Tootin’ My Own Horn Tuesday: The Mediocre Return

I have this thing I like to do. It involved me looking back through my old posts from the same date or month either a year or two ago. I was doing that the other day and came across this post. I have to admit, it made me feel pretty good, not just because I was speaking positively about myself, but because it reminded me that last time Mi.Vida was out of town for SXSW, it was a total cluster fuck, and in comparison this week with him away was truly a walk in the park (nothing like a little perspective to cheer a girl up, huh).

So anyway, after yesterday’s self flagellation, I thought I’d bring back my favorite Paint-By-Weekday theme and talk some shit sparkly-sticker-sayings about myself. Because even when things aren’t all unicorn farts and fairy queefs, I do manage to pull a few things off. So here we go, in no particular order, some stuff I’ve done recently that doesn’t suck kicks ass!

– I made it 5 days solo parenting. During that time the house didn’t burn down, the back down was locked most of the time (I think), the cat got fed twice a day (not that she’d let me forget that) and her box was even cleared of fecal matter and urine clumps a couple of times. Plus, I only ate popcorn for dinner once. And even though my daughter started dropping f-bombs all over the place, she also, eventually, stopped. FUCK YEAH!

– Speaking of shit my daughter can say, she has about 25+ Spanish words now and understands everything I say to her in Spanish. Her favorite Spanish word (actually, her favorite word period) is “más” (more). Oh and she also says “pease” when she asks for things, which is both polite and ridonkulously cute.

– While the house may not be clean (per se) it also wouldn’t qualify me for an appearance on Hoarders so that is something.

– I survived a week without my bestie being in the country (while my man was simultaneously out of town) and I only spent a good portion some of that time rambling incoherently to myself.

– I met up with a mom who also aspires to be a writer/illustrator. We managed what resembled an adult conversation while our kids played and we’re planning on meeting again. I also didn’t let myself feel too jealous that she has three days a week, while her kid is in childcare, to devote to writing/illustrating.

– I finally watched Before Sunrise, though I must admit I think I was ten years too late on that one. I just didn’t like it that much. (Did anyone else realize it’s just two people walking around Vienna talking?)

– I took Isa to a high school friend’s daughter’s first birthday, where all my old high school friends/acquaintances said I look FABULOUS (their capital letters, not mine). That felt pretty fucking good.

– I started putting Isa in her crib for a minute when she purposefully hits/scratches me and have been consistent about enforcing that consequence. I also bit my tongue when my ILs said they wouldn’t be doing that at their house because they didn’t think it was appropriate.

– I got my feature piece to the magazine on time. I also think it’s pretty good (I intend to post it here later this week). Oh and my editor already read it and think it’s AWESOME (my capital letters, not hers).

– I’ve been straight ROCKING the March Photo Challenge and enjoying it immensely. I plan on creating my own self-imposed photo challenge next month just to keep putting up a picture every day because I absolutely adore it

– I may have finally thought of an idea for a young adult novel. It’s still in the very early stages of idea-dom but I really like it so far. I have no idea if I could pull something like this off but if I could do it, and do it well, it would be aMAZing.

– I finally got around to doing the dishes today. Sure the dishwasher is actually doing the bulk of the dishes but I put them in the dishwasher. It couldn’t do them without my help. So yeah. I did some dishes/facilitated the dishes being done.

– What else… oh, in the second paragraph of this post I spelled “flagellation” well enough for the spell check to know what I was intending to say. (Though spell check deserves more credit for that one than I do, still I’ll take what I can get.)

– Oh, and my daughter says, “Love loo Mami” (alternatively “Love woo Mami”) to me now, which isn’t something for me to be proud of but does makes me melt into a puddle of goo every time she does it. Truly, it’s indescribably wonderful. (And actually, the first time she said it I burst into deep, wracking sobs–while buckling Isa into her car seat. Poor thing was terrified.)

You know what, writing this post actually did make me feel better about myself. Huh, who woulda thunk?

What are you tootin’ your own horn about today?


Mi.Vida is depressed. He actually said it today. Well he wrote it, in a gchat. I was surprised to see it there, in black and white. It wasn’t an insinuation, it wasn’t a response, in the affirmative, to an inquiry. He wrote out, of his own accord, I am depressed.

On the one hand it was terrifying to see it there. On the other hand it was a relief. I’m glad he’s admitting how bad he feels but I hate knowing that he feels so bad.

The worst part is what is making him depressed. The worst part is that he’s depressed because of our lives. The day to day of our existence is making him depressed. And frankly, I can’t really fault him for it.

Mi.Vida has long, long days. He wakes up at 6:45 and gets himself and Isa ready. Then he spends over an hour taking her to his parents’, transitioning her into his father’s care, and commuting back to work – all on public transportation. He works all day long, sometimes not really stopping for lunch, only to come home and help with Isa before bed. Then he has about 30 minutes to rest before he’s making dinner. By the time we’re done eating he has about 30 minutes to hang out before it’s time for bed. That means all day he has about an hour, all together, of time for himself. I’d be pretty depressed if I had that to wake up to as well.

I’m trying to step up and take some of the cooking obligation from him, at least for now. I’m planning on cooking once a week. I hope to delegate some of the extra money I’m making to another possible night a week of take out or at least easy-to-make food from the supermarket. Still, I can’t help but feel I’m putting a bandaid over a gaping wound; I doubt any of what I do will make an appreciable difference.

So where does this leave us? Does he just suck it up until these difficult early years are over? I can’t really see any other choice. We don’t have the resources to change anything else. We have no other way to get Isa to his parents’ house. I can help more with the cooking but I know I can’t do it all. I just don’t have it in me to do everything I already do and cook four or fives times a week.

I feel so helpless. And I feel like I’m not good enough. So many women don’t require anything from their partners, at least not on the homefront. My mother never did. If I were stronger, more hardworking, I could do everything that needed to be done and then some. I could keep my house clean and my family fed and my students taught and my daughter happy and even have energy left over for sex! But I’m not and I don’t and I need help from my partner but he doesn’t have anything left to give, because he’s already giving so much.

So where does that leave us?

I don’t know, but the prospects scare me.

Not Measuring Up

Today I f-ed up really bad. Like spectacularly bad. Let me set the stage for you.

My sister comes at 6:45, just like we’d planned, to watch Isa until my in-laws come and get her. I leave for work at 7am, a little later than I wanted but I’ll still make it with plenty of time. There is no rain for the first day in almost a week and the freeways are surprisingly clear. I’m making great time and am listing all the things I’ll get done in the twenty minutes I have before class starts.

Then my phone ring. It’s the mom of the girl I drive to school some days. But why would she be calling me?

I think you can probably guess where this is going.

Cue expletives. Cue apologizing profusely. Cue exiting and heading back north.

We ended up meeting at an exit half way between her house and where I was when I’d gotten the call. Luckily we didn’t hit too much traffic until we were off the freeway and we (just barely) made it to our first classes on time.

The poor girl, who evidently has a lot of anxiety about arriving to school late, wouldn’t speak one word to me in the car. I apologized a dozen times but she never answered me. And fair enough.

I spent the entire car ride trying not to cry openly and stealthily wiping tears away from under my glasses.

Later, at school, the secretary called my room to ask if I’d remembered to bring snack for the staff room. I think you can guess where this is going. I’ll be bringing bagels and cream cheese to school on Monday to make amends.

Now I know that people make mistakes. I know people forget things. But you have to understand, I live my life enveloped in a thin fog of anxiety, constantly worried that I’m forgetting something very important and have no idea. When it actually happens, like today (or the time I realized my car insurance renewals weren’t sent to me and so I’d been driving without coverage for almost a month) my confidence in myself is absolutely shattered. It will takes months for me to build it up again. In the meantime I’ll be constantly semi-panicked that I’m unwittingly neglecting someone or something in my life, to the detriment of myself, my family or people I care about.

In the meantime I will be relying on my phone, and an extensive system of calendar notes and alarms, to ensure that I don’t forget to pick that poor girl up again.

Speaking of neglecting someone in my life, it seems I’m deeply entrenched in my tri-annual I’m-missing-out-on-my-daughter’s-childhood-freak-out. Last night at dinner, as my father-in-law related all the amazing things Isa is learning and how she’s fundamentally different each and every time she comes over, I suddenly realized that he probably knows her better than I do right now. He spends 25 of her waking hours a week with her while only spend 15 plus the 15 waking hours of the weekend (my daughter sleeps a lot, evidently).

And he’s right, she is changing so fast. By the time summer comes, and I get my two months with her, she’ll be a completely different person and I will have missed more than half of the second year of her life. It’s making me cry just to type that. I wish so badly I could be with her every day. My heart aches to leave her every morning. I thought working part time I’d get more time with her but she takes these insanely long naps in the afternoons and while that is helpful for me to get grading and chores around the house done, it’s not great for me seeing my daughter. Sometimes being a WOHM just guts me. This is one of those times.

The reality is, it’s my fault I can’t be with her. If I had taken better care of my money. If I had chosen a different career, maybe I could be home with her right now. But I didn’t and I can’t. There are so many aspects of myself that disappoint me right now. I’m unimpressed with how poorly I handled being a “single mom” for five short days. I’m crap at keeping our house in decent shape. I can’t/refuse to cook. I’m barely getting by as a teacher, creating lesson plans on the spot and taking weeks to grade papers. My relationships is flailing (though things on that front do, finally, look better). I struggle with juggling my family and job responsibilities. I feel like in every area of my life I’m falling short. I look around and see other people surviving, even thriving, in much more difficult situations and yet I can barely function in what is really not that difficult of a position. I’m completely forgetting about commitments I made to people for christ’s sake! Evidently I’m not even trustworthy anymore. Do you know how that makes me feel?

So yeah. I’m feeling pretty ashamed of myself today. Maybe it’s CD1 hormones ravaging my body and mind. Maybe it’s missing my man (god do I miss him). Maybe it’s mourning my friend’s father. Maybe it’s just general fatigue, wearing me down. Maybe it’s missing out on yoga all this week. Maybe it’s just that I’m not measuring up. I don’t know.

Before I go I wanted to thank everyone for their helpful advice on yesterday’s post. Hearing all your view points really helped me get a better sense of what I should do. Obviously today’s fiasco has shaken me and I’m not sure what my final decision will be. Right now I have a “phone interview” on Monday and then they’ll send me an article to copy edit. I’m going to see how I like doing that and if I feel good at it. Then I’ll have a long talk about all of this with Mi.Vida and we can decide what works best for us. Who knows, maybe the choice will be made for me when they don’t actually offer me the position. Until I know it’s actually my decision to make, I’m not going to stress too much about it.

The Plus Side

I figure I’ve subjected all of you (and me) to enough negativety for the time being and that it would probably benefit all of us if I were to acknowledge some of the good in my life right now because the truth is, there is lots of good.

I must confess, the three days since I published my holy-shit-we-can’t-take-this post have been pretty good. Mi.Vida and I have been more open and loving towards each other and on Thursday night his parents treated us to a yummy dinner. Before we went to bed on Wednesday we had a talk and conceded that while this was hard, it was only temporary and that things would probably get better sooner rather than later. The best part is, I think we actually believe that.

So, on to the (other) positives.

We are living within our means. I know I bitch and moan (incessantly) about how expensive it is here and how ridiculous it is that our decent salaries aren’t sufficient but the reality is, we are living off of what we make. Right now we are getting by without dipping into our savings, which is a great improvement over last year. I think I tend to obsess over all we’re sacrificing to live within our means, but fail to acknowledge the magnitude of the final result. Of course we need to start saving too, but maybe that won’t happen much until I’ve paid off my student loans, and that’s okay.

We are healthy. My probable depression aside, we’re all healthy right now and that is easy to take for granted when no one in your immediate family has ever been very sick. I know I forget how fortunate we are to be thriving physically and I don’t want to do that. We’re healthy, our parents are healthy and our daughter is healthy. In the end, that is really all the matters.

Yoga. Yoga has been so amazing for me. When I’m at yoga I feel strong, confident and self-assured. My body can do things in practice it could never do before I had a baby. I don’t think I’ve been this committed to yoga in all the years I’ve practiced and I can see how my body is benefiting from the investment. I’m eager to see what I’ll achieve after three more months of work.

My pre-pregnancy jeans fit. And I mean “my jeans,” my favorite jeans, not the random other pairs I own that I don’t really like. After just three months of yoga I’m within three pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight (I was lingering about 10-15lbs above it for months), and that was a weight I only achieved after many months of a restrictive TCM diet. To have achieved this weight while indulging in bread, pastas and processed foods is pretty impressive. I would venture to say I look better than I did before I got pregnant, at least in 95% of my body. Of course my stomach will never be the same, but that’s okay – my wardrobe has always been designed to hide my tummy flab.

We are learning valuable life skills. While the financial clamp down is stressful, I appreciate how it’s forced us to learn valuable skills for saving money. Not only am I changing the way I shop, I’m overhauling what we keep in the house, creating a less cluttered, more livable apartment for all of us. Not buying anything new allows me to  rediscover older clothes that have been tucked away for years. Even really wanting something I can’t have has it’s benefits. By the end of this year I will be certain of what materials things are most important to me. The items I still covet after six months (*cough, cough* Olympus PEN E-P3) are probably worth saving for. The stuff I forgot about? Well, I can’t buy something I don’t even remember wanting. We are also learning how to cope when our old fall backs aren’t an option. Throwing together a quick and easy dinner is no longer as difficult as it once was and I’m learning to semi-deep clean the house (or parts of it) in a reasonable amount of time.

Working part time. My current job situation has many pros and cons. For me the biggest pro is having the opportunity to see if I like it. I’ve always assumed that working part time would be an ideal situation and now I get to see if that’s true. Of course I’d much prefer four full days to five shortened days but that won’t happen with my position so I’ll take what I can get. And while this new situation makes me feel isolated and will force me to bring a lot of work home, I do appreciate have one less class to prep, teach and grade. Leaving early also means never worrying about hitting traffic, which is truly wonderful; I’m probably spending 2 hours less a week in the car. I also get to see Isa a little more, though it’s not much as she’s napping for the majority of my extra time at home. During nap time I have more opportunities to clean the house and do laundry; there is never anyone using the machines at 2pm so I can always get a load in. Finally, working part time is actually saving us money, as we are so fortunate to have people watching Isa for free during the day. I know how lucky we are to have that set up and I hope it allows us to save some money for next year.

We have support. The only reason working part time saves me money is because my FIL is kind enough to watch Isa for free four mornings a week. On Tuesdays a good friend is generous enough to watch her. Between my parents (who live about 45 minutes away, near my work) and Mi.Vida’s parents (who live less than 10 minutes away) we almost always have someone to watch Isa for us. They help us out constantly, watching Isa while we run errands or taking her for us so we can go out. They also do laundry for us (or just let us use their machines – which saves us $5 a load!), get us organic milk and yogurt at the store and drop off fully prepared meals; they even clean our house occasionally when we’re not around! Our parents are the main reason we haven’t really considered moving away from this insanely expensive city and that is because they provide endless support for us. We are truly lucky to have them around.

So yeah, there is A LOT of good in our lives. A lot. And I would be remiss in mentioning it here. Despite the very real difficulties it’s not all bad. Not by a long shot.

Useful Tuesdays: A Plan (& Patience)

I must start this post by saying there will probably be no useful information presented. I just wanted to talk about all this stuff and it seemed like I could get away with it today…

So summer is pretty much over. I officially start work this Thursday. I went to school today and got about five hours in. I still have a lot to do, especially considering I know longer have time to prep built into my schedule.

I’ve spent all of August getting us ready for our new childcare situations. For those who don’t know we have a patchwork quilt of Isa-care happening this year. My FIL is watching Isa on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9am to 1pm. Mi.Vida is bringing Isa over on the Muni train and I will be picking her up after work.

My MIL and FIL have jumped into this childcare situation with both feet and plenty of enthusiasm. They’ve totally transformed their daughter’s bedroom into a playroom, where Isa will have access to more toys than she does at home. They’ve also already purchased a high chair, a $200+ stroller and many other supplies. It was all I could do to keep them from purchasing a whole new set of cloth diapers (which we SO don’t need).

On Tuesdays I will be bringing Isa to a friend’s house near where I work. That means I have to have her ready to get in the car by 6:45am. Tuesdays are also staff meeting days and I have to go to those at 3pm so I will be picking Isa up from my friend’s and bringing her back to school so my mom can either play with her there or bring her back to her house. Tuesdays are going to be long and rough.

I am working part time this year. I have four classes and finish teaching at lunch. I am doing 4/5 of the work in 2/3 of the time. The way it works is I loose my prep period (when I’m supposed to get work done like grading papers, making copies and planning) and my lunch along with the actual class I’m not teaching. I will be commuting back to the city when I’m supposed to be eating.

Both of our childcare providers are watching Isa free of charge, which is the only reason I can afford to be part time. I don’t want either of them to be spending any money on her care (though the ILs will most certainly be doing plenty of that, as they already have); that means I’ve had to purchase (used, of course) an booster with tray, a car seat and a travel crib for my friend’s house. I’ve also gotten her a sippy cup, an extra binki and blankie, Infant Ibuprofen, a bottle and other things that she absolutely must have around the house lest I forget them when I pack Isa. Needless to say, it’s a lot.

I’ve also been trying to get things ready at home so the transition will be easier on all of us. I’ve been making baby food like crazy so I will have quick, healthy options for Isa when I’m too tired to cook for her. So far I’ve made two kinds of lentils and chicken and rice. Tonight I’m making pasta stars with veggies and tomorrow Mi.Vida is making a vegetable risotto. I’ve also stripped the cloth diapers and done a ton of other laundry. Tomorrow I’m running some errands. Wednesday I’m getting the oil changed in our car.

I had hoped to have my bedroom all cleaned out and ready to go before work started but the reality is it’s not going to happen. While I’m disappointed that I didn’t get it done this summer I’m confident I will finish that project, and the other three rooms that await the Great Clutter Catharsis. By April of next year this apartment will be a different place.

I have to admit, I’m both incredibly excited to have the opportunity to spend more time with Isa this year, and incredibly nervous that after working five hours straight in the morning and then picking up Isa to spend another five hours straight with her, I will be a tired wreck by the end of the day. Of course I was a tired wreck when I was working full time too, and I only got to see her for a couple hours a day. I’m sure this will be better, I just need to figure out what I’m doing and hit my stride.

And that is going to take a lot more planning and patience.

Confessional Fridays: Being a SAHM doesn’t feel like “work” ADDENDUM ADDED

ADDENDUM: I’ve been thinking about this all day and despite the amazing dialogue I felt it inspired, I’m still feeling kind of crappy about what I wrote, or at least how I said it. So I want to add an addendum, or maybe a disclaimer is more accurate. I want to say that everything in this post applies to me. It is my experience. I state things as generalizations that I can’t possibly know to be true, and I should not do that. I will leave the post as it was written, so the comments will remain in their proper context, but I wish I had worded things differently. I wish I had kept this a personal reflection about my feelings while home with my daughter and not declared my experience as some kind of truth about what it means to be a SAHM. I obviously do not know other’s experiences, and just because being a SAHM, for the few months I get to in the summer, seems much easier to me than when I’m working outside the home, does not give me the right to declare it as so for those who do it year after year. I apologize if I’ve offended anyone. Please know that I’ve learned a valuable lesson about the difference between expressing one’s opinions and making assumptions based on those opinions.

* * * * *

So here I am. A temporary stay-at-home mom once again. My last stint was six months long but the first three I was in new-mom survival mode so only the second half really counts. This time I have two months. Two glorious months to be at home with my daughter. Two eye-opening months to determine how being a SAHM compares with being a work outside the home mom (WOHM).

In some ways I’m loath to call myself a stay-at-home mom (and compare being a SAHM with being a WOHM), because I’m not. I can’t comment on being financially dependent, and not contributing to the family’s bank account. I don’t look into a future of months and months of the monotony of wake, eat, play, sleep, rinse, repeat. I’m not grappling with a new identity devoid of what I accomplish in my career (though my career doesn’t make me feel very accomplished). Basically I’m not dealing with many of the big issues that SAHMs must come to terms with. So really, my comparison counts for very little.

I’m still going to put it out there though. So far, in the week I’ve been home, I’ve determined that for me, staying home is far, far better and easier than working outside the home. I mean, when I’m a WOHM I’m working. I’m at work. When I’m a SAHM I’m not. It’s not that I’m not working at home, because I’m doing a ton of stuff, but it’s the same stuff I’d be doing if I were home on a weekend. Do I consider myself to be working those days? No. I would consider myself to be mothering. I wanted to be a mother and being a mother means taking care of your child.

So yeah, I guess I just declared that SAHM moms don’t really “work”. Maybe that makes me ignorant or anti-feminist or just plain rude, but for me, that is how it feels. Or maybe I feel that SAHMs don’t “work” in the same way that WOHMs do. I consider “work” to be something you go to, something that you do because you have to get paid, something that you’d avoid if you could. I do not think of mothering as any of those things. I don’t have to “go” anywhere and there is no where I’d rather be (of course there are times I’d love to be out doing my own thing, by myself, but not always having that option is part of being a mother). There are no expectations but my own (which are considerable, as I want to be a good mother, but it’s different than having a boss or manager or some other high-up wielding power over me) and I’m not providing a service to anyone else.

I guess I do believe there is a difference between being a SAHM and working. A SAHM is being a mother, all the time. I don’t really consider it to be “working” even though we’d pay someone else to do it. We pay someone else to do things for us. I mean, if someone else drove me to work I’d have to pay them, but I don’t consider my commute a “job” because when I’m doing it for myself it’s just a responsibility. When I was a nanny it was my job because I was taking care of someone else’s kids. I was providing them with a service. When it’s my own daughter, I’m not providing someone a service, I’m just being a mother. I think the line gets blurry because wives and mothers, inherently, do things for others (their husbands and children). So it can feel like a job because so much of what you do is not necessarily for you but for your family. Still, I don’t believe that being a wife or mother is a “job.” I do recognize it’s a huge responsibility. I also believe it’s a blessing.

I feel like I’m being blasphemous here, and maybe I’d feel differently if my circumstances changed, my daughter were older, I had two children, and number of things, but right now I feel like I’m not working while I stay at home with my daughter.

Now does this mean that I’m not tired at the end of the day? Of course I’m tired. I’m very tired. I want a break. Frankly, I’ve been struggling with my new expectations of my partner when he gets home because a part of me feels like, I’ve been doing this ALL DAY, shouldn’t it be your turn now? But he’s been doing his thing all day too. And just because it’s a different thing, doesn’t mean he should have to come home and take over.

When we were both working outside the home the afternoons and evenings were so much easier to navigate. Mi.Vida and I usually had Isa for equal amounts of time before (him) and after (me) work. For the final one or two hours with her, we were meeting on an even playing field, as far as “previously logged Isa-time” was concerned. We tried to divvy up those remaining hours as fairly as possible, though I usually ended up doing more, which is par for the course with us and something I’m totally okay with.

Now when Mi.Vida comes home I’ve been doing everything for Isa all day. That is three bottles, two meals, two naps, myriad diaper changes and many hours of play time. It’s hard not to feel like Mi.Vida should spend all that evening time with her since I was with her all day. But that isn’t really fair. He was doing his job, just like I used to be at work doing mine. Just like now I’ve been at home doing mine. The only difference is when I’m a SAHM my daytime responsibilities are the same as my evening responsibilities. When I was coming home from a day of teaching I cherished those hours with Isa as the only ones I had. Feeding her and playing with her were something I’d looked forward to all day (okay, maybe not the feeding part, but the playing). Now it’s just an extension of what I have already been doing. It doesn’t hold the same allure. And it’s difficult not to incorporate the time I’ve been mothering alone, during the day, onto the mental tally sheet of who-does-what in the evenings.

So that has been a struggle, reminding myself that just because I was home all day doesn’t mean I get to hand off Isa and put my feet up when Mi.Vida is home. He’s been working hard too and he wants a break as badly as I do. We both need to make it through those final hours sharing the load fairly, like we did before.

The truth is, when 5pm comes, I’m feeling pretty good. I’m not nearly as tired at the end of a day with Isa as I am at the end of a day with my students. I wasn’t sure if that would be the case, but it is. And I’ve had some pretty stressful days with Isa. This last week with her has been anything but easy. She’s in a supremely fussy mood, melting down frequently and without provocation, refusing to eat, throwing tantrums at every diaper changing, just generally being not very pleasant to be around. And while those difficult moments are certainly draining, at the end of the day I have more energy than I did when I’m working. In fact, I feel pretty darn good. Again, maybe I’d feel differently is she were two, or three or I had a toddler and an infant. But right now, with just Isa, I’m feeling very capable.

I hope everyone knows that I’m not trying to discount the hard work that SAHMs do. I know they do hard work. I’m doing it. Just because I’ve found that I enjoy being a SAHM more than a WOHM, or that I feel I have less stress and responsibility as a SAHM, doesn’t mean others have similar experiences. I don’t love my teaching job and it’s hard to be there when I don’t want to be. As a SAHM my chores at home have remained the same but I have more time at home to do them. I feel like I’m in a win-win situation.

The truth is, right now, I’m on vacation. I’m not working. Just because I also have to take care of my daughter doesn’t make it not vacation. It just means I’m a mom. And moms work hard no matter how they spend their 40 hours each week.

Do you think being a stay at home mom is  a job? Why or why not? Do you think being a SAHM or a WOHM would be easier for you?

And please remember I will respond to all comments as promptly as I can.

Useful Tuesdays: Sharing Control Exercise

On Sunday, my therapist and I talked a lot about the issues that Mi.Vida and I have been struggling with. It seems that both Mi.Vida and I feel very overwhelmed with all the work we have to do around the house, the stress of our jobs, the fact that we’re not exactly financially solvent and feeling constantly at the mercy of our daughter’s whim. Basically  (it can seem like) neither of us has any control over our lives so we try to assert control over other things with varying degrees of success. I also believe there are some things that bother Mi.Vida more than me and I think he might feel even more out of control with his life than I do.

My therapist gave me an exercise for us to do so that we both feel we are getting what we need. We choose four topics that seemed to cause the most stress between us (chores, jobs, Isa-care, sex). I presented each topic and asked Mi.Vida to score his stress level related to this topic (10 was incredibly stressful, 1 was not stressful at all). After he scored himself, I gave my score. Whoever had the higher score then expressed how the other could make this area less stressful. For example, Mi.Vida scored his “chores” stress level at an 8 (which was higher than my 5). He said that mostly cooking stressed him out and he decided that creating a list of healthy go-to recipes, and organizing them in a binder, would help ease his stress surrounding making dinner. I also offered to wash dishes on the days he cooks, which was always done at my own house growing up (the person who cooked NEVER did dishes). Mi.Vida did say that if I ever felt too tired I could stop doing the dishes and he’d finish up in the morning. Also, he would always put away the dried dishes in the morning before work. Recently, it was decided that I didn’t mind doing the grocery shopping either so I’m doing that from now on too. In this way Mi.Vida had a chance to make a decision about how best to alleviate his own stress and in a month or so we’ll reassess to determine if it has helped his stress level decrease. If it hasn’t we’ll do the exercise again.

We did this with all the four topics and found that Mi.Vida’s stress level was higher for most. The only one I scored higher for was Isa-care, and I only asked that Mi.Vida not judge me for being on my phone for the first 30 or so minutes of being with Isa after work. This transition time is really difficult for me as I am extremely tired when I get home and Isa is extremely energetic when she gets up from her nap, which is always RIGHT when I get home. I need about 30 minutes of time with her where I also have the option to read blogs or do other things, before I jump into all-Isa-all-the-time mode (which usually begins with dinner, a stressful endeavor to be sure). During this time Isa plays very contentedly in her playroom and I sit right next to her, engaging her when she looks up at me. He agreed that this was reasonable and our plan was made.

I found this exercise to be very helpful because it allowed us each to practice making decisions in an attempt to improve a problem. Generally I am the one who does this but now Mi.Vida was articulating his own needs and finding ways to meet them. It took the pressure off of me and empowered him. If the plan doesn’t work he will have to figure out a new plan to be implemented; he now has at least some control over the issues that most negatively effect him.

I hope this exercise can be of some help to you and your partner as you navigate the challenging arena of shared responsibility. I will let you know how successful it is for us.