The Privilege of Motherhood

From the top of the stairs: “Mama!”

“Yes?” I call from the kitchen.

“Mamaaaa!”

“YES! What is it?”  I say louder.

“I need to change my diaper, I have poopies!”  My 3 year old says, immediately followed by, “I need to change my panties too because I went potty in them.”  This coming from my 6 year old.  This happened twice.  Today.

I’m not surprised.  She’s had the stomach flu off and on all week.  So in addition to my 1 year old’s teething-related bowel problems and my 3 year old twins who are still not potty trained, I have changed, cleaned up, flushed, scrubbed, laundered enough excrement in the last week to fill up every bath tub in my house (I have 3, one of which is a large soaking tub).

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Astonishingly, I have been okay with this.  Of course its not a pretty site (or smell), but I watched this video again, after having watched it several years ago before I was quite SO up to my knees in all of this.  It hit me harder this time as I imagined what would it would be like for my children to be going through what they’ve been through this week without a mother to care for them.

A few days ago my daughter had been throwing up all day, unable to keep anything down and barely able to sit up.  She said she wanted to sleep on the couch upstairs (in the same spot she hadn’t moved from in 12 hours).  I sat beside her rubbing her back and pushing her hair back out of her eyes as she breathed weakly.  Finally I equipped her with a big plastic bowl and a sippy cup of water before going downstairs to be with my husband.

We sat at the kitchen table playing a lovely game of skip bo (that I won) and trying to enjoy the much needed silence during the rare time when all 4 kids were sleeping, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed her to be closer to us.  I needed to hear her breathing.  So I made my husband go upstairs, pick her up and carry her, her blanket, cup, and bowl down to our bedroom to sleep on the floor.

It was the second night that we stayed up most of the night rinsing out the bowl, changing clothes and sheets, bathing, and rubbing backs (third night if you count doing the same for the baby).

My one child who hasn’t been sick this week (so far) is the one who laughs, cackles even, hysterically and uncontrollably in the middle of the night almost every night.  Usually I enter the room in a fit of anger, only to have him calm my rage by stroking my face and telling me “I like your eyes.  I like your cheeks.  I like your hair.  I like your fingers…”.  I can’t help but laugh as I say “I like you too”.

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I’ve said it more times than I can count, and every time I feel a little bit guilty, but MOTHERHOOD IS HARD!  If anyone wants to argue with me that it is not the most difficult job in the world, feel free.  I will win.

But in the same breath I can say that I am SO lucky to be the one to take care of these children.  Everyone once in a while I get a glimpse of how in the WORLD God would think I can handle this.  I’m so grateful for the perspective that sick kids give me of my purpose.  It may be a thankless job more often than not, but this week I have gotten more thank you’s, I love you’s, and cuddles (from the one who can’t talk) from these little ones than I think I deserve most of the time.

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“Its a tough job but somebody’s gotta do it” and I wouldn’t want it to be anyone else but me.

Do you have some sort of business woman special?

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I haven’t been this excited (or this nerdy) about something in a very, VERY long time.

Today I registered for an online training course to become a digital legal transcriptionist.  Yes, its a real thing, even though as I typed the word “transcriptionist” it was automatically underlined in red as a misspelled word.  I do NOT misspell words.  That is why this is the perfect job for me.

Let me tell you how I came to find this potential career of mine.

After a long fight with myself, I finally decided that it would be best if I visited a therapist.  My emotions have been so up and down for a while but around Thanksgiving is when it got really bad.  I was feeling hopeless and useless and just ready to throw in the towel.  It scared me because I’d never felt THAT bad before.  So I made an appointment.  I owed it to my family to try to find some sanity in this crazy season of my life.

So far I’ve been to visit him 3 times now and during the last visit we talked about the importance of me finding something in my life that could give me a little perspective.  He suggested getting a part time job and asked me what my skills were and what I may like to do.  Hmm…well let me think.  I worked as a hostess at 4 different restaurants, a line cook at a Subway-style Mexican restaurant (“Welcome to Moe’s!”), a checker at a grocery store, and then I started having kids.  And kept having kids.  Do I want to go back to work with a bunch of teenagers who may or may not have dropped out of high school yet as a 30 year old woman?  Let’s keep thinking.

This week I racked my brain for something I could put to good use (besides dance) and suddenly as we were binge watching the show Suits, it hit me.  I need to be a Court Reporter.  I love typing and drama.  The next day I called an attorney friend of mine and clumsily asked him if he had an opening like that.  He explained that they didn’t actually employ their own reporter but gave me the name of someone to call.  Well, to be brief, the 7th Judicial district (the court district that I live in) houses 10 counties and employs ONE court reporter.  But that’s beside the point.  To be a Certified Court Reporter, I’d need to be CERTIFIED.  So I started looking into it.

In my search I came across a job opening that was hiring for Legal Transcriptionists who want to work from home, can type 70+ wpm (oh please, I’ve got this in the bag), and have an AAERT certificate.  Huh?

I looked up AAERT: American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers.  Apparently there is a whole association of nerds like me.  I contacted their membership liaison, Sherry, and had a very nice conversation with her about the joys of a career in the field legal and medical transcription, which she’s been a part of for over 30 years.  After learning about my “situation” she encouraged me to check out a certain website that offered a great training course to prepare you to take the AAERT’s certification exam.

And here we are.  I am now enrolled in the International Institute for Transcribers and Court Reporters’ Legal Transcriptionist course.  For the next 6 weeks, I will be learning all about secure, organized file storage, homonyms, ei vs ie words and their exceptions, the proper uses of the comma, colon, semicolon, hyphen, italics, and dashes, as well as medical and legal terminology and so much more.  I just want to say, you had me at organized file storage.

Is it possible that thinking about learning more about the proper use of the English language and then getting to type it out really fast is actually make me love my children more?  I feel like a real adult!  I may not be able to sleep tonight thinking about my foot pedal and headset arriving in the mail next week.  Maybe my shrink was right about getting some perspective.

The Pen Pal Challenge

Freedom!  You’d be amazed what you SEE when you no longer have something blocking your periphery.

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I made the long overdue decision to “cancel” my Facebook account.  I say “cancel” because on the final page of the cancellation process it says “to reactivate, simply sign in using your username and password”.  So I guess the only thing holding me back from permanent deactivation is that I still remember my username and password.

I did, however, remove the FB app from my phone and the bookmark from my computer toolbar.  My biggest problem has been how easy it is to stay signed in 24/7.  My phone has almost become an extension of my arm, permanently attached, my eyes glued to the screen.  Yesterday I made the comparison between my addiction to screen-time and a bug to a fluorescent bug zapper.  And its equally detrimental.

The day that I decided to make this change I posted a status update alerting people to the impending deactivation.  Ironically, the majority of the feedback I got was that people wished they had the courage to make that change, but that they were scared of how much harder life would be.  They’re too addicted to it to imagine their life without it.

So I issued a challenge.  I DARE you to cancel your account and write me a handwritten letter.  If you are brave enough to just take that step, I promise your life will not be lacking anything.  In fact, taking those blinders off has allowed me to SEE my children more in the last few days than I have in months.  Not just because I’m looking at them instead of my phone, but because the things I read and see on Facebook poison my outlook on almost everything.  Suddenly my patience isn’t so short and my opinion of myself isn’t so terrible.  When you’re not spending all your time comparing your life to everyone else’s, you’d be surprised how great your life looks.

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As I’m writing this, I got a phone call.  It was from a friend that I see rarely except in my news feed.  She said “I went on Facebook to ask you a question but I realized you weren’t there anymore!”  I explained the situation and she said “Good for you!”  She said she thinks about doing that often.  She asked me to help her out with an activity and we set up a date and time.  We had a short but nice conversation and now I have plans to be a part of something!  How fast that worked.

I’m excited to see how my life changes now.  I have no intention of losing touch with the people who mean the most to me, I’ll just have to work a little harder.  Who wants to take my dare?  Even in this fast paced, technology filled world, its still really nice to get mail.  I love the feeling of actual paper.

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Adventures in Babysitting

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In case the mother of my most recent babysitter happens to be reading this, I first need to say you have raised an amazing young woman and she is exempt from any  “criticism” 🙂  Moving on…babysitting from multiple POV’s.

As a Parent looking for sitters

Fortunately for our family, for the majority of our married life with children we’ve had family very close by and haven’t really had to find a sitter.  Not to mention we live in a town where there’s not a lot to do on dates so there’s rarely a need.  But when we DO go out, we usually enlist the help of my wonderful MIL.  She knows and loves our kids and respects our house as much as we do, so not only can we count on her to take care of the KIDS but I trust she’s not going to be stealing from us or inviting boyfriends over while we’re gone (right, mom?).

I have only very recently realized that there is a major shortage of good babysitters out there.  The few times that we have had teenagers come to our house, I come home and find it messier than it was when I left, no diapers have been changed, and I’m $20 (or more) poorer.  More like $50 after gas and dinner.  Was it worth it?

My question is, for those of you who are in this stage, do you make obsessive-compulsive lists for your babysitters of what you want them to do?  Or do you expect them to just use common sense?

I feel like getting a babysitter puts me in a really weird position.  I still don’t feel old enough to be calling babysitters; I used to BE the babysitter not that long ago.  So when someone arrives at my house I still feel the need to communicate with them like we’re on the same level.  I hate telling them what to do because in a sense its like telling your peers what to do.  Plus I think they should just assume that if they make food they should wash the dish, or if there’s a messy diaper, it probably shouldn’t wait til I get home.

Me, as a Babysitter

When I was in middle school, my mom made me take a babysitting course that included CPR training and certification.  I’m not sure if this was just a house rule, or a state mandated law.  But I returned home from the class a qualified babysitter, ready to approach “clients” with my skills.

I was told that it was appropriate and appreciated to tell the parents how much you charge, when you’re available, and to ASK THEM what they want you to do while you’re there (ie: dishes, laundry, bathing, diapers, etc.).  If you happen to have kids toys or books, bring them.  Kids always love not to have to play with their own boring toys.

I had lots of different babysitting experiences, some for parents who already had an extremely tidy house and just needed someone who would fix dinner and make sure the kids were alive (although this was never all I did, even if it was all that was expected).  Some for parents who had a very specific list of tasks to accomplish before they got home (Wednesday: bathroom cleaning day, Thursday: laundry day, Friday: clean the wood floors day).

It seems to me that parents are not teaching their kids HOW to have responsibilities.  I think that most parents of teens, when they hear that somebody needs someone to watch their children, automatically volunteer their own teenager.  The problem is many teenagers think that babysitting is the easiest job in the world because all they have to do is SHOW UP.  Heaven forbid they do something besides turn on cartoons and text on their phones.  I never ever expected to be paid to just sit at someones house and not do anything to help them.  So my point is, if you don’t feel qualified to be a babysitter (or don’t think your teen is qualified yet), DON’T TAKE THE JOB.  It shouldn’t be the world’s easiest job.  Just like parenting, it should be a job you “show up” to and take pride in

As someone who has been “babysat”

Children are impressionable.  Just because they are young doesn’t mean they won’t remember what you do when you’re there.  I still have vivid memories of experiences I had with babysitters, good and bad.

When my parents got divorced my mom had to get a full-time job and was forced to find a full-time babysitter.  She hired a woman named Mickey.  My 7-year-old-memory of this experience may not be accurate, but this is how I saw it.  I was dropped off at Mickey’s house every morning before school, I walked to school with her kids, and returned after.  Here are my 3 most distinct memories of my experience at Mickey’s house: I used to have to take naps on her living room couch while she watched Oprah and soap operas right next to me.  One time her kids were all going to see a movie with their dad and she told me I wasn’t allowed to go.  I cracked my chin open on the side of her pool and as I waited for my mom to come pick me up and take me to the hospital, she kept yelling at me to stop crying.  My mom says Mickey was a very nice lady who made a good impression on her so I guess you never know.

I had one babysitter during a summer in North Carolina with my dad who invited her boyfriend over while she was watching us.  My friend Bryan came over to play and we caught the sitter and her boyfriend making out.  When she saw that we were “spying” she made fun of us and then dared us to kiss.  I was 8 years old.  That was my first kiss.

Everyone else

I’m very aware that especially in today’s world everyone has an opinion.  Everyone is a professional on every issue.  So there will be someone who reads this and thinks “if you have such a problem with babysitters then take care of your own kids”.

May I remind you that I am a 99% stay-at-home mom.  The other 1% is the date or two that I go on each month to keep my marriage in tact (which is rare these days).  Because as much as I love my children, there will be a day when they leave the house and my husband and I are left with whatever remains of our relationship (which I hope is every bit as blissful as it was when he proposed to me).

I’ve come to realize that you can love your children with every bit of your heart, but still need a moment or two away from them.  And the truth is that they need time away from you too.  It doesn’t make me a bad parent to leave my kids with someone else once in a while.

All I’m saying is that if you are marketing yourself as a babysitter, whatever your age, you’d better be prepared for the requirements.  And parents, teach your children (before they become know-it-all teens who are unteachable, like I know I was) the life skills they need to become a babysitter BEFORE you unleash them into someone else’s home to take care of their most precious things.

 

P.O.W. in my own reality

I have been medically diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  I have been asked to visit a neurologist regularly, get annual MRI scans of my brain, and do a monthly infusion of an MS treatment to hopefully slow the progression.  “You have to do this,” they tell me, “or you will be in a wheelchair.”  So I do it.  This is me.  The sick girl who spends half her income on medical expenses.

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And then I come home, and I forget that I was ever there.  I think there has GOT to be more to life, more to me, than this.  This does not define me.  Maybe I can find a better way.  So I go to homeopathic docs seeking answers and I leave with this:

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Having to take a bazillion pills a day doesn’t make me see myself in a more positive light, free and unattached to medical necessity.  So I agree to join a fitness challenge group with my sister and a dozen other healthy people.  I exercise every single day and attempt to eat meticulously healthy.  But I don’t feel any better or worse and I think what is the point of all this?  What am I actually trying to achieve or change about “me”?

Now I ask myself, who am I really?  What is reality?  Is it what is tangible and provable?  Or is it what things appear to be in my own unconscious mind?  Am I a sick person because doctors say so or a healthy person because…well…look at what I’m doing!  And why does it even matter what is real?  Doesn’t it only matter what feels real to ME?

Almost a decade ago my dad gave me a book recommendation.  One of the things that stuck with me about this book was the following idea:

Nothing others do is because of you.  What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream.  When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering (concept from Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements).

I thought this was so interesting.  And maybe also too much to wrap my mind around.  I don’t do well with subjectivity.  I like black and white, yes and no, I think within a verifiable frame of mind.  For this reason I have a major preoccupation with being right all the time.  I’d like for every doctor to be able to look at me and say, “Now here is a healthy person.  You just do what you’re doing.  You’re on the right track.”  Here’s another idea to try to wrap my mind around:

I lived in Heaven before I came to Earth.  My body and mind were perfectly healthy, my relationships had a purpose, my perspective was Eternal.  Then my Father in Heaven said, “I’m going to send you to Earth for a short time so you can learn some stuff and when you come back to me you’ll be even better than you are now!”  I’m sure that’s how he talks.  And then he said, “The only catch is that your body won’t be quite so perfectly healthy, you may struggle in your relationships, and you won’t be exactly sure who you are or why you’re doing anything that you’re doing.  And no one will be able to give you answers to these things because everyone will be in disagreement about why they’re there.  You up for that?”  For some reason I agreed.  And here we are.

This Earth life is so confusing!  There is a war going on, both inside me and in the world in general, about what matters and what doesn’t.  Do I want my quality of life while I’m here to be good?  Of course.  Do I want to go back to Heaven? Definitely!  Am I doing so many unnecessary things in my journey to achieve happiness and exaltation that I’m losing sight of what is really important?  Yes…maybe?…I guess that depends on what really matters.  So, in MY OWN REALITY, what matters and what doesn’t?  Let’s give it some objective thought.

Things that NEVER matter:

•Which Salvatore brother Elena chooses today, whether or not Mitch and Cam’s wedding turns out the way they want, How exactly Ted did meet their mother, or who is next on Emily’s list of people to take out.

•That I wasn’t invited to whatever girls night, play group, or exercise club was going on yesterday.

•How many people come to events that I plan (“Don’t take it personally” says Ruiz)

•If today I eat a non-organic salad vs. an organic one, and tonight I have a cookie containing gluten and sugar instead of gf oats and agave.

•Whether or not I post on this blog or Facebook or anywhere else on a daily basis, or what I say when I do post.

Things that ALWAYS matter:

•My family
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•My friends
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•My health
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And most importantly, that I’m doing my best where these things are concerned.  If I were to break down my reality to its most essential components, I would be removing most of the “stuff” I spend my time doing and worrying about daily.  Now take a breath.  Life really isn’t that complicated.

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