Free Web Counter
Web Counters

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Women of the World - UNITE


The truth in Combos advertising

"Do you work?" asked the chiropractor.

Before she could answer, I interrupted "Oh yeah she works. At home!" and I pointed to the almost two year old adorable child squirming in my lap as I tried somewhat unsuccessfully to entertain him in the examining room with hastily drawn sketches on his magna doodle of every variety of animal I can think of.

"I guess I should change that question to ‘Do you have a paying job?" he corrected.

Even before our current crisis, I have been careful not to say "my wife doesn’t work." But I don’t think I’ll ever come close to making that mistake again. As much as I intellectually understood the rigors of the stay-at-home mom, I did not have the experiential understanding of mom-hood. Until now. Somewhat.

Lisa’s back went out early Sunday morning (and no, it wasn’t going to church). Ever since about 8:00 am Central time on January 14th, I’ve been 100% dad and about 90% of mom, plus the male nurse for an invalid and the sole caretaker for our two dogs and George, the hamster – the newest edition to our family. He arrived for our daughter’s sixth birthday earlier this month, promptly bit her, was disappointingly consistent with his species’ nocturnal tendencies and pooped a lot. With some patient inter-species diplomatic relations, Lisa and I had him warming up to human contact, but with the state of emergency around here the last couple of days, he’s probably regressed. And I digress.

I know you’ll all be concerned, so I’ll answer the question first - she’s doing better. The doctor thinks it’s a bulging disk, but nothing ruptured. It was most likely a combination of the rigors of mom-hood and an ill-advised yoga move followed by an early morning session of playing blocks sitting on the hardwood floors. It’s been more than 72 hours and she can now walk unassisted for short stretches and get to the bathroom by herself (that wasn’t always the case).

I’ve been through the back thing myself. I’ve had I think 3 episodes where it’s "gone out." The last and worst was almost 2 years ago on Lisa’s birthday when I basically abandoned her with a 4 year old and a 4 month old while I lived on the floor for a few days and got to find all the things that were lost under our furniture. (And she didn’t divorce me. Imagine that.) Now Lisa has a greater appreciation for what I went through. I feel like less of a wimp since this woman who gave birth twice without an epidural says that a major back problem is pretty dang miserable.

So she understands my pain better and I’m understanding hers. Not only is her job tougher and more emotionally and physically exhausting than mine, the hours suck. It’s about a quarter to ten. I’ve averaged starting the demands of my day a little after 6 a.m. after a night of interrupted sleep and then wrapped things up around nine. That’s about the time I can finish getting our kids to bed, picking up the leftover dinner dishes, bringing her an ice pack, making a grocery run, etc. and then collapsing in a chair somewhere to watch a little tv or read a book if I can make my eye’s focus.

It’s not that I’ve never watched the kids by myself or that she’s never been sick before in the 6 years we’ve been parents. I’ve had the kids to myself for a day here and there and had Ben alone overnight a few months ago when Lisa and Olivia went on a camping trip. He was still nursing at the time, desperately missing Lisa and was inconsolable at regular intervals. I thought that was work.

I realize I still don’t qualify for honorary mom status. Four days isn’t even the equivalent of one work week. I’ve been out of town on business trips for 3 or 4 days at a time and left Lisa alone with the kids. I’ve felt guilty about those times, but now when they come I’ll feel worse.

Since Sunday, I’ve gone extended periods without a shower. I’ve worn the same clothes for more than a day. I’ve missed meals ‘cause I was just too damn busy to get to eat anything myself. I realize why mom’s are concerned about their kid’s diets. It’s seems likes 75% of what I ingested this week was the scraps off my kid’s plates (or even the kitchen floor). I was doing well cooking and making lunches and trying not to take the easy way out, but this evening Lisa wanted a milk shake and she said "why don’t you pick something up at Sonic for the kids’ dinners." We actually had a 3rd child around as a mom of one of Olivia’s friends called and caught me on the way out the door to ask if I could pick up her daughter too because her youngest was still sleeping and her oldest was home sick. I was flattered - I think that was something like an initiation. I guess moms do this favor thing all the time. It’s probably the key to survival.

So after the food run I stagger in the door with Ben on my hip and bags of sandwiches and fries and my daughter races to the door shouting "Daddy’s Home!" and I feel energized and appreciated for a brief moment before she asks "Where’s the food?" and snatches her bag and scampers off cramming french fries in her mouth.

Let’s see. What else have I experienced? Ben’s a drooler and I’ve gotten up a couple of times from rocking him to sleep for his nap with slobber stains on my shirt that make it look like I’m lactating. I’ve escaped unscathed from a Ben Snowstorm which occurred in the kitchen while I was trying to do dishes. That’s when he says "It’s snowing!" and begins grabbing handfuls of whatever he can find (in this case, refrigerator magnets - some of them rather substantial) and flinging them all into the air. I’ve brokered numerous inter-sibling conflict resolutions. I’ve cooked delicious meals and only managed to eat a couple of bites off my plate before it went cold because I kept having to shuttle back and forth between the youngsters and someone who needed an escort to get from the couch to the toilet. I thought I multi-tasked at work.

I’ve looked at the clock at 9:00 a.m. and thought "I’m already exhausted." And unlike the way it is most days for Lisa, I knew nobody was coming through the door at 5:30 to help shoulder the load. I remember some Clint Eastwood movie where he was a marine drill Sargent and kept emphasizing "You’re marines! You adapt, you improvise, you overcome." They’ve got nothing on moms. Ben wandered in the kitchen at some point demanding attention while I had my hands full with cooking dishes and I was trying to keep him away from the hot stove with one foot. He was carrying his stuffed Elmo and the belt from Lisa’s terry cloth robe. I grabbed Elmo, tied him up with the belt and slung him around the kitchen a few times before I sent Ben off to scamper through the house at high speed squealing and dragging Elmo behind him. It occupied him long enough for me to get stuff off the stove and out of the oven without burning anything.

I did a car seat exchange that would impress a Nascar pit crew. I was sitting in the station wagon in the line with all the other mom’s waiting to pick up my daughter and her friend at school when I realized I needed to swap Ben’s car seat for the extra booster we keep in the back for those occasions when we are driving around someone else’s precious cargo. Lisa was feeling good enough, so I was thankfully able to pop in a video for Ben to occupy him in the living room with her on the couch while I took 30 minutes to run to the school. So when the line of cars moved up and stopped again for a break I cut the engine, popped the back hatch, unlocked the doors, zipped around the car, grabbed the booster, unhooked the latches on the car seat, threw it in the back, slammed down the booster and jumped back in the driver’s seat before the cars edged forward again. I didn’t want to look incompetent around a bunch of mom’s. That’s the one thing they don’t tolerate.

Then I tell the teacher with the megaphone that I need to pick up someone else’s kid too and give her the name and I’m hoping that with my unkempt hair, bloodshot eyes, shellshocked brain and unfocused stare I can still pass for someone who’s not a weirdo pedophile trying to kipnap my daughter’s schoolmate. She calls out my daughter’s friend’s name without a blink and I think "Hey, I must be doing okay."

Oh yeah. The Combos thing. I’m trying to be a good dad, but I think no matter what, no matter how enlightened and sensitive a parent I may try to be, I’m not pulling off the mom thing. There’s an ad out now for Combo’s stuffed pretzel snack things where there’s this big middle-aged overweight guy in a wig and a housecoat lying in bed snoring. A teenage son walks in and says "Mom. I don’t feel so good. I think I’ve got a fever" The "Mom" rolls over, slaps a big meaty hand to the kid’s forehead and says "Nah. You’re not sick. You’re probably hungry. Here" and he/she slings him a bag of Combos. As the kid wanders off, the "Mom" yells "Hey! Love ya!" and rolls over to go back to sleep. The tag line is "Combos – What your mom would give you to eat if your mom was a man." It’s hilarious. And I think it’s mostly true.

I don’t have the instincts a mother does. I thought I was a diligent and safe parent and after four days I find myself thinking things like "It’s not that cold out" as I shoot out the door with Ben in socks and no shoes 'cause I don’t know where they are, I’m running late and I don’t want to go back upstairs for the 100th time today to look for them. I gave him back some piece of food he’d dropped on the kitchen floor and was crying about and then had to pull from his mouth the hair that was attached to it. I secretly think I should have bought Olivia two hamsters that looked alike and kept one of them hidden in the basement as a backup in case we kill this first one. This is not the way a mom thinks and acts. Guys (not necessarily all men, but the sub-class of "guys") are task-oriented. We just want to get it done and think we were successful if nothing happened along the way that left anybody with a scar. I’m not Al Bundy, mind you. But I sure as hell ain’t June Cleaver either.

In conclusion, I have new appreciation for what my wife has gone through now for years. I’ve very happy she’s getting better, but I realize I’m screwed the next time one of those "what about my needs?" arguments happens. The good thing is, I can probably coast through the rest of the playoffs and Superbowl Sunday on some of the credit I’ve earned going above and beyond this week. By the time football season starts up again next fall, hopefully Ben will be potty trained and the kids can fend for themselves for a while if dad needs to be a couch potato for a few hours on the weekend. I’m sure not ever telling Lisa that "I need some time off" again.


Blogger Variations On A Theme said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:44 AM, January 20, 2007  
Blogger wordsonwater said...

Sweetie, your are superman in my book. Moms start slowly and grow to the task. A Dad not accustomed to doing it everyday suddenly thrust into the three ring circus is lucky not to set his hair on fire. Is it a hard job? Yup. Did I ever give a kid food and put them in front of the TV to have a few minutes peace? Yup. Did mine all grow up with body, brains and spirit intact? Seems to have worked, even if the neighbors did call me a few times to ask if I knew that my child was in the backyard naked. I wish I had been able to come back with a snappy reply to that one.

7:27 PM, January 22, 2007  

Post a Comment

<< Home