internet searches; I've talked to parents. I don't get it. What do stay-at-home moms do all day? Please, no lists of library, grocery store, dry cleaners. . . . I do all those things, too, and I don't do them every day. I guess what I'm asking is: What is a typical day, and why don't moms have time for a call or e-mail? I work and am away from home nine hours a day (plus a few late work events), and I manage to get it all done. I'm feeling like the kid is an excuse to relax and enjoy — not a bad thing at all — but if so, why won't my friend tell me the truth? Is this a contest ("My life is so much harder than yours")? What's the deal? I've got friends with and without kids, and all us child-free folks get the same story and have the same questions. — Tacoma, Wash.

● Dear Tacoma:Relax and enjoy. You're funny.

Or you're lying about having friends with kids.

Or you're taking them at their word that they actually have kids, because you haven't personally been in the same room with them. Internet searches?

I keep wavering between giving you a straight answer and giving my forehead some keyboard. To claim you want to understand — while in the same breath implying that the only logical conclusions are that your mom friends are either lying or competing with you — is disingenuous indeed.

So, since it's validation you seem to want, the real answer is what you get. In list form. When you have young kids, your typical day is: constant attention, from getting them out of bed, fed, clean, dressed; to keeping them out of harm's way; to answering their coos, cries and questions; to having two arms and carrying one kid, one set of car keys and supplies for even the quickest trips, including the latest-to-be-declared-essential piece of molded plastic gear; to keeping them from unshelving books at the library; to enforcing rest times; to staying one step ahead of them lest they get too hungry, tired or bored, any one of which produces the kind of checkout-line screaming that gets the checkout line shaking its head.

It's needing 45 minutes to do what takes others 15.

It's constant vigilance, constant touch, constant use of your voice, constant relegation of your needs to the second tier.

It's constant scrutiny and second-guessing from family members and friends, well-meaning and otherwise. It's resisting the constant temptation to seek short-term relief at everyone's long-term expense.

It's doing all this while concurrently teaching virtually everything — language, manners, safety, resourcefulness, discipline, curiosity, creativity, empathy. Everything.

It's also a choice, yes. And a joy. But if you spent all day, every day, with this brand of joy — and then when you got your first 10 minutes to yourself, you wanted to be alone with your thoughts instead of calling a good friend — a good friend wouldn't judge you, complain about you to mutual friends or marvel at how much more productively she uses her time. Either make a sincere effort to understand, or keep your snit to yourself."
~reprinted without permission


Katie said...

love it!

Laura said...

That's great! Thanks for sharing it.

Noel said...

I love it! The only crap I seem to get lately is from people with one child....,come on you are not even playing in the same game when you only have one child and I have 4, one of which is special needs....I hate all the " what do you do all day?" You know what I would love to go to work just to be able to have time to put an actual thought together and to talk to an adult for more than 5 minutes and maybe even NOT talk about a child during that time!

Tes said...

As a mother and wife thats works outside the home unless someone has PERSONALLY WALKED in a domestic enginner's shoes they don't have a clue. I remember years back I apologized to a good friend for giving her such a hard time for not being able to "hang out" back when her kids were young. I was totally oblivious how much work she had on her plate at that time of her life. Thankfully she still loved me.

Kerry said...

AWESOME!!! I hope you don't mind, I am going to reference this on my blog - it is FABULOUS!!!

Heather said...

LOL! I love it! so true

Michael and Michelle said...

That was awesome...absolutely perfect!! Thank you.

Aunt Joan said...

When I hear about these kind of comments from childless adults, my only thought is that I sincerely hope they never have to be so bothered with a child! Their life would never fit into a child's schedule! Thanks for sharing! Joan

Heather M said...

Priceless!! I don't have children, but if she spent ONE DAY with her friend and her friend's children she would understand!