Category Archives: Appreciating Mommy

WAHM on the Run: A New Approach to Ending Arguments and Getting Older Kids to Be More Responsible

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: Moms (or Dads) of teens (and other kids that try their patience) need a place they can retreat to, at a moment’s notice, to get away from them.  To think before flying too far off the handle.  To de-escalate a situation, eliminate whining and cut the exchange of words short, with the promise of discussion at a calmer time.  To be alone in order to come up with really good consequences for certain behavior rather than “grounding them from everything for life” in the heat of the moment.  In other words, when the kids are too old to “go to their rooms” for a time out, you need to go to yours. Or take a walk outside.  Just get away… only, sometimes that’s not so fun to go to your room, like when your husband hasn’t picked up his underwear and socks for awhile… and, kids can still knock on your door.  Or yell outside it. Or worse, kick it. (Nothing makes a defiant kid madder than to have a door shut in his/her face!) And, while going outside can be refreshing, sometimes it’s too dark to walk, or the weather’s bad.  And again, kids can follow you  (no, let me re-phrase that…they will follow you!).  So I must say, once my husband gifted me with a laptop almost two years ago, it turned out to be the gateway for another kind of “parent retreat”– I’ve been having fun discovering all the local places that have free WiFi, good coffee, and long hours.  Lately, thanks to a nifty carry bag said husband got me for Christmas, that laptop, plus my planner, phone, and a couple of books, are “ready to go” at a moment’s notice, and I head to Starbucks, the public library, or other local spots, and take my work on the road.

It’s been interesting– I can now tell you which Starbucks within five miles of my house (and there are 10) has the most power sources, which are the least crowded at certain times of the day, which give you the most privacy, which have the best tables on which to work, and which ones have the best lo-carb food selections.  I can also tell you the best spots to get work done at the library and which coffee is the best out of their machine. I am a Freebirds Fanatic, a “My Panera” member, and carry a Cup of Joe punch card from Corner Bakery. 

While I haven’t gone to any of those places enough for their staff to know me by name, they might soon, because I’m thinking of making my office-away-from-home a regular gig.  At least in the mornings. 

See, as kids get older, they need to take on more responsibility, but I think when you’re a Stay At Home Mom (SAHM) or Work at Home Mom (WAHM), they get short-changed a little on this. Because they assume that because you’re home all the time, you can always be their emergency back-up.  Not only are they more forgetful on remembering things because they always think there’s the slight chance Mom might bring to school whatever they forgot, they get lax in other areas as well.  They head to the school nurse’s office for minor hurts, not major.  They run late to school more often.  Did they miss their ride with Dad? No worries, they think, Mom is still at home and she can drive.  It doesn’t matter that that’s a waste of gas, that Dad goes right by their schools on his way to work…and Mom doesn’t.  The important thing is that Mom is there.  Did they “sleep in” and decide to skip a couple classes? Well, good ‘ol Work-At-Home-Mom is there to take them in the middle of the morning so at least they can sashay in and make it on time for third period.  No thought is ever given that maybe Mom has better things to do than re-arrange her schedule to accommodate theirs. But of course she will, because she doesn’t want kids lazing around the house all day!  (And as far as us using grounding, phone gone, etc. as punishments for being late or missing classes? Hasn’t changed the behavior!)

I’ve seen miraculous things happen on those rare days when I’ve had early meetings outside of the house.  The kids seem to move a little faster. They know Mom is going to be gone “all morning” so they get their act together.  There is no “sleeping in”, no whining to Mom about how they’re-running-late-so-could-she-PLEASE-make-them-a-lunch… On those days, things happen the way they should for two teens.  They take on more responsibility. So I’ve decided I’m going to re-create that scenario as often as possible from now on and start heading out each morning, whether I have a meeting or not, before the rest of the family crew is scheduled to leave, and head to one of my trusty offices-away-from-home. Which means I’d have to get there pretty early, but that’s okay– my favorite Starbucks opens at 5!  True, that means I’ll have to spend at least a couple dollars each time (I’ll take a tall regular of the bold Roast of the Day, thank you very much!) but it will be worth it.  I think it will force my kids to be more responsible on a regular basis and I will probably get more work done as well.  And if my husband (or child) calls to tell me that one of them “missed the boat”, oh, well, I guess I’ll just spend that day out. Maybe I’ll keep a duffel bag filled with workout gear in my car so I can head to exercise class in between stops at my “offices”…  

Does that make some of you sad, thinking I’m going to be missing out on those June Cleaver, stay-at-home moments by not being present when my family leaves for the day? I’ve had plenty of those moments. Of smiling and waving to the car as it backs out of the driveway; of running after it with shoes or lunchboxes or hairbrushes in my hands; of having crispy bacon or freshly-baked chocolate chip muffins ready for husband and children as they pass thru the kitchen on their way out the door…but in the sitcom of my life, kids being routinely late to class or skipping them all together is much more serious business than smiling and saying, “Wait ’til your father gets home.” And since our school district’s rules on unexcused absences are ridiculously lenient and aren’t providing the “natural consequences” that I’d hoped, this June Cleaver is going to have to go away.  Literally.  (But I still plan to hug each family member every morning before I do…)

The Circle of Pride and Embarrassment

While I generally have an “I don’t worry about what people think about me” attitude, it’s funny that when you have kids, you do care about how they “show” in public, in part because you feel like their actions are a reflection of your parenting skills. You wince when they’re young and throw tantrums in Target, pick their nose while walking down the aisle during a wedding ceremony or point a finger at a stranger in a parade and yell out something brutally honest (“That man is HUGE!!”).  And you rejoice when they remember to say “Thank you” to Grandma, sing a song perfectly at a recital or run to greet you in front of school with a big hug.  I hope I never forget the time when Emmie and I were sitting in a bookstore coffee shop– I was looking through a stack of cookbooks and she was engrossed in one of her Rick Riordan novels, when all of a sudden she looked at me and my books and said, “I am so glad I have a Mom that cooks, and plans out all of our meals, because a lot of people don’t do that very much anymore.” Yes, I about fell off my chair at that sign of appreciation, and yes, the elderly couple walking past our table right at that moment almost dropped their lattes in astonishment, then offered some words of praise to both Emmie and me.  It was a proud moment and I think it made that elderly couple happy, too…

Of course as your kids get older, you hope for more and more proud public moments and less red-faced ones, and generally that has happened for us…but because of Emmie’s size, I realized the other day that we’re in a unique situation. 

See, because she’s very petite for her 13 years, she looks a lot younger.  Which would be great if she was auditioning for a TV show.  But in everyday situations, when people don’t know her age, it can look like we’re raising a veritable wild child.  The other day, a young mother was in the grocery checkout line behind Emmie and me, with a little girl sitting in the childseat of her cart.  And there was Emmie, in an Aerosmith shirt and “fashionably ripped” jeans, a bit of smudged mascara under her eyes, grabbing a tabloid and chatting to me about Chaz Bono, obviously knowing who he/she is and asking questions that anyone around could hear, and me answering her, then answering her questions about the next tabloid subject– I could see the mom noticing her and the checkout dude chuckling, and that’s when it suddenly struck me that they both probably thought she was 9 or 10 (or younger), and maybe they even thought I was one of those (gasp!) “loose” parents, letting my kid grow up too fast…and for the first time in a long time I felt a twinge of red-faced embarrassment…’Some parent I must look like,’ I thought.   

“Let’s put the magazine back,” I told her, trying to save face.  “Most of that stuff isn’t true anyway.”  I secretly wished Emmie would start humming “Jesus Loves Me” or turn and give the young mom a big grin so at least she could see that she had braces on…

Little did I know I would soon be giving Emmie something to wince about.  As we left the store, we passed a group of high schoolers studying at a table in the grocery store’s Starbucks, and I recognized several that I hadn’t seen in ages, kids who’d gone to elementary school with Allison, and I smiled and spoke to a couple of them as we passed.  When we got home,  Emmie went straight to Allison.  “Mom said hi to some of your friends at the store!!!” she gushed.  “She thinks she’s so cool!! It was soooo embarrassing!!!” 

Another Dream Retreat for Parents?

Just the other day, when Emmie was balking at cleaning her bedroom, I reminded her how lucky she is that she has her own room, a space she can call her own.  We talked about how not all kids have their own rooms, and how parents definitely don’t (unless maybe if they have a home office with LOCKING doors…I wish, I wish…). The average parent usually has to share everything, with either their spouse or the rest of the family– their bed, their bedroom, living spaces…even a “master bathroom” can have kids marching in and out at all hours of the night.  And when they get to work, well, the average parent who works outside the home still doesn’t have their own room/office.  And of those that do, only a small number have one with a door.  That shuts and locks.  And has no window on it.

She thought that was cool that she had something an adult didn’t.

But we all know it’s psychologically good for everyone to have their own, private space at least once in awhile.  So how do parents get that?  I’ve blogged before about this, about how former Carol Burnett Show star Lyle Waggoner should get his Star Waggons company to make a portable luxury parent retreat…well, it looks like Rainier Yurts of Seattle has beat them to it.  While not exactly portable, it is luxurious.  Check out their backyard escape in the latest Neiman Marcus Christmas Book, one of NM’s “Fantasy Gifts” for 2011, at www.neimanmarcus.com/store/sitelets/christmasbook/fantasy.jhtml?cid=CBF12_O5106&r=cat40890771&rdesc=The%20Fantasy%20Gifts.  Designed by Louisiana-based Rebecca Vizard to resemble the inside of a genie’s bottle, the “Dream Folly” features plush down pillows, antique tapestries and a crystal chandelier.   Sigh.  For $75,000, it can be yours. 

But I still don’t think this is the perfect parent escape. I mean, if you’re going to spend that kind of cash, I think I’d trade some of the pillows for a hot tub. And get soundproofed walls in case your kids or spouse are whining outside the door.  Better yet, that kind of cash could buy you a luxury hotel room, once a month for about twelve years. With room service.  And a limo to get you there and back each time.  And child care if needed.  Now that’s a fantasy gift!

A Day in the Life of a Mother’s Day

If you’re a mom, how did you spend Mother’s Day? If you’re not, did you do something special for your own mom, or a friend who is a mom, or someone who acts like a mom? I’d love to know. As always, I think the differences in how people celebrate a special day are fascinating.  (Remember those “Day in the Life” coffee table books from the late 80s? Where photographers all over America shared photos from one specific day? I think those are fascinating, too.) One of my friends, whose children are grown and who has grandchildren, celebrates Mother’s Day with all her family coming to town and heading to a favorite park, where they have a big picnic and family kickball tournament. They even make special T-shirts for everyone to wear. This year, Mother’s Day fell on her birthday so it was even more special.  Another friend of mine, who has four young boys and two very big dogs and works very hard being a mom, says nothing is ever done in her house to mark the occasion since her husband always has to work on Mother’s Day, and yesterday was no exception.  Another friend of mine spent the day in bed, ill.  I think her children napped with her.  Another friend got to sleep late and get taken to the Cheesecake Factory for lunch/dinner (yes, by the time their name was called, it was the middle of the afternoon…) I was thrilled that on my Mother’s Day, all of my family went to church together (the teenager usually stays home) and the girls each made me a Mother’s Day card.  I also got a “no-cook” day (Hooray!) and my husband bought me carnations.

 

So please comment below and share what you did, or what you used to do, even if it’s only one sentence—I’d love to know! And I think it would be interesting for everyone to see the variety of ways people marked the day– even if we don’t have gorgeous coffee table book photographs to go along with the words!

Down But Not Out

I’ve been thinking a lot about Lyle Waggoner lately.  Lyle Waggoner was one of the ensemble players who used to be on the Carol Burnett TV show.  (I interviewed him by phone once for a newspaper story–  I was a teenager working part-time at my hometown paper. He was about to star in some made-for-TV movie… I actually have a tape recording of the interview and boy is it funny—it reminds me of the celebrity interviews that Chris Farley used to do on Saturday Night Live!!)  Anyway, Lyle went on to start a successful company, Star Waggons, that produces custom, luxury, portable dressing rooms and wardrobe trailers now used all over the entertainment industry.  And I’ve been thinking lately that Lyle needs to branch out and make one called The Mom Waggon or Dad Waggon or how about The Mad Waggon… a soundproof “hideaway” you can park in your backyard, tricked out with all the things you’d like to have to chill out, to get away from your family when no one appreciates you…maybe it could have a hot tub, a massaging chair, flat screen TV, refrigerator, whatever it takes…

Yes, I am in escape mode right now, fantasizing about getting away and leaving everyone to fend for themselves completely…because Mom is “annoying”, Mom is “stupid”, Mom is “lame”, and you can punish the kids’ meanness or laugh it off, or blog about it, but there’s been so much attitude lately from BOTH of my kids,  that right now it just downright hurts.  And when you work from home and put so much of your time into helping out your kids, by spending endless hours driving, grocery shopping, calendar juggling, cooking, Christmas shopping, Christmas cooking, etc., etc., etc., and get a lot of unappreciation, you feel, well,… USED.  And when I really stop and ponder hard about it, I seriously think it’s been years since anyone in my house has spoken the words “I love you” to me (except I do choose to interpret my dog’s wagging tail as a form of that).  For my oldest, I know for certain it’s been at least 10…

When I wrote about unappreciation awhile back, someone responded with an “Oh, poor you, that’s just the way it goes when you’re a parent” kind of comment.  But he was wrong.  Especially when your kids are older and can do a lot more for themselves.  And especially if you want to teach them to take action when they are being mistreated by another.

And so, I dive into this “most happiest of seasons” with a few changes…I’ve been combing the job ads for full-time work outside the house, and refusing to fix sack lunches for anyone.   Need to get your gymnastics team jacket personalized at an embroidery shop? Ask Dad to take it there. Since I’m fed up with trying to plan and cook their favorite meals and then hearing complaints about it, I’ve started cooking whatever I want to eat and have purchased lots of boxes of Easy Mac and frozen chicken nuggets for the kids.  Don’t like stir-fry on brown rice? Feel free to go fix some nuggets.  Don’t like Greek Shrimp on Orzo Pasta? There’s a jar of peanut butter on the shelf– and don’t let the pantry door hit you on the way out…

As I’ve said before, I can’t force appreciation.  But I can try to help myself from feeling like a perpetual doormat.###

Two Simple Words That Mean So Much

Isn’t it great when kids show appreciation? Like the girl in my Scout troop who always gives me cocoa at Christmas and writes a thank you note.  Or the boy in Emmie’s class who gave me a hug when I showed up to volunteer one day.  Or Emmie, yesterday afternoon  — I had promised to take her to get a new gymnastics leotard, and even though she had to clean her room and pay for half, she said, “Thanks, Mom!” as we walked to the car, new leotard in hand. 
“Thank you for being appreciative,” I said. 

When teens show appreciation, it’s so great (and so rare) it almost takes my breath away.  Rarely do teenage sleepover guests thank me for making cinnamon muffins for breakfast.  Or for picking up all the soda cans and popcorn bowls left behind when they’re gone. Or for putting up with hearing loud singing at 3 a.m.  This past weekend was high school homecoming, our first as parents, and we hosted a pre-dinner/dance reception and photo opp at our house for 12 teens and their parents. Andy and I worked hard all day Saturday getting the house and yard and food ready, while Allison was treated (by a friend) to a manicure/pedicure in the morning and taken to a makeup session by another friend in the afternoon. (I had to keep reminding myself, “This is not a wedding, this is not a wedding…”) That evening as the group prepared to leave our house and head to the festivities, only one teen stopped to shake my hand and say, “Thank you.” I almost fell on the floor and kissed his feet. (No wonder he was elected freshman homecoming king.)

Even though our house shined like a new penny, Allison said that no amount of cleaning would help it.  “I don’t like the layout,” she announced just before the guests arrived, “and the outside colors are bad, too.”  A couple days later, I looked over her shoulder at some of the pictures from that night that were being posted by the group on Facebook.  Our winding staircase was used in many of the group photos.  “Doesn’t that look nice,” I commented on one. 
“It was horrible,” she said.  “Everyone looks squished on those stairs.”

Later she got annoyed with me when she overheard me talking to another parent on the phone– I was asking them if they’d recovered from Homecoming yet.  “Why would you say that?” she asked later in disgust.  “It was MY homecoming, not yours.”
Amazingly keeping my cool, I explained that I’d spent all day Saturday cleaning the house (and part of another day) when I would have rather been doing something else.  I reminded her I didn’t get to sleep until 2:30 a.m. Saturday night because we had to pick her up from the after-party, after I’d stayed up most nights the past week until 1 a.m. trying to get things done.  I also reminded her I attended the “Mum Exchange Cookout” the week before and took photos for her, and how we’ve been opening our wallets continuously for the past several weeks regarding homecoming, buying tickets to the football game, the “freshman after-football game roller skating party”, the “Freshman Homecoming T-shirt”, the Freshman dinner, her dress, half the cost of her shoes, half the cost of her makeup, a $10 box of “lingerie tape” to hold up the afore-mentioned strapless dress, a $7 bottle of spray-on tan, a $15 brow wax PLUS tip and tax, the food and drink for our reception, the sodas we brought to the cookout, the ridiculously gaudy fake “arm mum” we bought for her date… did I see a glimmer of understanding cross her face? Nah, it must have been something flickering on the computer screen.

Last night, she came back from a movie outing with her friends feeling very sick (school’s been on fall break this week).  She had fever and was coughing.  When I headed to bed around midnight, she called out from her room, huddled under her comforter.  “Can I have another blanket?” she asked weakly. I went downstairs and got one, and covered her up. 
“Thank you,” she said.  ###

Can I Go On Strike?

I’m not sure a tooth on a necklace (see previous post) is going to help me.  After spending all day yesterday, a beautiful sunny Sunday, doing things to help everyone else in the family (leaving only about 10-15 minutes to do anything I wanted to do for myself), I listened as my 10-year-old stood by my desk at 8:30 p.m., looking like a cartoon with steam coming out of her ears, and yelled at me,  “You never do anything for me!” because I had failed to go online that day and sign her up for summer Girl Scout camp (even though I’d worked on her summer schedule for hours on Saturday). When I became angry at her for saying that, she tried to backtrack and say, “Oh, what I meant to say was, “You never do anything with me!” and went on in even greater detail to rant about my lack of attention.  Huh? Like that’s supposed to make me feel better? I’d say that’s another arrow (or 2 , or 3) through my heart.  I had just stayed up until midnight the night before watching the movie Twilight with both girls (even though I definitely had other things to do) because they’d seen it and wanted me to see it as well.  Just the three of us (and the dog, and a bowl of popcorn), Mom finally having some fun with the girls.  While the teenager made it a point to tell me (more than once) she didn’t want me to sit too close to her, the 10-year-old was thrilled that I was there… I thought!

I guess I can’t do anything right!   

I wish there was a union for Moms so I could go on strike.  Wouldn’t that be interesting? With a union representative to negotiate better working conditions.  But no amount of negotiating or legislating can force true appreciation.  That would have to come from within my kids.  And right now I’m having a hard time seeing it, and “the little things” are not mattering very much!

I just put one foot in front of the other and move on.  On Tuesday, I am spending almost my entire day chaperoning my 10-year-old’s  4th grade class on a trip to an art museum, riding a school bus on a 40-mile round trip and eating my lunch out of a sack.  I signed up for it a long time ago…

Is Mother’s “Day” An Insult?

How was your Mother’s Day? Did you do something nice for your mom, another mom, or, if you’re a mom, did you receive something nice? Mine was fine– my husband cooked me dinner and my 10-year-old presented me with a card she’d made at school. They both picked out and purchased a nice gift for me, too.  (My teenager said nothing and did nothing, but truly, I wasn’t surprised, or hurt– if she had done anything nice for me, it would have seemed contrived and fake, considering that most of her words to me, for months, have been whiny, angry or disgusted.)  But I’ve been thinking about the holiday more, and I think I’m on the side of the founder of Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis, who went to her grave penniless, having spent all her money trying to abolish the holiday she’d started.  Only I’d get rid of it for different reasons.

Anna was down on Mother’s Day because it had gotten too commercial, with all the candy and cards purchased.   “A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world,” she wrote.  I agree, homemade sentiments are always the best, but sometimes it does take someone a long time to pick out a card in a store, trying to find “just the right card”, someone else’s words that most closely match their own… No, I’m not bothered by the commercialism, I’m down on Mother’s Day because I think it seems ridiculous to say, “Let’s take a day to honor good ‘ol Mom” when she really should be honored 365 days a year. 

I think there is a huge lack of appreciation for mothers in our culture. I hear about it and see it all the time…there’s the stuff in the news, the companies who won’t provide daycare benefits to female workers, the jobs lost if a woman mentions her kids during the interview or takes off work to care for a sick child… and there’s the stuff I hear from friends, who feel really beat down a lot of the time.  Last week, I talked to a friend, the mother of two and a full-time teacher, and asked what her family would be doing on Mother’s Day.  “Oh, I don’t know,” she said.  “My husband and kids usually go out at the last minute to the grocery store and buy me a card and a flower, ” she said, sounding disappointed.  “And I usually plan ahead with the kids on something really nice for Father’s Day, we make a big deal out of it.  He just doesn’t get it.  I’d just like to feel appreciated once in awhile…”  

I’ll never forget a beautiful Mother’s Day essay I once read in a local publication, written by a divorced businessman who suddenly had to take custody of his four children (one a toddler), when his ex-wife died in a car accident.  He wrote about all he had to learn about raising children and all the “unnoticed” things he realized his ex-wife had done for the family, and that if he’d realized these things before and shown appreciation, their marriage might have lasted.   

Is there anything, short of death, that an under-appreciated mom can do to help make her husband and family realize just how much she’s needed, just how much they appreciate all she does? One mom told me, when her kids were little, that a weekend away on a “Mom’s Retreat” had helped.  Her husband had to be in charge for a couple days and was so glad to see her when she returned, he’d definitely realized a lot while she was gone.  That does work for some but not for others.  (For some moms, it’s such a disaster around the house when they return that they have double the work to do, and they find out things that have happened that put their child’s safety at risk.  In my case, my husband usually tries to prove hard that he’s up for the task, that taking care of kids is a challenge that he can tackle, maybe even do better, so if there are any “this was tougher than I thought, gee I’m glad you’re back now so I don’t have to do this” feelings, they’re not admitted to me! )

In the past, when I’ve felt underappreciated as a stay-at-home, work-at-home mom, I’ve often thought of keeping a time log, much like we used to have to do when I worked at an advertising agency.  Write down everything you do in a day, so if your husband makes any cracks about “staying home and eating bon bons”, you have that time log ready to shove in his face. But when I’d try to write down my time, I’d get too busy to keep an accurate list, and after a couple days, I’d stop keeping track.

One of the best things I found is something a friend emailed me:   Salary.com Inc., “a leading provider of on-demand compensation, payroll and talent management solutions”, composes an annual
Mom Salary Survey.  The recently released 2009 results determined that the time mothers spend performing the 10 most popular “mom job functions” (like Logistics Analyst, Cook, Housekeeper, and Van Driver) would equate to an annual cash compensation of $122,732 for a Stay-at-Home Mom and an additional $76,184 for a Working Mom, up 5% and 11%, respectively, from the 2008 calculations.  (You can even customize it to your own situation and zip code with their Mom Salary Wizard.  Mine came to $125,221 but I think they’re missing a few job descriptions–  I’d also add Pet Handler, Disciplinarian, Historian, Travel Agent, and Piano Teacher to my list, so my yearly salary value is probably higher!) I think those dollar figures might really cause some families, especially husbands, to sit up and take notice, especially in these down economic times.

But even with fancy salary charts, I have come to the realization that a mom cannot be formally appreciated properly, never thanked enough for all she does.  A mom just needs to resign herself to the fact that when you take on this job, you don’t get performance reviews or bonuses  or “leadership awards” like you might get when working for a company.  If you get a “thank you”, that’s fantastic.  But I think most of us have to look for the real appreciation in other ways, or forever feel sorry for ourselves.  My husband once, on the spur of the moment,  took off work early and drove to a warehouse far away to pick up a van load of Girl Scout cookies because he realized, after talking to me on the phone, that I was too busy that day to do it.  I never asked him to do it, he just volunteered.  I will never forget that, because it helped me out tremendously and showed that he was aware that the other things I had to do were just as important.  I remember my teenager, when she was 3, sitting on my lap, scared one day during a rainstorm, telling me how glad she was that I had decided to quit my job and stay home with her.  And two days ago, on Mother’s Day, my 10-year-old gave me a bloody, toothless grin and a big hug, thrilled that I had pulled out her loose tooth when no one else could. 

I may just make a necklace out of that little tooth…because it will help to remind me to be thankful for the little things, that moms are special and unique, and that I really am appreciated.