Note: I have been MIA for almost 3 weeks and have a lot of catching up to do!!! Looking forward to reading some of my fave bloggers. You know who you are 🙂
7.00am The Screw Up
The day started by a sobering realization: I gave our nanny her Friday off so she could have family time with her young kids. But DH was not working and I had to work…I gently warmed DH to the idea of having to mind the kids on his own. I started to say things like: ‘I have the meeting during the kids’ nap; it should be quick and nice’.
‘Where’s your meeting?’
He raised his eyebrow it is just the second largest borough in New York so I vaguely say: ‘I think it is somewhere in Greenpoint’.
I.e. 3 transfers, 3 boroughs Manhattan – Queens- Brooklyn = there is not a fucking chance that I will be back before the kids wake up from their naps. I am now trying to hide the IPad so that DH does not check Google Maps.
8.00am The Breakfast
We get ready to eat and of course I forgot to buy Nespresso refills, sliced bread, jam,…basically I had shopping amnesia. Facing me, I have an understanding silent DH who starts mumbling in his head (oh yeah DH, I can hear you we are practically twins…) and three tots who do now pretend to be starving. I mean they were perfectly content poking each other’s eyes a la Kill Bill for a stupid toy pocket light that is (seriously) the size of a quarter coin. Morons.
This until they heard the ‘we have no food, we have no coffee’ line. It was just what they needed to start shaking the kitchen gate and scream ‘Moooooom, I am hungryyyyyy!!!!‘Terrorists.
So I dash to our local hipster coffee place the Double Dutch looking like and smelling SHITE, in my PJs and see on my way some neighbors with their 2 young kids all dressed up (obviously smelling nice shampoo) strolling away to enjoy the sunny day. I am a fecking failure 🙂
8.45am The ‘I am choosing my battle’
I get the kiddos ready and decide to skip our usual tooth brushing routine that sounds like this:
Me: Please open your mouth so I can brush your teeth
Me: C’mon or your teeth will be broken like Mama’s and I don’t have money to get then fixed. Note: I really don’t.
Them clinching their teeth: No!!!
Me: C’mon!!! Forcing the toothbrush in their mouth seconds before getting whacked in the head by an hysterical tot.
So yeah, I have no time for this crap. Not today.
10.30am The Me Time
DH takes the 3 musketeers to the building common yard to play with their scooters. I finally have my coffee and start cooking the kids’ lunch because the deal was:
‘I’ll watch the monsters but you feed them. If you leave before, they won’t eat’ This blackmail works EVERY time.
That is the main difference between DH and I: food. He is of the school ‘you play with your food, you don’t eat. You complain about your food, you don’t eat.’ I am more like ‘OK I’ ll hunt you down with a spoon until you eat’. That is my Lao fiber, that pathological need to feed people.
11.30am The Rat Race
I am still not showered and running after my kids riding their scooters with a spoon of chicken pasta. My Lao grandma would be proud. Meanwhile DH is rubbing his forehead; he is probably thinking that this day cannot finish soon enough. Of course, the kids refuse to eat. DH is happy to eat the leftovers; the man is depressed.
I am out of the house (showered) and I stop feeling guilty. I am even excited by the idea of doing a transfer in Queens. I am pathetic.
3.45pm Rad Greenpoint
My meeting is finally done, I met with 2 beautiful and bright women entrepreneurs. I am fully energized. It occurs to me that people in Greenpoint are hip in the right kind of way: they are super friendly, talk slow and smile like a LOT. I also learn a new word: ‘rad’. I think it means ‘awesome’, ‘cool’, ‘out of your mind amazing’. Everyone is Brooklyn seems to say ‘rad this’, ‘rad that’. Somehow I don’t think I can pull it off. My skinny jeans are not skinny enough.
4.15pm The Psychopath
As I am on the train, I am checking out what the guy next to me is reading but cannot find out because the guy is actually Michael C. Hall with a sports cap on. I have been obsessed with Dexter for a longtime and still think that Season 4 with John Lithgow is one of the best things I have ever seen on TV. So I remain speechless feeling both giddy and scared shitless. Michael C. Hall was so good as Dexter that as I am sitting next to him, I am catching myself looking around to see if we are alone in the train carriage…I freak out. For real. I am teleported to Miami and am wondering if I am going to be the next Dexter victim…
4.45pm The Bouncy Castle
I get home and the kids are about to go ballistic inside the bouncy castle that DH is now setting up in our living room…Where’s the beer?
5.15 pm The Playground
I hate playgrounds. I always end up bickering with 4 year olds and always seem to be searching for one of my kids. Too much stress; so I dial my friend Emma: ‘Fancy a Harlem tavern with all our 5 kids?’ and I am counting the minutes.
6.00pm The Tavern
aka the place where kids eat chips and listen to Jazz while their parents get plastered with beers and mimosas. It has a very high ratio of staff and usually half of them likes children so B-I-N-G-O, they will always stop your kids in time before they stab themselves with a knife. Awesome for outnumbered parents.
10.00pm The Bedtime
Somehow we bought wine and ended up at Emma’s and while the 5 kids watch something on the TV…the 4 parents kept sipping wine. Eventually every set of parents has to deal with their responsibilities. Denial is coming to an end: it is passed bedtime and one way or the other you have to clean them and put them to bed. As the kids are yawning under their blankets, for a second I am thinking: ‘What an ass I have been, they should have been in bed hours ago..‘ But my thoughts are interrupted by P.:
-‘Mom, why could I not stay at my girlfriends E. and M’s?
– Well you are only 3, a little too young…
-OK, when I am older, buy me a phone and I will call my girlfriends and I will stay at their place even after it gets dark. I am not scared, you know’
I smile. The apple did not fall from the tree. Atta girl.
Most IQ tests would probably conclude that I am an idiot. And I am not even going to fight this.
When people ask me what I do, many expect one of these two straightforward answers: I am a stay at home mom or I am a working mom. I never really managed to choose which box was the most relevant to me, let alone describe it. I am often tempted to respond: ‘Life is not in black or white but in a various shades of grey…’ Which probably would make look like
A- a wanker or
B- a failed motivational speaker or
C- a mythomaniac or very possibly,
D- all the above
Instead, I either answer ‘I am in transition/in between things’ (which can be translated into ‘don’t ask more questions or I will cry right now, right there? Do you want you me to blow my nose with your top? I don’t think so…) OR I list, in no coherent order, everything I think I do:
– I take care of my 3 kids from 6-9am
– I am coordinating a grassroots group of families in the neighborhood who want to give a free French English bilingual education to their children
– I order diapers online
– I do the laundry on a weekly basis
– I try to cook every day
– I am freelancing as a business coach for social entrepreneurs like these awesome change makers, MarioWay, who designed an upright wheelchair which I think can really change the way we perceive disability.
– I rant about me, myself and I and procrastinate aka I have a mommy’s blog (to read absolutely by the way in order to decide whether or not you should create a new contact entry after I gave you my phone number)
– I add 10 items in my Gap online store basket every day, only to empty it because I am too broke
– I am venturing into Fashion entrepreneurship ranging from the unlikely (Accessories design) to the most likely (Fashion e-retail)
– I organize parties where adults get drunk and kids bump each other’s head in a bouncy castle.
– I take care of L (for real) in the afternoons.
I also go through this list very quickly so that people get confused and focus instead on how cute they think my kids are.
It’s like when you have your first job interview after graduation and you transform your experience of helping your parents catering nems for Lao weddings into a full fledge ‘entrepreneurial experience’ or when you are using the same internship to cover 100 distinct sets of skills. Verbal diarrhea to fill gaps: it never fools anyone but you do it anyway.
The not earning money is getting really tough for me. I sometimes feel that in the world of today, a woman who pays someone to care for her children while not earning any revenue is seen as a freak. Someone told me few months ago: ‘Normal -as in not filthy rich- women these days either work or take care of their children. Paying child care is an oddity (real words said were ‘du Jamais vu’ , literal translation ‘you have never seen this’) if you don’t work’.
The economic logic of their statement seemed indeed flawless. I should probably have been angry; instead I was embarrassed and admitted: ‘Well I guess some of us can’t just do it. Maybe, I am not physically or emotionally equipped to care for my 3 kids. Maybe I am just limited’.
French women in particular are all expected to go back to work; many things help to ease back into the 9-6pm routine: free public school from age 3 (sometimes even earlier), decent maternity leave that gives you enough time with your Cherubs but not long enough to start have an postpartum existential crisis a la ‘Maybe I should make and sell hats. It seems pretty straightforward, NOT’. I am not at all saying that French women have it easy (far from it), I am just trying to put things into perspective; in the US or at least in the state of New York childcare is privately funded until kids are 5 (or 4 if you are lucky enough to get a public school pre-K spot). I calculated that the median full-time childcare for G,P and L in Manhattan would round up to about $70,000 a year. I should probably have given this person this figure but then again, it would be like trying to justify my choices and why should I do this?
In fact, the person I am truly angry at is myself. For not walking the talk. You see, in my previous life, I have advocated for making visible the contributions of women at home by translating them in economic outputs to inform public policies. I barked that society and governments should stop thinking that women (and men who take care of their home) are sources of unlimited free and altruistic labor who just pick up the shit when public spending is cut or when the cost of private child care or elder care spirals out of control. Yes, I used to say all this type of stuff before concluding that doing this would among other things at the very least improve women’s self-worth.
I realize now that it was all very easy to say when I was an educated childless income earner living the life in London. I do still hold this type of discourse during dinner conversations with friends (who after 5 minutes of my monologue must be wondering whether or not I have my periods) or when boosting another mama’s confidence when she feels fucking awful about not ‘contributing financially’.
But the truth is, the longer I am staying out of a paid job, the flakier my position is becoming. I laud stay-at-home moms but how cannot I be more proud of being one? I should. I really should. I don’t know. I feel like a two-faced b***h. Sometimes.
I don’t think ‘I am a stay-at-home mom’ are words that ever came out of my mouth while that is exactly what I was for a good 2 years and half. Maybe I should join a stay-at-home mom Anonymous group.
I am slowly getting OK about all this though. That’s why I can talk about it now. Guilt free. I made my peace, it’s OK for me to refuse to answer to ‘either or’ questions: ‘stay at home mom’, ‘working mom’, ‘part time mom’, ‘full-time bitch’. Whatever, we all have work to do, don’t we? I always sucked big time at Multiple Choice Testing anyway.
Last week I was very busy with different non-baby related projects (hence no blogging). I cannot go into details about these projects for the moment but let’s just say that I have my fingers in too many pies and by the end of the year either scenario could take place:
– I will be able to lick the stuffing from most pies out of my fingers, have a busy 2014 year and pocket my first real dollars since 2010
– One pie will prove tastier, I will jump into it recklessly with the philosophy of ‘no risks, no gains’ and thus drag my whole family into a full-blown entrepreneur drama.
– All the pies will rot and explode in my face because of the high level of Hydrogen Sulfide and I’ll only have my tears to clean the crust out of my face.
Does this sound cryptic to you? Believe me, it is probably even more confusing in my head right now. Anyway, let’s not play Nostradamus and just get on with it for now, I guess. I don’t know what next year will be but I can tell you what today feels like: Multiple Personality Disorder.
I have always had 2 or 3 people cohabiting in my head since I was ten: Good Me (Little Miss Straight As student), Bad Me (Little Miss I am going to punch everyone in the face) and Plain Crazy Me (Little Miss ‘My whole world is a freaking live Musical’). Nowadays, it feels more like 10 people failing to cohabit and fighting all the time for breadcrumbs. And as for the musical in my head, it sounds more like surreal ‘Jerry Springer Show: The Opera’ than say cute ‘Grease’.
I am aware that it is probably a very common plight among (working and stay at home) moms but I thought the following snapshot may amuse you.
– I have always checked my work emails in the middle of the night and when I was waking up so I knew what my workday would be like. I have never given up on this bad habit even though lately most messages were WordPress notifications about comments or likes on my blog. To these, I now get emails from collaborators on my different projects, from the teachers of the kids’ weekly activities groups, from DH to reminder about this and that (since I am a human Blackberry too apparently), and from myself to remind me about this and that (I do need to work better with that Calendar apps PRONTO). Don’t get me wrong I do LOVE the excitement. However, I am getting increasingly disturbed by the fact that I am on my IPhone emailing or texting away my eyes barely open, with DH snoring near me, L pinching my nipple, G sleeping by my feet and kicking my crotch with his leg and P standing by my bed watching me and making her best impersonation of a ‘I see DEAD people’ toddler…
– I try to cook the kids’ lunch every morning so I can barricade myself behind the kitchen’s safety gate to work and order baby diapers online while the chicken and veggies ragout simmers. But things got more complicated with the kids’ improved motor skills. Indeed, I am not quick enough to rush out of the kitchen to prevent L from pulling his weenie out of his diaper and spray pee across the room as if he was a freaking firefighter hosing down a fire. Not quick enough either to help G get up onto the toilet as he rushes to the bathroom diaper free…
– I very rarely get showered before 12pm these days. Partly because I am running behind every single thing I plan, and partly because I love that I can be on a Skype business call in my sweatpants. It feels dangerous 🙂 . The main problem is that I do not brush my hair in 4 days either. I thus started to avoid any conversations with my neighbors in the laundry room or in the lobby because I am self-conscious of my potentially very bad odor. They probably think I have started my metamorphosis into ‘The Fly’ or that I am a total social nutcase.
– Pre children I had a very specific routine before an important meeting: I would drink slowly my coffee gazing at the Thames river (I used to have a desk with a view…sigh), read for the thousandth time my meeting preparation notes, go to the restrooms to freshen up, and take deep breaths. These days my routine is: distract the kids, run to hide in my room, lock the door, get out of my room because they are screaming for murder asking for a hug (cute) or for me to clean the poop out of the diaper (because that’s the one thing Mama apparently does waaayyyyy better than the nanny, evil kids…), wash my hands 3 times, get a glass of water, and put a towel at the bottom of the door so they cannot put their hands through the opening like some kind of baby zombies wanting to tear my guts apart.
Things would be kind of OK if I could manage not to lash out at …my mom. Yes, among the different personas in my head, ‘Good daughter’ has been MIA for a while. To my defense, she ALWAYS decides to Skype video in the middle of mini breakdowns. I mean, EVERY time. It’s like she has a fucking sensor. She calls, and wants to see the kids. Of course it’s the middle of the night in France so the kids can only see a shadow in the darkness talking to them in Lao, which they don’t understand, and swearing to them it’s their granny… The Shadow then tells me that I should do everything in my power to prevent my kids from being sick this winter (?), comments on the level of screaming decibels in my house and promises that she really, really wants to early retire to come and help with the kids. So, of course I start yelling, hang up and then feel bad about it. I feel bad for about 1 hour…until my mom’s cousin calls me from France to apply for a position as a cook at my fictional Lao restaurant…What the fuck? As a joke, I told my mom a few weeks ago about opening a restaurant if I could not find a job and now the whole Lao community in France thinks I am planning to be the next ‘Nobu’. Insane, absolutely insane…I am schizophrenic enough as it is, I do not need a knife handling chef persona to join the crew in my head. Nope. Out of my head, you and your toque.
What about you, guys? How many people do you have in your head?
Have a nice week, everyone!