The Bean stepped out of the bedroom in his business clothes, expensive wool coat fitting neatly over tailored pants and crisp, laundered shirt.
He didn’t look good – he looked gooooooood.
Me? I looked…. awake. Yes, awake. That was about the highest compliment that could be applied to me. I’d stayed up too late and been woken up several times during the night, so I had huge rings under my eyes and my hair was… well, let’s just say I wasn’t going to be doing a Pantene Pro-V commercial any time soon.
It was partially my fault – instead of getting up when The Bean started his morning shower I’d lingered in bed, trying to trade coffee-before-children for a few more minutes of sleep…. but that dream was soon broken by the sound of raised voices, fighting, and angry child-hooves clomping down the stairs.
It’s my pillow. Leave it alone. Don’t touch me! Go away. DON’T TOUCH ME. I’m gonna hit you, you… you, baby. DON’T CALL ME BABY. You’re a BABY! DOOOOON’T!!….
Crap. They hadn’t even made it down the stairs yet and I could already tell it was a Changeling Morning.
I hated Changeling Mornings. Usually the boys woke up in decent moods, but it was obvious to anyone with ears that last night faeries had snuck into my house and stolen my boys, replacing them with angry, hateful, demon changeling children. It wasn’t the first time it had happened, and I knew from experience it would take all morning and after naps before I managed to wrestle my well-behaved children back from Fairyland.
Look, maybe I don’t actually believe that…. but sometimes it’s just easier to lie to yourself. The boys I’d kissed goodnight had been cute, sweet, and well-behaved.
The creatures that stomped down those stairs were NOT cute, or sweet, and they were definitely not anything I wanted to take credit for raising. It seemed fair to blame the faeries. Stupid faeries.
Although Squid and DragonMonkey are normally best of friends, by the time they made it to the bottom of the stairs I had to meet them in the kitchen and physically separate them to prevent bloodshed.
It only went downhill from there.
They didn’t like each other, they didn’t like the cartoons that were on TV, they didn’t like the breakfast I served and refused to eat it. They didn’t like the fact I reminded them I wasn’t a short order cook and that it was eggs or “nothing”, and honestly, “nothing” was easier to wash up after, so I didn’t mind at all if that’s what they wanted.
They didn’t like the way their brother’s foot was on THEIR side of the couch. They didn’t like the way the cat got up and left the room and refused to sit on their laps. They didn’t like the way the milk tasted. They didn’t like the way the orange juice spilled on the table. They didn’t like the way I was ignoring them and fiddling with the coffee maker. And by golly, their brother’s foot was STILL on their side of the couch, and they DEFINITELY didn’t like that!
By the time The Bean walked out of the bedroom with his Calvin Klein dress shirt, ironed pants and fancy cologne… well, even though it’d been less than 20 minutes, I was already a frazzled, sweaty, grumpy mess.
When I saw how good he looked and smelled, I lapsed – not for the first or even the last time – into an internal argument. I felt fat. And gross. Why hadn’t I set my alarm early enough to sneak in a shower before him? Why hadn’t I bothered to put on cute pajamas last night? If I was still going to be wearing pajamas by the time The Bean left for work, all freshly-showered and fancy-looking, at the very least I should be in cute pajamas. Nobody can feel good about themselves in grey, stretched-out Walmart sweat pants, complete with elastic on the ankles. Couldn’t I have dragged my lazy behind out of bed five minutes earlier and tossed on jeans and maybe a bra? It’s just jeans and a bra, Becky. How long would it have taken you?
The Bean leaned in for a kiss, and I ducked it. Gross. I hadn’t brushed my teeth yet *OR* had a sip of coffee. There was no way I’m letting him anywhere near my mouth. Forget coffee – I hadn’t even peed yet. Such was the nature of Changeling Mornings. Thank heaven’s they’re rare, or I’d be tempted to join the Merchant Marines and just send postcards, or something.
I glanced in desperation at the coffee maker, willing it to brew faster. C’mon, baby. Brew that coffee. Mama needs her fix.
The Bean grabbed the brown paper bag off the counter, peeking inside at the lunch I just finished making for him. “So, what’s on the agenda today?”
“Huh?” I glanced up, eyes half wild. It’s 7:20 in the morning. How can I feel so overwhelmed when it’s only 7:20 in the morning? Aren’t mornings my happy time of day?
The Bean missed the crazed look in my eyes – he was too busy grabbing the coffee pot which had just finished brewing and pouring himself a nice, big to-go mug. Briefly, I considered stabbing him. Coffee thief. I’d married a dirty, rotten, low-down, no-account coffee thief.
He passed the carafe over in my direction, oblivious to the fact I was trying to set fire to him with my eyeballs. “What’s on the agenda for you guys today? Are you and the boys just gonna hang out at the house, or are you doing anything?”
Even though I knew he didn’t mean it like my heart was interpreting, it didn’t matter. I felt something snap inside me. PING! DANGER, WILL ROBINSON. THERE GOES THE LAST REMAINING SHREDS OF BECKY’S SANITY. DANGER. DANGER. “Yup. We’re just gonna hang out, and do nothing, and be lazy all day today.”
The Bean is many things, but intuitive he is not. “That sounds nice,” he said in a pleasant, distracted tone as he leaned in for a goodbye kiss.
“It’ll be totally relaxing,” I said, giving him my cheek and turning away before he could see that my smile had turned predatory.
Now, before I finish throwing The Bean totally under the bus (and then backing up before running over him again) – I don’t blame him for what his words did to my heart. In fact, when he finally made it home from work that night, hours after the boys had gone to bed, I made a point of sitting down and having an honest discussion with him and explaining how his innocent questions in the morning were hurting my feelings.
“What are you guys going to do today?”
“Do you have anything planned, or are you just going to take it easy?”
“You guys gonna do anything today?”
“Got anything lined up on your schedule today?”
He meant those questions well – he was just making conversation as he headed out the door. In fact, as soon as he knew how it hurt me he apologized, told me how much he appreciated me, and hasn’t done it a single time since.
Some mornings I resent him his quiet accounting job, with his non-wrinkled clothes, sexy business outfit, and fresh-from-the-shower cleanliness. And on that Changeling Day, when he asked me what we were doing while I was frazzled and overwhelmed, and already out of patience, all I heard was, “Are you actually going to do something today, or are you going to sit around the house like Peg Bundy and eat bonbons?”
I know that’s not how he meant it, but that’s how it felt, and as soon as the door shut behind him, I made a decision.
They say that moms don’t get vacation days…well, I was gonna take one anyways. Yup.
It was 7:30 in the morning and I was calling in “sick”.
We’ve all heard that joke about the dad coming home to the house in complete disarray, and then asking his wife, “What happened here today?” She’s sitting in the bathtub, reading a book, and she answers, “You know how you come home every day from work and ask me what it is I do all day? Well, today I didn’t do it.”
Well, ladies and gentleman: I did it.
I literally lived out one of the oldest Internet jokes I know. And while the clean up as terrible…. it was ridiculously fun. I’m not saying everyone should do this, but… DUDE. EVERYONE SHOULD TRY THIS, at least one day out of your life. It was actually good timing for it to happen, too. I’d just finished cleaning the house the night before, so it’d been spotless when I’d gone to sleep. It made for very lovely before-and-after pictures.
In the interest of honesty, I didn’t realize I was going to be letting my kids trash the house so I didn’t take the “before” pictures until two days later, after we’d cleaned everything back up. Still, you’ll just have to trust me – I’m not lying. This is what the house looked like at 6:30 in the morning on the day I called in “sick”. If anything, it was actually a little bit tidier. (I’m tidy but very grubby person – I don’t care if there is three inches of grime on everything, provided there’s nothing sitting out on the counters.)
Now to explain the rules: I didn’t encourage the boys to be bad, and I didn’t let them know I was taking the day off- that seemed like cheating. My goal was just to let them do whatever they wanted to do, within reason.
So…. I sat in a chair and played on the internet all day. I read blogs. I worked on my story. I tried to figure out Twitter. I watched Marco Polo on Netflix and I reread a few of my favorite books.
What did the boys do?
Well… well, they did everything. They jumped on the sofas. They invented a game where they could leap off the kitchen table and into the living room. They pretended to cook. They watched whatever tv they they wanted, and they played as many video games as they wanted. In fact, they entertained themselves however they wanted. They played “smash the eggshells” on the counter. They played tag with the dogs, and had a lego fight and a pillow fight and…. and they thought it was the best day ever. I let them eat whatever the heck they wanted, and I only intervened when it looked like there was going to be bloodshed or death. Other than that, I let them police themselves.
As far as timing, they woke up at 6:30 in the morning, I let them skip naps (at 3 and 6 they’re not napping very much anyways), and I stepped back into my parenting shoes at 7:30 in the evening to put them in pajamas, help them brush their teeth, and then sent them to bed so I could take pictures.
Anyways, without further ado, may I present to you:
And this is what the bathroom looked like after me not touching it all day:
I wish I’d taken better pictures of the sink – it was covered in green toothpaste. I mean, when you have to brush your teeth, there’s no better way to do it than to pour half the toothpaste down the sink, am I right?
Let’s continue on with the tour.
Once your back is to the bathroom, you are standing at the base of the stairs.
It’s a weird little area that serves no purpose – eventually I want to cut a hole in the wall and into the laundry room that’s behind it, and frame in an area to create a pantry… but that’s a project for another day… err, year. Meanwhile, I found an Ikea Billy bookcase for $5 at a garage sale and lugged it home. It used to be a food pantry but it was too cluttered-looking for my tastes so it became a makeshift linen closet (our home is big but it has almost zero storage.)
Anyways, as you can see, it’s not very tidy to begin with (ignore the cocoa stains on the wall… they’re not there… that’s just your imagination….), and it actually survived the rampage of the children fairly well.
If you stand in front of the bag on the floor with your back to the bathroom, you get a view of the kitchen:
And, the after:
But then I remembered I was an adult, and the Bean was an adult, and maybe I should just use my words. And whodathunk, using my words actually worked. Gasp. Shock.
Anyways, if I’d known I was gonna use the pics in a post one day, I would have taken better photos. My bad.
Left side of the kitchen:
Bad babies. Very bad babies.
Here’s the little entryway to the kitchen:
There were kid-droppings all over the rest of the house, but at that point I figured I had enough photographic evidence to make my point so I quit taking pictures.
Look, I’m not trying to idolize stay-at-home moms vs working moms, or moms vs dads, or working parent vs stay at home parent, or anything like that. I’ve actually done both sides of the equation: I worked 25-30 hours a week until the DragonMonkey was a year and a half, at which point I got a corporate job and went full time (45-50 hours a week) until we moved to Oregon…. at which point I “just” stayed home with the boys until last May…. at which point I started working again (I’ve since dropped down to only one job outside of the house – woohoo!)….
In other words – back and forth, back and forth. I feel like I have a pretty good handle on both sides of the fence and the pros and cons of both lifestyles, at least how it pertains to me.
Which one’s harder?
Well, they both suck. And rock. I know it sounds like a cop-out, but it’s not. Both sides of the equation have it REALLY hard – and I think it depends on your personality which you’ll find easier. For me, I found being a “business office 50 hour/week mom” the most stressful. When I was the Executive Assistant I had to plan in advance for anything – grocery store trips, doctor visits, playdates, etc – all of them had to be planned 2-3 days in advance, and I just suck at that sort of thing.
That said, while I was working outside of the home…. well, it definitely had its benefits. It was quieter. When I did work nobody ran along behind me and un-did it. And the best part? Nobody ever asked me what I did during the day. Oh, sure, I was accountable to my boss, but I’m talking about friends and family. I never once got dressed for work and as I headed out the door had someone say, “So, do you have any plans for the day, or are you just going to hang out?”
Unfortunately, as a stay-at-home mom…. I do get asked that question a lot. I know people are just making small talk, but in the back of my mind I always feel like I need to be able to spit out an exhausting list of organic, brain-enhancing playdates and activities in order to feel like I’m “earning” the right to be a stay-at-home mom.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that people should stop asking me what I’m up to. I mean, who needs another “FIFTEEN THINGS YOU SHOULD NEVER ASK STAY-AT-HOME-MOMS – #6 WILL SURPRISE YOU!” type of a list to remember? I certainly don’t.
It’s just…. I feel like if I answered, “What are you guys up to, today?” with “I am going to accomplish absolutely nothing, all day long, and work very hard at it. In fact, my Sisyphus-style failure will absolutely exhaust me. If I slave all day the house will only be as clean as when the day started, and if I play all my parenting cards juuust right I will have made a microscopic, completely invisible movement in the direction of raising my boys to be kind, strong, men of integrity…. which sounds nice, but I wont’ be able to see it. I’ll just be telling them the same 10 things over and over again, all day long. Honestly, when you’re living day-to-day with kids it’s impossible to measure any progress. So, today my goal is just to keep them from stepping on the dog and/or hurting each other’s feelings, or watching too much TV, or jumping on the sofa. In other words, I’m not doing anything of value, whatsoever, because even though I’m exhausted at the end of each day it’s impossible to see progress when you have no perspective….
Wait! Where are you going? Come back! I mean… I mean… I mean, uh….we’re going to the park! And then to the library tomorrow for a sensory activity. Want to put your kid in the stroller and walk with us?”
Anyways, if you ever wanted to know what it is that stay-at-home parents do all day… well, now you know. Sometimes it feels like 95% of our job is that we keep messes from happening.
Now, if you’ll excuse me…. the kitchen has exploded. Again. I need to go clean it. Again.
But that’s okay, and do you know why?
Because I’m not alone. So, hi-five to all you other dads and moms out there, rolling your eyes to the heavens in frustration as you chase after another mess your kids just made. I mean, not to go all Avatar/Na’vi on you, but I see you. You’re doing a great job, and if you ever want to prove to someone “what you do with your day”, well, I let my kids destroy my house and took pictures of it, so you can refer them to this blog post to prove how hard you work all day long.
And I did it just for you.
Yeah, no. I’m lying. I did it because I was in a pissy mood and was being all passive-aggressive with my husband, and because once I started it I really enjoyed being lazy all day, but eh. It sounds better if I say I did it for you, so let’s just pretend, okay?