Pleasant Surprises

The Monday after Thanksgiving is always a bear. While getting two days off during a week always seems like a wondeful gift, what typically ends up happening is that all that work that should have been done on those vacation days just get pushed into the following week.

And so it was for me yesterday. I tried to focus my energies to get as much work done as possible. But by the end of the day there was still one more spreadsheet to complete, one more call to make, one more email to send out. When I finally felt it was safe to call it a night, I knew I’d be rushing home just to be able to get a chance to kiss the kids goodnight.

The overwhelming Mommy Guilt filled me. Not just for the kids, but for Jason. Mondays after Thanksgiving in Pennslyvania are also the beginning of deer hunting, meaning all the kids are off from school. It would be one very long day for Jason as he managed all three kids on his own after an already long weekend. I could only imagine how exhausted he would be and how ready he would be to hand over the kid duty.

Christmas Tree Hands

As I walked through the door, I came into the kitchen to find my dinner waiting patiently in the crockpot on the counter. The kids were happily fed with the boys playing nicely in the living room before seeing me and rushing up to give me hello hugs. Upstairs, I heard Jason singing the ABCs to Keira during her evening bath. On the dining room table, were art projects that Jason had worked with the kids on to give to relatives for Christmas.

I was awestuck. I went upstairs to help Jason in any way I could. I gave Keira a kiss and helped dry her hair before watching Jason comb her hair back into place. He looked over and smiled. “Why don’t you get all changed? Get comfortable, eat some dinner! I’ve got the kids taken care of.”

I walked back downstairs, pulling a beer out of the fridge and laying out my dinner on my plate before sitting down to my meal. Apparently, I had been worried for no reason at all. My kids were all happy. My husband had it all under control.

I found myself silently smiling as I took a bite of chicken. Stay at home dads FTW!

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The Morning Assembly Line

In the past, mornings have consisted of the boys waking up for school at the same time, with Keira waking shortly after, creating a buzzing chaos every morning. With Anthony moving up to middle school this year and taking the earlier bus, the Deeds routine has become a “Morning Assembly Line”:

First thing in the morning, I wake up Anthony, nice and early, just as the sun is changing the clouds to pink. We take Zar Zar, and Titus out for their morning break. Anthony feeds the dogs. I feed Anthony. Anthony brushes teeth and hair and stumbles on to the early bus.

I grab a cup of coffee to take it up to Kirsten, who I’m hoping is in the shower and not running late. I wake up Ethan, run back in to the master bedroom to give Kirsten a morning kiss, before heading downstairs.

I feed Ethan, who in turn feeds the cats and waters the dogs (because that’s how they grow). Ethan jumps in the shower and makes just enough noise to wake the baby. I run upstairs under the pull of Keira’s singing giraffe to change the baby’s butt and get my morning snuggles (she’s such a daddy’s girl). I surprise Kirsten with baby giggles while she is getting ready until she looks at the clock and realizes she’s running late.

Keira and Daddy run downstairs to get Mommy her water, Coffee (it’s capitalized for a reason, folks), a banana and other food items for work. Kirsten runs out the door with a kiss to all as I tell her to drive safely (not slowly, just safely). Ethan tromps downstairs like a heard of elephants, usually with both dogs in tow. He grabs his backpack and heads out the door to the bus stop.

In two minutes, Ethan realizes he forgot his jacket, his lunch, his clarinet, or something else and comes running back towards the house. I hold out his missing item and off he goes. Keira and I watch the bus carry Ethan away from the picture window. I turn towards her and say “alright, little one, time to start OUR day.” She giggles and looks at me with her cute face and says “Daddy, noooo….”

Missing Out

I love that my husband has been able to stay home with the kids. Life is starting to find some sort of rhythm like the days before when it was only the boys and Jason works from home. But what’s hit me by surprise? Jealousy.

On the way to a birthday party for one of Ethan’s friends last weekend, I asked Jason when Harry Potter was coming out. He told me it would be the following weekend.

“Oh. Bummer. I was hoping we could start from the first movie and watch all of them before going to see it. Do you think you could stand waiting a bit so we can get through the movies?” I looked over to see Jason pressing his lips closely together.

“We’ve already been watching them as the boys finish each book. We’re on number five already….”

“Oh…,” I sighed. “Well, that’s the joy of being a working mother…”

From the backseat, Anthony laughed. “You’re saying that a lot lately, Mom!” I tried to resist glaring at him from over my shoulder.

But I guess I was. Between the Harry Potter movies, play dates with my friends, and day trips to local sites, I guess I was starting to feel jealous of his role of being a stay at home dad. It’s hard sitting behind a desk and getting texts knowing that your kids and husband are out having a great time. Without Mom.

While I struggle through the jealousy, I remind myself that if the kids were in the right summer camps and daycares, they’d be getting to enjoy the same sort of fun experiences. So what difference does it make if it’s teenage college student sharing in those experiences or my husband? Why should I feel jealousy that my children are getting a chance to create precious memories with their father on a daily basis?

Instead of letting that jealousy turn into resentment or trying to guilt myself out of my feelings, I’ve decided to embrace them. Sure, it would be nice to be able to run around with the kids at playdates and to local parks. But at the same time, it’s nice having a chance to communicate with adults at work. While I’m at work sitting in jealousy over missing afternoon ice cream, Jason is fighting a rocking baby to sleep wishing he had the ability to use a restroom in peace.

A little bit of jealousy is a healthy thing. It reminds us to appreciate the moments while we have them. Every Friday I rush off anxiously from work to my family. And every Monday I am happily dragging my feet back to the office, ready for a break from the three-kid chaos.

Handing Over the Reins

Being a stay at home parent is hard. I get that. But the other side of the coin is being a type-A working mother and giving over control of the household to your stay at home husband is also hard!!

For years, I’ve been the one in charge of the calendar. I decide when we’re going out with friends or when we’re spending the day cleaning. I would do meal planning and even if Jason was the one cooking it, I’d tab the recipes he’d need and spell out which cookbooks to use in a neat excel spreadsheet.

For family trips, I’d make a packing list for everyone in the family. Everyone had their own spreadsheet to use while organizing up their items, and type-A mom would go through and make sure that everything was there. Then I would neatly fold everybody’s item in such a perfect little way so that nothing was squished to leak, nothing was missing, nothing was wrinkled.

*Insert child #3, stage right*

*Insert demanding job with long commute, stage left*

*Enter our here – Mr. SAHD to save the day*

As we prepared for our trip down to Virginia this week, I didn’t make a peep to the kids on what to pack. I let Jason take the lead. He got the kids packed up, made the list of the “extras” and then asked me if there was something else I could think of. “Nope, hunny. You got it.”

As I was dumping my clothes into a clothes basket last night, Jason looked at me blankly, “Do you want me to get the luggage?”

“No, that’s ok – I’ll let you pack everything up.”

*Cue Jason’s blank stare* “Whoa, hold up. Mrs. Packing Queen is giving up the packing!?!”

I shrugged and moved along. Granted, I probably could rock that packing job. Everything would be packed in just the right spot and I would be triple sure there wasn’t anything missing. But at what cost? Staying up until 1am the night before we leave? Telling my husband that he can’t handle the task? No, I have faith that my husband can handle running the household.

Jason, I’m handing over the reins.

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In Defense of Dads

On a busy day home with the kids, I saw a tweet float past my twitter feeds: “Dad-Mom Role Reversal- What happens when Dad stays home?” I thought it sounded good for Jason, who stays at home with the kids more often than I do, and forwarded it along to him without reading it. What I found out was that this article had deeply upset him. Instead of being a supportive article for working mothers about having dads stay home with the kids, it was a list of ways that dads don’t measure up to moms. Following this article, I ran across a slew of other articles that were different subjects but all had same same context: Dads just can’t cut it.

The problem with these articles is that they measure dads against moms as if dads are just a substitute for when mom isn’t around. This hardly seems fair. We wouldn’t look down on a dad for not breastfeeding his child or a mom for not properly teaching her son to fish. So why would we look down on a dad for not being a mom?? Dads do not cease to be a man just because they’re home with the kids. And why treat men as though their value is diminished when they’re home supporting and nurturing the most important people in our lives: our children.

Years ago, Jason worked from home part time while the kids were in school. When the kids were off of school, he was there with them. Was the house absolutely spotless? Well, no. Did the boys always leave the house matching? Ha. Uh, no. (Seems my boys lack the “matching” gene.)

But the kitchen was always picked up and dinner was always made. The kids made it to soccer and baseball practice on time. Jason was involved with their sports and coached them on how to do better. Homework was always complete and the boys felt confident in their schooling. Their grades soared, they had less problems at school, and in the evenings, since a lot of this work was done ahead of time, I had time to sit and teach them German words and phrases.

Life was good. There was a sense of relaxation knowing that while not everything was done up to my Type A Mom standards, the big stuff, the stuff that mattered most to our family, was taken care of. And most importantly, the kids were happy.

Bringing a baby into the house puts a new spin on the home life. The learning curve and the stakes seems higher. But the nice part about being a new mom is that people understand when things aren’t under control. No one expects a clean house and dinner on the table when you’ve been home all day with an infant. How is that any different than when dad begins his journey of staying home with the kids?

Children are a whole new language (for both parents) and it takes an entire immersion into their world to fully understand how to keep their lives and the house under control. Maybe if we granted dads the compassion and understanding that we extend to new moms, we’d find that dads are just as capable of running the show. With a dash of fart jokes on the side.