Still blaming mommy brain

Do I get to still blame mommy brain for the following, even though my youngest is about to turn 2? Here is my morning:

1. Ahhh. It’s amazing I have free time. I am SO organized and can just sit here and enjoy my coffee.
2. Oh. Right. I haven’t made the kids’ lunches yet. Or mine.
3. Ah. Wow. Even after throwing together lunches, I’m still doing fine on time! And I did the dishes!
4. Dawdler Toddler, sit down at the table to eat or you will OMG YOU ARE DRIPPING SMOOTHIE ALL OVER EVERYTHING. Let’s go change you!
5. Got him changed after a 10 minute wrestling battle. Whew! I’ve got to clean the table, too.
6. Okay, let’s go to the truck. Still doing uh, okay, I guess on time.
7. Why are you crying? You need a blanket? Fine. Sigh.
8. Oh, it’s good Preschooler asked for a blanket, forcing me to return to the house so I could discover I was about to drive off WITH THE FRONT DOOR OF THE HOUSE WIDE OPEN.
9. Okay, good. Blankets & cuddlies & lunches all packed & loaded in the truck, let’s GO.
10. Oh. I need gas.
11. Finally. At school. Should only take 20 minutes to walk both of them in since they’re soooooooo slow.
12. Ah. I finally get to go to work.
13. OMG. I never got myself dressed. I’m still in sweats. Back home.
14. Oh! Good thing I came back. There’s my coffee I never got to drink. That might help.

I hope.

Let’s Make Everything Harder for Parents, Shall We? (Part 2)

When last I wrote about figuring out how to get Dawdler Preschooler into a preschool, as in a “real” preschool, not the “preschool” room at her daycare, which is where she currently is, we were practically driven to drink by demystifying all the horribly disorganized information provided by the district. We have finally made a *little* progress, so an update. Spoiler: it’s still nearly impossible to get through the red tape of getting information.

Whenever we call to ask a question about something that’s unclear from the crazy disorganized and inconsistent information that is scattered across the district website, individual school websites, and the state department of education website, we get asked “Have you checked the website?”UGH.

We have narrowed it down to 3 preschools that have certified early childhood education teachers AND an after-school program. Y’know, for those of us who don’t consider 7:40-11:40 a HALF DAY and have to keep working past 11:40. But when we try to schedule tours of each, we were told “Since the curriculum is the same at every district preschool, you have to choose one to tour.” Uh, so entirely dismissing the critical point that the individual teachers and their levels of experience and commitment making all the difference in the world? Eh, any teacher will do as long as they follow the provided curriculum and lesson plans, I guess. (Sarcasm, in case that’s not crystal clear).

Even better though: one of those 3 options gives families a choice between a “traditional” preschool and a Montessori environment. So, maybe we should schedule our one and only tour at that one? “Okay, that’s fine. You’ll schedule your preschool tour with us, and then let me give you the number of this ENTIRELY DIFFERENT DEPARTMENT to schedule a SEPARATE TOUR of the Montessori class environment.” Oh, lovely. Two different people to call. And they can’t coordinate tours on the same day because WHY WOULD YOU?

But wait. So once we schedule our SEPARATE tours of the preschool and Montessori at the same school and want to talk with and observe the after- or before-school care (depending on if she goes to morning or afternoon preschool), that is scheduled, can you guess? By a third, entirely distinct department, here let me give you the number to schedule a tour with OMG, just STOP.

We’ll just save ourselves a crap load of time and headache and logistical nightmares and decide here and now to unschool? Let’s just roll with that. I might as well put all this time & energy of tracking district contacts down and returning messages and waiting on people to schedule tours into planning out her K-12 curriculum.

Kidding!

Sort of.

 

Once upon a time

Dawdler Toddler Preschooler is really into fairy tales these days. This works to my advantage at bedtime since I’m particularly lazy tired and lazy. After we read 2 or 3 books, I can get her to cooperate with getting into bed and settling down by promising that I will cuddle with her and tell her a story. Even though I make up all my stories, they all MUST start with “Once upon a time…” and end with “…The end.” as all good stories should. Yesterday, she turned the tables on me and asked “Mommy? Would you like to hear a story?” This is the first time she had offered to make up a story for me. Of course I would like to hear a story.

Me: Is it about firefighters?
Her: nooooo.
Me: owls?
Her: nooooo.
Me: a baker baker?
Her: Let ME tell the story!

Sheesh. Okay. I’ll be quiet.

“Once upon a time, there was a little girl.” So far so good. “…And one morning, her mommy left for work.” Okay. “…And she was very sad…but then when her mommy came home from work, she was happy again! The end!” Uh. Cool story, hon.

I would say I don’t know what to make of that but I totally do. She’s going through something. Just what it is, I’m not sure. I would say it’s a phase where she’s not getting enough Mommy time. Because she’s crying when I leave for work every morning, pleading with me to stay “5 more minutes?” But that doesn’t explain all of it because when I pick her up every afternoon, I’m dragging a sobbing screaming defiant 3 year old out the door as she’s wailing “I sad about leaving! I don’t want to go home!!!” and stomping her feet. Every single day.

It’s gotten to the point that other parents stop and ask “Is she okay?” Or even worse, the dreaded “What’s wrong with her?” I try to understand that it just comes from a place of “awww, poor thing” concern, but really? Can we rephrase that? It usually comes from a parent whose child never acts up. So, good. Congratulations that your enlightened 3 year old is articulate to the point of being able to clearly explain the origins of their tantrums so well that you can simply use some Jedi mind trick to head off their explosive emotions. But the best I get when I try to talk to her about it is a consistent answer of “I sad about leaving. I want to stay and play with my friends.” No amount of logic or explanation or consoling has worked. I’ve tried every trick in my book: distracting her with silly jokes, timing our exit to coincide with friends’ departures, trying to make our exit a game, ignoring her attention-seeking behavior, & using a calm, soothing tone in which I offer bribes for cooperation. No matter what I do it just escalates.

But even if I knew what was going on inside her little mind, I’m not sure I would think anything was ‘wrong’ with her. She’s a very clingy, sensitive girl. She hates transitions, spending the first few minutes after we arrive somewhere or the last few minutes before we leave a place or activity crying or trying to make herself invisible. She can be very emotionally volatile. In other words, she’s THREE. It’s hard for 33 year olds to hold it together all day so I can only imagine how intensely difficult it can be to be three. Listening to grownups all day, following all kinds of rules as you try to sort out & communicate your feelings and needs…It sounds exhausting! She always has a great day at preschool so all I can figure is she uses up all of her self-control just by *being* all day. By the time we get there in the afternoon, she just doesn’t have any emotional control left. And that’s okay.

I really have no other guesses as to why she’s like this every afternoon. So until we can tease out what the root of the tantrums is, maybe I’ll just start to answer other parents’ questions with stories. I could tell them that she hates going home because of the scary clowns we invited to live with us. Or the ex-cons who babysit every night? Or how we like to watch The Ring with her for fun after dinner since it’s scary movie season? But the truth is:

Once upon a time there were parents who wished they knew how to keep their little girl from getting so heart-breakingly upset when they go to work. And who want to help their child be more cooperative with going home at the end of the day. The end!

duct taping it all together

Here it is just after Labor Day and I have no idea where summer went. Oh, wait, I live in PHX so for all intents & purposes, it’s still here, sticking its ugly thumb in my eye until at least Halloween. But the “fall” semester descended upon us a couple of weeks ago, and it is the. last. fall. semester. ever.

Or it was supposed to be.

My Better Half™ was supposed to graduate in December. Now that’s up in the air. His committee needs time to read the thousand pages he’s written or some sh*t like that. Can’t they just nod and go to their happy place like I do and sign something that says “yeah, whatever, sounds good, nice work!”? The point is that the patience that I had allocated to get me through one last semester of nonstop thinking anxiety about what the job market will hold for him and him stressing 24/7 about final edits and graphics and keeping up with all the department and graduation paperwork, and Oh yeah that whole what the F*CK to do after graduation needs to be spread out even more. Our idea that we would be able to reclaim more work-life balance and spend more time together as a family doing fun stuff has been pushed out to an even more distant horizon.

I’ve been doing my best to deal with that. Deep down I’m pissed. But deep, DEEP down, I’m still pissed but also part of me is the tiniest bit relieved that he won’t graduate until May because 1) it will look less bad to not have a job a year from now when you’ve only been unemployed since May (on paper anyway) and 2) the job market BLOWS so who cares? What’s the rush? The past couple of years, the academic job market has been great solidly not sucky in his field. If you’re a bioarchaeologist. (He’s not). This year it seems to be decent marginally not sucky if you’re a cultural anthropologist. (He’s not). But it doesn’t stop my brain from leaping ahead and connecting the dots unnecessarily. When the job alerts that we’re subscribed to come in, I find myself going “would I even entertain living THERE? what about our house, what about our kids, what about my job?” before I even get to “Desired Qualifications: Active research agenda in race and ethnicity, sociolinguistics, and award winning publications in the economic exchange systems of Sons of Anarchy.” I mean, come ON! Now if it were just Game of Thrones Beheadings he’d stand a chance… But at least the piecing together consulting + adjuncting work here is the devil we know, the job market is a complete unknown.

What’s made all that harder even still to deal with has been just a lot of adjustments in my personal life. This time around, I’m really feeling the isolating effects of having a baby. Part of it is I have very little energy left over after a long workday & two kiddos 3 and under, so I can’t summon the energy to think about what there is to go do, nevermind go do it. I’m just tired. All. The. Time. Also, just the timing of where our kids are at socially. Baby is at the peak of separation anxiety and requires being held at all of the times. So it’s just not all that fun to go out with them – I have to hold him. And when we do go out, Dawdler Toddler Preschooler stands frozen in place, clinging to my legs because she’s around “strangers” (i.e., anyone she doesn’t live with), so I can maybe get in 90 seconds of adult conversation at a time. And we almost never, EVER get to go out without them – it’s just too much money for a sitter when you’re only one full-time income and have 2 kids in daycare and no family nearby to dump the kids off with. I think we’ve been out once without the kids since Baby was born. Which will be a year ago in 3 weeks. (Or should I also count the time we used a sitter for us to have a date night the night I was IN THE HOSPITAL GIVING BIRTH? So twice then?)

Part of it is just the rhythm of life with a baby (not just particular to our current financial & geographical circumstances). You find yourself housebound when the baby’s asleep. In other words during the very same block of time you could be getting something done, you’re stranded inside your home seeing as Child Protective Services doesn’t look too kindly on leaving the little ones at home alone while you run errands. Thank God for the interwebz…but there’s only so much shopping and reading and movie watching you can get done online. Amazon’s not all that convenient when it’s milk you need FOR YOUR COFFEE or library books to return. And when you can venture forth, you’re got a little person (or in my case, two) attached at the hip, so heading to that new movie you’re dying to see or out with friends for a beer is not in the cards. And even if you can get out every once in awhile, social things can just be such a pain in the ass when you have to lug around a diaper bag stuffed with diapers, changes of clothes, hats, sunscreen…I’m cranky just typing a list never mind hauling it all around. As a result, all my “free” time becomes the spare moments I have for errands + gym + fun. In other words: no time left for fun 99% of the time.

And do I even need to mention life in Arizona during the summer? It might be fall where you are, but here it’s still 109 out there. Or so I hear, since I am too scared to peek out through the blackout curtains. People hole up indoors and/or take a bunch of time off to get the hell away from the Death Star. It should go without saying that I’ve been avoiding Face-stagram all summer because I’m seething with jealousy at all my friends’ trips to California, Hawaii, the beach, hikes in Flagstaff, and everywhere else that isn’t 109. So between the isolation of being at home with Baby and being indoors while it seems like the ENTIRE rest of the world is out having a blast has taken its toll. I guess while much of the rest of you get seasonal affective disorder from gray wintry days, I get it here from all the sun. I like a nice sunny day here & there. But it’s hard to appreciate when you’re living on the surface of the sun. It is relentless – brandishing a hole in my retinas and a deep resentment in my skin expressed by eleventeen million new freckles every month. I need weather. I need seasons. I could more easily accommodate living here if I ever got to escape and experience weather that would make me more appreciative of what I’d be coming back to. But since we’re still living the grad school life, there are no funds to get us out of here from time to time. Since I’m long winded today, I’ll also save you the details of our car troubles, too. As in: much of the summer spent WITHOUT AIR CONDITIONING in our one and only functioning vehicle. Bottom line: it’s hard to get out of the house, which feels really isolating.

You know what else feels isolating? Not being in sync with your friends. Our closest friends have all moved in the last 2 years. Every. Last. One. And now I’m struggling with knowing where to find our kind of peeps. We find ourselves gravitating more and more towards hanging out with the parents of our Dawdler Toddler Preschooler’s friends because if nothing else, they get the whole kids thing. The whole there is a naptime and a bedtime, and it’s tough to get out during those times and no, we can’t wait til 11-ish on a Sunday at a hip restaurant for an hour to have breakfast because we’d all be dying from our kids’ whining us to death from low blood sugar. I’ve been trying to make new friends at work. And, uh. Yeah, see? That’s about the only place I go besides the gym. But, it’s slow and hard, and y’know, just takes time even when you do make a work friend. Which I haven’t really yet.

So I’ve been holding it all together. Trying to just make my way from work to the gym to daycare. Repeat. It’s been going o-kaaayyyyy, I guess, but not great. I think that all of these things will get better soon. But I just don’t know when “soon” is.

Let’s Make Everything Harder for Parents, Shall We?

A conversation in our house this morning:

Me: “…so the bottom line is, yes, Dawdler Toddler can start preschool next month, & there’s still availability, we just have to decide which of the 10 preschools in the district we want her to go to.”

My Better Half™: “why not just the one in walking distance to which we are zoned?”

Me: “No preschool there.”

My Better Half™: “So just send her to the closest one in our district that has a preschool.”

Me: “oh, sure. You’d think it would be that easy. But here’s the tricky part: preschool in our district is 4 days a week…no school on Wednesdays…and you choose the morning half day, which ends at 11:20 OR the afternoon half day that ends at 3:20…”

My Better Half™: “…can’t you just do both to get a full day that’s 8:20-3:20? Even though that’s NOT A FULL DAY at anybody’s work?!”

Me: “…no, because it’s exactly the same school day, just repeated twice.”

My Better Half™: “…so what are we supposed to do with her after the morning or before the afternoon? And ALL DAY EVERY Wednesday?”

Me: “…that’s an even bigger question. So there’s a before/after school program for those of us who, I dunno, work and stuff? But it’s only offered at some of the 10 preschools. There is one full-day option – it’s a Montessori multi-age classroom, but that’s only at 1 of the 10 preschools… and we’d be committing to the Montessori track…which I’m not sure I’m on board with…and anyway we would have had to registered forever ago because there’s a waitlist for that.”

My Better Half™: “…okay, so I guess we do the preschool that’s closest to us AND has one of these before/after school programs.”

Me: “…agreed. So now we get to the next question. Of the preschools that also have the before/after school programs, which of those do we want her to go to Kindergarten at?”

My Better Half™: “…okay, now you’re just talking crazy. She’s only 3!”

Me: “…yeah, I know. But here’s the thing: Since our elementary school, the one in walking distance, doesn’t have a preschool, she can either go to preschool wherever we choose and then switch at kindergarten to where we’re zoned OR continue on to kindergarten wherever we send her to preschool. There’s this thing where if your elementary school doesn’t have a preschool, and as a result you send your kid to a district preschool somewhere else, you can choose to continue on at that school where she started for kindergarten & elementary – y’know, so your kid doesn’t have to make all new friends at a new school all over again. So it’s really a question of where do we want her to ultimately go to kindergarten & elementary school.”

Both of us: <banging head on counter>

Me: “…and there’s actually kinda significant differences in curriculum & in quality in the different district elementary schools that also have preschools so…”

—-

Is it absolutely bonkers that we’re talking about WHERE TO SEND OUR JUST-TURNED-3-YEAR-OLD to kindergarten?! Is this INSANE or normal these days? Hard to tell…

A case of the mondays

Two weeks ago, Baby got viral gastroenteritis for a couple of days and shared it with me for all of 8 hours while I was home from work with him, but we both recovered. Last Friday, as I was picking up Dawdler Toddler from daycare, she starts hurling. She had it all through the weekend, meaning we got nothing whatsoever done except tending to her. Side note: why is it that the weekends where I want to sit around on my arse and do nothing do not coincide with the weekends I get to do that? I had TONS of errands & stuff I desperately needed to get done, because I’d gotten nothing done being home from work with a sick Baby.

By Sunday, I was feeling very stressed – faced with missing even more work and still needing to get tons of stuff done outside of work, I texted every sitter as well as any contacts who could potentially serve as an emergency stand-in sitter, asking if by some random chance anyone could possibly watch her on Monday. I’ve been missing TONS of work with sick Baby. My Better Half doing fieldwork during the workweek means that I’m the only one ever available when daycare calls telling me Baby has a fever and has to leave, so I feel like I’m walking a fine line at work. I don’t know if I am. Maybe I’m just super sensitive to the rolling eyes one of my coworkers gives me (a childless jackass) whenever I’m dashing out to grab a sick Baby or Toddler. Maybe I’m just super sensitive because it’s performance review season and I’m paranoid that it might appear as if I’m not accomplishing much other than occasionally and unpredictably occupying a chair after returning from maternity leave this time around. Maybe I’m super sensitive because I have a new boss, who, while he has four children of his own, has never once experienced the “my kid has a fever above 100, so s/he has to be picked up from daycare within 30 minutes and can’t return for at least 24 hours” because his wife has always been a stay at home mom. I’d like to believe that my work worries are all in my imagination but I’m not quite convinced that’s true. But, alas, no sitters or would-be sitters were available.

So I crossed my fingers and held my breath and the next day, Dawdler Toddler seemed to be back to her normal self, and after being able to hold down her breakfast, I took her to daycare. And her Baby brother. Even though he had a fever. I didn’t have an alternative, given that I had no sitter available. And I HAD to make an 8:30-10:30 meeting, if nothing else. So I just prayed that he was just running a low-grade, teething? minor thing? fever and would be fine. After having to wait in the morning to make sure Dawdler Toddler was okay enough to go to daycare, I was super late to work – more than an hour late. Let’s just say the clock read 8:32 when I was getting ready to leave daycare for work. I got to work only to discover that my meeting was way far away in another building, so I was about 30 minutes late for that important must-not-miss meeting. And I was there about 25 minutes before daycare called and said Baby had a fever and was vomiting and had to leave.

So I excused myself with yet another quick missive of “sorry! gotta run! I’ll try to get in some work from home!” apology and dashed out. Got Baby, got him some Tylenol and he went down for his afternoon nap. That just dragged on and on and on. By late afternoon, after I’d picked up Dawdler Toddler from daycare, I was starting to get concerned. He seemed a little out of it, listless if you will. And his fever, rather than going down with Tylenol just kept going up. And he wasn’t the least bit interested in eating anything at all. By the time his breathing seemed to be getting strangely irregular, I left My Better Half, home from 10 hours of fieldwork in 111 degrees, to put Toddler to bed while I took Baby in to the children’s hospital, the only thing open at that hour. I get to the children’s hospital and have a text from My Better Half saying: I have the stomach flu now too, can’t stop throwing up, but keep me updated. I get us checked in and while we’re waiting in triage, I start hurling. Repeatedly.

They kept an eye on Baby, checking his vitals every 20 minutes, trying to coax him into taking pedialyte (unsuccessfully), giving him medicine for nausea first in order to then administer more Tylenol so he could keep that down and then waiting for him to demonstrate that he wanted and/or could eat. They kept him far longer than I would have expected. Which is why I was more miserable by the moment. I couldn’t stop throwing up, my stomach was doing somersaults, and I had nothing with me. Nothing. Not even a water bottle to go fill up, not a sweater to stave off the fever chills that were washing over me in waves. So every 20 minutes they came in to give him medicine and make sure he was improving and I’m getting worse by the second but they couldn’t even so much as bring me a goddamn apple juice because I’m “not the patient.” I get it on an intellectual level – liability of treating someone who’s not a patient in this letigious world of defensive medicine we find ourselves in – but at a visceral, physical level I was furious. Your whole purpose as nurses and doctors is to help people feel better, and if mom is doing this horribly, how can she be expected to take in all the information you’re giving about Baby’s condition and respond?

Why wouldn’t I just text My Better Half and say “for chrissakes, bring me some gatorade?” you ask? Because we have one vehicle. One. With both carseats in it. So even if he would have wanted to drag Toddler and himself out of bed and then out of the house at an ungodly hour to come bring ME medicine at the children’s hospital, he couldn’t have. Not to mention he was throwing up at home too.

So all in all, I’ve managed to make it to work one whole day this week. My Better Half seems to have improved, as have I. Although now that he’s back to working in 110 degrees, we’ll see. Baby still has a fever and is vomiting and was seen again yesterday and will be seen again Saturday. So I’m not counting on getting ANYTHING done this week or weekend either. Good thing my folks are coming in town Tuesday. Oh wait, that means I gotta somehow clean & disinfect this disastrous house. And take 48 hours vacation time. Right before my annual performance review. I’m beginning to think the rumors circulating yesterday that anyone who was getting a raise this year got notification yesterday is true. Like that asshole coworker who shoots me a dirty look every time I rush out, scrambling to go get a sick kid, just doing my best not to lose it.

Bringing children & work together every day

Yesterday, at least at my workplace, was Bring Your Child to Work Day. It was also, at least in my job, Bring Work to Your Children Day. Aka Thursday. Aka my telecommuting day.

I think when you say ‘telecommute’ a lot of people picture some kind of tech startup employee who works from cooler-than-thou hipster coffee joints all day. In my case you should envision me surrounded by the detritus of toddler & baby toys trying to respond to emails with one hand while nursing and shushing Baby with the other, sipping room temperature coffee all day (so as not to burn Baby when he inevitably flings his hand into the mug sending its contents all over my applesauce and GoGurt-encrusted jeans). I’ve telecommuted one day a week ever since the nearly 3 year old Dawdler was born – and it was fine when it was just her. Now my telecommuting day just feels so overwhelming. It’s impossible to compartmentalize anything. I’m trying to work while also pick up the ever-growing clutter around the house, I’m trying to put away laundry amidst work and a crying Baby, and I’m trying to convince the toddler Dawdler to shuffle off to daycare so I can focus on only two things at once, with the ability to give neither my full attention.

It’s nearly impossible to give my full attention to anything at all anymore, least of all myself. I get it, it’s a mom thing to never have any time to myself, but for crying out loud, I’ve got to find some time for myself. At my cubicle, I’m occupied with work. At home, I’m occupied with the kids. And during the rushed commute in between? I’m trying to slough off the day’s work and get into parenting mode with no space for my own occupations in between.

I have turned to working out before to solve this problem and decompress. Before I had kids, I went to the gym every night right after work before I got home. Now that just seems unfair to My Better Half. Right now, he has the responsibility of getting the kids up, dressed, fed, and off to daycare (and in the case of Baby, full-time parenting some days of the week), on top of adjuncting and trying to write and make dinner and. And, and, and. So it feels awfully selfish of me to tack on an extra couple of hours to his days to stop off at the gym for myself. When I explained this to someone, they said “oh! So that’s just mommy guilt! You gotta shut that sh*t down.”

Please don’t ‘just’ that. That ‘just’ you threw in there implies that it’s all in my mind, that it’s ‘just’ a small problem, that it’s insignificant. Baby is now 7 months old and I’ve never managed to get in a single workout or find any regular routine of time for myself since he was born. That doesn’t feel insignificant. Sure, it’s true that this is just a phase, as my mom says. But it doesn’t feel temporary living in the midst of this phase.

So until I can sort this out and/or afford a gym membership, you’ll excuse me while I carve out time for myself at the bottom of this bag of Pepperidge Farm Molasses Crisp cookies. It’s ‘just’ one bag. A week.

So angry I could…

The parenting issue that has given me the most grief so far is that my precocious, sweet, active little girl is.

A biter.

There. I said it. I know, I know, it’s normal, age appropriate. Oh for f*ckssake. I just got another incident report from daycare while I was typing that.

At first I thought “not my daughter! How could this be?!?” She doesn’t bite at home, and, being the first born, doesn’t have anyone *to* bite anyway. She is not aggressive, she is highly verbal & communicative, and at home, when she asks for something she can’t have, she tends to work out her anger & frustration through fist-pounding tantrums & the accompanying wailing.

So it was totally mystifying to us to hear that she’s been biting. Repeatedly. So much that I’ve had to leave work to retrieve her from daycare because she’s been released. Repeatedly. Like 2-3 times a week.

It’s usually the same. Right before a nap (read: tired), wanting a toy, she lunges out & Mike Tyson’s someone. Okay. It’s not thaaaaat bad (I hope) but still.

At first, I would get to daycare all concerned – is the other child ok?? I’m SO sorry (and embarassed). They would say she’s fine, the other child is fine, and you don’t need to apologize. When it kept happening, I turned to the trusty interwebz and found it’s totally normal, not to worry. When we saw the pediatrician for her 15 month checkup she told us the same thing. Still, it kept happening. I wasn’t worried about it as a behavior anymore, just what it was doing to my good standing at work to be ducking out all the time. I can’t overemphasize how big of a pain in the ass this is. For weeks now, I’ve had to tell my boss ‘so sorry!! Gotta get her. Again.’ I’ve missed more work than I am capable of calculating.

As the weeks wore on, daycare no longer would say “no need to apologize!” It turned into more of an exasperated we need *you* to take steps to address this okay? attitude.

What am I to do? I have said to my friends & family, why should I have to apologize to daycare for completely normal, age-appropriate behavior?! I’m not here when it happens. I’m not the one watching her at those moments. I’m not going to preemptively drug my kid with Tylenol because ‘maybe she’s teething?’ Yeah. Right. Because pretending teething is the cause is going to help correct a behavioral issue. I understand that there are expectations on how she is to behave. And there are rules she must follow. And that you need to be able to protect the kids here from being hurt.

But I am paying you, daycare, to meet your responsibilities too. To take care of her, which doesn’t just mean keeping her from eating glass & running into traffic. It means helping her to understand boundaries, and learning what is expected of her. Is she just supposed to automatically know? It means teaching her what she can do *instead* of biting. Y’know, like “NO biting. Let’s try ‘F*CK OFF YOU DILLWEED! Or can you say ‘NUT UP OR SHUT UP YOU SISSY ASS?'” It also means getting to know her, taking the time to be patient with her most exasperating toddler behaviors, and, knowing that her toddler behavior includes biting, so knowing that it’s important that you take the time to keep a close eye on her when she is tired & frustrated so that you can proactively intervene and prevent the bad behavior. Look, I know there’s 8 other kids. But you claim that part of the problem is that her behavior is a danger to those 8 other kids, so how about investing that little bit of extra attention her way at those times?

I’ve tried to be patient with daycare. I’ve tried to be both non-apologetic and empathetic towards the perspective of the other kids’ parents. In fact, just yesterday my friend’s Facebook status was all about how upset she was that her daughter had been hurt by another child at daycare, and I was just far too ashamed to weigh in amidst the “WHAT THE F*CK? Bullies CANNOT be tolerated” bullsh*t. At this age, we aren’t talking about “bullies.” We’re talking about children who are too young to be able to communicate effectively, who don’t yet know how to share, and who are headstrong and bent on getting their way, come hell or high water.

But today was the bombshell that “I’m just going to be honest. Lots of parents are very upset…” So here’s where we got handed the bottom line: if she doesn’t stop biting in 2 weeks, she’s getting kicked out. I still am reeling.

How is this even? WHAT THE F*CK?! Other parents are upset? OTHERS? Newsflash to them: cause it’s a total joyride to feel like you are totally trying work’s last reserves of patience to be having to leave all the time with no notice to meet the 30-minute pickup deadline. It’s not at all frustrating to feel like I’ve little to no control over my otherwise decently-behaved toddler who never exhibits this behavior at home. And it’s a pride-filled moment to hear that my daughter is USING HER INCISORS TO ATTACK OTHERS like some chimp chewing off some lady’s face. What happened to an understanding that kids-will-be-kids and part of being a toddler amidst other toddlers means that they will sometimes fall down, get scuffed up a bit, get dirty, and, yes, get hit and bitten and scratched. Lest you think the shoe is always on the other foot, my daughter has been hit and bitten herself, and have I gotten all up in daycare’s sh*t about how they failed to protect her? No. And parents? I’m sure you would agree that routine is critically important to your toddler, right? You may have noticed that inconsistencies and deviations from routine are upsetting and difficult for them to manage. Inconsistencies like, oh I don’t know, how different teachers are there on different days and at different times, so maybe, just maybe it’s within the realm of possibility that some teachers are better able to monitor and prevent my daughter’s toothsome attacks than others? Yet I’m the one facing telling my boss tomorrow that perhaps I may need to take just a few vacation hours unexpectedly in the coming weeks – like, I dunno, ALL OF THEM? –  until I can make alternate arrangements for my toddler’s care?

I’m so angry I could bite someone.

What’s This All About, Then?

Long after I’d had my baby and returned to work, I got asked if I could share my reflections on why I chose to be a working mom over a stay at home mom. Let me be clear: that ain’t what Laid Off & Knocked Up was about.

I have curated a select few of my posts about being pregnant and unemployed and moved them here because my hope for 2012 was to resurrect and keep up more with my original blog, Funky-Ass Monkey, and I didn’t want to maintain two separate blogs. (Maintain is really the wrong word, though, because Laid Off & Knocked Up was designed to be short-lived – it was simply a way for me document my own very personal journey through looking for work during pregnancy). Because I’ve saved only a sampling here, I tried to select posts that showed the range of emotions I was experiencing – the highs in looking forward to welcoming my first child and in finding a job at 7 months pregnant – and some lows in worrying that I would never find that job. It’s simply meant to entertain, and not offer any findings on the working mom vs. the stay at home mom debate.

For me, this wasn’t a question of whether I should or wanted to be a stay at home mom or a working mom. I wouldn’t even get the luxury of entertaining that debate. It boiled down to the reality of my circumstances. There was no question that my bank account, which was already on the fritz (thanks to dedicating 10 years to low paying museum work) couldn’t survive without a steady full-time paycheck, even without motherhood lurking around the bend.

How soon to return to work, whether to return to work full-time or cut back to part-time, or whether to be a stay-at-home mom are questions that untold numbers of moms have grappled with, and their various decisions are fraught with all manner of guilt, obligations, expectations, and a wide spectrum of experiences, all of which you can read about in advice columns and bookstores. But I’ve yet to stumble on an advice book of how best to handle being a stay-at-home mom when the baby’s not even through the first trimester. When it’s too soon to join mommy support groups, and too late to start drinking. That’s what these posts are about.

The question of whether a mom should work or stay home often gets framed in terms of independence, family preference, and personal fulfillment – and I believe that you have the right to choose what you feel is best for you and your family and that you shouldn’t have to defend your decision to anyone. These blog posts aren’t commentary on that debate. I have a lot of (deeply personal) opinions about the SAHM vs. working mom debate and how heavily that debate weighs on any new mom (or at least how hard it was for me), but I don’t share my thoughts on that in any of these posts. If you’re looking for that whole debate, you better keep googling.

Meetup for Moms Who Hate PHX

Lately I’ve been longing for a simpler, smaller, more navigable city. Well, strike ‘lately’ and that would be true. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Phoenix. It’s difficult to articulate, but it’s partly that it’s so huge that it’s hard to find an anchor. Like finding moms/babies for an age-appropriate playgroup for Baby – something that has, thus far proved impossible. I thought it would come naturally to find playdates for Baby. Step One: enroll Baby at daycare. Step Two: get folded in to existing social calendar filled by other daycare moms who can’t wait to welcome the newest member to the playgroup!

Well, that didn’t go so well.

So then I thought, oh, it must be more like this. Step One: someone at work sets me up on a friend blind date with another new mom who has a baby the same age who has just returned to work too. Step Two: We fast become besties while our babies giggle and play with one another for years to come.

Hmmm. That didn’t work either.

So I broke down and finally joined meetup to find some playdates. I went to my first meetup playdate yesterday. While I was a little sad that it came to joining some impersonal website to meet like-minded moms, I thought, well, it’s the cost of living in today’s modern age (or, more likely, such a giant, impersonal metropolitan area). Baby is nearly 9 months and I still don’t really know any other moms with even remotely similar-aged babies to hang with, so I figured it was time to suck it up and give meetup a shot. Especially since it’s about to be hotter than hell and I’d like to pre-emptively develop some mom friends so that I have someone to call to come over for an indoor playdate once the Death Star arrives.

But I was kind of over it before I even attended an event. Searching for groups isn’t that user-friendly. Not only are there all these bullsh*t sponsored ads within all the search results, there are also tons of groups that are really just sponsored groups under the guise of an ‘authentic’ meetup group, groups for whom you have to pay lots of money for each event (Stroller Strides, anyone? Only $35 each time!). Then there were pages upon pages of groups with whom I would have NOTHING in common: the stay-at-home moms, the conservative Christian moms, the tattooed self-rigteously deal-with-it alterna-moms.

When I did find groups for working moms, I was surprised that their events calendars showed  meetups at 5:30 p.m. on a weeknight or at 10 a.m. on a weekday. Y’know, so I could forgo making dinner (nevermind feeding Baby hers) or dash out of a meeting at work because “I have to get Baby to a playdate!” The groups I finally found that really were for working moms were for Type-A moms – tons of red tape that seemed more trouble than they’re worth for a social gathering. Must attend at least one event a month; in addition to the one you attend, you must also plan your own event at least once a month, you must prepare and bring an hors d’oeuvres to share, and I thought, I really must stop reading your rules, stupid mom group. Anything with more than one use of the word “must” must be told to F off. (Sorry, I guess so many imposed rules and regulations just brings back the defiant and oppositional 15 year old again.) It just seemed so damn unwelcoming and unfriendly – a closed society. I decided I’d just create my own group and see what happened.

I made it clear that my group was (1) for working moms, (2) for uncomplicated get-togethers on the weekend, and (3) for moms of babies and toddlers. I didn’t really expect anything to happen. I was glad that a handful of folks joined my group and even RSVP’d for a walk in the park, but I still had a lot of anxiety about it. Who knows that people really are who they say they are online? For all I know “Candice” with a 2 year old is actually some ex con named Bruiser with a windowless van and rag that smells like chloroform who grabbed a screenshot of some mom & her kid off of Google Images for the meetup profile. But I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only were all of the women who they actually said they were, I have a lot in common with 3 of the 5 women, perhaps the most notable item being that all of us are lukewarm on living here in Phoenix.

None of us are from here, none of us planned on living here long, and yet all of us have found our ‘temporary’ stay here to be a much more extended one than we ever would have expected. (I moved to Tempe in 2006, and thought I would be here just a couple of years, yet here we are nearly 6 years later with no other destination in sight. Everyone else had similar stories). And, without exception, when the question came up of “Do you like it here?” the answer was a polite, “Uh….well….there are *some* things that I like about it….but…ummm…” without finishing with a ‘no.’ Basically that response is the only way anyone like us could answer in an initial meet & greet. Because if you answer off the bat that you don’t like it here, you might appear negative, even if you’re not a particularly negative person. And if you don’t equivocate or qualify your response, it appears you don’t even try to make something fun out of a place that you don’t like. So until I live in a small town where other moms just come over, barge in and strong-arm me into joining the community playgroup, where we compare notes on which children’s books suck the most and where in god’s green earth one can buy baby girl’s clothes that aren’t pink (but also aren’t $30 an outfit), meetup will have to do. And thankfully, from the answers these women gave at this first playdate to ‘do you like it here?’, I can tell that we are going to get along.