Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Working Mommy's Lament

The moment I get off work, I experience a mini high. Stepping out of the office and breathing the crisp winter air is as good as any drug. But most of all, I am dying to see my kids.

Sometimes it's easy to be away from the boys 8 hours a day. I fill my mind with information, my time with adult-interaction, and occupy myself by thinking through some challenging legal issues. It's rewarding. It keeps my brain sharp. I feel useful.

Sometimes, it's a little bit harder. I sit in my lumpy desk-chair, which over the years has obviously transformed into a chair for the spinally challenged. I click through e-mails. And I let my mind wander. What are my boys doing right now? I bet they are running around the park playing tag. Or perhaps Ryan did something hilarious, causing Jacob (and thus Ryan) to erupt into a fit of giggles. Maybe they are having quiet time, leaning their heads against their grandma and listening intently to a story. Sometimes, I'd give anything to be there. I'd give anything to be the one to take them to the park, laugh at their antics, or read them that story.

Childhood is to be cherished. But it zips by so quickly. Too short. And I cannot be there for a big portion of it. Life is cruel like that.

So, the moment my time in the office is over, I leap out the door, eager to see the boys. I always imagine that I will arrive at my mom's house and my boys will run excitedly towards me, bowling me over with big hugs. I imagine that we will share  some good quality time before dinner and bed. Maybe we will have time to enjoy the last few moments of daylight at the park. Maybe we will lay on the living room rug, in the very heart of our home, and play a game of Uno or dinosaurs. Or maybe we will sit at the table together and finish a holiday craft. These possibilities all rush through my mind on the drive to pick up the kids. I get so excited that I rush through several stale-yellow lights.

But by the time I walk through my mom's door, I'm met with a much different scene. Ryan leaps for me (as anticipated) but he clings to my legs, whining and crying. He is over-tired. He is over-stimulated. Jacob, who is usually a good boy all day, starts to act-out the second he sees me. He crosses his arms, pouts his lips, and gives me the stare-down. He puts his shoes on, only after I beg him to do so ten times. He refuses to use the bathroom. He throws his brother's toys. He stomps his feet. He whines for a snack to take "for the road."

I lug the kids, their car seats, and all their crap to my station wagon (no minor task). Ten minutes into the drive home, things aren't going any better. Ryan is repeatedly asking for his "baba" and crying when I cannot conjure one out of thin air in the middle of Highway 3. Jacob declares that he is STARVING and wants MCDONALDS NOW OR ELSE HE WILL DIE. Why is he not consoled by my reassurances that there is a three-day-old piece of pizza waiting for him in the fridge? Spoiled kid.

My dream reunification has been shattered. Things are going downhill fast. I need to turn this frown-mobile around....quickly, before self-pity (mine) sets in. I turn off my favorite news radio station (I'm addicted) and start to sing Christmas songs. To my amazement, Ryan stops crying. Jacob stops whining. By the second round of Jingle Bells, Jacob is even singing a long. When the song ends, Ryan yells, "More! More!" So, it's on to Frosty the Snowman. Then Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Then Santa Baby. I'm clearly running out of songs.

When we get home, everyone is in a better mood. Except me. I'm exhausted. I haul the kids, their bags, my briefcase, and some groceries into the house. I want to curl up in a ball on the rug and pass out. But....damn it. Kids. Quality time. Etc. Etc.

Jacob = world's biggest ham

So I pull out an old craft project that I had put away for a rainy day. We paint. Drill holes (macho points for me!). And plug in. Jacob is amused. Ryan not so much. He does not like the lights. He says they are "hot" and keeps a three feet distance at all times.

Ryan is too close to the lights. He does not like it.

For some reason, I am the only one who thinks this craft is off-the-charts-amazing. Jacob tolerates it and fakes a smile for the camera.

Christmas trees or Mardi-Gras gnome hats?

I warm up the three-day-old pizza and we have dinner (my husband goes to the gym 2-3 times each week and doesn't get home until 8 pm on those nights, which is why he is glaringly absent from this post). Ryan decides to use a toy wrench as a fork. It makes total sense to him. I love this kid.

When dinner is over, I clean the table, do the dishes that have been piling up in the sink for the past couple days (no dishwasher!), and get the kids in their PJs. By this time, I'm running on fumes. My desire to be horizontal is as strong as my will to get the kids in bed. Or not. I fall onto the living room rug and allow myself a five minute power nap...with both eyes open because Ryan found a pair of scissors and I'm too tired to get up right that minute and take them away. Ryan puts the scissors down, comes over to me, straddles my torso, and sits on my back. He bounces a couple times yelling, "giddyup!" Nap time comes to a screeching halt.

Ryan with his most-prized possession.

Somehow. Someway. I manage to get the kids' teeth brushed. We read a story, I sing the world's shortest lullaby, and I tuck them into bed.


As I exit their room and close the door, I have mixed feelings. Half of me is jumping up and down (hypothetically only--remember, I'm exhausted) and thrilled to finally collapse on the couch. The other half of me is reluctant and sad. My nightly 2.5 hours with the kids went by way too quickly. When I wake up, my husband and I will have an hour to hustle them back out the door. Then it's back to work to do it all over again.

The time is just too short. My energy levels are just too low. My plate is just too full. Am I giving them enough? This question will never have a satisfactory answer.

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