Mommy didn’t say truck

My oldest child has always been blessed with the gift of gab. He was speaking in two word sentences before he was 18 months and chatting our ears off well before his second birthday. And at about two and a handful of months, we took a trip with my sweet in-laws.

My mother-in-law had baked pumpkin bread and brought a long squeeze pouches of applesauce and treated my chatty toddler to breakfast in bed while she got ready in the hotel room bathroom.

Minutes later, she returned to an unmitigated disaster.

“Oh my goodness!” She said. To which my two year old replied, “Oh my God!”

“Oh no,” she said. We always say, “oh my goodness. Not Oh my God.”

He got a gleam in his eyes. “Sometimes,” he said, “My mommy says – ”

But wait. Before we go any further, its important you know this is all my husband’s fault.

We live in a snowy town that takes a fairly leisurely attitude to plowing the streets. A few days before my oldest’s birthday, we had gotten stuck driving home.

“I told you not to drive on the side streets!” My husband said when I called him to come rescue me.

“We live on a side street!” I replied.

“Yeah, but not the one you’re stuck on!” He had a good point. But what was done was done and I needed him to come push me out.

Luckily, a young man stopped by moments later to pull us out. I made sure my children noted to my husband how lucky we were this plucky young fellow was there for us at our moment in need.

A few snowy days later, we were driving to the bakery to meet my husband. My son had been requesting a trip to the the “cake factory” for his birthday, so we were planning on meeting there after lunch. Immediately after turning on the car, however, we again got stuck.

At which point mommy yelled, “…”

Let’s return to our original story.

My son stood there, his eyes gleaming. “Sometimes,” he said. “Mommy says FUCK.”

My mother-in-law laughed. “Oh, no I’m sure she doesn’t. I’m sure she says ‘truck.””

“No,” my son answered seriously. “Mommy says FUCK.”

I mean.

He wasn’t wrong.

We always hope our children will imitate our best parts and ignore our less-than-stellar habits. But deep down, if we are honest with ourselves, we know that’s not the case.

And yet, I am still surprised when I find myself periodically yelling at the kids,

“NO YELLING! WE DON’T YELL IN THIS FAMILY”

It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but I’ve never struggled with anger as much as I have when I’ve had a new baby in the house. It should be a time of sweetness and joy, it’s also a time of work and exhaustion. It’s even harder with subsequent children. After all, not only are you twice as tired with twice the amount of work, you’re dealing with an older child who on a certain level, knows its in his genetic best interest if you focused all your caregiving energy on him and not that noisy blob of wet diapers.

As my kids get older, I have started hearing my voice coming back to me from their mouths. (And not just in the form of dropping an F-bomb in front of Grandma.) There is the exasperated reply. The less than generous take on a misunderstanding. The “I DON’T WANT TO GET MY SHOES ON!” in response to “GET YOUR SHOES ON!”

So I’ve been trying my hardest to stop and breathe. To hold them, feel their pain (even if inside I’m thinking they are just shoes put them on your feet for the love). To talk to them like I would want anyone else to talk to them.

And yes, sometimes I want to just say “I’m the mom! I get to yell and you can just do what I say!” After all, I get to stay up late and drive the car too. But in the end, I try to stop and remind myself what a better world we would have if we started respecting the dignity of each human person from the get go.

Yes, for goodness’s sake it would be so much easier if my kids either A) did what I said or B) just ignored my bad parts of me and took after the good. But that hasn’t happened yet so it’s on to plan B.

Stopping. Breathing.

Admitting I’m wrong. Starting over.

Again and again and again.

While I work on this, my son has a question if you’re willing to answer him. He wants to know what “shut” means and is pretty sure it doesn’t mean “to close” like I told him.

You know, as in “Oh shut, I left the keys in the house.”

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I’ve got some questions.

Moms and dads who are better at this parenting thing than me, I’ve got some questions for you.

One question really – HOW? How??

(This is less of a question and more of a ‘something I’d like to yell across the street at you’.) I have no idea how you pull it all off. Or pull any of it off. I can barely pull gum off the underside of our chairs.

I’m dying to know how y’all manage. How do you meet all the basic needs of your family without dying every single night? HOW?

Let me elaborate.

Moms who have a clean house

How? Yeah sure, you’re going to tell me how you taught your kid from an early age to put their toys away. Your kid probably even liked that “clean up, clean up” song. Your kid probably never screams that he is too tired to move a single hot wheel and dissolved into a puddle you then have to mop up.

But that still doesn’t explain how your house is spotless all the time.

I mean – have none of your children ever projectile vomited off the top of a bunk bed in the middle of the night? After eating chocolate birthday cake for dessert? Is that why you still have white curtains?

‘Cause I don’t. Anymore.

Moms who work out of the home

How? How do you do this? Or more accurately, when?

When do you find the time to work? I mean, I know you’re scheduled 9-5 Monday-Friday but when do you actually work?

Do you have one of those Harry Potter time turners? A doppelgänger? Do you have 48 hours in your day and you just haven’t told us?

Because I know between the dentist appointments, the school plays, random teacher work days, and the steady stream of snot filled sick days, you are constantly rearranging your schedule.

I’m starting to grow concerned I might actually have a 9-5 job I just haven’t had a chance to show up at in three years.

Moms who are always on time

You pack lunches ahead of time, I get it. You lay out clothes and you know where your sunglasses and wallet are all the time. Good for you. But I don’t care how much you plan ahead, I don’t care how early you try to leave. That’s not my question.

What I want to know is – how do you stop them from pooping right as you are walking out the door?

I mean, you can’t plan for that one. You can’t just leave ten minutes earlier because then you’re just driving back home because someone doesn’t want to poop in the public potty and/or you forgot the wipes (again). So what’s your secret? Dates? Prunes? Bananas? A schedule? Lock the bathroom door ten minutes before you have to leave? Double up on the diapers?

Tell me.

Moms whose kids don’t fight

So, what’s it like to have one kid?

Moms who sleep through the night

Fresh air? Exercise? Bananas? Chamomile tea? Lavender oil? Melatonin? Whiskey?

Tell me, what are you crushing up and putting in your kids’ applesauce to get them to sleep through the night?

You know what no one ever really tells you – kids never sleep through the night. Sure they stop waking up to nurse (allegedly). But there’s still growing pains and stomach bugs and nightmares and boredom and monsters under the bed. And when you have three kids with three different reasons to wake up, it’s just like playing whack-a-mole.

All. Night. Long.

Moms who workout

Why?

I mean sure, you can say you want to be healthy and look amazing in your “I actually do yoga” pants. But between the three hundred LEGO piece deadlifts and the separation-anxiety-won’t-go-to-anyone-else 20lb weight carry and the 40 laps of “you’re too little to go down the big slide let’s come back to this part of the playground,” aren’t you tired enough?

I’m pretty sure all moms are secretly in amazing shape and could run marathons.

If we just weren’t so tired.

Moms who look amazing at school drop off

What time did you wake up this morning? It must’ve been earlier than 5:30 because I’ve been up since then and have managed to look a little worse each hour. So when did you wake up, 3, 4am? If I woke up at 4am maybe then I’d have half a minute to brush my teeth before drop off but I’m not counting on it. You went to bed looking like that right? You did your hair, your makeup, got dressed, and fell asleep standing up so that nothing smudged. Right? That’s the only thing I can figure.

Moms whose kids eat healthy

So, they’ve never had chicken nuggets, right? Because it’s all over after chicken nuggets.

I don’t care that chicken nuggets aren’t even that unhealthy. It’s the fact that it unlocks something in their brains. The nuggets clue our kids into the fact we’ve just been lying to them this whole time. You don’t actually have to eat the vegetables. You can get by perfectly fine on a steady diet of supposedly white breast meat and whole grain bread coating.

Once they’ve seen behind the curtain, there’s no going back.

Moms with teenagers

It gets easier right? Please tell me it gets easier.

Wait, no. I don’t want to know.

Moms with work-life balance, perfectly behaved and well-nurtured children who eat their vegetables

So, when are you due?

Dear Friends

Dear friends,

I haven’t seen you in a while.

We are now at that stage in our friendship where if I run into you in the grocery store, or the doctor’s office, or the cough and cold aisle of Walgreens we have this conversation:

“Hey! How are you? Oh my gosh it’s been too long. We’ve just been busy. Should we get together soon?” And then we never do.

I want you to know it’s not you.

And it’s not me.

It’s them.

Look, if it was just you and me, I’d love to hang out. And one day, we will again. My youngest kid’s first day of kindergarten in five years so let’s schedule a date then, okay?

(Not the first day of school. I’m taking a spa day that entire day. We will hang out the second day.)

When my babies were little and portable and could still each be tucked under an arm and marched out of a playdate-gone-poorly if need be, it was fairly easy to still hang out. I could tuck one in a stroller and one in a carrier and we. could walk. Or I could leave a trough of graham crackers on the kitchen table and watch our kids fight over the one damn truck in a room full of toys while we drank coffee.

But now that they’ve multiplied into three, with three very different schedules, I’m practically under house arrest. My day is basically running around from morning to night (and from night to morning on the days the baby doesn’t sleep through the night which is roughly 395 out of the last 400).

In the morning I wake up, beg my middle kid to go back to sleep because it’s not even six yet. Then after an hour of telling my kids, “just five more minutes!” (Kinda thought I’d outgrow that one now that I’m the mom, but no), I go to enter into the morning battle: empty the dishwasher, pack lunches, find hats and gloves and library books, hopefully remember to brush a few teeth and send them out the door.

(Yes, I could pack their lunches the night before but do you really think that’d make that much of a difference here?)

Then I frantically run around the house trying to clean up. I have no idea how a house gets so messy in a single hour, but there you have it. Do laundry, empty trash cans, wipe whatever the heck that is on the bathroom counter up, and sweep up 75% of the Cheerios that were served for breakfast and are now on the flood.

About halfway through this my baby starts crying she’s ready for a nap, and I attempt to finish my cleanup while dodging her attempts to grab my legs. Finally, I acquiesce and put her down for her nap.

Then it’s time to shower. By the time I get out, 90% of the time she’s already awake. And this is not because I’m taking luxuriously long showers. It’s because she has a sixth sense for when I almost done and bolts awake.

By the time I console the crying baby while still dripping wet, it’s almost time to pick up my son. So I get dressed, look in the mirror (somehow I look exactly the same pre-shower) and head to preschool pickup.

Here, I’ve got about a one hour window to do something is I really want to risk a bad afternoon nap. So if we are out of milk, I might venture in to the store. But with a baby and tired preschooler, there’s no way we are going to be able to hang out.

By the time we get home, it’s lunch. Which means everyone is yelling. Or 2/3 are yelling. The third is still at school. And his pickup is in two hours so if I don’t get the baby down now she won’t have a chance at a decent nap.

Course she never sleeps for the whole two hours. She sleeps 30m (after I rock her for an hour) and then wants to be rocked until it’s five minutes past the time I should’ve left to pick my son up from kindergarten.

So I run to kindergarten pickup. And then, we would be free for a play date except now I have three kids with me and they are all in varying stages of starvation and exhaustion.

Then we enter into the witching hour, named so because your kids expect you to conjure up snacks while cooking dinner. After dinner it’s bath and bed. Everyone’s asleep by 8, so theoretically we could go out for a girls night.

But, after we put the kids to bed, my husband and I like to indulge in our favorite hobby – putting the kids back to bed.

So I promise I’m not avoiding you. I’d love to get together and talk about diapers and the Mueller investigation and spread whatever cold had been plaguing my house for the last three weeks to you and yours.

But it’s not going to happen. At least not while we are on the two-naps, two-school pickups schedule. Please know I miss you.

And let me know if you want in on that spa day. September 2023. Mark your calendar.

Following a sinking creek

The water was too low to go skinny dipping, so I left all of my clothes on.

I sat along the edge of the creek, the water barely coming up to my ankles. The creek was fed by a spring, and throughout the year would periodically disappear, earning its moniker “Sinking Creek.” Some days, with my parent’s permission and some days without, we would wander down to find it roaring. Other days it would be completely dry, and we would walk along it as if were a pebble covered hiking path, pausing to throw stones at the old oil can wedged between two trees.

My parents built their house on old Appalachian farmland which had been divided up into parcels and sold to professors from the nearby university and horse enthusiasts. Over the years, the forest crept from where tractors had kept it at bay, and slowly reclaimed the land. As kids, we were allowed to play in the forest only as far as the old fence line. There, we swung on old vines and built tents out of sticks. We listened for my mom calling us for dinner, and were reprimanded when we failed to return the first several times she called.

Below the broken down fence, the hillside tumbled towards the sometimes creek. I would occasionally escape there as a teenager, as I had that afternoon. Up on the hill, my grandmother’s mind slowly flowed away, and my mother frantically tried to swim after her. My father worked, and my sisters and I gradually and awkwardly attempted to form our own lives. That afternoon, I had snuck down the creek to rinse off from my soccer game, swim in freshwater, and to simply be alone. The last would have to suffice, as the water had not agreed to my plan for the day. 

I can still picture the rock that jutted out of the hillside, perpetually covered in the leaves of the last fall. Below it are the boulders my friends and I would recklessly climb too high, never having heard of things like bouldering pads. In the spring, johnny jump ups and mayapples lined the path we would worn. A path I will never walk down again.

Years later, in attempt to be better stewards of the land we all loved, they put a geothermal heating system in their home, and along with it, new insulation. The installation was too thorough, preventing the chemicals in the insulation to off-gas. The exposure left them sick, and their home virtually toxic.

Ten, twenty years from now we will look back and wonder at incidents like theirs with the same incredulity we have at putting asbestos in our walls or lead in our paint. But no one could have foreseen the outcome. After years of remediation, litigation, and investigation, my parents learned that it was only they who were affected by the insulation. The initial exposure had sensitized them, and thus, in the way one of my children can eat a peanut butter sandwich and another can not, they had to leave but could sell my childhood home, along with its small stretch of forest, to another family.

My husband, kids and I went back home, or rather, to my parents’ new house, recently for my sister’s wedding. I now live in Montana, and hadn’t been home during the fall in 10 years. As we flew in above the rolling hills, I watched the rivers trace the edges of fame colored mountains. My children marveled as we walked through the woods and leaves fell from every tree. I told my husband that as payment for living where where fall barely graces the underbrush he must frequently tell me how lovely it was. He complied, telling me yes, it was very pretty. But perhaps you can never love another place as much as where you grew up. Or only once it’s gone.

I still visit the woods of my childhood regularly, this time in the form of bedtime stories. My children know them almost as well as I did, although their version is populated with fairies and elves who cast spells to help young ones fall sound asleep. Now, there is no sitting – only adventures. Like the sinking creek in the woods, on days it would choose to flow, we can only move forward.

 

 

Miles to go before you sleep

When our first kid was born, someone gave us a glider. It was comfortable, with dark wooden arms and soft white cushions.

We rocked it into the ground.

This is not a metaphor. I spent so many hours, thousands of hours, in that glider, that it eventually fell apart.

At one point, my husband had given me a fit bit for Christmas. I pretty regularly hit the 10,000 recommended steps a day with little effort. That is, until I realized my fit bit was counting every time I rocked in the chair as a step. So while I wasn’t getting any fitter, I did learn I was spending about two miles per day in that chair.

I’ve got a confession: Those weren’t my favorite two miles of the day. Don’t get me wrong. I love rocking babies. I just don’t love rocking babies to sleep.

My children fight sleep like it’s coming to take away their Halloween candy. (Which to be fair, I do steal their Halloween candy when they’re asleep). But ever since they were babies they have fought the good fight. They writhe, they fuss, they scratch, they stick their fingers in my mouth, they fart defiantly.

(I didn’t know you could fart defiantly but if you saw the look my daughter gave me this morning, you too would know it is a thing.)

The answer to this situation is obvious – stop rocking them to sleep. This would also solve the “OMG we are traveling to somewhere without a rocking chair” panic attack we have biannually when we dare to leave our house. And for those who are blessed in the parenting skills department, that would work. We could cry it out, or pull them in to bed with us, and they would sleep happily ever after.

Theoretically anyway. We are 3/3 with that not working.

Plus there is another problem with not rocking our babies to sleep.

Once they’ve explored every inch of my face with their fingers, bitten me repeatedly (yep), and shot liquid out of every orifice in an attempt to evade their nap, something happens. They collapse into a heavy and warm pile of exhaustion.

And suddenly, I move from desperately wanting to get out of the rocking chair and actually do something with my life to wanting to be nowhere else in the world.

As I write this, my daughter has lost her battle of wills, and is snuggled into the crook of my arm. I know I should get up. I should lay her down soon so she gets used to sleeping in her crib. I should turn off the TV my older kid is watching and go sweep or dust or vacuum something.

I should.

But she’s warm, and soft, and the littlest she’ll ever be again. So I’ll rock her for a few more miles.

One day, when my oldest son was a few months older than the baby is now, I was trying to rock him to sleep. Frustrated at his fighting, I finally set him down on the ground. He laughed, and toddled over to his crib. I put him in it and laid him down. Five minutes later he was snoring.

And that was that.

I don’t know when she will no longer need – or want – me to rock her to sleep. Some days I pray it’s sooner. Some days I pray it’s later.

But for now, we’ll rock.

Romero

When I was 22, I was not young enough to think I could change the world.

But I was young enough to think I could at least help it.

And so I flew off to the other side of the country to live in a house with seven other people and eat off mismatched plates and rock tired babies to sleep while their mothers fought for a better life. The others gave clean socks to people who were homeless and stocked the pantries of those who were hungry.

The name of our house – a Jesuit Volunteer Corps House – was Romero, after the man who was shot as he said the mass. Died as he gave bread to eat.

Oscar Romero becomes a saint today. A saint who, with his time on earth, built a better world for those he served. A future that he never lived to see.

Last week, I got drunk in the middle of the day.

Not on whiskey, mind you. That buzz would come later as I fought off a cough and my husband wisely suggested a hot toddy.

I was drunk on the glorious ness of fall. In October, there is such a short window where everything is positively exquisite. The air is refreshing, a sweater is sufficient, and the trees practically erupt in color.

I spent the day glancing out the window whenever I could. It wasn’t a particularly good day, either. The baby wouldn’t take her morning nap, or her afternoon nap. I was sick. But the sheer beauty of the world filled me with joy.

We have ten years to solve climate change, they say. Ten years to dramatically turn our world around. My oldest is nearly six years old and I have barely caught my breath from him being born. He held my hand when we walked home from school that day. He won’t do that in ten years.

Ten years is another lifetime away. Ten years is tomorrow.

As much as I love autumn, it fills me almost with a sense of panic. I feel the need appreciate every moment before it fades and we are plunged into winter. The beauty is a reminder of the long cold days ahead. This reminder pushes me outside in attempt to store away all the waning sunlight before the frost.

I don’t want to look back in ten years and wonder if I could have done more.

I didn’t live in that house very long. I became less concerned about helping the world and more concerned about making sure my own babies got enough sleep and what the hell was that weird stain on my carpet. (Truth: I’m not that concerned about my carpet stains).

It seemed so easy then, that maybe if we all just tried a little harder the world would be a better place. Turns out it’ll take more than that.

But, you know.

Might as well try.

Don’t try to cherish every moment

If our house was an abandoned lot, books would be the weeds. They’ve taken over every surface in the house – baskets on the floor, toy shelves, stacks by the bed, the coffee table.

I can never say no to books. They come from trips to the library, ten cent splurges at the thrift store, or that intoxicatingly enticing Scholastic book fair.

And yet, there are some days that I took my children into bed and realize we haven’t read a page. The day flew by, cluttered with sweeping, rocking, wiping, driving and eating. “Tomorrow,” I tell myself, “tomorrow we will cuddle on the couch and read book after book.”

Tomorrow comes and the story is the same. Sweeping, rocking, wiping, driving. I get the baby down for her nap but they are busy playing. They are bored but now I am cooking. Night time comes and as soon as their pajamas are on the baby calls for me. I rock her to sleep, listening to my husband read to them.

“Savor this moment!” everyone tells me, as spit up drops down my shirt and the cries of yet another who-had-the-hot-wheel-first argument rings in my ears.

“Let the housework wait another day!” everyone says as I step on Cheerios, rushing to grab a LEGO out of my baby’s mouth

“You’re so lucky to be able to do this!” everyone says as I hold back tears from another day where everyone needed me, me, me.

My oldest started kindergarten last week. I did not wonder where the time had gone. It was folded into the thousands of piles of laundry I had done. It fills the footprints we left behind on trails. It’s tucked between the sheets and washed off our dishes.

It does not seem like yesterday that he was a baby. This is the best and worst part. The days have been long and the years have been long too. I have gotten to fill them, albeit not always as I please. We have had five long years to love, to suffer, and to laugh together. Five long years since I’ve seen those sweet baby smiles.

I cannot cherish every moment, nor do I want to. Some days I am glad to wash down with a hot shower and a lager.

In twenty, thirty years, I am sure I will wish I had done it all different. Read more books, kissed more heads, watched more clouds by. Perhaps by then I will have forgotten about the laundry, the dishes, the fighting, the yelling, the driving to and from appointments. Maybe by then I will just remember the times we cuddled on the couch and read stories.

I can’t fill my days like that. But maybe I can at least fill my memories.

Why I’m still Catholic

The news out of Pennsylvania is disgusting, inhumane, and fucking sick.

Don’t excuse my language. There should be no politeness in this discussion. No measured reactions. Only pure anger. Because would you doubt a loving God would feel anything else? Would he shift, and cover, and blame, and say “But have you thought of this?”

No.

It’s fucking sick.

And I’m still Catholic.

I am Catholic out of will, and out of force of habit. And at times like these, I deeply question why. Why should I align myself with such a deeply flawed and scarred institution? One that has ruined the lives of thousands?

I am not Catholic because of a priest. I am Catholic because of the people sitting beside me in the pews.

The ones who sat and shared with me, who taught and listened to me, who held my hands and encouraged me. The ones who dared me to live a servant’s life. The ones who pointed me not to a priest, but to a God.

While the priests might have been the men who transformed the blessed sacrament, these were the men and women who handed it, as well as my faith, to me.

And it was one of those men and women who I heard read aloud one Sunday morning,

“For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body….it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.”

For too long, I have heard members of the Church defend it from its abuse allegations by arguing that we should be judged on the accuracy of our theology, and not the actions of our leadership. But it is people who hand us our faith. And people who destroy it.

The body is not our priesthood. It is the men and women who show up, day after day. To take dinner to the sick, to thanklessly host the parish picnic, to fluff a bride’s veil before she walks down the aisle, or to grab lunch with a friend who no longer attends mass because she just can’t handle it any longer.

It is the laity who gave me my faith. And it is the laity who can decide what kind of church we want to become.

Our country is wrestling with its own demons at the moment. As our president grows more erratic, and abuses like ripping families apart come to light, we hear a battle cry, “This is not who we are!”

But it is who we are. However, we can choose if it is who we want to remain.

I am Catholic in the same way I am an American. It is where I have found my home, and in doing so, I must understand that my Church’s and my country’s flaws are mine as well. This is a responsibility I’m still figuring out how to bear.

Be angry. Move forward.

Ten Cent Mysteries

Earlier this summer, my sons moved into the same room. I put their new bunk bed together piece by piece while they offered to help and the baby tried to taste test the eleven different sizes of screws. Their room still smells like fresh cut pine on warm summer nights.

About the same time, they discovered ten cent mysteries. Every night, they crawl into their beds and listen as dad reads to them. Frank and Joe dash around dark hallways, flashlights in hand and bad guys stay tucked away in the pages of books.

The youngest falls asleep almost immediately. My oldest begs for one more chapter every night. I whisper to my husband through the door that it’s already past their bedtime.

He reads them one more chapter.

My youngest child and his inability to resist the lure of his teddy bear and pillow aside, few among us can deny the pleasure of a formulaic mystery. I take mine set in English gardens, the village vicar catching the villain just in time for a cup of tea. My mom’s came with recipes for Death by Chocolate cake. My husband favors spies dashing from continent to continent.

We always know how the story will end. The good guy leads a life filled with adventure. The bad guy disappears, forgotten by the next serial. The trials and tribulations which should undoubtedly inflict at least a modicum of trauma roll off our heroes’ backs, like rain drops off of Nancy Drew’s yellow raincoat.

Sooner or later, my sons won’t want cars and trucks adorning their bedroom walls. They will be want to be driving them instead. My daughter will start climbing the mountains decorating her walls. And I will desperately wish I could flip ahead to the end, to know it will all turn out okay.

Right now, I can hear my son is bemoaning the end of the chapter to my husband. It seems as if every Hardy Boy chapter ends with either the phrase “fell unconscious!” or “appeared in the doorway!”

“Ugh, not again!” he whines. “Why do mystery book chapters always have to end with a cliff hanger?”

I feel the same way.

But good stories are a dime a dozen. There’s no reason ours can’t be one of them.

The Performance Review Stay at Home Moms Need to Read

It occurs to us that you have been in this position for some time and have yet to receive a performance review. We regret our delay in providing you with a review because we see that you have taken this task upon yourself. Please be advised, your self-assessment is entirely inaccurate.

Although you have received such constructive criticism as “You’re the worst mother in the world!” and “You should try my mom’s pot roast recipe instead next time,” we wish to assure you these are not indicative of your performance.

Yes, in the ten minutes it took you to rock your baby to sleep, your children did manage to dump out every single toy in the living room, dismantle the couch, and write “zoo” on the coffee table. But they are actually better behaved than you think. No, not at home. Certainly not at home! They are like caffeinated feral animals on the first day of spring break there.

But the fact they can let loose all their good and bad behavior at home suggests you have created a safe space. Plus, we have received feedback suggesting they can hold it together in public for increasingly longer periods of time. We predict that by the end of the quarter, you might be able to stop at more than one store while running errands.

Developmentally, your children are also making great strides. Yes, you might be concerned that the majority of your conversations center around poop, farts, and stinky faces. But, my what a vocabulary they have developed! Not to mention a complex understanding of the digestive system. And as far as writing “zoo” on the table goes, their writing skills are obviously improving!

We know you have encountered plenty of remarks along the lines of, “I don’t know how you stay at home! I would be so bored!” As if you find Raffi and Clifford the Big Red Dog to be stimulating entertainment for children and adults. We know that’s not actually the case. But we appreciate you fully immersing yourself in the business.

For instance, we have noticed even when you are off the clock, you are spending hours researching educational activities, from games which encourage reading, sensory development, and motor skills, to yoga that enhances their emotional intelligence. Granted, you spend way more time finding and preparing these activities than your charges spend executing them. And for this we admire your dedication.

You have expressed a concern that your cooking skills may leave room to be desired. We understand your children haven’t eaten anything that hasn’t been dipped in ketchup since 2015. But because company policies prohibit our employees from opening mouths and shoving in just one ever loving bite of carrot, your performance in this area is completely on track.

Of course there is room for improvement. We have noticed you are on your phone a bit more than recommended. And also you haven’t even attempted to match the socks in your “sock basket” for the last six weeks. But if doing so keeps you from just up and quitting, we fully understand. We do encourage you to take your vacation and sick days that are offered to you in our handbook. By that, of course we mean turning on the TV because of course you don’t get actual vacation and sick days.

We are aware no one has said it to you in a significant amount of time (again, our oversight, which we wish to apologize for), so we would like to issue you a formal thank you. You have given up your body, your former career, your free time to pursue this position for the betterment of not only your children but your entire family as well. And in doing so you have encountered plenty of criticism. But the critiques from snooty cashiers in the grocery store, internet think pieces, and that friend on Facebook who is obviously doing a better job at life than you, are not actually reflective of your performance.

You are raising kind, wonderful, curious children. We wholeheartedly thank you for your efforts. To show our appreciation, we would also like to offer you a ten percent raise. Heck, take a 200% raise. You’re worth it.